Kalani Craig, Ph.D.

Fall 2017: Digital History Writing Intensive

J300 Digital History

with Professor Kalani Craig in Ballantine Hall 321 on Mondays from 10:10a-12:40p

How many times in an hour do you check your smart phone? How much of the information you get about the world around you—and about the world that came before the smart phone—comes via a connection to the internet?

From iPhones to networked refrigerators, the narrative of digital tool is a central part of our lives at home and in the higher-education classroom. This class will look at the overlap between “digital” and “history”—both the good, and the bad—as we examine three approaches to crafting history with digital tools: text mining, network analysis and spatial history.


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  1. Assignments, Grading and Conduct (Yours and Ours)
  2. Course Goals & Learning Objectives
  3. Calendar
  4. Digital History Tools
  5. MicroHistory Assignment Description
  6. J300 Digital History

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Assignments, Grading and Conduct (Yours and Ours)

The assignment system in this course allows me to acknowledge the level of effort you invest in attempting new skills without requiring instant mastery of those new skills. In all categories, demonstrable improvement throughout the semester will be rewarded. Participants in a writing-intensive course are expected to write and revise roughly 5,000 words of writing over the course of the semester. We will focus on the revision process in particular, since proper revision is vital to the success of any good history.

To take full advantage of this revision-oriented mastery assessment process, you should attend class, participate in discussion and peer review, complete response revisions in a timely fashion and demonstrate ongoing effort throughout the semester.

Individual microhistory and bibliography: A 1000-1250 word history of a single object and its historical trends, due in week 8, and split into multiple steps. The process will hone your individual research skills and form the basis of a larger class project. You will choose a single object from the IU archives and use it to anchor a longer paper (15 pts), which will be broken into smaller, separately graded assignments:

  • an initial document analysis (2 pts)
  • an annotated bibliography of secondary sources (3 pts)

Digital history project proposal

In addition to the microhistory, you'll also write a 750-1000 word proposal for a digital-methods approach to your project chosen from one of the methods we encounter in the first half of the semester (10 pts).

  • a proposed base of digitized primary sources for digital treatment (2 pts)
  • a draft of the digital-methods research plan chosen from one of the methods we encounter in the first half of the semester (3 pts)

In order to emphasize the revision process in any historical research endeavor, and to encourage risk taking, each of these will include peer review and in-class revision. As the semester progresses, the requirements will become more demanding, which allows you to exercise newly acquired skills with very low risk initially.

Digital history collaboration: The second half of the semester will focus on developing your individual project in the context of a small-scale group historical project using one or more of the digital tools you’ve encountered to analyze, and present your analysis of, documents in the IUB archives.

  • 2500-word online history exhibit that executes your digital history project proposal and effectively combines it with the analysis from your traditional microhistory (35 pts)
  • Writing and contribution to the larger historical framework and context of the class web site. (10 pts)

Course engagement: Getting involved in a historical conversation, whether in person or in writing, is the single most important task a historian undertakes. Adding your voice to in-class discussion and providing peer reviews of other students’ projects will help you hone your historical thinking skills by exposing you to alternative viewpoints. These activities will also improve your ability to communicate critiques of your peers’ analytical and writing skills in both oral and written form. Students who attend regularly and do the reading in advance but do not bring written notes to class, contribute to class activities or participate fully in group projects and peer review will earn a maximum of half of the possible participation points. Class disruptions, such as audible talking or cellphones ringing, will lead to deductions from the course-engagement grade. 20 pts.

Attendance: You may miss two classes without penalty. If you know you'll be gone in advance, it's helpful to let me know. Otherwise, I don't distinguish between excused and unexcused for these two absences and I don't need notes.

Beyond these two classes, you will lose 2 points for each additional absence. Students with extended or chronic illnesses are not subject to the 2-class penalty; however, these absences will require documentation and makeups for in-class responses will not be offered.


I grade based on skill acquisition, not on your expertise when you enter the classroom at the beginning of the semester. The assignment structure is designed to encourage risk taking, give you time to master the traditional skills of a historian and the technology that supports digital methods. It's up to you to take advantage of the course structure, which emphasizes low-stakes assignments initially but will have several heavily weighted assignments at the end of the course.

