Course Details

Schedule: T, TH 1:15 – 3:00PM
Mode of Instruction: In person (where possible), hybrid/online (where covid)
Professor: Austin Mason
Office Hours: T/TH, 3:30-4:30 (Weitz 239B or zoom), M 2-3 (zoom only) and by appointment

Learning Goals

Students in this course will learn to:

  • Reflect critically on the intersection between digital media and methodologies and non-digital materials and texts
  • Develop skills necessary to create, structure, clean, manipulate, and visualize data.
  • Engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary, project-based learning
  • Create professional websites to document and present assignments.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate across different media and to both academic and general audiences

Pandemic Protocols

  • This course is primarily in person, but omicron will mean some students will be remote at unpredictable times. The digital work we will do in this class lends itself to remote instruction perhaps more than other courses: asynchronous work, sharing screens, using breakout rooms, and working collaboratively online will all play a part.
  • That being said, the course is designed for in-person instruction with hands-on digital work and juggling multiple applications remotely will be a challenge! You may feel overwhelmed by technology and grow weary of screens — please let me know what is working and what is not.
  • The virtual environment does make communication harder. If you do not feel comfortable speaking up or fully participating, either in class or remotely, please reach out whenever you have questions, be it via Zoom, chat, email, or a call. I may not be able to “read the room” for remote students as well as I can in person, so let me know when you are feeling overwhelmed.


As this is a digital course, the required texts are all available publicly online, with only one or two exceptions which will be distributed as pdfs.  In addition to the individual assignments listed on the weekly syllabus, we will occasionally dip into various online “companions” to digital humanities. Feel free to check them out and explore topics that interest you in more depth at your leisure.

A Domain of One’s Own

Digital Humanities makes extensive use of the internet; indeed, the field arguably would not exist without web technologies.  While you are all no doubt seasoned consumers of information on the internet, many of you may not have produced much information online beyond social media profiles or photo feeds.  There are many excellent free blogging platforms and even more robust content management systems that can be used to host some data for you for free, but such services rarely give you access to — or even the slightest understanding of — the inner workings of the database backend.  We want more control.  To that end, you will each create a space where you can try out new technologies, gather data, experiment with different forms of analysis, and publish your own work and ideas to the world.

In the past, students purchased server space through a hosting provider, but this year, you will be given a full cPanel account through Carleton’s newly acquired Carleton College Sites platform. You will each receive server space and a subdomain of, which you can retain for up to two years after graduation. Over the course of the class, everyone will try out building a personal site, blog, or project on their own server space and gain a further understanding of how the modern web infrastructure works. After the class, you can take it down, let it lapse, or continue to build and experiment as you see fit.  For final projects, you will set up a site as a subdomain of, which will be maintained by the college and preserved for posterity.

Course Requirements and Grading Breakdown

Group Final Project (30%)

The majority of your work in this class will be building a collaborative digital humanities project hosted online.  The final projects for the course will likely revolve around the history of Carleton, its campus and people. It is much easier, not to mention more satisfying, to learn new skills by applying them to concrete projects rather than arbitrary examples, and the local setting of our college—its physical environment, its buildings, its objects and its historical and literary archives—will constitute our primary data set. Collectively, we will use new digital technologies to tell stories (well-researched, carefully documented, scholarly sophisticated stories) of how Carleton’s past inhabitants built, filled, inhabited and experienced the spaces that we encounter (or no longer encounter) today.

You and your group will therefore design and execute a web-based, scholarly DH project using the tools and platforms of your choosing and keyed to your discipline of choice. All projects will make use of local resources, including the holdings of the Carleton College archives, Perlman Teaching Museum, local newspapers from the Northfield historical society, literary works set in the local environment, objects created or used by past students, factulty and staff, environmental data, etc. Part of your research will therefore involve getting out from behind the desk and into the community to gather real world data, a process which we will begin together but you will continue on your own.

Details of the final project assignment milestones and expectations will be provided separately.


Blogs and Participation (25%)

Blog posts (15%)

Each week you will be given a blog prompt and asked to post a thoughtful response of 300-400 words to the course blog before class meets when assigned. These assignments might ask you to review a digital humanities project website using these guidelines, try out and evaluate a digital tool for research, or engage in an area of debate on the usefulness or potential troubles surrounding particular digital initiatives. Some blog posts will also ask you to critically reflect on the scholarly and ethical considerations of trans-mediating data and research, as well as on using the same.

  • Specification:
    • 300-400 words
    • Posted to WordPress on time
    • Written in a clear manner, less formal than a conventional paper but still readable and rooted in evidence-based reasoning
    • Contain no more than 2 grammatical or spelling errors
    • Practice standard procedures for writing online, including hotlinking text (instead of dropping in unlinked URLs in the body of your post), embedding videos properly, etc
    • Categorized with the appropriate Week
    • Tagged with any relevant keywords
    • Any individual instructions for the week followed.
Comments (5%)

In addition to the blog posts, you are required to read and comment on your classmates’ posts.  DH is a collaborative enterprise, and the conversation is half the fun.  You will begin this conversation online by commenting on at least one of your classmates’ posts, which we will then pick up in class. Comments can be encouraging or challenging, but should remain polite and directly engage with the content of the post.  Comments must be posted by the next class time after a blog assignment.

  • Specification:
    • 50-100 words
    • Demonstrates intellectual generosity, which is an openness to others’ ideas and a willingness to move our conversation forward. Think about every post or comment as a “turn” in a conversation. Your goal is not to shut down conversation or to have the last word; rather, it is to be a generous listener and to sustain the conversation.
    • Any individual instructions for the week followed.
Class participation (5%)

I do not take attendance, but I will take note of your active and engaged participation in class each day.  Much of our work will involve discussion of the readings and collaboration on digital assignments.  If you are not in the meeting, you cannot join in either of these activities, and if you have not done the reading you cannot contribute much to discussion.

Labs and Assignments (20%):

These assignments represent the lab portion of the course.  They cover basic web skills and key applications that are intended to give you the technical knowledge you need to design and build your final project. Some weeks they will begin with basic instruction in class that you will complete online.  Others will involve working through an online exercise on your own before delving deeper into the topic in class.  Either way, the work must be completed before the next class meeting.

You are not expected to be perfect at every assignment! The DH community values productive failure. You are expected to try your best, learn new things, reflect critically and post/discuss constructively about how and why things might not have gone as planned.

  • Specification:
    • Will vary by lab
    • Any individual instructions for the week followed.

Midterm Exam (15%):

The midterm exam will test the technical and applied project skills we’ve learned in the first half of the course. You will be expected to demonstrate basic understanding and familiarity with the tools and techniques we have studied to date, using sample data provided by the instructor.

Tutorial Assignment (10%):

On one week near the end of the course, in lieu of the regular blog post, you will be asked to pick a DH tool that we haven’t discussed yet and figure out an interesting use case for it (or, vice versa, think of a use case and figure out a potentially viable DH tool) and create an online tutorial for the rest of us. Tutorials involving screencasts, screen captures, and “1-2-3” step-by-step instructions are not terribly hard to create, and we will go over the basics in class. You will thus begin the (hopefully lifelong!) process of paying forward what you’ve learned in the course and becoming the “local computer expert.”


This course will use WordPress as the primary website platform. Our Moodle site will consist mainly of a list of links to other platforms, a repository for any PDFs we read, and a place to receive confidential feedback on assignments.

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