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Digital Humanities Across Borders

DLCL 204, CompLit 204A, English 204

Winter 2018

Tu/Th 1:30-2:50

Quinn Dombrowski (DLCL Academic Technology Specialist)


English-language resources have dominated the discourse of digital humanities across the globe. This course takes a broader view, focusing on the methods, tools, and discourse of digital humanities as applied to textual materials in languages other than English. Students will develop practical skills in applying digital humanities research methodologies to texts in any language of their choosing. In addition, students will become familiar with major digital humanities scholarly organizations, movements, and debates that have their origins in different linguistic and cultural identities. No prior technical or digital humanities experience required, but students must have a reading knowledge of at least one non-English language (modern or historical).

Credits / Grading

This course will be offered for between 1-5 credits, and for either a grade or credit/no credit. Students who wish to take it as part of the DH Minor must choose 5 credits (if taken as a core course) or 3 credits (if taken as an elective) and must take it for a letter grade.

The course will use contract grading, where students choose what grade they wish to receive, and write a contract (within defined parameters) at the beginning of the quarter that lays out the requirements for receiving that grade. Individual assignments will receive extensive feedback but will be graded as satisfactory / unsatisfactory. Students will have one week to revise unsatisfactory assignments to fulfill the terms of their contract. If a student is unable to fulfill the terms of their original contract, they will meet with the instructor and sign a new contract for a different grade. Parameters for a "A" grade contracts for each of the credit levels are included an appendix to this draft syllabus, and the full rubrics for each level will be available on the first day of class.


This course will involve reading less primary and secondary literature than most courses in the humanities, and there will be neither papers nor exams. Instead, you'll get experience with reading and producing different kinds of scholarly production: digital projects, conference proposals, blog posts, posters, tutorials, and technical documentation. While the word count for each of these is much less than a typical paper assignment, you may find that writing clearly and succinctly is a greater challenge than putting together a 10-page paper. The number of assignments required will depend on how many credits you're enrolled for, and what grade you've contracted for (see appendix). In lieu of extensive readings for each class, you'll be expected to spend some time experimenting with your text corpus and the tools and methods we've discussed (or others you've found). We'll begin each class talking about challenges and breakthroughs you've experienced. Contributing to these discussions is an important part of class participation.

Weekly schedule

Tuesday, January 8: Introductions

We'll go over the syllabus, make sure everyone is signed up for the right number and type of credits, and talk about contract grading. By way of context for the course, I'll share a few things about my own background with non-English digital humanities. We'll talk about definitions of digital humanities, and touch on what this course won't be covering.

Thursday, January 10: DH and disciplinary (sub-)cultures

We'll discuss examples of the kinds of research questions that this course can help you learn how to answer. We'll also talk about some of the sub-cultures and divisions within DH, as well as unifying values shared by much of DH. We'll touch on how DH intersects with data science, statistics, and programming, and how different people contextualize their DH work with respect to those areas of study, as well as traditional humanistic fields. We'll also look at examples of tutorials, recipes, and documentation to lay a foundation for a future tutorial assignment.

Tuesday, January 15: Digitizing and digitized text (hands-on, please bring laptop)

Digital text is a prerequisite for any of the analytical and visualization tools that we'll be looking at, but it's not where many projects begin. We'll talk about scanning or photographing textual documents and using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert them to digital text. We'll talk about how good is "good enough" for OCR quality, and how you can improve it. Once you have digital text, we'll look at Voyant, a straightforward tool for looking at your text in new ways – but it requires that your text have words separated by spaces. We'll talk about word segmenter tools that can make Voyant and similar tools usable for languages that don't use spaces.

Thursday, January 17: "Data"

We'll consider whether (and how) DH has "data", and what the difference is between a text and data. (Special thanks to Miriam Posner for sharing her notes from "Data Trouble").

Tuesday, January 22: Unicode

If you work with a language that doesn't use unaccented Latin characters, you can now be fairly confident that your digital text will be readable on most or all devices. That wasn't always the case, and we have the Unicode consortium to thank for the tremendous progress made over the last 30 years. We'll have a special guest lecture from Debbie Anderson, a researcher in linguistics at UC Berkeley, and the director of the Script Encoding Initiative, a project devoted to the preparation of formal proposals for the encoding of scripts and script elements not yet currently supported in Unicode. She'll explain what Unicode is, how it works, and will talk about the research, design, and community consensus work that goes into adding characters to Unicode.

