Course Description and FAQ

This course introduces students to major new directions in the practice of history on the web and the growing distinction between digital history as method and digital history as medium. Students will gain skills in web publishing, identifying avenues for public engagement, and using digital tools for historical analysis. Through a series of case studies on social networks, mapping, text analysis, and narrative, students will build a collaborative, publicly engaged historical project. Previous experience with building websites and home/outside of class use of a computer with ability to install software is welcomed but not required.

Open to Master’s and Doctoral students

No previous web/computer skills or experience are necessary. Outside-of-class use of a computer which you can install software on would be helpful, but is not required.  All tools and software that we’ll be using for analysis and publishing are free and opensource–great if you find yourself working with a small institution or a limited research budget.  There will be no required physical texts to purchase, but I will ask students to pay $25 for their own web hosting through an educational provider.  This gives you ownership of your portfolio even after you leave the university, as well as experience with installing through a hosting service.

Omeka + WordPress

  • What is this? Omeka and WordPress are free, opensource web publishing platforms. The National Council for Public History recommends that all public history graduate students know how to install and manage content using both.  This course blog is powered with WordPress.
  • What do I do with it? We’ll use WordPress to host individual portfolios of projects centered around our three main units, and we’ll use Omeka to bring all three units together in a collaborative digital exhibit for the final project.

Social Network Analysis

  • What is this? SNA visualizes the relationships between people, places, documents, or objects, and can be used to analyze the significance or influence of those things based on their relationships to others in the network.
  • What do I do with it? In class, we’ll construct a network of students and faculty at the State Normal School (the precursor to UAlbany) using the University archives and analyze the significance of particular people and courses
  • See an example of a weighted network of War of 1812 Iroquois veterans from my book here

Text Mining

  • What is this? Text mining algorithmically analyzes a large body of text and can be used to find patterns to focus close reading, compare genres, or analyze change.
  • What do I do with it? We’ll analyze UAlbany newspapers, going through the entire process from acquiring documents, processing, visualizing and analyzing the results.
  • See an example of words frequently associated with “students,” “faculty,” and both in the academic year 1926 editions of the UAlbany student newspaper

Digital Mapping

  • What is this? Digital mapping includes Geographic Information Systems as well as “georectifying” or warping historic maps as overlays on modern maps.
  • What do I do with it? In class we’ll georectify some historic maps of Albany, create a digital walking tour of events drawn from our previous units, and use census data to map where students lived in relationship to one another.

We will also touch on narrative, public engagement, professional visibility, digital research methods, and the theory and ethics of digital history

Doctoral students are welcome but not required to design their own project using material from the dissertation field—email or stop by my office to talk about possibilities and help finding sources