English 4400n/5500n: Digital Humanities (Fall 2015)

About the course

English 4400n: Digital Humanities is a senior seminar on the digital revolution and the effect it is having on the way we communicate, research, and teach. Most of the course will be concerned with the mechanisms and effects of what we might describe as the second Internet revolution—the growth of cloud-based, often socially-network-oriented, services, applications, and repositories that are radically changing economic, social, and research culture and practices.

By the end of the course, students should have

  • A grounded historical knowledge of the history of personal and networked computing as it applies to the humanities.
  • Hands on experience with basic technological practices in the field
  • Extensive experience reviewing existing Digital Humanities projects
  • An understanding of what the Digital Humanities is and where it may and may not be helpful in the pursuit of their other research interests.

Times, locations, and addresses

  • Time: Mondays, 18:00-20:50
  • Location: E648 (Note room change)
  • Twitter hashtag: #4400n

Office hours


The prerequisites for this course are those of a senior English Department seminar. Although this course involves a heavy engagement with technology, no previous study of computing is required. All specific technological skills required will be studied and acquired during the course.

Detailed Description

English 4400n: Digital Humanities is a senior seminar on the digital revolution and the effect it is having on the way we communicate, research, and teach. Most of the course will be concerned with the mechanisms and effects of what we might describe as the second Internet revolution—the growth of cloud-based, often socially-network-oriented, services, applications, and repositories that are radically changing economic, social, and research culture and practices.

The humanities and people with humanities backgrounds have played a very important role in the development of this second revolution. Several of the key technologies that make it possible have close relationships to initiatives in earlier Humanities Computing problems or drew on scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The problems these technologies are especially good at working with are those that are core to Humanities and Social Sciences: How do we create, use, and share representations of Cultural, Textual, and Material Heritage? How do we account for and balance competing pressures of ideology, economics, ethnicity, and gender? How do we understand (intellectual) authority in a fundamentally more horizontal intellectual world?

This course is like and not like other English department courses. It is like other courses in that we will be dealing with cultural material and research, primarily focussing on texts, and intellectually engaged with our subject (this is not primarily a skills course).

It will differ from other English department courses, however, in that we will be focussing on what can perhaps best be understood as paradiscipline: a set of approaches, skills, interests, and beliefs that gain meaning from their association with other kinds of work. Although the Digital Humanities is rapidly acquiring a core set of readings, methodologies, and interests, these readings, methodologies, and interests should not be understood as (necessarily) excluding or opposing other research interests and practices. You can combine the techniques, practices, and insights of the Digital Humanities with Theory, close reading, philological and textual research, and studies in various periods and genres—as well as use them to pursue new lines of inquiry and new interests not possible in the pre-digital world.

This course will differ from other English department courses, finally, in that it will involve a large component of self-directed, hands-on technological discovery and experimentation. A major goal of this course is to give humanities scholars such as senior English students direct experience with the technology that is and will be so important to the future practice of their discipline.

Learning goals

The principal goal of this course is to help students discover (and where necessary demystify) the range and impact of second-generation web technologies in the worlds of culture, humanities scholarship, and pedagogy, A second major goal will be to give students practical hands-on experience with this technology.

By the end of the course students should be able to

  • Discuss the range of second generation Internet technologies and assess their strengths and weakness and the implications of their use in a variety of common communication circumstances
  • Demonstrate a basic familiarity with the underlying technologies and protocols that make the second generation revolution possible
  • Show a high level of expertise in the application of such technologies to a particular, self-defined humanities research problem.


You are not required to purchase any texts. We will be developing a collective reading list on the basis of our in-term research and discussion.


Activity Method Badges available Percentage Due
Blogs Pass/Fail (each blog) Distinction
Great Distinction
20% Each week
Seminar leadership Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail Great Distinction 20% Variable, throughout the semester
Lab assignment Pass/Fail Great Distinction 5% Sept. 28 and October 5
Research Prospectus Pass/Fail Great Distinction 5% November 9
Final project poster
and presentation
Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail Great Distinction 10% December 7
Final project Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail Distinction
Great Distinction
25% December 7
Distinction/Great Distinction badges Great distinction badge = 3% (each)
Distinction badge = 1.5% (each)
“Do over” badge = -1.5%
N/A 15% Throughout the semester


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered or an ‘F’ on the course.

Grade scale

The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or record mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.

In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section.

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s testing labs using course management software (currently Moodle). Quizzes may be assigned on course management software; more commonly they will be given on paper in class.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and password) is available from our class space on our course management software: http://learning.uleth.ca/

My style sheet should be followed exactly. There are significant penalties for students who do not follow this in formatting their work for submission.

Plagiarism and Cheating

This course uses plagiarism detection software. I treat all forms of cheating, including plagiarism, with the utmost seriousness. In most cases, and especially at the senior level, students caught cheating or plagiarising will receive a grade of ‘F’ for the course and a letter to the Dean for inclusion in their student record.

Class schedule

This course consists for the most part of external speakers and student-led seminars. We are still finalising the list of speakers for 2015.



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