Thursday, January 24: Getting, using, and sharing texts

Text digitization – be it through OCR or transcription – is a time-consuming prerequisite for digital research. Especially in smaller fields that are less likely to receive grants for large-scale digitization, it's valuable to share texts that you've prepared. We'll talk about some options for how to do that, best practices for file formats and documentation, and citation and credit for reusing others' texts. We'll touch on copyright and data ownership, and how to deal with those constraints. We'll look at national text corpora and HathiTrust, and how to get access to those corpora. We may also have a guest lecturer who can talk about how the Stanford Libraries can help you acquire texts.

Tuesday, January 29: Open Lab Day #1

We'll have an open day where you can experiment with your text using Voyant, or venture into language-specific tools and resources. This is a good opportunity to check in with Quinn if you have questions about what you might do for your project.

Thursday, January 31: Topic modeling

We'll look at examples of DH-specific technical documentation vs. general-purpose documentation, and work through the example of Miriam Posner's tutorial for the Topic Modeling Tool as well as interpreting the results from the Topic Modeling Tool.

1/31 - Due date: project proposals (question, method, source)

All students taking the course for 3 or more credits will submit a short proposal (1/2 page) with the question their project will be answering, what text(S) they'll use to answer it, and what tools / methods they'll use to answer it. |

Tuesday, February 5: Part-of-speech tagging (hands-on, please bring laptop)

We’ll cover part-of-speech tagging conceptually, when and why you might use it, and students will try to use language-specific code to implement it for their text.

Thursday, February 7: Communities: Disciplinary, DH, Identity (part 1)

There are many facets to your identity as a scholar, and you may need to adjust the way you frame your work based on the venues and communities where you are presenting it. We’ll talk about your experience (if any) with conferences in your discipline, and how disciplinary conferences differ from DH ones. We'll look at some examples of discipline-specific DH communities, as well as the discourse around digital humanities in other countries. We’ll reflect on the differences in the conception of “diversity” in the United States vs. Europe, and how those differences have played out in the international DH conference. This session will lay the groundwork for the paired conference proposals assignment (for students taking the course for 5 credits).

Tuesday, February 12: Named-entity recognition & geospatial approaches (hands-on, bring laptop)

We'll look at natural language processing tools for automatically extracting named entities (such as places). Students will try this for their own language. We’ll try transforming a list of places into geographic coordinates, and talk about the limitations of geocoding.

2/12 - Project proposals returned w/ feedback

Thursday, February 14: Posters and Communities: Disciplinary, DH, Identity (part 2)

How do you actually go about creating a poster for an academic conference?

We'll also circle back to the earlier discussion on DH communities, how DH is discussed in other countries, and communities within DH that derive from shared interests, approaches, or identities.

Tuesday, February 19: Creating and cleaning structured data (hands-on, please bring laptop)

Some kinds of analysis and visualization require some kind of structured data as an input: you can't simply use a full digital text. We'll talk about some common kinds of structured data, and how to use OpenRefine to reduce or eliminate inconsistencies in that data ("cleaning" it). We'll try transforming a list of places into geographic coordinates, and talk about the limitations of geocoding. Finally, we'll take our data (either newly-created from your own texts, or example data) and try it with Palladio, a simple visualization tool designed for humanistic inquiry.

Thursday, February 21: Palladio & visualization (hands-on, please bring laptop)

We’ll continue our exploration of Palladio and discuss other general-purpose visualization tools.

Tuesday, February 26: Network analysis (hands-on, please bring laptop)

Palladio can turn a spreadsheet of data into a network that you can see. To turn a spreadsheet of data into a quantified network that you can meaningfully compare with other data, you need a network analysis tool, and a basic understanding of network analysis. We'll cover some basic concepts in network analysis and try to create a network using Palladio.

Thursday, February 28: Tableau (hands-on, please bring laptop)

Tablaeu is an increasingly widely used tool for creating complex visualizations without writing code. This class will be an overview of how to navigate the basic Tableau interface.

Tuesday, March 5: Network analysis with Cytoscape

We'll cover some more advanced concepts in network analysis, and create a more sophisticated network visualization using Cytoscape.

