Date Title Leader
January 7 What Do Methods Tell Us? Langmead
January 14 Overview of Digital Methods Langmead
January 21 Global Indicators of Gender Inequality and the Politics of Data Production (I) Hughes
January 28 Visit from Katherine Bode Bode / Langmead
February 4 Global Indicators of Gender Inequality and the Politics of Data Production (II) + Group Synthesis Hughes / Langmead
February 11 Making Sense of Citations (I) Dietrich
February 18 Making Sense of Citations (II) + Group Synthesis Dietrich / Langmead
February 25 World Historical Gazetteer (I) Mostern
March 3 World Historical Gazetteer (II) + Group Synthesis Mostern / Langmead
March 17 NO CLASS
March 24 Online Labor Systems Khreiche
March 31 Project Presentations
April 7 Selective Transmission of Historical Documents Putnam and Markoff
April 14 Big Data Initiatives at Pitt + Group Synthesis Madison / Langmead
April 21 Final Showcase

Unit Descriptions

Unit 1: What do methods tell us? (January 8 & 15)

We will open up with a conversation about the use of methods in each seminar participants’ home discipline, and/or personal experience with methods and then consider what methods can and can’t tell us about the world. For the first class, please come prepared by thinking: What kinds of training and assumptions are there about methods in your home discipline? In your experience, what differences do you see between digital and non-digital methods (if such a thing still exists) and methods used in the history of your discipline? Why are those methods used? What does your home discipline consider to be data, and how do methods draw on that data? How do those methods and data result in what your home discipline considers to be knowledge?

January 7

Please skim the Sawyer Seminar Proposal that led to this class, along with the other readings listed for the week. Moving from our own disciplines, we’ll begin to think about how data gets defined and collected, and what changes in digital environments, and how that may change our methods for research.

All readings for this week are available in the “Overview” subfolder on Box, unless otherwise specified.

  • Sawyer Seminar Proposal.
  • Putnam, Lara, “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” American Historical Review 121, no. 2 (April 2016): 377-402.
  • Noble, Safiya Umoja, “The Future of Knowledge in the Public,” Algorithms of Oppression, NYU Press, 2018, pp. 134-152.
  • Aronova, Elena, Christine von Oertzen, and David Sepkoski, “Introduction: Historicizing Big Data,” Special Issue on Data Histories, Osiris 32 (2017): 1–17.
  • Recommended as background: Borgman, Christine L., “Section I: Data and Scholarship,” in Big Data, Little Data, No Data : Scholarship in the Networked World, MIT Press, 2015, pp 1-80. [ebook on PittCat] For more context, here’s a short interview with the author.

Weekly Deliverable

  • By noon on January 13, post an introduction to yourself and your work to the blog. Please also let us all know your interest in, and goals for, the class (~200 words).

January 14

In the second overview/framing week, we’ll discuss some specific readings related to gaps in data and methods, particularly regarding minoritized people.

Readings for this week are available in the “Overview” subfolder on Box, unless otherwise specified. NB: he readings from the Routledge volume are all in one file.

  • Bailey, Moya and Reina Gossett, “Analog Girls in Digital Worlds: Dismantling Binaries for Digital Humanists Who Research Social Media,” in The Routledge Companion to Digital Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers, 33-43 (New York: Routledge, 2018).
  • Christen, Kimberly, “Relationships, Not Records: Digital Heritage and the Ethics of Sharing Indigenous Knowledge Online,” in The Routledge Companion to Digital Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers, 403-412 ( New York: Routledge, 2018).
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine and Lauren Klein, “Chapter Three: “What Gets Counted Counts,” in Data Feminism, from its public review, https://bookbook.pubpub.org/pub/rykaknh1.
  • Hicks, Marie, “Conclusion: Reassembling the History of Computing around Gender’s Formative Influence,” in Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing, 225-239 (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2017).
  • Radin, Joanna, “Digital Natives: How Medical and Indigenous Histories Matter for Big Data,” Osiris 32 (2017): 43-64.
  • Risam, Roopika, ” Decolonizing the Digital Humanities in Theory and Practice,” in The Routledge Companion to Digital Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers, 78-86 (New York: Routledge, 2018).

Weekly Deliverable

  • By noon on January 21, post your reflections on and analysis of the readings for our first two overview weeks (~500 words). Consider the central questions for the course and for these weeks as you compose your post. Feel free to use sound, still images, and/or moving images.

