English 420 §001 Technology and the Humanities &
English 516 §001 Literary Research and Computers
TTh 1:10-3:00 444A Mason Hall
Overview Evaluation
Readings Calendar
Unscheduled subjects Supplementary Materials
Individual and Group Work Disability accommodations
Participation humtech10@ctools.umich.edu

Eric Rabkin, esrabkin@umich.edu & 734-764-2553
Office: 3243 Angell Hall
Hours: TWTh 3:10-4:00 & by appointment


How are we shaped by our tools? How can new tools foster new ideas?  In this course students will learn, study, and use today’s digital tools (like Photoshop and Flash) and techniques (like networked collaboration and text analysis) to create, gather, manipulate, analyze, and present new ideas in the humanities.   This upperclass and graduate-level course is appropriate for both those who are technically sophisticated and those who are novices. The course offers technical training, exploration of the implications of modern digital technologies, and the opportunity to develop both technical and scholarly skills in advanced research subjects in the humanities. The course fosters both sharpened general analytic and presentational skills and technical mastery of a broad range of modern computer-based technologies for collaboration and for gathering, manipulating, analyzing, and presenting electronic data in the humanities. The course begins with five weeks of intensive technical training and proceeds to five weeks of discussion of works that explore the impacts of technology.  By the middle of the term, restrained only by time and their imaginations, students also will be working in self-selected groups on creating sophisticated multimedia products using a variety of techniques to address some substantial issue in the humanities. Technical topics include information gathering from digital sources, web authoring, hypertext documents or novels, collaborative technologies, image manipulation, text analysis, and the meaning of the digital revolution. Prospective students may want to look at course websites created by students in previous offerings of this course which can be found at Selected Student Humanities InfoTech Coursework (http://www.umich.edu/~mmx/humsit_coursework.htm) which is linked to my home page (http://www.umich.edu/~esrabkin). The course calendar indicates specific tools and techniques to be discussed and demonstrated, topics and readings to be discussed, and work to be presented. As a group, we will also consider unscheduled subjects. Other tools, techniques, readings and topics will arise for individuals, for the whole group, and for particular project groups. Some of us necessarily will know more than others about one or more of these matters of technology or humanistic study. Working with research technologies in the humanities may sometimes be exhilarating and sometimes frustrating but always can be satisfying if those who can help do. Thus, we will maintain what might be called an open seminar environment in which we can all teach each other. Everyone will be expected to be fully responsible to the work, the project group, and what will doubtless be a class of people diverse in backgrounds and interests. These technologies can build communities; our greatest achievements are possible only if we take advantage of the class as a community and contribute to it accordingly.
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The offline required texts already selected are available at local bookstores:
Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1990.
Tufte, Edward R., The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed., Graphics Press, 2001.
Adobe Flash Professional CS5 Classroom in a Book. Adobe Press, 2010.
ActionScript 3.0 for Adobe Flash Professional CS5 Classroom in a Book. Adobe Press, 2010.
