This class will be a bit different from most of your graduate classes. I hope you will see these differences as exciting and intellectually stimulating, but you should be aware of the following caveats as we begin (and thanks to Miriam Posner for providing the first draft of these caveats from her DH grad course):
There will be no final seminar paper.
You will produce a final digital project. Likely this project will require substantial writing, but you will not submit a 20 page seminar paper at semester’s end. Instead, your projects will require sustained work and will be multimodal, comprising text and other elements (e.g. digital images, maps, network graphs).
You will collaborate (not just do group work).
Digital humanities projects often require collaboration among scholars who bring different intellectual and technical skills to expansive projects. This class will require you to work together in substantive ways with your classmates, distributing responsibilities and sharing credit.
Your workload and pace may differ from that of your collaborators.
We will do substantial work in teams in this class, and team members will have unique roles to play. Depending on the role you assume, you may be called upon to work with greater intensity earlier (or later) in the semester from some of your teammates or other classmates. I will help guide you through this process, but I cannot guarantee now when you will be busiest this semester. I cannot even guarantee you will do precisely the same amount of work as each of your colleagues. Such are the perils of collaboration.
You will be required to acquire some technical skills.
While I do not require or assume any particular technical experience as we begin this course, I will expect you to be willing to experiment with new tools and learn new technical skills throughout the semester. “I’m not very technical” will not excuse you from the hands-on portions of the course any more than “I’m not poetic” would excuse you from reading Dickinson in a survey of American literature. Some of the tools we test you may find useful for your research program; some you will not. But I expect you to try them with enthusiasm and an open mind.
You will have to work (some of the time) in public.
The digital humanities community prizes experimenting (and sometimes even failing) in public. Working in public allows others to learn from what we do and to offer help when we need it. For this course we will blog in public, and I will ask you to engage with the DH community through Twitter. Before you commit to this course, make sure you are ready and willing to experiment with your ideas in public. While I think such an experiment will reward the risks it entails, I recognize that some might not be willing to venture into public scholarship.
The course will itself be an experiment.
We are still developing our DH curriculum at Northeastern; this is one of the first DH courses offered here. As such, I hope to involve you in setting the priorities and goals for the course. An experimental course such as this opens itself up to many quirks: the syllabus may shift; a given tool might not work as expected; an experiment might veer off track or fail altogether. In other words, this course will require both an innovative spirit and patience from its students.
If you can face these challenges with persistence and reasonably good humor, we should have an intellectually enlivening semester.