BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Defining Digital Humanities

Unit code DIGI10011
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module introduces the digital humanities by developing a critical humanities approach to digital thinking. It aims to establish the basis for a theoretical and critical understanding of what it is meant by ‘digital humanities’, the power of the machines and their drawbacks, and both the limitations of digital approaches and their potential. The course brings together disciplines including classical studies, literary studies, linguistics, geography and history to explore how digital technologies influence - for better or worse - our society’s most fundamental issues, including data ethics, structural inequalities and the environment. It encourages students to think critically about the way they use and respond to digital technologies in their day-to-day lives, in order to consider more holistically the opportunities and limitations that the digital offers the humanities. By the end of the course, students will develop the necessary critical skills to apply digital thinking to their own research questions.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Digital Tools for the Humanities DIGI10022 Co-Requisite Recommended


This course aims to:

-          Introduce students to current debates on digital Humanities and the digital, broadly understood

-          Give a theoretical overview of digital tools applied to the humanities, including tools for quantitative textual             analysis, data visualisation, literary text mining, and spatial analysis

-          Develop a critical understanding of these technologies, their potentials and their limitations, and their                     social roles

-          Deepen understanding of digital technologies and analyse their effects on humanity

-          Challenge conceptions of the digital

                -          Deepen understandings of the digital footprint

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

-          Critically evaluate digital technologies, their role in the humanities, and the role of the digital in society

-          Understand when and how digital tools are useful for the humanities, and when and how they can be                     dangerous or limiting

-          Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of some major academic debates on digital humanities

-          Develop their powers of interpretation and argumentation, and of oral and written self-expression in                        English through seminar discussion, secondary reading, and essay writing.


The syllabus is indicative only.


Week 1:               Defining Digital Humanities


Week 1 will introduce the concept of the ‘digital humanities’, and offer some different definitions on which discussion will focus. It will begin to ask how the digital humanities might affect the research environment, and the wider perceptions of and uses for humanities research.


Week 2:               A History of Digital


The week will provide an overview of the history of the so-called ‘Digital Revolution’, considering key figures including Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Margaret Hamilton, and Mark Zuckerberg. It will situate the digital humanities in this context by tracing the development of computational scholarship in the last century. In doing so, it encourages discussion on the ways in which the digital has changed the way we think - both in our everyday lives and as humanities scholars.


Week 3:               Digital Humanity


Week 3 uses Donna Haraway’s essay Cyborg Manifesto as framework through which to consider the role of the digital in the modern world. In asking what the digital does to us, as well as what we do to the digital, it considers the possibilities and dangers presented by a digital world. It builds on the first two weeks encouraging wider discussion about the potential political, structural and environmental issues raised by the digital and the digital humanities which we will explore in more detail in the remainder of the module.


Week 4:               Human(ities) Data


This week, we will use Facebook as a case study through which to think about the ethics of digital data. We will ask what data we give out, examine how it is used, and question the moral, social and political implications of the uses of digital data. In light of discussions on ethics of data, what might we say about how we gather, analyse and disseminate humanities data.

Week 5:               Digital Communications

This week, we will consider the ways in which the digital has changed our communication practices. Our case study will be Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which we will use to think about how the digital has affected distinctions between the private and public spheres, the way that language has changed in response to new media, and examine some scholarly responses to Trump’s social media activities to consider how digital humanities approaches can help us assess these new modes of communication.

Week 6:               Reading Week

Week 7:               Digital Materialism


Week 7 considers the implications for humanities scholarship of the shift from analogue to digital. We will look at some key digitisation projects, and critically assess what research questions might be promoted and obscured by this process. Further, we will consider born-digital media to discuss potential futures of digital materialism.


