Digital American Studies

This course is designed as a intensive exploration of the adaptation of American Studies to a digital environment. As such it is a course in applied American Studies, and will examine not only what American Studies is, but also what presence and use of digital media and tools does to the practice of American Studies. The course is reading, discussing, and making intensive. The course emphasizes praxis and tacit knowledge, so we will investigate topics through making and critiquing prototypes based on student interests. Students will leave the class with a critical understanding of how to apply digital tools and methods in humanities research, scholarship, and pedagogy.


Introductions (January 19)

Hello, Computer (January 24, 26)

Making Things on the Web (January 31–February 9)

Digital Archives & Collections (February 14, 16)

More than Data (February 21, 23)

Critical Making (February 28, March 2)

Spring Break (March 7, 9)

Digital Research Project (March 14–May 2)

  • March 28 – Proposal Due
  • May 2 – Project shared with the class

For the second half of the semester, you will plan, manage, develop, and present a modest research project using any combination of digital tools and methods we’ve discussed. You will compose a modest proposal, that will outline the purpose, scope, inspiration, and direction of the project. You’ll then work on that project over subsequent weeks, and share your finished project with the group. Lastly, you will have the opportunity to critique several projects.

Work and Grades

There are seveal major components for your grade:

  • Project Proposal (25%)
  • Final Research Project (50%)
  • Peer Critiques (25%)

Grades for the course are assigned in the following manner:

  • A – Outstanding work, complete mastery of the material presented, combined with some originality.
  • B – A solid command of the material with some minor gaps or mistakes.
  • C – Some knowledge of the material; Infrequent but significant confusions and errors present.
  • D – An incomplete, minimal knowldge of the material; Frequent and/or major confusions and errors.
  • F – A complete lack of understanding of the course material.
  • I – There are no incompletes given in this course except in cases of bona fide and documented instances in accordance with the regulations of the university.
  • P – For a “pass” a “C” average is required.

If you receive a grade with which you do not agree, feel free to discuss it with me by appointment. I am open to changing a grade if given sufficient reason, but be very prepared to make your case.

Working in Groups: Digital work is very often collaborative in nature, so I encourage you to work together in groups on a project. For grading purposes, if you do decide to work as a group, I will require a brief written description of how the team worked together and how each person contributed to solving problems presented by a particular assignment. So, you’re free to turn in a particular assignment as a group, but I need to know that 1) everyone in the group participated in the assignment, and 2) there was transfer of knowledge among the group, meaning that everyone in the group learned from each other. In most digital humanities projects outside this class, team members will specialize in a particular area, and its safe to assume that once this class is over you will choose a particular area or two as a specialty. But for this class, I expect you to learn about and contribute to all the areas involved in the creation of a digital project.