These online texts (some requiring kerberos authentication) are available through the links below:
Byrne, David. "Learning to Love PowerPoint." Wired, Sep 2003.
Carr, Nicholas. "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" The Atlantic Monthly, Aug 2008.
Cringely, Robert X. "An AIR of Invisibility: Adobe has Microsoft in its sights." PBS. 28 Jun 07.
Dooling, Richard. "Diary of an Immortal Man." Esquire, May 1999.
Duarte, Nancy. "Why we hate PowerPoints -- and how to fix them." CNN Opinion. 15 Oct 10.
Eisenberg, Anne. "Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data." New York Times, 30 Aug 2008.
Fogg, B. J.: Slides for 7 Nov 2004 Captology presentation.
Gladwell, Malcolm. "The New Age of Man." The New Yorker, Sept 30, 1996, pp. 56-67.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark" and "The Artist of the Beautiful" in Mosses from an Old Manse.
Helft, Miguel. "With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking." New York Times, 26 Jul 2007.
Joy, Bill. "Why the future doesn't need us." Wired, Apr 2000.
Lowenstein, Roger. "Subprime Time." New York Times Magazine, 2 Sep 2007.
Plato. On Writing (from "Phaedrus"). c. 360 B.C.E.
Shirky, Clay. "Situated Software." Networks, Economic, and Culture mailing List, 30 Mar 2004.
Sheckley, Robert. "Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?"
Tufte, Edward. "PowerPoint Is Evil." Wired, Sep 2003.
White, Lynn, Jr. "Technology Assessment from the Stance of a Medieval Historian"
Aoki, Keith; Boyle, James; and Jenkins, Jennifer. Bound By Law. Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, 2006.
Bumiller, Elisabeth. "We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint." The New York Times, April 27, 2010. Web.
Gasaway, Lolly. "When Works Pass Into the Public Domain."
Kelly, Kevin. "Scan This Book!" The New York Times Magazine, May 14, 2006, pp. 42 et seq.
King, John. "Modern Information Infrastructure in the Support of Distributed Collective Practice in Transport." Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Jun 2006, pp. 111-121.
Koerner, Brendan I., ed. The Best of Technology Writing 2006, 2007, 2008, U-M Press, 2006, 2007, 2008.
Krug, Steve. Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. 2nd edition, New Riders Press, 2005.
Orenstein, Peggy, "I Tweet, Therefore I Am" The New York Times Magazine, August 1, 2010, pp. 11-12.
Revkin, Andrew. "Come Fly With Me (and Me and Me and Me...)" (NYTimes blog [21 Nov 2007] re Aaron Koblin's visualizations of FAA data).
Von Ahn, Luis. "Human Computation." July 26, 2006.
Further materials may be selected by the class during the semester.
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In addition to the subjects scheduled for discussion in the calendar below, numerous subjects are likely to arise spontaneously as we proceed. What follows is a list of those. Students in the course should feel free to raise any of these matters or suggest revisions to the list whenever they feel it is appropriate.
Adding Value to Found Materials (e.g., Project Gutenberg v. Oxford Text Archive)
Copyright and Fair Use
Gresham's Law Applied to Information
How Much Should Neatness Count?
The Nature of Authorship
The Nature of Readership
Net Searching
The Relations between Text and Context
The Scholarly Character of Digital Publication
The Stability of the Text (consider Photoshop demo)
Temporal and Physical Location
The Territory v. the Map
Text Analysis v. (Trained?) Human Understanding
Text Manipulation (WordCruncher, WordSmith, corpus linguistics, SGML, HTML, XML, etc.)
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INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP WORK (Finished Projects: Fall 2007; Fall 2008; Fall 2009; Selected Student Humanities InfoTech Coursework [group projects only])

