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Current Week


In the first few weeks of the class, we are going to make the class. This will likely be an unnerving process – classes usually start with syllabi that dictate what students will learn. In this class, however, I’m asking you to articulate what you’re interested in vis-a-vis things digital and things death. Some of the weeks are already scheduled, others are highly flexible. In this first section, we’ll be talking about the topics that interest you and building out a schedule for assignments that works best for the students in this iteration of this class.

Things that will definitely happen:

  • Regular posts to a class forum (we can decide if this will be public or private, and what form it will take)
  • Regular responses to colleagues’ posts
  • A final project (individual or collaborative) equivalent in content (though not necessarily in form) to a 5-7 page paper for each section
  • Presentation of one of the final projects at a semester-end showcase
  • Regular readings
  • Regular attendance/participation

Things we can customize:

  • How do you want forum posts to be structured? Weekly? Set number/semester? Group structure? Blog? Message board?
  • How do you want your posts assessed?
  • What do you want the section II project to look like? Should it be a review of the literature? An investigation of a particular artifact of death in the digital age? A performance piece? A breakfast cereal?
  • For section projects, do you want to work collaboratively, or in groups?
  • How much scaffholding/structure do you want for your projects?
  • How do you want to contribute to the structure reading discussion? Discussion leaders? Pre-circulated questions?
  • How much opportunity for in-class work do you want?

Week 1

Monday, August 24th Introduction to the class
Wednesday August 26th Building the syllabus/introduction to Davidson Domains “How a Class Becomes a Community: Theories, Methods, Examples”


“Some starting points for building a digital learning community”

A list of (3-5) goals/outcomes that you hope to accomplish in this class.


The 4 most useful parameters from the reading – what four things do you think are most important for building a good class/learning community?

Friday, August 28th Studying death Robert Kastenbaum. “A world without death? First and second thoughts” in Mortality vol 1, issue 1.


Tony Walter , Rachid Hourizi , Wendy Moncur , Stacey Pitsillides. “Does the Internet Change how we Die and Mourn?” in OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. 2011-2012, Vol, 64, No. 4.

Have signed up for Davidson Domains.
A provisional answer to each of the “questions to consider”

Week 2

Monday, August 31st Death and data (part I) Audrey Watters. “The Web We Need to Give Students”


Andrew Rikard on data and Davidson Domains

Have created a subdomain for this class.
Wednesday, September 2nd Death and data (part II)
Christopher Beam. “#Posterity, How future historians will use the Twitter archives.” In Slate, April 20, 2010


Isaac Asimov on psychohistory

A list of 3-5 additional topics you want to see covered in the course (for examples, see this list in part II). For each, write a short paragraph (2-3 sentences) about why this topic interests you, and about what you hope to get from it. Post these to your own course blog. They will be ported into the central blog for this site (this is your first blogging assignment!)
Friday, September 4th Finalizing the syllabus/ evaluating forum assignments/ finalizing Part II projects


Jesse Stommel. “12 Steps for Creating a Digital Assignment or Hybrid Class


Dr. Shrout’s assignment rubric


Dr. Sample’s blogging rubric

Using Google docs, annotate my and Dr. Sample’s rubrics. Indicate one thing you like, and one thing you’re not such a fan of.


Fill out this form about proposed final projects: form (with added ridiculous cats)


In this half of the semester, we take a presentist focus, and explore the meaning of death – both digital and corporeal – in the internet age. Readings will explore digital identities after death and the funereal possibilities afforded by the internet (including, but not limited to live-streamed funerals and online memorials) as well as more general questions about how we can live, die and be forgotten through the data we leave behind. During this part of the course, students will also explore the creation and curation of their own digital identities through their Davidson Domains sites, and will work to develop a set of best practices for remembering, forgetting, and preserving lived experiences on the internet.

Things we will accomplish in this section:

  • Understand what death means in a computer age
  • Understand how conceptions of death have changed
  • Understand how conceptions of death have stayed the same
  • Understand how modern data cultures impact the meaning of death today
The first two weeks of this section are “fixed points in time” but there are three remaining weeks where topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Psychological approaches to death and dying in the digital age
  • Sociological approaches to death and dying in the digital age
  • Medical quandaries
  • Mass media and cultures of death
  • Popular culture and death
  • Death as data loss
  • The online world as a realm of ghosts
  • Gender/Class/Race digital death

Week 3

Monday, September 7th Methods of preserving the dead Silence in the Library (we will watch this in class)
(for some background on Dr. Who look here)
Wednesday, September 9th Preserving the dead online. Lex Berko. “Death on the Internet: The rise of Livestreaming Funerals”


Doctor Who, Season 4, Episode 9. Forest of the Dead (you will watch this on your own. The DVD is on reserve in the library, and the episode is on Netflix)

Thursday, September 10th Explore the Regina José Galindo exhibit at the Davidson Art Gallery
Friday, September 11 Digital, New Media and Human Rights Clare Carolin. “After the Digital We Rematerialise: Distance and Violence in the Work of Regina José Galindo”


Discussion of the Galindo exhibit

Bonus activity, in place of TWO blog posts: write an editorial think piece situating one of Galindo’s pieces in terms of the work we’ve done so far on digital death. May be published on the art gallery website.