Due Aug 25, 2017 at 12am

  • Research interest description
  • Due Sep 16, 2017 at 12am

  • Object Choice and Draft Research Question
  • Due Sep 23, 2017 at 12am

  • Annotated Bibliography and Revised Research Question
  • Due Oct 9, 2017 at 12am

  • Bullet Point Draft
  • Due Oct 23, 2017 at 12am

  • Prose Draft
  • Due Dec 2, 2017 at 12am

  • Draft Digital Project Plan and Outcome
  • Due Dec 12, 2017 at 12am

  • Draft Markdown of Entire Project
  • Due Dec 15, 2017 at 12am

  • Final Project in Markdown
  • Conduct (Ours and Yours)

    Your personal conduct

    I expect you to treat course participants and instructional staff with respect. Respect is not the same as agreement. Respect means using respectful language when stating your ideas, asking questions or disagreeing with others. In class it means avoiding disruptive behavior (talking to other students outside of discussion, using laptops or cellphones for unrelated work). Smartphones, tablets and laptops are welcome in my classroom, but only when they are used for work directly related to our class inquiry.

    There are resources available on campus if you have a disability for which you need additional considerations, or a personal issue outside of class that is interfering in your ability to maintain normal participation in daily life, but you need to take the first step.

    Your academic conduct

    "Plagiarism—A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, words, or statements of another person without appropriate acknowledgment. A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever he or she does any of the following:

    Quotes another person's actual words, either oral or written;

    Paraphrases another person's words, either oral or written;

    Uses another person's idea, opinion, or theory; or

    Borrows facts, statistics, or other illustrative material, unless the information is common knowledge."

    Quoted from Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, Part III, Student Misconduct, Academic Misconduct

    This is the grossest form of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism will result in an automatic failing grade in the course. The case will also be forwarded to the appropriate administrators for disciplinary action. IU-Bloomington general course policies are available at http://registrar.indiana.edu/stu_infopoli.shtml

    I do utilize plagiarism-detection software (Turnitin, etc.) when I suspect there has been academic misconduct.

    Less egregious violations of the academic code of conduct will result in warnings and an automatic failure on the relevant assignment.

    Our conduct

    Instructors have responsibilities too. We will treat you with respect, encourage a comfortable classroom environment, and return your assignments with constructive comments in a timely fashion. We will be in class as scheduled, on time, and be available for office hours. We will answer email promptly (within 24-36 hours, again barring unforeseen circumstances) and are happy to schedule additional office hours to discuss your work, any difficulties you may be having or to answer any questions you may be worried about asking in class. We're happy to talk more about the class but you need to take the first steps and ask.

    If you have a learning disability, a time conflict, or another issue that may impact your involvement in the course, we are happy to accommodate your documented needs. We simply need to know about these issues in advance of any assignments or other work that may be affected. Please come see us as soon as possible.

    You are encouraged to make an appointment with me to discuss papers and/or issues raised in class.

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    Course Goals & Learning Objectives

    In this course, you will:

    • Expand your knowledge of the historical contexts that shape and are shaped by IUB’s founding and development into a modern 21st-century university.
    • Explore three digital methodologies (text mining, network analysis and spatial history) that have various advantages and drawbacks for historians seeking to communicate their research findings to the public.
    • Learn and hone your historical thinking skills1 by:
      • Using systematic inquiry and analysis to establish the historical significance of IUB in global, national and local context.
      • Using primary-source evidence to build several perspectives about one facet of IUB’s history.
      • Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretations as you encounter and use a variety of digital tools.
    • Enhance your argumentation and presentation skills--in oral, visual, and written form--through regular discussions and digital-media assignments focused on presenting the results of your historical thinking.
    • These course goals align with Learning Outcomes that the College of Arts + Sciences has established for a social science history course:

      • knowledge of human cultures based on an understanding of history, social situations, and social institutions
      • the ability to think critically and creatively
      • skills of inquiry and analysis
      • quantitative and/or qualitative literacy through theory and methodology
      • intercultural and/or civic knowledge

      1 Dimensions of historical thinking drawn from http://historicalthinking.ca/historical-thinking-concepts (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

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    Specific reading and class activities after October 2 are subject to change as we establish your goals and research interests for the semester. Assignment due dates will remain unchanged.

