History 9808: Digital Public History (2021)

Course Description:

Digital history is the use of computers, digital media, and other tools for historical practice, presentation, analysis, and research. This course emphasizes both the presentation of history on the web, and the use of computational techniques to work with digital resources. Required for Public History students and not open to other graduate students.

Course Syllabus:  

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of digital techniques for public history. It explores methods of presenting, communicating, researching, and reconstructing history with digital technology in ways that deepen the public understanding of the past, and foster the inculcation of historical thinking skills. Digital public history can preserve the past and make it more accessible, but its affordances can also challenge authoritative narratives and complicate our experiences with history in surprising ways.

History 9808 complements material in History 9800 and is intended for students in the Public History MA program.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of the course, students will have:

  • a familiarity with many of the digital technologies used by public historians, museums, and heritage sites.
  • an understanding of how historical communities, identities, and consciousness are formed online.
  • experimented with a variety of digital platforms.
  • an understanding of the pedagogical, ethical, and practical problems found in digital public history.
  • developed skills to research, evaluate, and apply new media for public history.

Course Materials:

Readings, links, and other resource material can be found on OWL and at: https://timcompeau.com/history-9808-digital-public-history-2021/

Methods of Evaluation:

  • Assessment:
  • Blogging: 25%
  • Participation: 20%
  • Podcast: 15% (Due Oct. 4)
  • Place-based Digital History Project: 15% (Due. Nov.8)
  • Research Project: 25% (Due Dec. 6)

Blogging: 25%. Blogging and other forms of social media engagement play an important role in this course. This is a vital skill for public historians to become comfortable with and master. Students should blog about their work, their thoughts on digital and public history, and other aspects of their professional development. Blogs will be discussed in class each week.

Podcast: 15%. Due Oct. 1 Each student is required to lead and upload a podcast. The format – documentary style, essay, or free flowing discussion – is up to the individual student. More details will be provided in class.

Place-Based History: 15%. Using one of the digital platforms explored in class, students must design a functional tour or place-based history lesson, game, or other experience.

Participation: 20%. Students should be prepared to actively participate in class discussions.

Research Project: 25% Students explore a digital technology and its current and potential applications for public history. There are a variety of forms this assignment can take from an experiment with a digital platform or software with an accompanying paper (15% experiment and 10% paper) or a more traditional investigation of a digital topic (25% essay). Possible assignments could include digital landscaping, 3D modelling, augmented reality, visualization projects, website creation, game design etc. Details and options will be explored in class. Because students will begin the course with varied levels of experience, evaluation of this final assignment will focus on student willingness to engage with and think about the technology, and not necessarily on technical outcome. Students must submit a proposal outlining the project and the digital tools they propose to use and will present their work to the class on Nov. 29. Due Dec. 6.

Course Schedule:

Sept 13: Digital Public History: Engagement and Collaboration

Sept. 20: Digital History, Preservation, and Manipulation.  

Sept. 27: Introduction to Digital Mapping and GIS. Visit to the Map and Data Centre at D.B. Weldon Library for workshop with Liz Sutherland.   

Oct. 4: Place-Based Digital History. (Podcast Due).

Oct. 11: Thanksgiving. No class.

Oct. 18: Material Culture and Digital Reproduction (Workshop with Edward Easthaugh, Anthropology)

Oct. 25: Digital History Games and Simulations

Nov. 1: Fall Study Break. No class.

Nov. 8: Ethics, Dark History Tourism, and Digital Public History. (Place-based History Assignment Due)

Nov 15: The Great Pivot: Digital Museum Solutions to Covid Lockdowns

Nov. 22: Sensing History

Nov. 29: Independent Project Workshop

Dec. 6: Independent Assignments and Papers Due