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A note on scheduling:

This class does not quite fit the “cloistered work” model that often characterizes classes at Davidson. Digital studies (and indeed, many tasks in your lives after college) often require something different: collaboration among group members who bring different intellectual and technical skills to interdisciplinary projects. This class will require you to work with your colleagues, devise a plan for distributing responsibilities, and sharing credit.

You will also have an opportunity to select which weeks you’ll be writing response blog posts, and will have leeway in selecting time slots for some assignments.

As a result, your workload and pace of work might differ from that of your colleagues and collaborators. Depending upon group work and how you schedule your responses, you might have to work with greater intensity early in the semester, or to provide support for other colleagues later in the semester.

All of this is a long way of saying that you will have a substantial amount of control over when during the semester you will be busiest, and I encourage you to plan accordingly.


Final Grade Ranges:

A 100-94 C+ 79-77
A- 93-90 C 76-74
B+ 89-87 C- 73-70
B 86-84 D+ 69-67
B- 83-80 D 66-60


Final grade composition:

Attendance and participation (you must pass this category to pass the course) 20%
Blog posts (you must pass this category to pass the course) 20%
Topical assignments (you must pass this category to pass the course) 20%
Preparatory assignments (you must pass this category to pass the course) 20%
Final project (you must pass this category to pass the course) 20%


Attendance and Participation

These policies take effect from the first day of class, regardless of when you begin attending the course. For example, if the first time you attend class is during the second week of the semester, you will have already been marked absent from two class meetings.

This is a collaborative and project-driven class. Class participation—inclusive of attendance, careful preparation and collaboration outside of the physical classroom—constitute one of its most important elements. In consequence, your learning depends upon your regular, informed and thoughtful participation in discussion, projects and blog posts. In order to participate fully you must have completed all readings or assignments before class.

You are permitted up to THREE absences during the semester, and at your own discretion. There is no excused/unexcused absences policy – each of you gets to decide which three classes you wish to miss. More than three absences will likely impact your final grade, and more than seven absences will cause you to fail the course. Regardless of your reason for missing a class, you will be responsible for the material covered that day.

I understand that speaking in class can be a stressful or daunting experience for some students, so I expect that everyone contribute to making the classroom a comfortable and respectful intellectual environment in which everyone can participate. If you have anxiety about public speaking, please arrange a meeting with me ASAP.

You will be assessed on your participation in each class meeting.  On days when we are doing collaborative work, your participation will consist of talking to your colleagues.  On days with lectures or whole-class discussion, your participation will consist of comments made to the whole class.  Your participation scores will be averaged over the semester.

Attends and actively participates 100
Attends but does not contribute 60
Does not attend 0


Finally, during the semester you must attend ONE public history department event (a lecture, symposium or conference) and ONE digital studies event.  Failure to attend these will adversely impact your participation grade.  You may choose from a range of options, but if the semester ends without you attending one or both events, you cannot make them up.

Blog responses

TEN TIMES during the semester, no later than MIDNIGHT before classes of your choosing, write a 250~500 word response to the class’s readings, themes, or your colleagues’ work, and post it to the private course blog.  For Tuesday classes, posts must be up by Monday at midnight.  For Thursday classes, posts must be up by Wednesday at midnight.  This should give me and your colleagues enough time to read the posts.

This blog is meant to be a conversation amongst scholars (you and your peers), but is also a space where you should feel free to test out new ideas and concepts. Feel free to include images, music, video, or references to current events in these responses. You are both permitted and encouraged to post other items of interest.

Through these responses, you will develop the skills necessary to critically read texts and react to methodologies. These blog responses might identify and comment on the central questions that inform the readings, convey your impressions, likes, dislikes about the readings or convey your impressions, likes and dislikes about the class’s theme, or chart progress towards your final project.

These responses are meant to be informal, to get you thinking about the theme for the week or class, and to keep a log of your progress throughout the class. They are also designed to foster critical thinking. In order to do so, the following must appear in each post:

  • (After the first week) substantively reference, and hyperlink to, one of your peers’ responses each week. This means doing more than saying [person] wrote about [x] on [date].  You should explain how your peers’ commentary adds to your own progress in the course.
  • A catchy title (not just “blog response for week 1.2”)

Your assessment for these posts will be based on completion. If you post fewer than ten times, any missing posts will be counted as a 0, and CANNOT be made up.  Your post scores will be averaged for your final grade.

Posts substantively about the reading, references to colleague, and a catchy title 100
Posts but dues not comment on the reading, omits references to colleague or a catchy title 60
No post 0


In lieu of returning posts to you with comments, I will be posting a re-cap post by 9 am before every class, highlighting common themes or issues raised by those who posted.  Grades for blog posts will be posted to the Moodle gradebook.


