Digital Assignments

The two thoughts that have preoccupied me regarding incorporating the digital humanities into my course on modern history (aka Human Traditions) are, How much of the course should be devoted to digital humanities’ work, and how complicated should the assignments be?

The course covers the period from 1492 to the present, with faculty given discretion over what themes we cover, what parts of the world we study, and how intensely we study the particular themes or places. For example, we might ask ourselves: should I cover the conquest of the Americas in one class session, one week, or one month. I cover the conquest, slavery in Africa and the New World, the industrial revolution, and then some fairly recent historical topic, such as protests against neoliberalism or the emergence of punk rock.

I am thinking that I will devote between two weeks to a month working with digital humanities and slavery in the New World. Instead of assigning a book on slavery, which I often do, I might assign several articles from academic journals or some slave narratives. Then I will ask the students to use the information from the database on transatlantic slavery to pose questions unaddressed in the readings, or add clarity or empirical nuance to some of the topics addressed in the readings. This way students can see how academics do the work of history, and how statistics help us better understand the slave trade.

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