Unit 2: Gender Inequality with Melanie Hughes and a visit from Katherine Bode (January 21, 28 & February 4)

With Melanie Hughes, we will discuss how international monitoring and advocacy is increasingly driven by global indices and report cards that rate and rank countries. IGOs such as the United Nations, the EU, and the World Bank use country-level data to identify global leaders and to “name and shame” countries that lag behind. Increasingly, NGOs, foundations, and corporations are also getting in the game by collecting new data, constructing indicators, compiling indices, and creating interfaces for data visualization and analysis of country performance. Academics engage in this process in various ways, from consulting on the production of data to using the resulting measures in social scientific research. In this unit, we will consider how the politics of producing country indicators influences social scientific research and our understanding of global inequalities. We will examine the variety of actors (e.g., governments, IGOs, NGOs, foundations, corporations) that are increasingly involved in the production of cross-national data today and consider how these actors influence what data exist – and what data do not exist – and why. We will consider how the ranking of countries shapes data availability and social science methodology. To make our examination more concrete, we will focus on global indicators of gender inequality and two cases: 1) global monitoring of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals related to gender equality; and 2) the creation and use of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative Index.

Katherine Bode will also visit class to discuss a piece of her work. She is professor of Literary and Textual Studies and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow working on digital humanities, literary studies, and book history in the School of English, Languages and Literature at the Australian National University. My research explores the critical potential – and limitations – of quantitative and digital methods for literary studies, a topic that also leads me to consider such things as the nature of archives and the future of the humanities.

All readings are in the Hughes Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

January 21

  • Cueva Beteta, Hanny. 2006. “What is Missing in Measures of Women’s Empowerment?” Journal of Human Development 7 (2): 221–241.
  • Mecatti, Fulvia, Franca Crippa, and Patrizia Farina. 2012. “A Special Gen(d)re of Statistics: Roots, Development and Methodological Prospects of Gender Statistics.” International Statistical Review 80 (3): 452–467.
  • Weber, Heloise. 2017. “Politics of ‘Leaving No One Behind’: Contesting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.” Globalizations 14 (3): 399–414.

Weekly Deliverable

  • By noon on January 27th, write a brief reflection on the conversations we had over the past week, citing what was most intriguing, most familiar, and most unfamiliar to you (~250 words).

January 28

This week, we’ll have a visit from Katherine Bode for the first 60-75 minutes of class. The readings below are in the “Overview Readings” folder on Box. After her departure (and we needn’t rush her away!), we will convene as a group and synthesize our ideas.

  • Bode, Katherine. “Why You Can’t Model away Bias.” Preprint for Modern Language Quarterly 80, no. 3 (2019).
  • Smith, Brian Cantwell. “Effing the Ineffable.” Notes on a presentation/paper. January 2020. [This reading is optional as I am only putting it on the syllabus two days before class, but I do highly recommend it.]

Weekly Deliverable

  • Do what Melanie asked!

February 4

Read the following pages/reports. Play around with the index page and the platform to compare countries and consider the data: what’s there, what’s not there. How does the tool match with the stated goals of promoting gender equality globally? Think about this in conjunction with the themes we discussed in our last session: the mode of data production, how their concerns shape the data that’s made, ideologies involved, etc.

Weekly Deliverable

  • We will study the research process that generated the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project and its Global Women’s Leadership Initiative Index. We will look at the index design, peel back the layers to understand its construction, evaluate what data and indicators are missing, and see how the data are being showcased through the Woodrow Wilson Center’s data interface.
  • Please explore the data portal, which offers report cards http://data.50x50movement.org/countries and enables direct country-to-country comparisons http://data.50x50movement.org/comparison.
  • Then choose a dimension of gender inequality (e.g., education, labor force, health, politics) for the assessment exercise. Then, individually or in small groups:
    • What do you want to know? Brainstorm what indicators could be most important or useful to assess gender inequality in that domain;
    • What’s available to answer that question? Investigate the availability of cross-national indicators for that domain in the largest and most widely used data sources (assessing what is and what is not available); and analyze country and temporal coverage for the indicators that exist;
    • How do the politics of data availability affect researchers? Identify possible social, economic, and/or political forces that might explain what data are present or missing; and explain how identified patterns in data availability might shape the kinds of research questions social scientists could ask.
  • By February 10 at noon, please summarize the results of your investigation in a brief report (2-3 pages, or around 600-750 words) to the blog.

