HIST 8500: Digital Methods for History I, Fall 2023

Seminar Meetings:
W 6:00–8:30 PM
Hardin Hall 230
  Professor Douglas Seefeldt
Clemson University Department of History
Hardin Hall 006
Office Hours:
W 10:00-11:00 AM
(or by appointment)

 “…history may be better suited to digital technology than any other humanistic discipline. Changes in our field far removed from anything to do with computers have helped create a situation in history where the advantages of computers can seem appealing, and perhaps even necessary. At the same time, changes in information technology, far removed from any consideration of its possible uses for our discipline, have made it possible for us to think of new ways to approach the past. The new technologies seem tailor-made for history, a match for the growing bulk and complexity of our ever more self-conscious practice, efficient vehicles to connect with larger and more diverse audiences.”

– Edward L. Ayers
The Pasts and Futures of Digital History” (1999)


What is “Digital History”? How has the so-called “digital turn” influenced the ways we as historians conceive, research, design, and communicate our scholarship? In this graduate seminar, students will examine these and other questions in both theory and practice by reading leading critical works, critically reviewing cutting edge digital history projects, and experimenting with a variety of new media tools. Students will be expected to actively participate in weekly seminar discussions and hands-on labs focused on theories and methods of doing digital history and focus on exploring the potential for using digital tools to interrogate and explain scholarly findings in a digital environment. One key course objective is that students will develop an awareness of the opportunities and challenges inherent in researching and communicating one’s scholarship using a variety of digital media. The skills that you will develop will serve you throughout your graduate program whether or not you produce print or digital forms of scholarly communication.


Active Participation

Graduate student attendance at weekly seminar meetings is expected, whether we are meeting in person or online, therefore, attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class. Please notify the instructor in advance should you need to miss a meeting. All students are expected to actively participate in all facets of the seminar via thoughtful contributions to the weekly seminar discussions and hands-on labs.

24% Reading Reflections (120 points)

Throughout the semester, each student will submit twelve 2-page reading reflections to the course Canvas site before our seminar meetings. The evaluation criteria, based on a 10-point scale, will include timely completion and the quality of content. These reflections will also serve as the basis for our weekly seminar discussions. Late reflections will be marked down two points per day that they are overdue. No work will be accepted more than one week late without prior permission.

20% Project Blog Creation and Posts (100 points)

Install and setup a WordPress blog on your Reclaim Hosting account and make 12 posts to your academic blog. Ten posts will be on the digital history tool exercises and graded on a 10-point scale.

20% Book Essay (100 points)

Four-Five-page essay on Blevins, Paper Trails as an exemplar of digital historical scholarship.

25% Digital History Tools Website (125 points)

Web-based exhibit of your engagement with the tool exercises and relevant methodologies using WordPress on your Reclaim Hosting account.

10% Pecha Kucha Tools Presentation (50 points)

Pecha KuchaPresentation on your semester-long exploration of the suite of digital history tools.

1% Self-Evaluation (5 points)

A self-evaluation completed at the end of the semester


(Please note that additional weekly readings will be posted to the course Canvas site):

  • Blevins, Cameron. Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021 (also available electronically via Clemson Libraries’ Pascal System).


Please complete the readings and assignments prior to each seminar meeting, as we will discuss the material as a group. I reserve the right to change the schedule as necessary and will give you notice when I do via Canvas announcement. Note: [C] indicates that the assigned readings are accessible via the course Canvas site.

W 8/23: Digital Scholarship and New Forms of Scholarly Communication


  • Price, “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 3 (2009). [C]
  • McPherson, “Scaling Vectors: Thoughts on the Future of Scholarly Communication,” Volume 13, Issue 2: Reimagining the University Press (2010). [C]
  • Gross and Harmon, “Internet Humanities Essays and Books: Seeing and Hearing Anew,” chpt. 3, The Internet Revolution in the Sciences and Humanities (2016), 52-87. [C]

Writing Assignment: Canvas Introduction Ice Breaker Discussion Post [C]

Lab: Hands-on exploration of digital scholarship exemplars [C]

W 8/30: What is Digital History?


