Clio Wired

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Clio Wired Title

Fall 2010

Dan Cohen | 3-4524 | Research I, rm. 483 | Office hours by appt (I’m generally in the office most days)

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Course Description

A panoramic examination of the impact of digital media and technology on the theory and practice of history. Topics include the construction of scholarly websites on historical topics, how research methods and historiography are being transformed by the digitization of primary sources and digital tools, and the significance of new trends such as social and semantic computing for the discipline. Students will investigate the potential advantages and disadvantages of a variety of digital technologies and explore the use of those technologies through a series of exercises.


1) Participation in the seminar’s social media: blog posts and comments on other students’ blogs. It is expected that you will blog at least once a week on that week’s reading, at a minimum of 300 words, and comment on other student blogs at least once a week. You should think of this class not as meeting once a week but as an ongoing conversation that is active all semester. (30% of the final grade)

2) Envisioning and planning a digital historical resource. A resource might be a website, web tool, software, or any other form that uses digital means to enhance historical research, scholarship, learning, teaching, communication, or collaboration. This first project, of 7-8 pages of text plus any accompanying mockups, is due before class on Oct. 26. (30%)

3) Envisioning and executing a work of digital scholarship. Such a work will explore the past in part using digital methods such as text mining, mapping, or visualizations. For instance, you might create your own Feltron report from a historical figure using documents from London Lives, or you might use Wordle or Voyeur to look at a selection of historical texts. This second project, of 7-8 pages including any charts, maps, or visualizations, is due by 5pm on Dec. 14. (30%)

4) Preparedness and active participation in every seminar. Attendance without participation is equivalent to absence. (10%)


Most of the readings are available online. In addition, will we be reading the following books:

Daniel J. Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media
Robin Williams and John Tollett, The Non-Designers Web Book
Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees
John Willinsky, The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship

The Cohen/Rosenzweig and Willinsky books are also available online, for free.

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Week 1: Getting Started (Aug. 31)

General introduction to the course and to the technologies used. Half of the class will take place in the Center for History and New Media‘s lab. Students will sign up for a WordPress blog and Google Reader. We will learn how to write blog posts (including how to link to other sites and upload images), how to tweet (and why), and subscribe to three history blogs from this list and other resources based on interests.

RSS in Plain English” by CommonCraft

Exercise: deconstruct a web page.

Week 2: What’s Special About Digital Media and Technology? (Sept. 7)

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media

Errol Morris, “Which Came First?” Parts 1, 2, 3; “Photography as a Weapon

Examination of digital technologies under the hood.

Week 3: What is Digital History? (Sept. 14)

The Promise of Digital History,” Journal of American History, September 2008.

Edward L. Ayers, “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History

William Turkel, “What It’s About,” Parts 0, 1, 2, 3

Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Introduction, Ch. 1

Close reading of historical websites.

Week 4: Websites, Web Design, and Audience(s) (Sept. 21)

Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chs. 2, 4, 5 and Appendix

Williams and Tollett, The Non-Designers Web Book

Paula Petrik, “Top Ten Mistakes in Academic Web Design

Jacob Nielsen, Alertboxes:”Are Users Stupid?“; “End of Web Design“; “Why Web Users Scan Instead of Read

Week 5: Digitization, Digital Collections, and Digital Preservation (Sept. 28)


Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chs. 3, Ch. 6, 8

Roy Rosenzweig, “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era

Students should explore these “born digital” archives: April 16 Archive, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, September 11 Digital Archive, Flickr, Thanks, Roy.

Week 6: Web 2.0 and Non-Web Digital Technologies (Oct. 5)

Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past

First Monday issue on Web 2.0 projects in museums and libraries, articles from Session 4 and Jeffrey Schnapp, “Animating the archive.”

Jon Udell, Heavy Metal Umlaut

Exercise: Examine the “discussion” and “history” tabs of three Wikipedia entries on historical topics.

Week 7: First Project Draft Critiques (Oct. 19)

Students present drafts of their digital historical resource project to the class and are subjected to constructive criticism.

Week 8: Foundations of Digital Scholarship (Oct. 26) – (Reminder: First project due before class)

American Council of Learned Societies’ cyberinfrastructure report

Patrick Leary, “Googling the Victorians

Peter Norvig, “Theorizing from Data

David A. Bell, “The Bookless Future: What the Internet is Doing to Scholarship

Students should explore and contrast Google Books and the Open Library.

Week 9: Distant Reading (Nov. 2)

Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees

Timothy Burke, response to Graphs, Maps, Trees

Cohen, “From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections

Students should experiment extensively with the following sites:

Ben Fry, The Preservation of Favoured Traces

Time Magazine Corpus of American English

Week 10: Spatial history (Nov. 9)

Will Thomas and Edward Ayers, “The Difference Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities,”

Students should experiment extensively with the following sites:



Euclid Corridor History Project

Week 11: Visualization (Nov. 16)

Students should experiment extensively with the following sites:


Many Eyes

Gross National Happiness

Read at least two Feltron reports

Week 12: Scholarly Communications, Copyright, and Open Access (Nov. 23)

John Willinsky, The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship

Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 7

Licenses: GNU GPL, Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture, chapter ten (“property”), which is available for free download at


Week 13: Second Project Draft Critiques (Nov. 30)

Students present drafts of their digital scholarship project to the class and are subjected to constructive criticism.

Week 14: Possible Futures for the Past (Dec. 7)

Open class discussion and wrap-up.

(Reminder: Second projects are due by 5pm on Dec. 14.)

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