Each student in the course will create an individual product and contribute to a group project.

The individual and the group project each will begin with a printed proposal. These proposals should be discussed with the instructor and, if need be, revised. (Count on needing revision; start early!) When accepted, the hard copy proposal will be signed by the instructor. The signed proposals should be scanned into a pdf document to which are attached instructions for accessing the project. This pdf should be sent to the instructor as an email attachment by midnight of the day the project is due. For the individual products, proposals should include the proposer's name, the date, a statement of the topic, some materials likely to be relevant for background and/or analysis, and either a reason the student wants to study this topic or a tentative hypothesis about the topic. For group projects, proposals should include the names of the group members, the date, statement of the topic, what the group hopes to accomplish by pursuing the project, some materials likely to be relevant for background and/or analysis, additional resources the group may need (e.g., electronic reproduction rights, learning Adobe Premier, translating from Russian), and a tentative work plan indicating the distribution of responsibilities and schedule of activities.

Individual product: A critical study of the humanistic implications of some technology as broadly conceived, e.g., alphabetic phonography, papyrus, telegraphy, sound movies, hypertext, microwave ovens. All individual products should be done primarily as Flash movies although, where appropriate, those movies may link to online PowerPoint presentations, flat Web pages, video clips, and so on. This assignment challenges students to pursue an unusual chain of inquiry: come to a definition of a technology that allows you to understand its fundamental nature and affordances, conceive of its potential applications, and consider why some of its potential applications did not work out while others did and the humanistic implications of both those that didn’t and those that did. Of course one typically cannot do this in detail for every application of a given technology, but one can choose representative applications that allow discussion of the most important humanistic implications. Choosing which applications to study extensively and to discuss, both hypothetical and actual, is part of the rhetorical and argumentative task. This overall effort helps get students to recognize that technologies only seem transparent and inevitable and it helps stretch one's imagination about both technology and the humanities. That this assignment should be executed using at least Flash if not other computer-based technologies challenges students to use new technology even while working on the implications of some other once-new technology. The use of new presentational technology should make palpable that rhetorical choices, like so much else in our lives, are in part shaped by the technologies one uses. Each presentation should represent as much finished work, and be of the same scholarly rigor, as one would expect of a traditional, tightly reasoned, well supported, argumentative research paper of at least ten pages. Students should feel free to dovetail the work on their individual products with that on their group projects. Those who, in the light of later developments, wish to revise, may do so. If the first submission is judged serious and the revision judged substantial, the later grade will supplant the earlier. (More on the individual product)

Group projects can range widely, as discussed in the Overview section earlier on this syllabus. The projects themselves have two parts: a) the group product itself, and b) a group analysis discussing and/or demonstrating one or more theoretical problems encountered in producing the product. The group product should reflect in rigor and substance the committed, extended work of a number of people. This product might be anything so long as it reflects a serious and creative approach to a well-defined humanistic problem, uses appropriate tools to address that problem, presents its results in compelling ways that are appropriate to the problem and audience, and takes proper advantage of today’s available presentational technologies. The group analysis should be equivalent to a 5-10 page traditional paper in rigor and substance. Its length will depend on the nature of the project group's experience. The nature and focus of the group analysis may well vary from group to group, but the "theory" in "theoretical problems" always should have to do with our continuing concern for the humanistic implications of technology. What have your experiences been in pursuing the group project? Could it be that your fundamental presentational design needed major revision? If so, how did you come to notice that need? What assumptions did you need to revise to make that revision properly? What solution did you come up with? How did you come up with it? What did you, in general (that is, theoretically) learn about presentational design? Or, could it be that you have discovered that the very medium you have chosen enhances, inhibits, or distorts your viewer/auditor's appreciation of the materials you want to treat? How did you discover that? Why and/or how does it happen? What did you do to compensate for or take advantage of that? Again, what did you learn in general from this process? Or, could it be that the methods by which you worked in a group mediated by certain technologies enhanced or inhibited collective progress? How? Again, what did you learn from this? You are invited to talk with the instructor about these group analyses. Although the analyses are to be objective, the objects under analysis are supposed to be your collective experience in producing your group product itself. The resulting group analysis is supposed to be something as solid and informative as a traditional analytic essay. Indeed, it very well may be a traditional analytic essay.
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In an intimate, collaborative, seminar-lab course, participation must be trusting and trustworthy, respectful, vigorous, open, honest, prepared, and consistent. Students should participate--which includes attend--assiduously and keep in communication with the group should anything interfere with expectable participation. Those who know should be willing to teach those who need to know. All students should keep a HumTechJournal and use it both to invigorate their laboratory participation and to record their own observations and questions about matters that bear on the specifics of the course and the general subject of the course. Using our course website, we can also share materials of all sorts including our own work as may be appropriate and helpful in ways that we will consider collectively.

