DH Gateway – summer 2023


Course Dates: June 12 – August 4, 2023 (8 weeks)

Course Format: Fully online (synchronous and asynchronous)

Course Meeting Times: flexible, TBA (see syllabus and course description for details)

Enrollment Eligibility: This course is open to students in good standing at any of the participating LACOL member campuses: Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Bryn Mawr College, Carleton College, Davidson College, Hamilton College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, Washington and Lee University and Williams College. 

Prerequisites: No formal prerequisites, see syllabus and course description for recommended background

How to Apply: Registration for Summer 2023 will open soon!

2023 Digital Humanities Teaching Team:

  • Beth Fischer, Assistant Curator for Digital Learning & Research, Williams College
  • Austin Mason, Director of Digital Arts & Humanities; Lecturer in History, Carleton College
  • Nhora Serrano, Associate Director for Digital Innovation, Learning & Research, Hamilton College
  • José Vergara, Assistant Professor of Russian, Bryn Mawr College
  • Student Teaching Staff TBA


What Will Students Learn in this Collaborative Digital Course?

Through a unique collaboration between ten peer colleges, Digital Humanities: Social Justice Collections and Liberal arts Curricula uses college archives and collections, and curricular data, as a multi-campus corpus to be interrogated as a basis for historically and socially relevant digital research.  Students will apply different lenses – history, language, culture, religion, solo/ensemble works of art, “digital making” to formulate and address a research question through digital means.  

Anchoring the class in the college collections and curricula draws on an emerging and interconnected knowledge map of liberal arts histories and ethos, especially using the lens of social justice.  By fostering the skills of digital collaboration, students grapple with formulating humanistic research questions (qualitative and quantitative) that can be addressed through digital approaches.  Prompts will be designed to elicit both timely and timeless engagement or activism around social justice at the colleges.  Students will examine forces of change which may unfold slowly or may be rapid “shocks to the system” like COVID-19, climate change, cultural, political, economic, or civic events.  Topic areas may include the nature of the social contract at our colleges, access and equity, health justice, racial justice, environmental justice, educational access/affordability, a range of options will be considered, reflecting student interest 

The course opens with instruction on theoretical and methodological underpinnings – what is digital humanities and how is it done?  The project-based nature of the work in the second half of the course promotes students’ abilities to think and work collaboratively, an asset for modern scholarship and future work. The theme of social justice and activism through liberal arts collections and curricula present a range of ways for student cohorts to tackle their question, thus building their conceptual knowledge in conjunction with digital competencies and skills that are in demand by employers in many fields.  Project team outputs will combine into a corpus to be presented within the class context and to a larger audience across the schools and publicly.

Project Based Learning in 8-weeks

This course takes advantage of the unique affordances of the LACOL community to provide students collaborative and comparative DH project opportunities not available on any single partner campus. A student interested in the controversial renaming of a particular building on their campus, for instance, could expand the scope of inquiry and work with others to analyze the reasons for and resistance to renaming practices across multiple liberal arts colleges. Building datasets drawn from the different archival resources of multiple institutions and performing comparative analyses on them using a variety of DH methods, each summer’s cohort of students will be able to construct small-scale projects that collectively contribute to a growing, interconnected consortium-wide resource. Small, focused group projects can be completed to a high level of methodological rigor and intellectual merit in an 8-week class. Participants will be taught how to choose project topics early, collect and clean data to maximize interoperability, learn and perform effective digital humanities analytical methods, and present the results following appropriate disciplinary argumentation conventions and user-experience best practices. 

Working as a Digital Team

Digital Humanities is an inherently interdisciplinary field, and students will bring a diverse range of skill sets, previous experiences, and disciplinary approaches to the course. With few prerequisites, they will also, no doubt, bring a wide range of skill levels on a number of axes. This course is designed to turn this mix into an asset by consciously grouping students with complementary skill sets and backgrounds into teams greater than the sum of their parts. Learning how to work effectively as part of a digital team is one of the main “soft skills” taught in the course. Not all students will necessarily come away with the same DH “hard skills,” but a student of history and a coder, for example, will each leave with a greater ability to pose humanities research questions amenable to digital inquiry and be better prepared to undertake successful team-/project-based DH learning in the future.

Scaffolds to Guide Student Learning

This course is heavily scaffolded at its outset, both within summer iterations and across them, beginning with a case study that uses archival material to trace a single issue across multiple campuses. For example, using the digitized student newspaper collections from each institution, the class might investigate key moments of student activism from the past 50 years. As the course progresses, the scaffolding falls away, and each student team will have the flexibility to pursue its own research question, with some constraints. Those constraints include the following: the research must make use of archival collections from multiple LACOL institutions; the research must pose a comparative question (for example, comparative across institutions, across time, across geography, etc.); and the research must integrate digital methodological approaches for which the instructors can provide expertise, such as digital mapping, text analysis, and designing online exhibitions.

Diversity of Voices and Viewpoints

Diversity of views, voices, and data is fundamental to this course. The summer DH course will visibly infuse multiple modes of diversity through the syllabus, student participation, and critical thinking. For example, following the model of Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein’s Data Feminism (MIT Press, 2020), students will tackle the challenge of “missing datasets” that represent the experience of minoritized people. Students will also encounter the research, methodology, and creative work of scholars and artists of color that have been excluded from conventional digital humanities courses. The course is designed and delivered through a unique collaboration between faculty, librarians, and archivists, bringing together many perspectives.

Digital Skills to be Learned and Applied

  • Posing research questions in the humanities that are amenable to digital inquiry
  • How to work effectively as part of a digital team (project management)
  • Grounding in digital research methods and their applications
  • Text analysis
  • Data visualization
  • Web content creation (images, video, text, HTML)
  • Creating digital stories, presentations, or online exhibitions