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BA Politics and Modern History

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Digital Tools for the Humanities

Unit code DIGI20020
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

How can digital tools and methods help us ask new questions in the humanities? The aim of this interdisciplinary, hands-on unit is to equip students with basic skills in some of the most important digital tools and approaches currently used in different humanities disciplines. Individual classes will teach students to perform distant reading, create digital maps, visualise networks, and create compelling charts. As part of the exercise to use digital methods, students will have the opportunity to develop their own digital projects. The course allows students to formulate their own research questions, condense them into a manageable agenda, and answer them using new tools that allow to combine maps, charts, network visualisations, and narrative. With its combined focus on technical skills, creativity, and criticism, the course allows students to develop transferable skills needed to thrive in a variety of workplaces. This module is designed for students from all humanities backgrounds, and no prior digital humanities experience or technical expertise is necessary.

 

 

Aims

This course aims to:

 

  • Explore the use and abuse of digital methods in the humanities
  • Give a practical overview of the main digital tools applied to the humanities, including tools for quantitative textual analysis, network analysis, and digital mapping
  • Allow students to develop a deeper proficiency in at least one technology of their choosing
  • Help students become more vigilant and reflective users of digital data and technologies

 

Learning outcomes

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

 

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the opportunities and limitations of digital humanities methods.
  • Identify questions amenable to digital analysis and use geospatial, network, distant reading techniques and concepts to answer them
  • Decide when a digital tool can be useful for specific questions in their subject area.
  • Create their own digital project relating to the subject of their degree programme

 

Visualising and Telling Stories with Data

By the end of this course students will be able to collect, clean, and join data from different sources, generate their own maps, visuals, and posters, and understand key principles of data visualisation which are an essential skillset in the creative industries. You will be able to present information and arguments orally, verbally and visually with due regard to the target audience

 

Critical and Analytical Skills

This course enables you to critically read and evaluate charts, maps and other forms of visualisation. You will learn to recognise biased, misleading, or oversimplifying forms of visual representation, but also to create better ones to understand complex questions.

 

Create and Innovate

The course allows you to formulate your own research questions, condense them into a manageable agenda, and answer them using new tools that allow you to develop and present your argument through visualization and narrative.

 

Knowledge and understanding

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

 

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the opportunities and limitations of digital humanities methods.
  • Evaluate different types of projects undertaken in text mining, network analysis, and digital mapping.
  • Recognise how digital approaches can both enhance and limit our understanding of different questions in the humanities.

Intellectual skills

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

 

  • Read, critically evaluate, and apply literature on distant reading, network analysis, mapping, and data visualisation.
  • Decide when a digital tool can be useful for specific questions in their subject area.
  • Critically reflect on how data modelling and visualisation choices influence the interpretation of the data.
  • Apply skills and concepts learned in class to plan, develop and present a collaborative research project.
  • Develop a critical perspective on digital tools and learn to identify misuse, oversimplification, or misleading use of colour, symbology, or scale and act on their criticism

Practical skills

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

 

  • Learn to use some of the most important tools currently employed in the humanities and develop a deeper proficiency in at least one technology of your choosing
  • Identify a question amenable to digital analysis and explore the use of geospatial, network, distant reading techniques and concepts to answer it
  • Collect, manipulate, and analyse different types of data
  • Create high quality maps and charts
  • See a digital research project from inception to completion
  • Present an argument through visualization and narrative, combining short texts, supporting graphics, figures, and tables

 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

 

  • Acquire practical skills using a range of different digital applications
  • Present information and arguments orally, verbally and visually with due regard to the target audience
  • Think creatively how to develop and communicate their work

 

 

Employability skills

Other
With its combined focus on technical proficiency, creativity, and criticism, the course allows students to develop skills and the confidence needed to thrive in a variety of non-academic workplaces, including marketing and communication, journalism, digital media, libraries and museums.

Assessment methods

Presentation 30%
Digital project plus critical reflection on process  70%

 

Feedback methods

Weekly informal feedback on formative portfolio tasks as they are completed. Written feedback on summative assessment to be given within 15 working days of submission. 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).

Recommended reading

Gordon, Colin, Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City (University of Pennsylvania Press: 2008)

Johanna Drucker ‘Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display’, Digital Humanities Quarterly, 5.1 (2011).

Moretti, Franco, and Dominique Pestre, “Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports” Stanford Literary Lab Pamphlet 9 (2015).

White, Richard, “What is Spatial History?” Spatial History Lab: Working Paper (2010).

Yau, Nathan, Data Points: Visualization That Means Something (Wiley & Sons: 2013).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Practical classes & workshops 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Luca Scholz Unit coordinator

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