Interdisciplinary Studies


Digital Humanities Course Descriptions

HUCO/DH 500 Survey of Digital Humanities
This course will provide students with an overview of the discipline of Digital Humanities and its varied applications across a range of disciplines and domains of knowledge. The course is designed to enable students to situate their own research interests within the broader framework of Digital Humanities and to make informed choices about how they structure the rest of their program. The course is divided into three key areas: 1) debates, theories, and key concepts; 2) emblematic projects and organizations; and 3) tools of the trade. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to situate their own research interests within the larger context of the field, evaluate existing methodologies and projects, consider the ability of computer systems to represent knowledge, and analyze the impact of technology on cultural production. 

All students take DH 500 in their first term of studies.

HUCO/DH 510 Topics in Digital Theory and Culture
These are variable content courses that focus on the theoretical and cultural implication of the digital. 

Topics for 2018-19

Fall Term
DH 510 Cultural Representation of Artificial Intelligence (M. Engel)
Recent advances in AI technology have brought it (whatever "it" is) to the fore of our cultural imagination. This course looks to trace the ways that AI has been represented and made meaningful in a variety of media and genres, from novel, to film, to popular journalism. The goal is to unpack the complex relationship between technological innovation and cultural representation.  How significant an influence do the anxieties and desires of our creative outputs have on the development of actual technologies?

Winter Term
DH 510 Information Ethics (G. Rockwell)
The ethical use of information has become increasingly important in this age of social media. This course will ask what information is, discuss current issues in data ethics, look at codes of ethics, and introduce selected frameworks like the ethics of care that are used to help decision making. Students will be asked to develop case studies, to present theories in class, and to apply ethical theory to cases.

DH 510 Digital Feminisms (A. Ensslin)
Both feminism and the digital humanities are hybrid fields: they concern themselves with analysis (how we see, how we read, how we make sense) and with practice (how we build, how we make, how we act). This course takes that dual focus seriously, and asks its participant to both analyse and create using the dual tools of feminism and digital technologies. The course aims to expose you to a range of issues, theories, politics, practices, and technologies in order to pose two core questions: how can feminism help us to think/read/understand “the digital” differently? And, how can we use/occupy/claim/reclaim the digital in feminist ways?

HUCO/DH 520 Topics in Technical Concepts and Approaches
These are variable content courses that focus on technical skills

Topics for 2018-19

Fall Term
DH 520 Python (H. Quamen)
This section of DH 520 is a good foundational course that will give students hands-on experience with Python, which has quickly become the scripting language of choice among Digital Humanists. Python skills are useful in a variety of DH contexts: building customized tools, collecting and cleaning research data, and using any of the freely available libraries and toolkits that range from text analysis to data visualization to machine learning. We’ll spend the first half of the semester working on the basic components of the language: variables, conditionals, loops, functions, and objects. Then we'll spend some time understanding how to install and use those third-party Python libraries and toolkits. The course will end with a customized Python project of the student's choosing. No prior programming experience is necessary.

HUCO/DH 530 Topics in Building in Context
These are variable content courses that bridge the technical and the theoretical in order to build DH projects in an integrated way. The technical is understood through the lens of the theoretical and creative, while the theoretical and creative is viewed through the lens of the technical.

Topics for 2018-19

Fall Term
DH 530 Data Visualization (G. Rockwell)
This course is about interpreting and designing visualizations. The course will cover different types of data, different types of visualizations and the history of visualization. Students will learn how to use selected tools to visualize structured and unstructured data and then learn to program visualizations in Python. Students will be expected to both interpret and design visualizations.

Winter Term
DH 530 Digital Mapping
This course examines the complex and contradictory relationship between "place" and "space."  Space is a set of coordinates, an area that is delimited by objective data: latitude and longitude, topography, the location of rivers and roads and bridges.  Place, on the other hand, is an area composed of subjective data: the stories of its history, the experiences of its residents, the values that we inscribe in it, and the uses to which we put it.  This course will bring the concepts of "space" and "place" together and challenge students to analyze and to build “maps,” broadly conceived, that can bridge that divide. 