Week 8:               Digital (In)equalities


This week uses Theodore Melfi’s film Hidden Figures (2016) as a

Teaching and learning methods

33 contact hours, comprising:

·         One weekly 1-hour lecture every week for 11 weeks in Semester 1 (Monday 2-3pm)

·         One weekly 2-hour seminar for 11 weeks in Semester 1 (Thursday 4-6pm)


·         Two scheduled weekly consultation hours, with additional drop-in consultation scheduled for course students for assessment advice and feedback.

·         Further consultation by request.

·         Blackboard discussion/noticeboard forum to facilitate debate.

·         Useful web links, bibliographical/referencing guides, and MyLearning Essentials material made available on Blackboard.

Extensive eLearning resources will be available via Blackboard. These will include: copies of slides used in classes; links to digitized material and relevant online resources; and supplementary materials to aid students in preparing for classes and assessment.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

-          Apply their analytical skills to assess and analyse the potential and limits of digital tools, and render them              meaningful in their various historic and social contexts

-          Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of major academic debates on digital humanities

-          Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of representations of the digital, and key debates in                               contemporary film media, and to read these critically.

                -         Demonstrate an awareness of some of the main digital methods which can be applied in humanities                                     disciplines.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

-          Engage in independent reflection and enquiry.

-          Read, apply, and critically evaluate literature on digital humanities

                -          Engage in discussion and critical evaluation of various digital tools, and decide when a digital tool can be                              useful for their discipline.

Practical skills

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to:

-          Engage in oral and written debates

-         Build argumentative frameworks for the analysis of cultural digital artefacts

-         Use library, electronic, and on-line research resources

-         Follow correct citation procedure for the professional presentation of academic writing

-         Carry out individual research and select material judiciously.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of the course unit, students will be able to:

-         present information, ideas and arguments, orally and in writing, with due regard to the target audience;

-         participate constructively in group activities (e.g. class discussions);

-         assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others;

-         demonstrate powers of analysis.

-         demonstrate critical skills regarding the deployment of digital tools in humanities research

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Book review: 1000-word summative Book Review of a key work defining ‘digital humanities’, to be submitted by 12pm on Friday of Week 5. (Formative for summative essay)


1000 words


15-minute individual or paired/group in-class Presentation, to be given in Weeks 7-10


15 minutes


1500-word summative Essay, to be submitted 12pm Friday of Week 12.


2000 words


Resit essay: summative 1500-word essay on the themes covered during the course.

2000 words



Feedback methods

Written feedback on summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments. Students are encouraged to seek formative feedback ahead of the first assignment of the unit by discussing work plans and approaches during seminars (where appropriate) and in consultation hours.  Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment). A final essay support session will be held in the lecture hour in Week 12, with drop-in help in the final seminar.

Recommended reading

Berry, D.M., 2012. Understanding digital humanities. Palgrave Macmillan.

Berry, D. and  Fagerjord, A., 2017. Digital Humanities: Knowledge and Critique in a Digital Age. Wiley.

Crompton, C., Lane, R.J. and Siemens, R. eds, 2016. Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research.

Gardiner, E. and Musto, R.G., 2015. The digital humanities: A primer for students and scholars.

Gold, M.K., 2012. Debates in the digital humanities.

Haraway, D., 1984. Cyborg Manifesto.

McCarty, W., 2016. ‘Collaborative research in the digital humanities’ 13-22 in Collaborative research in the digital humanities.

McKenzie, L., 2018. ‘Digital Humanities for Social Good’ in Inside Higher Education July 9 2018

Nawrotzki, K. and Dougherty, J., 2013. Writing History in the Digital Age.

Ramasubramanian, L., 2010. Geographic Information Science and Public Participation pp.19-32.

Schreibman, S., Siemens, R. and Unsworth, J. eds, 2008. A companion to digital humanities.

Schreibman, S., Siemens, R and Unsworth, J. eds 2016. A New Companion to Digital Humanities, 2nd Edition. 2016.

Terras, M., Nyhan, J., Vanhoutte, E., Defining Digital Humanities.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joanna Taylor Unit coordinator

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