What does it mean to practice history in the digital age? How is the ‘digital turn’ shaping the way we conceptualize the past, design and conduct historical research, and communicate our findings to audiences old and new?
This seminar will explore the expanding landscape of digital history from the perspectives of both theory and practice. We will examine major debates in the field and seek answers to some of the many provocative questions posed in the emerging literature. Digital history seems well-equipped to provide new forms of access to sources, for example, but how does the process of digitization – the transformation of a document from a tangible into a digital object – change the way in which we interrogate and contextualize historical material? Does the democratization of access to archives, together with the proliferation of the blogosphere, threaten the relevance of the historical profession? What does digital history offer in terms of innovative and substantive new ways of understanding the past? Does it necessarily privilege quantitative over qualitative, social scientific over humanistic methods? Is digital history the exclusive realm of big data? What, moreover, are the relative advantages and disadvantages of collaborative research, crowdsourcing, and web-based, open-access publishing?
In addition to discussing weekly readings we will examine a series of emerging and mature projects with an eye to assessing the scope of innovation and knowledge-production enabled by digital history methods. Through a series of brief “toolkit” assignments we will get our hands dirty wielding some of the most common DH tools (blogging platforms, social bookmarking, data visualization, text analysis, and neogeography). Finally, you will have an opportunity to apply digital methods to your own research by designing and executing a project based on materials gathered either specifically for this purpose or for the production of a ‘traditional’ work of history (seminar paper, thesis, dissertation chapter, etc.). Everyone will present their findings, participate in peer review of each other’s work, and reflect on the application of digital history methods in a brief final paper.