Category Archives: Uncategorized

Week 4: Representing Yourself and Others Online

Week 4 is already done and I’m just now able to post from my course. When I was developing my composition course, I read some great work by Ann Frances Wysocki about how students need to consider the ethics of representing themselves and others online. 

Since I’m asking my own students to create archives that may include photos of my students or their family and friends, I adjusted my calendar so that we could slow down and collaboratively create a statement for the ethical representation of themselves online. 

Here’s my screencast video introducing students to the assignment:


Week 3 Reading, Writing, and Digital Culture

Spring term is buzzing by. We have one hummingbird outside our house who has been sitting on a branch all winter and now he’s almost obscured by the leaves that have filled in. 

Week 3 is about mapping. As I wrote in my thought piece on “minimal computing” in January, I use Google maps to help students develop several kinds of DH skills, from basic procedural knowledge for working with online primary source materials to content knowledge about the what, where, when, and how of literary and cultural histories.

Picking up on our Week 1 reading of Mrs. Dalloway, I sent my online students to the wonderful Georgia Tech students’ project, Mrs. Dalloway Mapping Project to get a feel for how plot points, settings, and other narrative features can be interpreted through maps. Originally I was going to ask my own students to map the novel, but the Georgia Tech example is so strong that I thought it would be better to try something else. So I asked students to then explore another site, Mapping Emotions in Victorian London , from the Stanford Literary Lab.


Covent Garden Flower Women, Mapping Emotions in Victorian London

 This site gave me an idea for my own students: to use the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database to explore an emotion in America from 1789-1924 (the range of the database’s complete collection of newspapers), and then map the appearance of emotions in print in America over time. 

First instructional video 

Second instructional video

Third instructional video

Instructions for Mapping Emotions in America Project

I’m looking forward to seeing what my students come up with and hearing about their process. It’s been a great experience for me to break the steps down as clearly as possible. Procedural knowledge is a key skill set for C21 students. It’s one thing to create the maps myself through tinkering and my own tacit knowledge. It’s another thing altogether to step back and provide the steps so that online students can perform a lengthy series of steps toward a single end. We’ll see next week how they did!

Week 2 of ENG 217 Reading, Writing, and Digital Culture

What cool things my students did for last week’s Mrs. Dalloway Second Sandbox blog entry! Wonderful pictures of flowers and larks and Big Ben and village greens and green dresses and early 20th century hats and war images and even (my favorite) a sound file of a Buddhist chant. The First Sandbox assignment–annotations of Mrs. Dalloway on a Google doc–were somewhat less successful if you use an old-school rubric of rigor and systematic analysis. But I was pleased that most of the students in this class reapproached the novel as a digital document and found several things to comment on—even as small as a vocabulary word.

This week, my expectations are high for the “Dead Media Poster Project,” which I adopted from Professor Ryan Cordell’s “Texts and Technologies” class. I created my own poster as an example for students using the old 8-Track Tape. I used to listen to Barbara Streisand on 8-Track, so this was a dead medium near and dear. Dead Media Poster Session Assignment

I shared Marshall McLuhan and Alan Liu as these pieces are in the syllabus, and ambitious students will read them. Reading Liu’s “New Media Encounter” I was reminded of being in a doctor’s office as a child, watching cursive letters flow from a nurse’s pen. When I got home I tried to conjure meaning from loops and waves myself with a Flair pen–as does the chief in Liu’s quote of Levi-Strauss

To deepen the encounter with dominant, residual, and emergent media, I assigned Elizabeth Eisenstein’s chapter on “Some Features of Print Culture” from The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge UP 2012).

This is a very sophisticated chapter and, thinking of my CC audience, I created a slideshow that walks students through the major points that Eisenstein makes. Of course, her argument is deeply complex and embedded in a conversation about print culture that historians are having, so my slides may be a bit oversimplistic. But I think that these slides convey the most important of Eisenstein’s major ideas about print media for students. So here are my notes on Eisenstein for students with no prerequisite knowledge. This was a really good intellectual exercise for me: to first boil down the features of Eisenstein’s argument most salient for community college students,  and then to try to make them accessible enough to novice, online learners. My measure of success will be that they have completed all of the slides!

I hope students will be able to see the most important discoveries about print culture: that print wasn’t only an aid to Enlightenment thinking but also infused mystical culture into texts; that printers were as important to knowledge production as scholars; and that printing multiple copies of the same text in multiple locations to be read by diverse readers was perhaps a more important development for the progress of science than was individual ownership of multiple texts.