(The HumTechJournal should be a word processing document. Its filename should be HumTechJournal[Lastname][semester].[ext] where [Lastname] should be replaced with your last name, [semester] should be replaced with the semester in the form of season initial and last two digits of the year, and [ext] should be replaced with the file extension appropriate to your word processor. Thus HumTechJournalRabkinF10.docx would be a properly formed filename for a HumTechJournal. The HumTechJournal is itself a tool to sharpen your observations and to prepare you for participation in the course. You should keep it in your own online space so that it can be accessed from your usual working location and during lab meetings where it can be consulted by you and, if appropriate, by the instructor.

(At a minimum, the HumTechJournal should contain entries for all items on the calendar after the first meeting that are marked "DISCUSS." All journal entries should begin with the date you make the entry.

(In the case in which an item is a reading, the entry should contain, to the extent that these can be readily known, the title of the reading, the author's name, and the date of composition. In addition, each item's entry should contain at least one statement of a proposition [thesis, assertion, key observation, or some such] promulgated in the reading; at least one noteworthy quotation from the reading; and at least one question the reading urges you to consider and perhaps bring to our group discussion.

(In the case in which an item is not a reading in the traditional expository or argumentative sense, the entry should contain, to the extent that these can be readily known, the title, author, and creation date of the item plus your own observations about the item in the form of at least one proposition stated or implied by the item; at least one noteworthy extract [quote, map, screen shot, or some such] from the item; and at least one question the item urges you to consider and perhaps bring to our group discussion.

(In addition, the HumTechJournal can include dated entries about any matters you encounter that bear on the specifics of this course [for example, notes taken while pursuing your individual project] or on the general subject matter of this course [for example, reflections on a film you've just seen that for you raised important questions of how technology and humanistic forces interact]. The work of producing the HumTechJournal should both sharpen your thinking and invigorate your participation.)
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The individual product contributes 25% toward the student's final grade. Each student receives the grade of his or her project group on the group work. The group project contributes 50% toward the student's final grade. (The relative weight of the group product and the group analysis will depend on what each project group encounters but is likely to be about 2/3 and 1/3 respectively.) Participation in the course as a whole contributes 25%. (N.B.: Plagiarism—an especially important issue when dealing with electronic reproduction—will not be tolerated. If in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, please see the English Department Plagiarism Policy Statement and/or consult the instructor. Even a single instance of plagiarism may result in failure in the course.) The course will not be graded on a curve; rather, each participant and product will be judged against what it could ideally have been. If all work by all individuals and groups are excellent examples of their kind, every student will earn and be awarded an A.
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T 7 Sep

Get-Acquainted Lab
View and DISCUSS Dictionary joke
Course overview
Mutual introductions
Read and DISCUSS Plato on writing and "Subprime Time"
View and DISCUSS EPIC 2014 (see also background and EPIC 2015)
Activities for all subsequent labs
will be determined by the need of each student in the course to reach a minimum proficiency with "The Basics," Microsoft Office (including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access), Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash and to exceed those levels in the use of those or other programs needed for individual and/or group work.

Th 9 Sep

DISCUSS Lynn White, Jr.'s "Technology Assessment from the Stance of a Medieval Historian" plus Clay Shirky's "Situated Software"; Miguel Helft's "With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking"; and Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
Begin "The Basics" and MS Office

T 14 Sep

"The Basics" (create and use access-controlled folders in IFS space)
MS Office (Word embedding, hyperlinking, reviewing [annotations, revisions, etc.], outlining, etc.; PowerPoint and its many uses; Excel as spreadsheet, list, calculator, and flat database; Access as relational database; interrelations among the programs)

Th 16 Sept

DISCUSS Library resources (e.g., MIRLYN, HTI, databases, etc.)
DISCUSS E-mail as an instrumental and formative technology
DISCUSS first pages of The Wisdom of Crowds: James Surowiecki; wikipedia; tagging in museums
Quality Evaluator (report due Th 30 Sep)
Continue "The Basics" and MS Office skills