Week 4

Case Study: Disasters and September 11th
Monday, September 14th Death, disaster and humor “Part One: Disaster Jokes” in Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture (Pages from Of Corpse)
Wednesday, September 16th Digital journalism and 9-11 “Introduction” in Journalism After September 11


“Reweaving the Internet: online news of September 11” in Journalism After September 11

Friday, September 18th Memorials and disaster aftermath Dead in Iraq background


Dead in Iraq video


9/11 Digital Archives


Aaron Hess. “In digital remembrance: vernacular memory andthe rhetorical construction of web memorials” in Media, Culture & Society

Week 5

Monday, September 21st Ghosts.

(thanks to @simpsonsparadox and @sjappleford for suggestions for this week)

“Ghosts: The Dead Among Us in Handbook of Death and Dying


Robin Williams’s World of Warcraft Tribute


Terry Pratchett code memorial


Whitney Houston “Hologram” to tour


In the Virtual World, His Fiance Never Died

Wednesday, September 23rd  Digital Death and Popular Culture: mourning fiction

Tumblr tutorial in class.

Game of Thrones Digital Graveyard


Benjamin Bird. “History, Emotion and the Body: Mourning in Post 9/11 Fiction” in Literature Compass, v4 n3 (May 2007)

 Have registered for a Tumblr account for this class.
Friday, September 25th  Digital Death and Popular Culture: memorials Tim Sherratt. “Unremembering the Forgotten”


Miriam Posner. Walter Freeman and Lobotomy’s Visual Archive

Jed Brubaker, Gillian Hayes, & Paul Dourish “Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Site for the Expansion of Death and Mourning” The Information Society, 29: 152–163, 2013

A preliminary synthesis (one paragraph) of what we’ve read so far. This will take the form of identifying one central questions, common findings and/or common methodologies.  You needn’t incorporate all of the readings, but you must incorporate AT LEAST FOUR.

Week 6

Monday, September 28th  Mortality in the digital age D.N.R. by Another Name


 “Technology and Death” in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying

Wednesday, September 30th  Psychologies of mourning in the digital age “Our Quantified/Cyborg Selves” In Theory podcast


Falconer, K., Sachsenweger, M., Gibson, K., & Norman, H. (2011). Grieving in the Internet Age. New Zealand Journal of Psychology 40, 79-88


Gibson, Margaret. “Death and Mourning in Technologically Mediated Culture.” Health Sociology Review 16, no. 5 (12, 2007): 415-424.

Friday, October 2nd Suicide in the digital age Twitter Suicide Policy


Look at, and play through if you’d care to Depression Quest


Samaritans pulls ‘suicide watch’ Radar app


Mccarthy, Michael. “Internet monitoring of suicide risk in the population” in Journal Of Affective Disorders Volume: 122 Issue: 3

A list of your digital artifacts for the Part II assignment.

Week 7

Monday, October 5th  Gender and online harassment Read  through (and follow links if you need clarification) “What is Gamergate and Why? An Explainer for Non-Geeks”  An amended list of your digital artifacts with preliminary theoretical orientations.
Wednesday, October 7th  Annihilating and forgetting data Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Right To Be Forgotten (HBO)


Sherbit Blog (2015) The Internet Never Forgets: What Happens To Your Data When You Die?


How Just One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life in NY Times

Friday, October 9th Race and death the digital age The appended subject: Race and identity as digital assemblage State of the semester audit (counts as a blog post – due by 5 PM on Friday)

Week 8

Monday, October 12th FALL BREAK
Wednesday, October 14th SHROUT OUT
Friday, October 16th SHROUT OUT Final project for section II due by 5 PM



Using archives, oral histories and explorations of cemeteries in and around Davidson, students will reconstruct the life of one (or more) of Davidson’s dead. We will read both recent and classic works on digital humanities, data theory, biography and local history. We will also learn how to use “leaps of grounded imagination” to move from raw data and archival silences to a digital and public history narrative, and will consider what kinds of digital humanities tools are most appropriate for telling different stories.

Things that will definitely happen:

  • Come to some understanding about what thinking about data in the context of death gets us, that (a) thinking about data qua data doesn’t, and thinking about death qua death doesn’t
  • Understand how records about people are collected and preserved, and what the death of those people does for that preservation.
  • Understand how the foregoing point has changed in the digital age
  • Choose one or two digital tools that help you to resurrect one of Davidson’s dead
  • Technologically “resurrect” someone from Davidson’s long (+100 year) past


Things you can customize:

  • What kind of project would you like to undertake?
  • How would you like that project to be structured?
  • How would you like that project to be assessed?
  • What themes would you like to explore within the overall frameworks of “imaginatively recreating lives,” “quantitatively recreating lives” and “ethics of representing the dead”?

Week 9

Monday, October 19th What was it like to die in the past? Selections from The Invention of Murder


Peter Thorsheim “The Corpse in the Garden: Burial, Health, and the Environment in Nineteenth-Century London.

