Intro to DH Short Course

Intro to DH Short Course

Intro to DH Syllabus

Spring 2017

Dr. Ashley Sanders, Director of the Digital Research Studio
The Claremont Colleges

This six-week course provides an overview of what DH is and how it can enhance your research and teaching. Each week we will read several articles or book chapters, explore digital projects, and get our hands dirty as we learn how to use digital tools. Our discussions will interrogate the underlying epistemologies of the practices and theories we’re investigating that week, as well as how those tools and approaches support our scholarship and pedagogy, specifically.

Key Learning Objectives:

  • Develop your own definition of DH, especially in a liberal arts context
  • Know when to incorporate digital tools and methodologies and determine why
  • Critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing tools and DH projects
  • Identify sources to find and learn new digital tools and skills

This short will also prepare you to submit applications for the Mellon-funded

  • Course Development Grants
  • DH Research Studio Clinic

We will explore the main DH trends Alan Liu has identified:

  1. Definitions of “Digital Humanities” and “Digital Literacy”
  2. Data
  3. Spatial pattern finding
  4. Temporal pattern finding
  5. Social networks
  6. Topic modeling


Week 1: Interrogating definitions and meanings: DH & Digital Literacy

Objective: Begin to craft your own definition of DH

  1. Digital Literacy|Cornell University
  2. Jeffrey Schnapp, Short Guide to the Digital Humanities
  3. Defining the Digital Humanities
  4.  What is Digital Humanities? (refresh at least 3 times)

Further reading:


  • Internet Archive “Save a Page” Plugin for Chrome: “The Internet Archive has a feature where you can submit a URL, which is then archived on the spot. This is a Chrome plug-in to provide access to that functionality… when you’re on a page you want to save, simply right-click to archive it. Never lose a page again!”
  • Write collaboratively on WordPress with Participad: “Participad is a WordPress plugin that allows multiple people to edit the same WP content at the same time. Powered by Etherpad Lite, Participad gives you: Notepads, for collaborative notetaking. Synchronous authoring of any content in the WordPress Dashboard. Front-end editing.”
  • Outline all your CSS elements with Pesticide: Learn to decipher CSS elements on webpages with this browser extension.
  • Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS) 6.0: “Need a Twitter Archiving Google Sheet? TAGS is a free Google Sheet template which lets you setup and run automated collection of search results from Twitter.”


Before Class: Choose one of the following projects and be prepared to talk about you discovered: strengths & weaknesses of the project, as well as design elements you did and did not like.

In class: 3 levels of analysis: (1) Sources? (2) Process? (3) Presentation?

  • The Re/Collecting Project: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Grace Yeh and undergraduate students have collaborated to produce this Omeka-based project. The Re/Collecting Project is an ‘ethnic studies memory project of California’s Central Coast’—Re/Co for short. The aim is to “digitally capture and make publicly accessible the rich history of the diverse under-documented—communities of the region, which includes San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.”
  • Documenting Carreño, by Anna Kijas: Another Omeka-based project, this one documents the performances of the opera singer Teresa Carreño.
  • Skim through the following project descriptions on “Brain Pickings”:
    • If you’re looking for suggestions, I would recommend checking out London Lives or NYPL’s Biblion, especially if you have an ios device.


WORKSHOP: Basic text analysis with Voyant Tools


Week 2: Data


  • Describe what “data” is in the humanities and in specific fields.
  • Begin to connect quantitative literacy with humanities work & everyday life.
  • Consider how to integrate data & digital literacy skills with daily workflow and instruction.



  • Photogrammar Labs: By Peter Leonard and Lauren Tilton (Yale). Maps, sorts, filters, and classifies a collection of photographs from the Office of War Information. Check out the “Labs” section of Photogrammar, which brings some impressive visualization tools to bear on the collection: the metadata dashboard and the tree map.
  • Quantifying Kissinger: By Micki Kaufman (CUNY). Using Gephi to visualize text analysis of thousands of Kissinger documents – correspondence, memos, etc.


