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Digital Praxis Seminar

MALS 75400/IDS 81620
Fall 2015
CUNY Graduate Center
Mondays 4:15pm–6:15pm - Room 6496

Dr. Matthew K. Gold

Dr. Kevin L. Ferguson

Course Group:
Course Blog:
Course Hashtag: #dhpraxis15
GC Digital Fellows Office Hourse:

DH Praxis Seminar Overview

Aiming to ensure that new students begin thinking about digital scholarship and teaching from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, this year-long sequence of two three-credit courses introduces students to the landscape of digital humanities tools and methods through readings and classroom and online discussions, lectures offered by prominent scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and to incorporate digital technologies into their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored both the general field and a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work.

The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students. The Fall 2015 class will be co-taught by Professors Matthew Gold and Kevin Ferguson.

Fall 2015: DH Praxis Seminar

The Fall semester will introduce students to a broad range of ways of thinking about their research and teaching using digital tools and methods. Emphasis will be placed on the interdisciplinarity of, and conversations related to, digital scholarship.

Invited speakers, all prominent digital humanists, will join the class to discuss readings and to offer workshops.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will become acquainted with the current landscape of digital academic work.
  • Students will create a social media presence and begin to prepare their own digital portfolios.
  • Students will create a proposal for a digital project for possible development in the Spring.
  • Students will become familiar with the resources available at the Graduate Center to support work on digital teaching and research projects.

Requirements and Structure:

Weekly Class Sessions and Blogging

  • Weekly readings in advance of class sessions and public presentations.
  • Students are responsible for writing five blog posts on our shared course blog. These should be posted by Friday night so that peers have the weekend to respond before Monday's class.
    • two about our weekly readings or in-class discussions,
    • one about a workshop,
    • one about their data project, and
    • one about their final project.
  • Students who are not writing blog posts on a given week should comment on and respond to the posts of other students.
  • Students are encouraged to live-tweet their readings, workshops, class discussions, or other events of interest to #dhpraxis15.


  • We will be offering skills workshops throughout the semester. Students are responsible for attending a minimum of three workshops over the course of the semester. You are free to go to as many as you’d like pending space limitations. Students should write one blog post describing how one of the workshops they attended would be especially useful to a particular undergraduate class in their discipline.

  • Workshop Schedule
    Please see the GC Digital Fellows workshop schedule and the GCDI calendar for other workshops

Data Project

  • Students will identify a dataset of interest and explore it before the end of the semester using a digital tool such as MALLET, Gephi, R, Voyant, Juxta, ImagePlot, or Neatline, among others (many more tools can be found in the DiRT Directory). Early in the semester, students will write one blog post linking to their dataset, explaining why they selected it, noting what datapoints they excluded and why, and describing how they cleaned or prepared the data for analysis. Near the end of the semester, students will write a second blog post describing the results of their experiments with their digital tool, focusing in particular on the strengths and limitations of the tool or methodology they used.

Final Projects

  • Students may choose between a) writing a reflective course paper that uses their data project as a case study to demonstrate how new methodologies / digital tools are changing their respective academic fields, b) crafting a formal proposal for a digital project that might be executed with a team of students during the spring semester, or c) creating an individual digital research project on a Commons website that compares the dataset used for your data project with a second, related dataset.


  • Regular participation in discussions across the range of our face-to-face and online course spaces is essential. A significant part of our course will involve experimentation and play with various digital humanities tools. There will also be an emphasis throughout the course on online participation through various projects and weekly online discussions that will contribute to your final grade. (30%)

  • Final project (70%)


Immediately following the first class on August 31st, all students should register for accounts on the following sites: CUNY Academic Commons, Twitter, and Zotero.

Remember that when you register for social-networking accounts, you do not have to use your full name or even your real name. One benefit of writing publicly under your real name is that you can begin to establish a public academic identity and to network with others in your field. However, keep in mind that search engines have extended the life of online work; if you are not sure that you want your work for this course to be part of your permanently searchable identity trail on the web, you should strongly consider creating a digital alias. Whether you engage social media under your real name or whether you construct a new online identity, please consider the ways in which social media can affect your career in both positive and negative ways.

Books to Purchase:

Note: We encourage you to purchase books via this link, which costs you nothing but nets a 5 percent contribution to the Mina Rees Library for book and electronic resource purchases for the benefit of all GC students.


  • Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: New York University Press, 2011.

  • Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso, 2005.


  • Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Book is available for free online at

Readings marked (PDF) will be made available via the Files section of our course group.

Course Schedule and Preliminary Syllabus (subject to change)

What Is Digital Humanities and Why Is It Difficult to Define?

Aug. 31 - Introductions

Sept. 7 - NO CLASS

Sept. 10 (THURSDAY) - What is DH?/Defining the Digital Humanities

Sept. 14 - NO CLASS

Sept. 21 - Critiquing and Theorizing DH

Sept. 28 - Digital Pedagogy: How DH is Reshaping Teaching & Learning

DH Across the Disciplines?

Oct. 5 - History and the Archive

  • Introduction from Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, 2005
  • Stephen Robertson, “The Differences between Digital History and Digital Humanities”, 2014
  • In Kristen Nawrotzki & Jack Dougherty, eds., Writing History in the Digital Age, from Part 2. The Wisdom of Crowds(ourcing), 2013:

    • Leslie Madsen-Brooks, "'I nevertheless am a historian': Digital Historical Practice and Malpractice around Black Confederate Soldiers"
    • Robert Wolff, "Beyond the Historical Profession: The Historian’s Craft, Popular Memory, and the Wikipedia"

    blog about your chosen dataset sometime in the next few weeks

Oct. 12 - NO CLASS

Oct. 19 - Literature and Distant Reading

Oct. 26 - Literature and Distant Reading II

Nov. 2 - Geospatial Humanities

  • Todd Presner, et. al. selections from HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014. (PDF)
  • Hypercities book website
  • Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States
  • Neatline
  • Chapter 1 and 2 of Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps (PDF)
  • In David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris, eds, The Spatial Humanities:
    • Introduction (PDF)
    • Edward L. Ayers, "Turning Toward Place, Space, and Time" (PDF)
    • David J. Bodenhamer, "The Potential of Spatial Humanities" (PDF)
    • Gary Lock, "Representations of Space and Place in the Humanities" (PDF)
    • May Yuan, "Mapping Text" (PDF)
    • Harris, Corrigan, and Bodenhamer, "Challenges for the Spatial Humanities" (PDF)
    • "Suggestions for Further Reading" (PDF)

Nov. 9 - Guest Visit: Lev Manovich (CUNY Graduate Center) on Data Visualization

Digital Humanities Projects

Note: the guests and dates in the section are still to be confirmed.

Nov. 16 - Cinema and Media Studies

Nov. 23 - Guest Visit: Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association) on Scholarly Communication (tentative)

Nov. 30 - Dataset presentations

Dec. 7 - NYPL Labs visit

Dec. 14 - Final presentations

Dec. 20 - Final projects due (assignment details to come)