    How do "digital" and "history" fit together?

    August 21:

    What is Digital History?

    An introduction to the discipline of history and the three digital-history methods we'll use this semester: text mining, network analysis, and neogeography.

    To do by Tuesday, Aug 23 at 5pm: Take the class survey

    To do by Friday, Aug 25, 5pm: Do an informal 1 page write up of what you find interesting and how that might translate to a history about the IUB campus. (You can find the Research interest description assignment in the Assignments section to your left if this link doesn't work)

    August 28:

    What do archives do for historians?

    An introduction to a historian's home: the archives. We'll look at the various forms these archives can take as we move between material and digital, and the different ways historians move in different kinds of archival environments.

    CLASS WILL MEET IN THE IU ARCHIVES, Wells Library East Tower, Room 460 (4th floor, exit the elevators and turn left)

    To Read:

    • Skim: Nigel Raab, Who is the Historian, Introduction and pp 1-45. "Skim" means read this quickly so that you're only spending 45 minutes on it. Figure out why Dr. Raab is writing, what his main point is, and how he supports his main point with evidence. Do this by doing the following things in order:
      1. looking at the section headers and chapter titles
      2. reading the first and last sentence of each paragraph and identifying sentences that contain language that suggests opinion ("In my experience," "I argue that", "The most important thing is") or conclusion ("You can see that", "This clearly indicates that")
      3. going back to the paragraphs that you identified in step 2 and looking carefully at the first or last example Dr. Raab provides to give you a better idea of how he frames his argument about who historians really are.
    • Read Lotte Lederer's letter closely: http://fedora.dlib.indiana.edu/fedora/get/iudl:2104113/OVERVIEW

    To Do by Friday, Sept 1:

    • Identify three potential objects from your archive visit that suit your research interests by looking through the archive's online repository
    • Schedule an appointment to visit the IU archives between Sept 5 and 8 and make sure the archivist has your list of 3 items.

    Sept 4:

    Labor Day

    What are you interested in?

    NO CLASS but there is stuff to do.

    To Read: Skim Nigel Raab, Who is the Historian, pp 46-119.

    To Watch: https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/qr46r0938 

    To Do: Identify three potential objects from your archive visit that suit your research interests and document the basics about all of them

    Sept 11:

    What is "technology"?

    Technology isn't just about digital stuff. We'll look at the emergent properties of history and of the Internet as two separate (and more recently intertwined) systems.

    To Read:

    • Alex Roland, “Once More into the Stirrups: Lynn White Jr., ‘Medieval Technology and Social Change’ (Technology and Culture, Vol. 44, No. 3, Jul., 2003), pp. 574-585). Online in IUCAT. Find it by searching for the journal title at http://libraries.iu.edu/, and then searching in the journal itself; spend 15 minutes doing this. Still can't find the link? Email me as a last resort.
    • James Madison, Hoosiers, 2-53.

    To Do (by Friday): 1 page that narrows your choice to a single object, includes a draft research question & identifies at least 5 relevant secondary sources

    How can we use digital history to understand IUB?

    Sept 18:

    What does it mean to be a Hoosier

    We'll explore the origins of Indiana and as we do, we'll look at what the differences between using evidence and collecting data in historical research.

    To Read:

    To Do by Friday :

    • A refined research question, a bibliography of 10 related secondary sources and 5 additional primary sources for digital-history inquiry
    • Download a text editor (Sublime Text, https://www.sublimetext.com, is free for most things)

    Sept 25:

    Where does IUB fit into that Hoosier world?

    Indiana has changed dramatically in 100 years, and so has IUB (but not always in the same ways). We'll look at IUB more narrowly today as we examine the use of pop culture and media as historical primary source.

    To Read: James Madison, Hoosiers: 50-60 pages you identified from our Sept 18 exercise for your own needs.

    To Watch: https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/73666461g and https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/qr46r0938

    October 2:

    What does the "digital turn" do for historians?