  • Weka 3: Data Mining Software in Java: “Weka is a collection of machine learning algorithms for data mining tasks. The algorithms can either be applied directly to a dataset or called from your own Java code. Weka contains tools for data pre-processing, classification, regression, clustering, association rules, and visualization. It is also well-suited for developing new machine learning schemes.”
  • Getting Started with Palladio: A tutorial (by Miriam Posner), along with a cleaned dataset and handout, on getting started with Palladio, the humanities data visualization tool from Stanford.
  • CSV Fingerprints: “It’s easy to make a mistake when you try to make a CSV file fit a particular format. To make it easier to spot mistakes, I’ve made a “CSV Fingerprint” viewer (named after the “Fashion Fingerprints” from The New York Times’s “Front Row to Fashion Week” interactive ). The idea is to provide a birdseye view of the file without too much distracting detail. The idea is similar to Tufte’s Image Quilts…a qualitative view, as opposed to a rendering of the data in the file themselves. In this sense, the CSV Fingerprint is a sort of meta visualization.”
  • SylvaDB: Graph Databases Made Easy for Everyone: “Sylva [‘silva’, a book to organize knowledge during the Renaissance] is an easy-to-use, flexible, and scalable database management system that helps you collect, collaborate, visualize and query large data sets. In Sylva, all your data is connected using a graph, and you will see the connections all the way through.”
  • Gephi: “Gephi is a tool for people that have to explore and understand graphs. Like Photoshop but for data, the user interacts with the representation, manipulate the structures, shapes and colors to reveal hidden properties. The goal is to help data analysts to make hypothesis, intuitively discover patterns, isolate structure singularities or faults during data sourcing. It is a complementary tool to traditional statistics, as visual thinking with interactive interfaces is now recognized to facilitate reasoning. This is a software for Exploratory Data Analysis, a paradigm appeared in the Visual Analytics field of research.”


WORKSHOP: Data Visualization for Humanists


Week 3: Spatial Pattern Finding

Objective: Explain geospatial methodologies and approaches to research, data presentation, and digital storytelling.


If there is interest, we will also discuss creating Flow Maps, which reveal movement of things and people. Sadly, it is still difficult to create these visualizations with existing tools. You can do this by coding the visualization yourself — for example, with D3ggplot2, or Processing. You can also use GIS applications like ArcGIS and QGIS


HOW TO: From Paper Maps to the Web: A DIY Digital Maps Primer


  • Flow map of immigration to the United States by Max Galka. Read more about how this map was create at: Here’s Everyone Who’s Immigrated to the U.S. Since 1820
  • Geographies of the Post:  “The U.S. postal system was the nation’s largest communications network in the nineteenth century. … This visualization maps the spread of the postal network on its western periphery by charting the opening and closing of more than 14,000 post offices west of the hundredth meridian.”
  • HyperCities: A project out of UCLA’s DH Center is a digital platform that allows users to create interactive geospatial documentaries and place-based histories



  • Sign up for ArcGIS Workshop at the Claremont Colleges Library! Interested in learning how GIS may be helpful for you?  Join us for an introduction to GIS resources for you at the college, obtain a user name and in a matter of minutes create your first map that you can share on a blog, embed in a website, or email to someone .. even if you don’t know a thing about GIS!  For more information visit


Week 4: Temporal Pattern Finding

Objective: Explain temporal methodologies and approaches to research, data presentation, and digital storytelling.




  • Examples of more complex flow maps: where nodes represent objects, and vectors show where the objects have traveled. Often, people want to combine this capability with a time-scrubber, so they can see where objects move as time goes by.
  • In 2012, the University of the Redlands hosted a workshop (see the very useful whitepaper) on mapping flows in time and space, and even published a great taxonomy of flow maps.

Miriam Posner made a list of TOOLS that have at least some functionality for applications like this:

  • KML (the language Google Earth likes) with time data — useful, but a little clunky
  • VisualEyes (also promising, but I know a number of people have struggled to use it)
  • Neatline allows you to step through time and space, but doesn’t animate vectors
  • StoryMap JS, a new tool, is great for showing where one entity has traveled over time, but can’t handle multiple entities
  • Odyssey.js, also new, looks promising (see the Torque template), but does require some coding
  • Palladio  the new web-based data visualization tool developed by Stanford’s Humanities + Design Lab. Palladio can handle both point-to-point and one-to-many flows, and its time scrubber allows you to move back-and-forth through time. Here’s an example of a project that uses Palladio in this way. One drawback of Palladio is that it can’t do things like show you arcs in multiple colors, but this is in the works.

WORKSHOP: Multimedia Timelines with TimelineJS

Week 5: Network Analysis


  • Explain how network analysis might be used in one’s own field of research.
  • Know when to incorporate digital tools, technology, and skills and determine why




  • SNAC: Through new tools and developments in cyberinfrastructure for and by humanists, such as the SNAC Project (Social Networks and Archival Context), which reveals the social networks of historical figures to gauge an individual’s influence, historians have more ways than ever to investigate the impact of an individual or small group of people.


  • Map social relations with VennMaker: With most social-networking tools, you start with a dataset and build a visualization from there. VennMaker works the other way around: Draw relationships on a blank canvas to build a dataset. Free, for Mac and Windows.
  • Palladio: This is a free web application that Stanford created.


WORKSHOP: Network Visualization with Palladio

Week 6: Topic Modeling


  • Explain when, how, and why topic modeling might be used as a research methodology.
  • Know when to incorporate digital tools, technology, and skills and determine why



  • (Advanced) Topic Modeling the Colonial Database, by Shawn Graham: A tutorial that shows you how to use R Studio to topic-model a set of colonial newspapers that have been marked up in TEI.
  • Ways of Not Reading Gertrude Stein, by Natalia Cecire: What do we mean when we say something (like Gertrude Stein) is unreadable? Cecire historicizes the concept of “not-reading,” from Stein to Franco Moretti, showing how the work of reading is gendered and how distant reading has become a masculinize-gendered method.


