Wednesdays, 2-4:30 pm
MB 205 (via Zoom until Jan 31)
This class will provide an introduction to data – as a concept, as an object and method of study, and as a scholarly product – and how it operates in the humanities today. We will focus not only on how humanists understand the concept and history of data, but also on how they go about collecting, organizing, and analyzing it. We will discuss the place of humanistic data analysis within what is more widely known as the digital humanities; what constitutes “data” in the humanities and how to go about collecting it; the relationship between data and archival collections; the logic, practice, and problems associated with quantification; methods of data analysis; and what it means to understand datasets as scholarship. We will explore a variety of computational research projects in the humanities over the course of the semester, seeking to understand the decisions researchers have made in constructing, interpreting, and publishing their data and to articulate the consequences, both positive and negative, of these decisions.
This class is designed to introduce participants to the concepts and methods researchers employ when collecting and analyzing humanities data (for our purposes, this mainly means text). As such, it will include a significant hands-on component: participants will learn to explore and analyze existing humanities datasets and, by the end of the semester, construct their own scholarly dataset. This will entail developing basic familiarity with spreadsheets, regular expressions, and Python, a programming language. However, this class is not designed to teach programming. Rather, the goal will be to equip participants with some basic research skills that will make collecting, organizing, exploring, and analyzing data – and, crucially, understanding how other scholars have collected, organized, explored, and analyzed data – easier. Assignments will include lab reports, including a reflection on an existing scholarly dataset, and the creation of a scholarly dataset that reflects participants’ research interests and the semester’s discussions of humanities data.
The course is open to students across the humanities, although it will focus on literary and cultural studies. No experience in the digital humanities or with digital tools or methods is required. This course will count toward the completion of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities (it will count as the practicum course for those students who need to fulfill that requirement this year).
This syllabus has benefitted enormously from the labor of others. In particular, I have borrowed and/or adapted ideas, readings, assignments, and conceptual framing from Ryan Cordell’s Intro to DH (F20) and BookLab: Print to Programming (S22) courses; from Miriam Posner’s Museums in the Digital Age (F20) course; and from Jim McGrath’s Digital Archives and Digital Publics (S20) course.