Thursday, March 7: Open Lab Day #2

A chance to work on your project and ask questions.

3/12 – Due date: posters

Students who have signed up to do a poster as part of their grade contract must submit their final poster by 10 AM on 3/12 to have it printed in time for the poster exhibition. |

Tuesday, March 12: Going beyond borders

After familiarizing ourselves with Gephi in the last class, we'll look at a network visualization of conference presenters from DH 2014, and what it tells us about how one sample of the field clustered. We'll talk about professional organizations in DH, and the borders they cross and those they reinforce. We'll cover DARIAH, the European research infrastructure for digital humanities, and their efforts to engage with scholars beyond Europe. Finally, we'll reflect on the role that multilingual, culturally-aware scholars can play in bridging DH communities.

Thursday, March 14: Poster session

Stanford's literature departments, CESTA, and the Library will be invited to a poster session featuring students' final posters. Students with posters will present them to attendees; students without posters will demo their tutorial and/or talk about their project. Students without a poster or tutorial will listen to their classmates' presentations and ask questions.

3/15 – Recommended due date: tutorials & conference proposals

Students who have signed up to do a tutorial or conference proposal as part of their contract are advised to turn them in by 3/15 to ensure they have enough time for a revision if needed for the tutorial to be considered satisfactory. Students who submit their work by 3/15 will receive feedback by 3/18. Tutorials and conference proposals can be submitted as late as 3/18 for feedback by 3/20. Work submitted after 3/18 will not receive feedback and an opportunity for revision. All work and revisions must be submitted by 3/22. |


I want this class to be accessible to anyone who shows up with an interest in the topic. Everyone has a right to the full experience of the class — which is fundamentally about what role digital tools and methods might play in your education and/or research, and how you might choose to connect with and contribute to communities of "digital" scholarship. Grappling with your identity as a student and/or scholar can be difficult. If there's something in the syllabus or that we cover in class that freaks you out, please talk to me! If you're encountering a barrier, or expecting a possible barrier to your being able to successfully complete your contract, let's chat! It doesn't need to be academic — sleep-training kids, taking care of unwell family and friends, roommates who listen to Viking metal bands at full volume at all hours of the night, and anxiously binge-watching Netflix are real life. Mental illness flare-ups can impact what you can get done — I know, I had a bipolar II diagnosis for all of grad school. Whether or not you've got paperwork through the Office of Accessible Education (, please come talk to me anytime if something is getting in the way of your learning or completing the contract you created.

Fundamental standard & honor code

Beyond the bare minimums laid out by the Stanford Fundamental Standard (, I expect you to treat one another in this class not only with respect, but with generosity. If you find a resource or an approach that has helped you, share it so others can benefit -- and listen when others share.

The honor code ( lays out guidelines for the university's policy on academic integrity. Collaboration -- with your classmates and others -- is very much welcome in this course, but be sure to acknowledge your collaborators and the assistance they provided (e.g. including in your acknowledgements section a cousin who helped you interpret some of the statistics from your analysis.)


Thanks to Miriam Posner (DH 150: Selfies, Snapchat, & Cyberbullies, and Ryan Cordell (ENGL 1450: Reading and Writing in the Digital Age, for the inspiration for contract grading.

Readings and resources for East Asian languages are largely drawn from Molly des Jardin's East Asian Digital Humanities (EALC111/511) syllabus (

Thanks to Aimée Morrison for inspiring the accommodation statement.

Appendix: Contract parameters

Students will write their own contracts for the grade they want to receive, using the parameters below. The contract allows students to set their own goals for how much they want to invest in this class, and hold themselves accountable for it. Because of the requirements of university degree programs, contracts have to map to grades, but that shouldn't get in the way of students' goals or learning. There is some overlap in the parameters for different grades at different credit levels; a student taking this course for 3 credits who wants to focus on this class may end up putting in as much work for their A as a student taking it for 5 credits who has other priorities this quarter. This is "a feature, not a bug", as is said about software: the 3-credit student will have a structure to hold themselves accountable for engaging with the class to the extent they want, and the 5-credit student will do enough work to get their desired grade given the university's expectations of how much work should go into that grade at that credit level.