  • An Interactive Topic Model of Signs at 40: “This part of the Signs at 40 virtual issue invites you to explore the archive of Signs (1975–2014) through a model that describes each article as a mixture of verbal patterns or topics. Every topic is a family of words that tend to occur together in articles—as, for example, world, global, and states do. Every article is in turn divided into multiple topics. Words, too, may belong to more than one topic. The word women, for instance, is part of many topics. By following the shifting proportions of topics over time, we offer one way into thinking about the history of Signs in its first four decades.”


  • How to Topic-Model a Fan Magazine, by Eric Hoyt: This short piece takes you through the basics of topic modeling (computationally deriving a list of themes from) a year of fan magazines using R and R Studio. It’s not really appropriate for total novices, since the directions are very schematic, but if you’ve already started experimenting with topic modeling, you might find it useful. If you’re a beginner who’s interested in topic modeling, see this list of resources.
  • Create topic clouds from MALLET data with the Topic Cloud Generator: “This is a simple method of generating topic clouds from Mallet word-topic-counts data based on the implementation at It uses d3.js and Jason Davies’s Word Cloud Layout to generate the clouds.”
  • Visualize Topic Models with Lexos: Lexos is a web-based tool that can scrub, organize, and visualize texts. It’s been developing rapidly of late, and it just added the ability to visualize topic models produced with MALLET. If you don’t know how to use MALLET, here’s a great tutorial.
  • TAPoR Portal Recipes (TAPoR provides tools for analyzing and visualizing texts.)

WORKSHOP: Introduction to Topic Modeling


BONUS: New forms of digital publication and scholarly communication:

  • Islamic History Commons: “This is a scholarly community site dedicated to the study of Islamic history. Join the Middle East Medievalists and read their annual newsletter Al-‘Usur al-Wusta. Submit your work in progress for peer feedback or review others papers on our Working Papers site. Join the Announcements Group to receive news about Islamic History Commons activities.”
  • The Future of Digital Publishing Is … Greg Albers, Getty’s digital publications manager, on new approaches to digital publishing and how museums are making use of them, check out here locksmith dublin.
  • (Hybrid publications)  Keywords for American Cultural Studies: “Keywords for American Cultural Studies is a hybrid print-digital publication that includes over 90 essays, each on a complex and contested term such as “disability,” “diversity,” “finance,” and “freedom.” The print volume includes 64 essays, 30 of which are new for this second edition.  Another 33 new and revised essays appear on this site.”
  • This Bridge Called Cyberspace: “A free searchable online publishing and archival site for publications by and about women and people of color & to support the inclusion, visibility, and accessibility of publications by women and people of color and other marginalized groups.”


  • Tableau Public Now Has a Mac Client: The free version of this popular visualization tool, previously only available on Windows, is now available for Mac. One strength of Tableau (besides its sophisticated visualization capabilities) is that you can connect it to a data source so that the visualizations update as the data is refreshed.
  • DH Visualization Suite by Chris Weaver (still in development): “The innovative contributions of the project will include a general method to support interactive data editing in visualizations, a diverse collection of data editing gestures, a set of patterns to guide the process of designing visualization tools with data editing features, a declarative programming language for quickly building those tools, and a variety of built tools that show off real applications of data editing in visualizations.”
  • Filtergraph, a tool from Vanderbilt for creating interactive data portals: “Filtergraph allows you to create interactive portals from datasets that you import. As a web application, no downloads are necessary – it runs and updates in real time on your browser as you make changes within the portal. All that you need to start a portal is an email address and a dataset in a supported type. Creating an account is completely free, and Filtergraph supports a wide variety of data types.”
  • Mirador, for visual exploration of complex datasets: “Mirador is a tool for visual exploration of complex datasets which enables users to infer new hypotheses from the data and discover correlation patterns. Mirador is in its first phase of development. … This project is the result of a collaboration between the Sabeti Lab at Harvard University, the Broad Institute, and Fathom Information Design, with support from the Center of Communicable Disease Dynamics and the MIDAS network funded by the National Institutes of Health.”
  • Bonsai: A lightweight, JavaScript graphics library with an intuitive graphics API and an SVG renderer. It’s embeddable, and not much harder to use than CSS. Here it is drawing a piechart, and here it is rendering a simple pong game
  • 123D Catch: Quickly make 3D models by snapping photos with you camera phone. You can run 123D catch as a phone app, on a PC, or in the cloud.
  • Sketchfab: Put those 3D models online with Sketchfab, a tool that allows you to embed 3D models in websites and annotate them! And students and teachers get a free Pro account.

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Please contact Ashley Sanders, Director of the Claremont Colleges Digital Research Studio:

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