Major Assignments

Whiteboard documenting digital project development

Major Assignments (and Grading)

  • Class Participation (15% of final grade)
  • Site Visit (15% of final grade)
  • Spatial Humanities Lab Notebook (40% of final grade)
  • Hyperlocal Storytelling Project (30% of final grade)

Class Participation (15% of final grade)

You’re expected to:

  • Review assigned course materials and discuss on Slack around weekly Zoom meetings (Tuesdays at 8pm EST is my recommended deadline for reading responses).
  • Use Slack to update us on your Hyperlocal Storytelling Project and your Spatial Humanities Lab Notebook regularly in the appropriate channels (and when those projects get underway)
  • attend weekly Zoom sessions and participate in discussions.
  • Kick off one weekly Zoom session with a brief (5-10 minutes) introduction to that week’s topic; you’ll sign up for a session at the start of the semester. Your main objective here is to highlight your own perspectives and present your interests in a way that motivates class conversation. You are not required to create slides or summarize all (or even some) of that week’s readings, but you can be creative in your approach or embrace / test out your own pedagogical inclinations here. You’ll be required to briefly / informally check in with me before your designated session (email or Zoom is fine) and I’m happy to offer more specific guidance on a case-by-case basis.

Site Visit (15% of Final Grade)

On a designated Zoom class session in the first month of the semester, we’ll spend some time discussing digital projects / initiatives with spatial investments, either in terms of their subject matter or their interest in using or remediating space and place. Yes, “Site Visit” is a bad pun. More seriously, we’ll use Slack in advance of this class to document each project’s technologies and interfaces, design choices, ideas of audience, forms of labor and collaboration, sites of dissemination, and reception. We’ll borrow some ideas of evaluation from a few different professional contexts (academic journals like Reviews in Digital Humanities; NEH grant guidelines; recommendations from museum exhibition consultants) but the output here will be detail-oriented but informal and conversational. In lieu of individual 5-10 minute presentations, we’ll use our conversations via Slack to come up with a working agenda for how we review and discuss these projects in our Zoom session before we meet. One more thing: we’ll use “digital projects / initiatives” broadly, in the sense that you all do not have to talk about academic work or digital humanities / traditional public history initiatives, but you are certainly free to do so and there are lots of great professional reasons why you’d make that choice. But we can certainly look beyond these purviews. And you are not constrained by the present: some of you may be interested in excavating or reevaluating an older project or approach.

Spatial Humanities Lab Notebook (40% of final grade)

I’d like you to spend the first month of our class thinking about a potential research question that you will pursue in the remainder of the semester. Despite the relatively small size of our class, we likely have a range of interests and professional aspirations among our ranks, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to pursue those interests without insisting that you all write academic papers, immerse yourselves in particular programs or software, focus solely on work legible as “public history.” I’m also trying to acknowledge the conditions of the pandemic and its strain on our attention and our ideas of productivity. 

So I’m calling this project a “Spatial Humanities Lab Notebook,” which sounds kind of obnoxious, but it’s the phrase I used to describe this assignment in a recent email and I don’t hate it. Here’s what that will entail (it’s similar in approach to how I’ve run independent studies, albeit condensed):