    To Read:

    In class network entry: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1E4SP96AJ6lTHEXaGNa96iXknD-yyEpJWUGD4Fg5HkuY/edit?usp=sharing 


    What tools can we use to approach these digital methods?

    October 9:

    Data Mining

    To Read:

    To Watch and apply to your bullet point draft: https://youtu.be/qCsDBYxks2I 

    To Do: Hand in a mostly-bullet-point version of your argument, with primary source evidence and secondary source support for your interpretation of that evidence. Aim for one intro paragraph and one body paragraph fully written out.

    October 16:

    Network analysis

    To Read: Scott B. Weingart, “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II” in Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Winter 2011, accessed May 20, 2015).

    To Do: Hand in prose draft of micro history.

    October 23:

    Spatial history

    To Read: Anne Kelly Knowles, “Has Historical GIS Arrived?: A Review of Toward Spatial Humanities” in Southern Spaces, Oct 2014 (Accessed June 12, 2016)

    In class:

    October 30:

    Making and material culture Second half of class will meet in the M.I.L.L., the School of Education's MakerSpace (Wright SoE, Room 240)

    Who Writes Our History? And Who Will Read It?


    November 6:

    You Write Our History! (aka Crowdsourcing)

    Harry Klinkhamer, “Where are the citizen historians? (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.”, in Public History Commons (November, 2014; accessed May 31, 2015).

    <student name redacted>: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScatceshLkbjSahodyjfp08MQWni5B2DJspRtC86e_-VEsPsA/viewform?usp=sf_link

    student name redactedhttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScs-qojtQw7vkKUP7sYyvyarmrTfY_wP8dGcSicV0YzLEmjCg/viewform?usp=sf_link

    student name redactedhttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSciZcE9nIoWTnZjm8ziRK2EJpCcC0bRR5op_xKDHcz4unfEaA/viewform?usp=sf_link

    November 13:

    You Write Our History! (aka Crowdsourcing)

    November 20:


    NO CLASS but there will be stuff to do for the crowdsourcing portion of class

    Crowdsourcing forthcoming from:

    Plus this "arguing in digital history" reading with lots of references for your use.

    November 27:

    You Write Our History! (aka Crowdsourcing)

    December 4:

    Public History Lightning presentations of your research (aka how to condense complex arguments without oversimplifying them)

    December 13 (W not M)

    Final: 12:30-2:30 p.m., Wed., Dec 13
    Wrapping Up
    Final edits on our joint web site

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    Digital History Tools

    Text mining (from easy/online to slightly more difficult):

    Spatial History

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    MicroHistory Assignment Description

    What is a microhistory?

    • A compelling--and also accurate and contextualized--story of a single object on campus (micro) that helps us understand bigger historical trends (the macro)
    • When the reader is done reading your microhistory, the reader should have a clear sense of:
      • Why you were excited by/interested in this object
      • How, by whom, and for what purpose the object was created (and whether the object was used for its intended purpose)
      • What's happened to the object since it was created, along with any watershed moments in its history
      • The major historical trends/shifts/events/cultures/societies that the object has interacted with, affected, been affected by, and helped us to understand.

    How do digital histories and micro histories fit together?

    • You'll use questions from your micro history to identify other sources that might help you understand your central object, and then we'll identify digital methods that help us tackle those other sources.
    • We'll combine your microhistories and digital histories together in a single web site to build a history of IU from your perspective.

    How do I start?

    Why is the object important?

    In other words: What major research question can we ask about our historical object? What answer can we provide?

    What major historical trends/shifts/events/cultures/societies does this object help illuminate?

    • For instance, does a 2017 MacBook Pro help us understand global trade and the diplomacy and economic issues that make the MacBook Pro production chain possible?

    The object’s environment

    • Other primary source/archival material that helps make this clear
    • Other secondary source material that helps make this clear

    What problems does this object present in terms of understanding historical trends?

    For instance:

    • Do we lack information about who created the object, or is it incomplete?
    • Is it the only object of its kind, or is it too common to place in a specific historical context? 

      How might digital methods help us understand this object in historical context?

      • What digital methods help us understand the historical context?
      • What other primary sources exist?
      • What do we need to do to the primary sources to make these digital methods possible? 

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