Assignment overview

The following assignments are included in one or more A-grade contracts:

  • Blog posts: 800-1000 words reflecting thoughtfully on topics discussed in class. Blog posts are an opportunity to think through and share how the topics we discuss apply, or could apply, to your project in the class, or your scholarship or career more broadly. As you work on your project, blog posts allow you to share challenges, roadblocks, and discoveries when applying the tools we've discussed. Blog posts must be posted on Canvas, but for any blog post, you have the option of additionally sharing it on the Stanford Digital Humanities site ( for the benefit of the broader community.

  • Blog responses: 60-100 words responding to a classmate's blog post, posted on Canvas. It's helpful to get feedback on your reflections, and reading others' thoughts and challenges might give you ideas for what to try (or not) with your own project.

  • Conference proposals: A pair of proposals for presenting your project at a conference. One will follow the guidelines for posters for DH 2019 (750 words maximum, The other will follow the least-demanding guidelines for a conference in your academic field, or an academic field relevant to your text (e.g. if you're a Comp Sci major working on Chinese literature, you could choose a Comp Sci conference or a literature conference). Conference proposals will be submitted via Canvas.

  • Poster: a visually engaging presentation of your project, compatible with either a presentation or stand-alone display. Posters will be printed and presented at the poster session at the end of the course. Creating a poster forces you to be succinct in the textual presentation of your project and think through how to present it in a visual way. Poster files will be submitted via Canvas and will be printed for the poster session at the end of the course.

  • Project proposal: 250 words or less, describing a research question, and what text(s) and method(s) you will use to address it. These project proposals are a very lightweight precursor to writing a grant proposal. Project proposals will be submitted via Canvas.

  • Project: A set of activities that aim to address a research question. The project is the framework for engaging with text that is meaningful to you, using tools and methods that we cover in class (or others you find that are useful for addressing your research question). There may or may not be a final "deliverable" for your project, but depending on your credit level, you'll develop a poster, tutorial, and/or conference proposals based on your project.

  • Tutorial: 800-1200 words walking through how to do something useful using a tool or method we've discussed in class, or that you've used for your project. The audience is someone else in your field without prior technical experience. Having access to a clearly written, relevant tutorial can mean the difference between trying and not trying a new tool or method, particularly for scholars who don't have access to courses or workshops. While tutorials can be time-consuming to write well, authoring a tutorial that makes tools or methods accessible to others is a way to develop your professional identity within the digital humanities community.

A-grade contract parameters at different credit levels

Assignment 5 4 3 2 1
Missable classes 2 3 3 3 4
Blog posts 3-5 2-5 2-4 1-3 0-2
Blog comments 5-8 3-7 3-6 2-5 2-4
Project proposal Yes Yes Yes Yes No*
Implement project Yes Yes Yes No* No*
Create & present poster Yes Yes Choose 1-2: poster, tutorial, proposal No No
Write tutorial OR conference proposals Yes (can be both) Yes (can be both) -- Write tutorial No

* While these credit levels don't need to complete the assignment, they should still spend at least an hour a week experimenting with the tools covered in class and digital text in their language.

B-grade contract parameters at different credit levels

Assignment 5 4 3 2 1
Missable classes 3 4 4 4 5
Blog posts 2-4 1-4 1-3 1-2 0-1
Blog comments 3-5 2-4 2-4 1-3 1-2
Project proposal Yes Yes Yes Yes No*
Implement project Yes Yes Yes No* No*
Create & present poster Yes Yes Choose 1-2: poster, tutorial, proposal No No
Write tutorial OR conference proposals Yes (can be both) Yes (can be both) -- Write tutorial No

* While these credit levels don't need to complete the assignment, they should still spend at least an hour a week experimenting with the tools covered in class and digital text in their language.

C-grade/pass contract parameters at different credit levels

Assignment 5 4 3 2 1
Missable classes 4 5 5 5 5
Blog posts 1-3 1-3 1-3 1-2 0-1
Blog comments 2-4 1-3 1-4 1-2 1-2
Project proposal Yes Yes Yes Yes No*
Implement project Yes Yes Yes No* No*
Create & present poster Yes Yes Choose 1: poster, tutorial, proposal No No
Write tutorial OR conference proposals Yes Yes -- Write tutorial No

* While these credit levels don't need to complete the assignment, they should still spend at least an hour a week experimenting with the tools covered in class and digital text in their language.

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