Elizabeth Eisenstein Features of Print Culture, from The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge 2012)

Threshold Concepts and DH at the CC

DH at CC Course Poster

Spring 2017 DH at CC Course goes Live!

At the Community College Humanities Association PNW earlier this month, I discussed my development of “threshold concepts” for digital humanities as a way of bridging and scaffolding accessible DH work into community college courses–simultaneously teaching a “whole game” approach that is valuable to all students while also preparing transfer students for a 21st century humanities education. Powerpoint is here: this-digital-life

Actually I retrofitted threshold concepts onto course assignments I had already developed or am in the process of developing for my Spring 2017 Intro to DH course entitled “Reading, Writing and Culture in a DIgital Age.” I took a page from Ryan Cordell’s wise essay and chose a title that refers to concrete practices that novice humanities students and Gen Ed students alike would recognize.

Here are some of the assignments that I’m still tinkering with–some of them are in the process of being developed, some have already worked successfully. One assignment is adapted out of a lengthy and sophisticated assignment in Bruno Latour’s “Scientific Humanities” MOOC and another was inspired by Jena Osman’s Public Figures book and website to provide opportunities for students to practice humanities methods of observation, analysis and creative imagining in their daily lives.

Humanities Computing or Digital Humanities is…

—About the Book

…About how algorithms-organize-information-essay-wr122

…About anticipating questions anticipate-your-audience-faqs-assignment-sheet

…About glitches and breaking-stuff-write-like-gertrude

…About non-human subjectivities synthetic-selfies-and-monumental-subjects

..About how words-get-their-meaning-from-other-words

…. About building an audience for your cause writing-studio-exercise-awareness-object-artifact

DH at the CC Commons Now Live!

DH at the CC Commons is a community of practice begun at the NEH ODH Advanced Topics Summer Institute 2015

DH at the CC Commons is a community of practice begun at the NEH ODH Advanced Topics Summer Institute 2015

The DH at the CC Commons is open to all interested in teaching digital humanities at community colleges.

Visit us today at

NEH Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities Summer Institute July 13-17, 2015

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbPlans are underway for Lane’s NEH Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute July 13-17, 2015.

Applications have closed. We have confirmed our cohort of 29 participants from 12 states and DC.

Here’s my 3-minute lightening-round presentation on this summer’s institute.


The institute, entitled An Institute for Community College Digital Humanists: Beyond Pockets of Innovation, Toward a Community of Practice.

Since I first began my engagement with DH, I have noticed that community college humanists have been slow to join conversations and communities of practice in digital humanities (DH).  This is in part because serving students in an open-access context involves intensive teaching and service workloads and constraints on professional development. This institute seeks to address this lag in DH at community colleges.

This summer, a distinguished group of institute faculty will lead 29  CC faculty in a week of engagement with DH theory and methods, tool building and pedagogical innovations that scaffold digital humanities for the unique learning needs of their students.

One goal of this institute is to offer a context for CC faculty to participate in the definition of digital humanities practice to include the work of community college teachers, scholars and students. The participants will emerge with a firm grounding in the depth and complexity of DH and its applicability to their courses. They will create a portfolio of project prototypes in data visualization, geospatial mapping, crowdsourcing, and digital storytelling, et al.

To extend the reach of the institute, a public keynote address by Professor Marta Effinger-Crichlow of City Tech in New York, will welcome the community into the DH conversation, and participants’ work will be shared in an online commons that will serve as a hub for developing a community of practice.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do
not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

ASSIGNMENT: Ngrams on 18th and 19th Century American Lit Themes at the Mid-Term

ASSIGNMENT: Ngrams on 18th and 19th Century American Lit Themes at the Mid-Term

Prior to this DH Lab, we had finished the mid-term class assessment, and had made our way up through The Scarlett Letter. The lab class is just 50 minutes, so to introduce the concept of Ngrams, I used the now-classic TED talk “What We Learned from 5 Million Books”; it provided a quick introduction to the Google Ngram viewer and what it might afford students for text mining purposes.

On our Moodle LMS, I provide links to Ted Underwood’s Stone and the Shell Blog on etymology and poetic diction so that  really engaged students can read Professor Underwood’s lucid and sophisticated ideas about what text mining is beyond Google. And I also link to the Atlantic Monthly’s article on the new Google Ngram viewer.  I try to adhere to my own “DH at the CC” principle of “do it during class or they won’t get to do it at all.”