This is a representative sample of past courses:

Game Design in Theory and Practice
Instructor: Dr. Mark Johnson

This course will explore game design in theory and in practice. It aims to both educate and generate a critical dialogue about game design as a concept and as a set of tools, and also teach students about not just the "creative" elements of game design, but also the "pragmatic" ones - testing, iterating on concepts, thinking about playability and user interface, and so forth. 
Conceptually, the course will teach students about dominant paradigms in game design over the last several decades, the emergence and codification of "genres" and their design rationales, some dominant contemporary approaches to thinking about game design, how game design practice differs with small and large development teams, and what precisely it is we "design" for when creating games - "fun", "challenge", "exploration", "unpredictability", "narrative", or other concepts? It will also explore the process by which gameplay mechanics and gameplay elements are created, the emergence of relationships between the two, the concept of game balance, different kinds of game designs that emphasise skill or luck (or sometimes both), and how to design games which are meant to evoke particular emotional or psychological responses in players. This part of the course additionally considers a number of contemporary political issues around game design, focused on debates surrounding contested practices such as gamification and micro-transactions, tensions between game designs with "casual" and "competitive" players in mind, the question of video game "addiction", and also questions of equity and representation in character and world design.
In the practical half of the course, students will construct a game, either working independently or in small groups. For students with existing computer programming knowledge, that will be encouraged as the route for game design; for students without, or with but looking to do something new, we will instead seek to develop board games. Board games have become increasingly used in game design courses in recent years because - without a reliance on graphics, audio, or artificial intelligence - board games force their designers to focus on game mechanics, the core of any game design course. Equally, the ongoing "renaissance" in independent board games makes the construction of board games an equally viable economic opportunity to video games, and developing knowledge in both domains will leave students with a range of potential game design options beyond graduation. Alongside the development of the games themselves, the course will also consider the importance and role of concepts such as playtesting and iterating on a game design, how rules and gameplay mechanics are conveyed to and taught to players. By combining these two elements, students should leave the course with an understanding of both the theory and practice of game design, a newly-designed game, and a critical engagement with the wider trends in the contemporary games industry.

HUCO 617 Section B2:  Advanced Web Scripting

Instructor: Prof. H. Quamen

Advanced Web Scripting, continues the concepts explored in Huco 520. The first half of the semester will be dedicated to applying the concepts of object-oriented programming to what we already know about PHP. Object-oriented ideas are found in almost every programming language (Python, Ruby, Java, Perl, PHP, etc.). One part of your work for the semester, then, will be to write some object-oriented PHP. In the second half of the semester, we’ll learn about JavaScript, a language that runs in all modern web browsers. JavaScript facilitates user interactivity, so we’ll learn the dynamics of event-driven programming, how JavaScript manipulates HTML on the-fly (via the tree-like structure called the Document Object Model or DOM) and we’ll learn about two interesting JavaScript implementations: Ajax (“Asynchronous JavaScript and XML”) and the impressive D3 library (“Data-Driven Documents”), which is a popular means of incorporating interactive data visualization into websites. Along the way, we’ll learn about the GitHub code repository, collaborative programming, the wonderful and magical string pattern-matching templates known as regular expressions, a little bit about web scrapers, and maybe even something about the weather.

As in HUCO 520, your project in this class will be to build something that could be one project that uses both object-oriented PHP and JavaScript, or you could build two projects (one that uses PHP and one that uses JavaScript). You can decide if you want to integrate those two components into one website or not. But the general idea is that you’ll write object-oriented PHP on the server-side and will write some JavaScript interactivity on the browser side. Some project ideas are listed at the bottom of the syllabus. 

Big Data: The Web as Evidence (HUCO 617: Topics in Humanities Computing)

Instructor: Prof. G. Rockwell

The web is big data for the study of contemporary culture and society. It is being scraped and mined by governments, commercial interests and academics to identify trends, to create new value, for surveillance and to study recent history. In this course we are going to look at the hype and opportunities around big data through the lens of how the web can be treated as evidence. We are going to look at the definitions, projects, and the ethics of big data with special attention to how the web and social media are being used for research, surveillance, governance, and commerce. Students will be trained in how to use web scraping tools and analytical environments for the purpose of analyzing web cultures. The idea is to think through the big data revolution and claims made about data science by doing it. Students don't need to have a programming background to take this course, but you should be prepared to use complex research tools like Archive-It, Gephi, Mallet, and Voyant as needed. Training on these tools and others will be provided as part of the course.