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #1 [C]

Lab: Hands-on exploration of digital history exemplars [C]

W 9/6: Disseminating Digital History


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #2 [C]

Tool Exercise: TE1: Wikipedia & Blog Post #1

Lab: Reclaim Hosting account, projects blog setup, X (Twitter), H-NET Listservs, LinkedIn, Academia, ORCHID, Google Scholar, etc.

W 9/13: The Programming Historian [1999]: HTML & CSS


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #3 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE2: Codecademy HTML & CSS tutorials; Blog post #2 [after lab]

W 9/20: Spatial History, Part I: Spatial Analysis

Reading Assignment:

  • Blevins, Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021 [entire].
  • Writing Assignment: Essay on Paper Trails & Gossamer Network [C]

W 9/27: Spatial History, Part II: Story Maps & Spatial Narratives


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #4 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE3: Esri Story Maps; Blog post #3 [after lab]

W 10/4: Glut: The Impact of the Digital Turn on Information Archives


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #5 [C]

Tool Exercise: TE4: Tropy; Blog post #4

Lab: Searching Strategies: Archives and Special Collections

W 10/11: Researching in the Digital Age


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #6 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE5: Zotero; Blog post #5 [after lab]

W 10/18: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, Part I: Data Visualization


  • Jessop_Digital Visualization as a Scholarly Activity_2008. [C]
  • Sinclair, Ruecker, and Radzikowska, “Information Visualization for Humanities Scholars,” Literary Studies in the Digital Age_2013. [C]
  • Tufte_Visual and Statistical Thinking_1997. [C]
  • Drucker_Graphical Approaches to the Digital Humanities_2016. [C]
  • Graham et al, Exploring Big Historical Data, Chpt 5, “Making Your Data Legible- A Basic Introduction to Visualization,” 2015. [C]

Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #7 [C]

Tool Exercise &Lab: TE6: Tableau Public; Blog post #6 [after lab]

W 10/25: Databases


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #8 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE7: Airtable; blog post #7 [after lab]

W 11/1: Metadata & Linked Data


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #9 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE8: Metadata exercise; blog post #8 [after lab]

W 11/8: Computational Text Analysis


Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #10 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE9: Voyant Tools; blog post #9 [after lab]

W 11/15: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, Part II: Networks

Reading Assignment:

Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #11 [C]

Tool Exercise & Lab: TE10: Net.Create; blog post #10 [after lab]

W 11/22:         Thanksgiving Break

W 11/29: AR/VR & Gaming

Reading Assignment:

  • Bell, “Toward a Definition of Virtual Worlds,” 2008. [C]
  • Downey, “History of the (Virtual) Worlds,” 2014. [C]
  • Johanson, “Making Virtual Worlds,” 2016. [C]
  • Champion, “Game-Based History and Historical Simulations,” 2015.pdf [C]
  • Coltrain and Ramsay, “Can Video Games Be Humanities Scholarship?” (2019).
  • Ottaway and Mason, “Reconsidering Poor Law Institutions by Virtually Reconstructing and Re-Viewing an Eighteenth-Century Workhouse,” 2021. [C]

Writing Assignment: Reading Reflection #12 [C]

Lab: Hands-on exploration

W 12/6: Digital Storytelling: Podcasting & Video

Reading/Listening Assignment:

Writing Assignment: Blog post #11

Lab: Meet at Adobe Studio & Makerspace in Cooper Library

Finals Week:   Final Project Presentations (W 12/13, 7:00-9:30 pm)

Presentation: WordPress project Pecha Kucha presentation: With a limit of 20 seconds per slide, each student will present 20 slides containing 1 image and no more than 5 words.

Assignments [all due before 7:00 PM Wednesday 12/13]:

  • WordPress project completed
  • Blog Post #12: Post Pecha Kucha presentation with a brief reflection on the format’s challenges and opportunities
  • Self-Evaluation [C]