Topical assignments (TA)

This course is split into five sections: (I) Introduction and Theory, (II) Colonial/Revolutionary, (III) Early Republic, (IV) Antebellum and (V) Conclusion.  For the three middle sections (II, III and IV) you will work with other students to describe primary or secondary sources associated with these time periods.  For each of these assignments you will have an individual and a collaborative assessment, which will be combined for your final assignment grade.  It is incumbent upon members of the group to make sure that everyone is contributing to the overall project, and I am happy to work with groups to make sure that the workload is spread equably across all members.  After each assignment, you will fill out a confidential evaluation of your group’s process.  For each section, each group will present in class.  All written work for these assignments is due, posted to the course blog, before the start of class on the day of your presentation.

Colonial/Revolutionary Early Republic Antebellum
Topical historiography Group A Group B Group C
Topical primary source analysis/curation Group B Group C Group A
Topical digital archive assessment Group C Group A Group B

For the topical historiography, each student will select 3-5 works from the relevant weeks and use them to craft an argument, in the form of an historiographical review of ~1000 words (examples posted to the course website) about the state of the field.  These are intended for an informed but not expert audience, and will be posted to the public course blog.  In addition, students will work together to craft a brief presentation to the class on their overall assessment of the field, highlighting common historical questions, methodological approaches and divergent or convergent arguments.  Your presentation should include some visual component (i.e. Power Point, Prezi, handouts) Your assessment will take into account both your group presentation and your historiographical review.

For the topical primary source analysis and curation you will work as a group to locate and curate a set of digitized images or archival objects (3 per student) corresponding to the relevant weeks and add metadata and aggregate them in an Omeka exhibit.  Each student will be responsible for one ~1000 word analysis of one of the documents you select (which will be linked to in the exhibit and publicly available) and the entire group will be responsible for a written statement – to be included in the Omeka exhibit – on the characteristics common among these objects, and what historians can gain by viewing them in aggregate. You will also be responsible for a brief class presentation on your curated exhibit.

For the topical digital archive assessment you will work as a group to produce an analysis of a digital archive that someone else has curated.  This archive should contain substantial material that relates to the relevant weeks, though it needn’t cover material exclusive to those weeks.  You will be assessed as a group for this document, which will also be posted to the public course blog, and for your group presentation.


Preparatory assignments (PA)

Throughout the course, you will complete short, but formal, “preparatory assignments” (henceforth PAs) that will contribute to your final paper.  These mirror classic history assignments, but should also be written for an educated, but not expert audience, and will be posted on the public course blog (though you may publish under a pseudonym, if you wish). These assignments and due dates are listed in the schedule, and will be posted in greater detail as the semester progresses.

They include:

  •      Topic identification
  •      Methodology identification
  •      Project historiography
  •      Rough draft/peer review/beta testing
  •      Final presentation


Final project

The final paper for this class is an historical research project that takes digital form. In the course of completing the paper, you will ask and answer an historical question, discuss available archives (digital or otherwise) paying particular attention to the usage challenges they pose, complete a literature review and original primary source analyses, and work with your peers to hone their style, form and thesis.  These components will all contribute to an original historical argument.  The writing required to address these components is equivalent to a 10-12 page paper, and you should approach it with the seriousness of purpose that you bring to other scholarly pursuits.

A posted link to your project is due by the end of finals week, that is: 5:15 PM May 13th, 2015.  The form in which you submit them will vary depending on the project.  These might include, but need not be limited to one of the following:

  • Collection of curated digital images, accompanied by an historiographical discussion and a formal comment on why you grouped these images together, how you located and chose these sources and what kind of argument you can make using them.
  • A story map, which introduces a narrative and argument about historical events over space and time, also accompanied by a literature review and discussion of how you used primary sources to make an historical argument that spans time and space.
  • Images that show change over time, along with a literature review and commentary on how you explain those changes


Broad parameters for the final project:

  • Must concern some aspect of American communication/knowledge production technology history between the colonial period and Reconstruction (though projects can “bleed” earlier or later so long as the substance of the project falls within antebellum/early America)
  • Must have a substantive digital component (i.e. no normal research papers simply posted to a course blog)
  • Must have an historical question
  • Must make an historical argument
  • Must analyze at least one primary source
  • Must discuss other kinds of sources that speak to your historical question
  • Must include a literature review
  • Must include proper citations



TAs, PAs and the final projects will receive letter grades, worth the following point values (these values will be averaged for your final grades):

A 100 C+ 77
A- 93 C 75
B+ 87 C- 73
B 85 D+ 67
B- 83 D 65

F (nothing turned in) = 0 points


A note on final project assessment: Although each project will differ, your final project grade will equally weight how well you present and act on your methodology, how well you convey the (story, argument, narrative) that you set out to convey, the originality of your project, the relationship of your project to a broader field of historical study, and how well you adapted to challenges and stumbling blocks along the way.