  1. You will propose a specific research question you’d like to take up this semester, as well as a rough sketch of how you plan to pursue that question on a weekly basis for the remainder of our time. 
  2. You will also assign yourself a “deliverable” which could take on a variety of formats: a rough prototype or dataset that demonstrates use of a particular digital tool in the service of your research question; an abstract to submit to an upcoming conference; a commitment to networking with folks interested in this same research topic; a more public-facing version of the research notes you create, etc. You have many options, and depending on how things go this year we can scale back and revise deliverables as needed.
  3. You will explain how this research question aligns with your professional aspirations.
  4. You’ll submit 1-3 to me via email and we’ll meet to discuss these plans and tweak / revise if necessary.
  5. For the remainder of the semester, you’ll be expected to follow your plan and update us in the relevant Slack channel. Schedule two hours per week to take up this work (in other words, this is how we’ll be making use of the time we’re not spending on our weekly Zoom sessions). Your Slack updates should be posted no later than Sunday at midnight (EST) each week and should be in the 300 word ballpark (bullet points / fragmented writing is fine; just use complete sentences and take advantage of Slack’s formatting when relevant). 
  6. In at least ONE Slack update, you’ll be asked to solicit feedback from us. You can ask for advice, further readings, feedback on something you’re making or writing. You can ask me questions every week, and students should feel free to briefly chime in on updates every week. We’ll say for now that you are not required to comment in addition to posting every week, but we’ll see how that goes; Slack works better when there is more conversation, in my experience, but I also like Slack because those conversations can be quick and informal.
  7. You can either schedule a Zoom meeting or submit a more formal email to debrief and reflect on this work. We’ll also talk about potential next steps.

In terms of the notebook itself, you are free to use whatever format you’d like here: Google Docs / Folders, a more public-facing kind of blogging or tweeting, a physical notebook (I tend to use the latter in these contexts). Your personal notes should be kept in the format that works best for you; you will not be required to submit them. 

Hyperlocal Storytelling Project (30% of final grade)

I told myself I wouldn’t assign a “project” assignment this semester, but here we are. More seriously, “project” work, in the sense of working on something with public-facing dimensions that you can add to online portfolios and job materials, can be particularly valuable to many of you. But I’d like us to work within a few constraints here, in the interest of time (a semester is not a lot of time) and in the interest of audience (the metrics on engagement with digital public history work will tell you a lot about the limits of “kitchen sink” approaches that assume audiences will spend hours, if not extensive minutes, reviewing project materials). 

So this project has three core constraints and two optional constraints, as I am imagining it here in January (in other words; subject to change, depending on class interest and whatever awaits us this spring):

  • Your project should be able to define itself as “hyperlocal” in some capacity, in terms of the amount of space / the spatial dimensions of the subject matter it covers (interior, exterior, or interior/exterior).
  • Your project should require of its audience no more than 5-10 minutes of their time.
  • Your project should be engaging/accessible on a mobile device (specifically, a smart phone).
  • Optional but encouraged (optional because the pandemic is a difficult time to network; happy to help on this front though): You will contact at least one person who has worked on public-facing digital initiatives to discuss some component of your project.
  • Optional: your project can dovetail with your lab notebook work, but it does not have to! But in the interest of time management, I can see the advantages of doing so.

You’ll have up until the penultimate class session to work up a “proof of concept” of this project, and then you’ll have until finals week to think about possible tweaks or revisions, taking into account audience reaction. We’ll circulate the relevant links on Slack before said class session and discuss your projects as a class in lieu of formal presentations. You’ll submit the final project with a brief email reflecting on this work and discussing plans (real or speculative) to disseminate it.

You are free to collaborate with other students in the class (or elsewhere, to be honest) on this project; if you choose this route, we’ll just think about how you document your contributions (an important component that you’ll want to share publicly if you do end up sharing it). We can also talk about potential institutional collaborators if relevant; you’d be surprised how many Greater Boston / New England orgs would be delighted to see someone make use of their materials in this fashion (but we will want to think about how work in this context privileges your own interests, contributions, and labor; we don’t want to outsource you to local institutions, but there may be advantages to networking with folks at some stage in the development of your project, at the very least) You can build on work taken up in other courses / contexts, provided you are meeting the baseline expectations outlined here. 

You are not required to “publish” this work after the semester, but my hope is that some of you might want to of your own volition (and we can talk about how to do that). But some of you may want to be trying out new tools or taking up more speculative / experimental approaches, so you should not feel constrained by a “public” requirement if that does not work for you. 

OK! That was long. But they are kind of esoteric assignments that require a bit of context.

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