T 21 Sep

Begin seeking ideas for individual and group projects
Collaboration tools

Th 23 Sep

DISCUSS Ephemerality (e.g., Prelinger Archive, YouTube, fair use sampling, instability of the text, etc.)
Continue Photoshop and Dreamweaver

T 28 Sep

Groups should be meeting with instructor about project proposals

Th 30 Sep

QE report due in class
DISCUSS QE results
DISCUSS QE and/v. wiki
DISCUSS Robert X. Cringely's "An AIR of Invisibility"
Flash parody: Animator v. Animation from http://www.atomfilms.com
Continue Flash

T 5 Oct

DISCUSS PowerPoint con and PowerPoint pro (Wired, Sep 2003), Why we hate PowerPoints -- and how to fix them, PowerPoint cartoon 1 (The New Yorker, 9 Feb 2004, p. 60), PowerPoint cartoon 2 (Dilbert, 5 Oct 2008), and Gettysburg Address on PowerPoint (right-click to download) (and Gettysburg Address as student composition)
Practice common technologies
Additional technologies?

Th 7 Oct

Deadline for getting group project proposal signed
Deadline for getting proposal for individual product signed

Design issues (see "Usability Principles" in Supplementary Materials section)
Exploring model pages and sites (see "Web design excellence" in Supplementary Materials section)

T 12 Oct

lIlustrations v. Visuals--The Fantastic and the Grammar of Graphic Narratives (multimedia lecture)
Individual work
Group work

Th 14 Oct

Anne Eisenberg's "Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data"
Individual work
Group work

T 19 Oct Study day - no lab

Th 21 Oct

Individual product due
DISCUSS The Visual Display of Quantitative Information: Tufte

T 26 Oct

DISCUSS Science Fiction: Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" and "The Artist of the Beautiful" in Mosses from an Old Manse; Sheckley's "Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?"

Th 28 Oct

Group work

T 2 Nov

DISCUSS The Design of Everyday Things: Norman
Group work

Th 4 Nov

DISCUSS Unintended Consequences: Dooling, Joy, and Gladwell
Individual and group work

T 9 Nov

DISCUSS Persuasive Technology: Fogg; 7 Nov 2004 Captology presentation
Individual and group work

Th 11 Nov

Deadline for optional revision of individual product
Group work

T 16 Nov

Present and critique individual products

Th 18 Nov

Group work: Usability testing

T 23 Nov

Group work

Th 25 Nov Thanksgiving

T 30 Nov

Group Presentation:

Th 2 Dec

Group Presentation:

T 7 Dec

Group Presentation:

Th 9 Dec

Summary session
All group analyses due as e-mail attachments by 11:45 p.m.
All group products must be available online by 11:45 p.m.

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"The Basics"
Collaboration tools
A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004
Databases, Introduction to
Dreamweaver, Introduction to
Excel: a sample gradesheet list/database
Flash, Introduction to
Net Searching
Patent Searching
Photoshop Demo 1, Introduction
Presentation options (download files from ~lsarth/Public): Word, PowerPoint (II2PPT.ppt plus Supplement 1 [babydance.avi], Supplement 2 [Beowulf.ppt]), Netscape/IE, Flash on the web and free-standing (FlashTest000823.exe), Director/Authorware, FileMaker (Teach3.FP3)
Progressive authorship: Howl, Allen Ginsberg; Yowl, Christopher Buckley & Paul Slansky; Howl.com by Thomas Scoville; Howl generator, Chris Seidel
Step-by-step instructions for U-M systems and software commonly used at U-M:
   Faculty Exploratory Tutorials and Handouts
   ITS (Information and Technology Services; formerly ITD, then ITCS)
   Knowledge Navigation Center
Technology and Humanities survey of suggested readings, viewings, etc. (Feb 2005)
Technology and Society Data
Tech Support Cheat Sheet
Text Analysis
Web design excellence: some examples
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This page was last updated on Saturday, 16-Oct-2010 14:40:27 EDT .