As I’ve been working on finishing my dissertation over the last two years I haven’t had the chance to teach graduate seminars and I really miss it. I’ve twice taught American University’s History in the Digital Age course for their History and Public History program and I’d love to do that sort of thing again. Partially inspired by other very cool courses I see folks sharing syllabi from, and as s a fun thought experiment, here are a few ideas for six grad seminars I’d love to develop and teach.
Understanding and Interpreting Born Digital Primary Sources: Web archives, software collections, video games, digital photographs, email archives, historical laptops, floppy disks; the world (and institutions of cultural memory) are now flush with born digital primary sources. Working directly with digital artifacts students would explore and develop practices and processes for making sense of born digital materials.
Public Digital History: Scholarly Communication, Explication and Participation on the Web: Historians and public historians write books and articles and develop exhibitions to communicate to audiences about the past. The web brings with it a range of modes for communication and dialog and significant opportunities for historians to engage with and invite participation from the people formerly known as the audience.
Sites of Memory: Museums, Monuments and Memory in the Digital Age: What do you make of the trip adviser page for the Albert Einstein Memorial? All the selfies people take of themselves in museums? What does the potential for augmented reality mean for the set up and presentation of historic homes? The course explores what changes as public sites of memory become part of networked publics.
Historicizing the Digital in Digital Preservation: It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that digital objects are a stable and straightforward thing. In practice, electronic records, software, and digital objects have meant different things at different points in the history of computing. This would basically be a take on Allison, Brian and Jefferson’s course.
Studying the Vernacular Web: Making Sense of Records of Everyday Life from the Web: Folklorists, anthropologists, sociologists and other adherents to ethnographic research methods have developed approaches for netnography and virtual ethnography to study the ways that people are creating and developing cultures on the web. The course would focus in particular on the methodological questions inherent to studying the records of computer mediated communication.
Digital Strategy for Cultural Heritage Organizations: Digital is increasingly becoming a key part of nearly every function of cultural heritage organizations (Libraries, Archives, Museums etc.). We are increasingly acquiring, preserving and exhibiting born-digital and digitized materials, using social media for outreach and public relations, supporting researchers and fielding reference questions through digital channels, and supporting all of that work with a substantive IT infrastructure. Looking across each of these areas, this course would focus on exploring ideas for how organizations should be structured, about the role of software development should play, embedding “digital into the design, decision making, strategy and all the operations” of cultural heritage orgs and the role that the web should play as a platform and organizing principle for orgs.
So, if anyone from a D.C. metro area institution of higher learning wants someone to teach an awesome special topics course in the evenings after work drop me a line. Oh and please feel free to run with any of these as ideas for your own courses. There is no higher flattery than having