Here are the instructions I gave to students in a smart classroom with some demo’ing on my part first:

For this week’s DH Lab, use your readings so far and the examples from The Atlantic Monthly and the TEDx talk to dig around the 19th century for trends in the way people were writing about themes from the decades that we’ve been reading in.

(Start with 1800-1900 in American English but you can play around with those years if it serves your research purpose….)

You will probably have to try a few of them before you find any that make some real sense. Once you find an ngram that seems interesting or telling to you, post the link to it and offer a comment on what you think it might mean. In other words, try your hand at “culturomics” and text mining.

And here are some interesting ngrams that students found. What I like about these is how their tacit and emerging ideas about American literature and history are present in their choice of word pairs and clusters.



Scott found that “heaven” and “hell” were less prevalent than “god” and the “devil.”


From Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative to Equiano’s Slave Narrative, the juxtaposition of captivity/slavery and Christian ideology was emerging as a theme for students.



Some students used the lab to follow their own interests, as here with “easter” and “christmas”–interesting nonetheless.


This student found an interesting trend that suggested while “old” and “new” changed places, “change” was less commented upon.

My strongest impression of using this assignment in class is that students were thoroughly engaged in it, looking for words that would bring an interesting data patten. One or two were satisfied with utterly flat lines, such as what emerged for “who, what, where, when, how, why,” but overall students posted intriguing ngrams that led them to more questions than answers–which is just what I had wanted them to see about this kind of text mining.

What continues to be a challenge in doing DH at this level is to fully integrate these new tools into class in a way that supports their ongoing 10-week investigation of the subject matter–here, “American Literature.” Last term, In Women Writers, I focused too much on the tools and left the integration behind. This term, I’m asking them to use fewer tools and leading them through a more archival approach–through primary sources, material culture etc. Since we only have one day in the lab–and students thoroughly enjoy and engage in face-to-face discussion the other two days, it will be a matter of really designing each of these assignments in such a way that each of these labs will give a double aha moment: about how new tools can offer new ways to think about old ideas and even lead to new questions altogether….


DH Lab: Digging in the Archives I _Gospel of Slavery_


To submit your entry, just click on “Add submission” and cut and paste your URL for your blog post into that submission box, add comments if you wish, and then submit.

For today’s Digital Humanities Lab assignment, you will be working directly with the pages of the 1864 children’s book, The Gospel of Slavery. 

You should begin by reading the entire book quickly through. Then each of you will take one page to work with, answering these questions (we’ll select by going around the room so no one has the same letter).

Work through the questions in MS Word, and then cut and paste your answers into your BLOG page in Blogger. (This is the blog page/URL that you posted in our first lab.) Post your URL in Moodle so that everyone in the class can find your work and also so you can get a grade.


  1. What letter/page are you working with?
    Describe the picture at the top of the page in detail: describe the action and the actors. Who is at the center or figures most prominently? What purpose does this serve?
    This is a primer, i.e., an elementary textbook for teaching children to read.  Beginning with the letter itself and what is “stands for” in this book, summarize the major “lesson” being taught on your page.  How does the rhyming scheme support the message?
    Notice that there are two parts to “read” on each page beyond the picture itself: a rhyming section and a commentary beneath it.  Do these sections have different audiences do you think? Who are they?
    Think about all three sections of your page now. What is the abolitionist story that is being told here?  Is there more than one?
    How does this text fit within our study so far of Equiano’s narrative and of the history of slavery in the U.S.?  What does it suggest to you about abolitionists during the Civil War? What is unsettling to you about the genre of primer as an abolitionist work?
    What kinds of questions would you like answered about this book? What perplexes or puzzles you?  How might you find answers to your questions? Who is “Iron Gray” and why is he on the title page? Speculate on Thomas’s use of this name.
    Before you complete your blog post, be sure to include the primary source information. In your blog, you can begin by creating a link directly to the page. But you should also include the complete citation information at the bottom of the page. Title of the Book, Author of the Book, Title of the Collection, Where the Collection is Housed (click on “Home” for most archives), [you don’t need to include  the URL for MLA citation style, but you might want to keep it handy for your own future use], then include Web and date accessed.

HT to Rebecca Onion in Slate for sharing her discovery of this text.