Wednesday, October 21st What did people leave behind? “Missing Historical Marker Resurrects Debate Over Photographer’s Birthplace”
Friday, October 23rd What is historical data? Read through digitization best practices Use an historical database (census, newspapers, runaway slave ads, another of your choosing) to locate a person in the past about whom data exists.
Week 10

Monday, October 26th Physical archive: the Davidson College Cemetery Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book (this is a link to BUY the book, NOT a link to an ebook)
Wednesday, October 28th Physical archive:the Christian Aid Society Cemetery Finish reading Graveyard Book


Selected reading from One Town, Many Voices


Sustainably Developing the Cities of the Dead.

Friday, October 30th Digitally inflected ghost stories Bring to class either a ghost story that you have mediated through digital forms, or which includes digital components (for some examples, see here)
Week 11

Monday, November 2nd Analog archive: the library Sherlock A. “Larger Than Life: Digital Resurrection and the Re-Enchantment of Society.” Information Society May 2013; 29(3), pp. 164-176.


Kera D. “Designing for Death and Apocalypse: Theodicy of Networks and Uncanny Archives.” Information Society May 2013; 29(3) pp. 177-183


Wednesday, November 4th Building a database in Omeka/introduction to censuses Jeff McClurken. “Teaching and Learning with Omeka: Discomfort, Play, and Creating Public, Online, Digital Collections” Building on our trips to the archive and cemeteries, come up with a plan for archiving/cataloging information about some subset of Davidson’s dead. What kind of information will you need to collect?   Where do you think you will find that information?


Friday, November 6th Workshop – finding the dead
Week 12

Quantitatively Recreating Lives
Monday, November 9th From source to data William G. Thomas III. “Computing and the Historical Imagination” in A Companion to Digital Humanities
Wednesday, November 11th Building a relational database  Selections from A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections (pp. 1-80 – that sounds like a lot, but most of those pages are lists of resources.  Pay attention to the best-practices statements) Collect data on one individual and find a way to record that data in Omeka. No duplicates are allowed, so it’s probably best to go early, and to make sure you know who has already been added.
Friday, November 13th Mini design sprint
 Imaginatively Recreating Lives
Week 13

Monday, November 16th Narrative “Power and Historical Figuring:  Rachael Pringle Polgreen’s Troubled Archive,” Gender & History Vol. 22: 3 (November 2010): 564–584 Create a document assessing the state of your data (and the sources that data is drawn from) for this project.  This can be (a) a relational database model (entities, relationships, attributes, like the structure here) or (b) a table/spreadsheet that contains rows for each data item you have, the source, the type of data, and how that piece of data relates to other pieces of data.  It must also include a brief (1 paragraph) assessment of holes in your data, and where you might find sources to fill those holes.  Due by 5 PM (via e-mail).
Wednesday, November 18th Community Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell.  “Developing Things: Notes Towards an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities” in Debates in the Digital Humanities  Write a response to the Ramsay and Rockwell article, that addresses the following questions:

  • Do you buy that making and theory can overlap?  Why or why not?
  • Give an example of two digital artifacts and attendant (or purportedly attendant) theories to support your point
  • Situate each of those artifacts in terms of something that one of your colleagues has written this semester (this means two links to others’ work)

Due by the end of class (12:20) on Wednesday.  This counts as your participation for this class.

Friday, November 20th Reconstruction Ray Kurzweil. “On Genes, Memes, Bemes and Conscious Things.”


John Berman. “Futurist Ray Kurzweil Says He Can Bring His Dead Father Back to Life Through a Computer Avatar.” August 9, 2011.

Week 14

Monday, November 23rd NO CLASS Due by 5 PM on Monday (via e-mail) Refine your plan for archiving Davidson’s dead. Who is your subject? What is your final project going to look like? What platform will it be created on?  Build on this rubric.  The things that are already entered are required, but there is a lot of space for you to define the parameters of this project.
Wednesday, November 25th THANKSGIVING BREAK
Friday, November 27th THANKSGIVING BREAK
Week 15

Monday, November 30th What have we learned about death? Read these articles about the Paris attacks.  We’ll be talking about them in light of the material we’ve read for class.


“Paris and the trail of social media misinformation.” Endgadget


“Paris, Beirut and the Language used to Describe Terrorism.” The Atlantic

A “hacked” version of my rubric – but for your project. In conversation with you I will use the rubric to grade your final project. Make sure to download your own copy of the rubric, change and annotate it as you see fit, and send it to me by 5 PM on Monday
Wednesday, December 2nd What have we learned about data? Tama Leaver. “The Social Media Contradiction: Data Mining and Digital Death”
Friday, December 4th What have we learned about digital death? “Death, Data and our Digital Legacy” (audio)”
Monday, December 7th Work day in preparation for showcase
Wednesday, December 9th Digital showcase (no class during our regular meeting, but you are obligated to attend and present at the showcase from 3:30 to 5 pm. If you’re unable to attend, you must let me know ASAP)
Resurrection Projects due by the end of finals week.