Unit 3: Making Sense of Citations with Michael Dietrich (February 11 & 18)

This unit will introduce basic techniques in bibliometrics, such as citation analysis, citation impact factors, and bibliometric networks. We will discuss the application of these kinds of methods for analysis of research quantity and quality, identifying patterns of authorship and collaboration, and discerning disciplinary trends and clusters. Hands-on experience will be balanced by a critical discussion of the limits of this form of analysis.

All readings are in the Dietrich Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

February 11

For this class, we will share some basic citation analysis that we each collect, and discuss the value of citation metrics.

  • Complete the brief Citation Analysis Exercise [link updated February 5th] and be sure to bring a laptop to class.
  • MacRoberts, Michael H., and Barbara R. MacRoberts. 2018. “The mismeasure of science: Citation analysis.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 69 (3): 474-482.
  • Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L., de Rijcke, S., and Rafols, I. (2015). “The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics.” Nature 520, 429–431.

Weekly Deliverable

February 18

For this class, we will each build a small dataset and use bibliometric analysis software to create different kinds of networks from bibliometric data.

  • Complete the Network Analysis Exercise and be sure to bring a laptop to class.
  • Van Eck, N.J., & Waltman, L. (2014). “Visualizing bibliometric networks.” In Y. Ding, R. Rousseau, & D. Wolfram (Eds.), Measuring scholarly impact: Methods and practice (pp. 285–320). Springer.
  • Wang, Qing (2018) “Distribution features and intellectual structures of digital humanities: A bibliometric analysis,” Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 Issue 1, pp. 223-246.

Weekly Deliverable

  • By noon on February 24, write a critical reflection on the conversations we had over the past two weeks and post it to the blog (500-750 words).

Unit 4: The World Historical Gazetteer with Ruth Mostern (February 25 & March 3)

This session will introduce the World Historical Gazetteer. The aim of starting with this project is to talk about: a) the critical role of infrastructure for collaboration in contemporary data sharing domains, b) to introduce linked open data as a specific methodology for doing this, c) to discuss spatial information as a particular and valuable way to link disparate projects. Students will have the opportunity to work with a sandbox version of the WHG Reconciliation Tool, which will allow them to practice making semantic judgements about whether related records refer to the “same” place or not. This replicates one aspect of the live and actually ongoing work of building this or any digital gazetteer.

All readings are in the Mostern Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

February 25

Weekly Deliverable

  1. World Historical Gazetteer.
    A) Spend some time hanging out on dev.whgazetteer.org. Read the documentation, look up some places, follow some links, register as a user, see what you find.
    B) Practice contributing and preparing data following the WHG Walkthrough Tutorial and using the sample data on the Create Dataset page as explained in the tutorial.
  2. Recogito. 
    A) Read the Recogito Tutorial in order to learn how to upload and annotate texts. 
    B) Select a text related to your research interests (ideally one with a lot of place names), create annotations, and identify and map places in it.
  3. Write a document (the same length as a traditional post for this course) about your experience working with these two tools. Your document should relate this exercise to the Placing Names reading and to the themes of the course. Please pose any questions that you would like to discuss as a class next week. I would also be grateful to hear any specific comments about the usability and functionality of the World Historical Gazetteer as we prepare for our next release.

March 3

  • Michael Curry, “Toward a Geography of a World Without Maps: Lessons from Ptolemy and Postal Codes,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95(3), 2005, pp. 680–691.

Weekly Deliverable

  • By March 16, write a critically reflective blog post (500-750 words) that links the assigned readings and their work with the Recogito tool and the World Historical Gazetteer reconciliation tool to broader questions of place, space and place naming. You are encouraged to identify how these questions and tools relate to your own interests and projects.


Unit 5: Online Labor Systems with Mario Khreiche (March 17 & 24)

In this unit, we will explore the significance of online labor systems concerning social media platforms, online news content, and a rapidly growing AI industry. We will discuss social, political, and ethical implications of online labor systems, such as commercial content moderation (CCM) and digital microlabor, and consider ways of theorizing, studying, and representing these systems.

All readings will be in the Khreiche Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

March 17

  • No class.

Weekly Deliverable

  • No deliverable for this week

March 24

  • Gillespie, Tarleton, “Platforms Are Not Intermediaries,” Georgetwon Law Technology Review 2 (2018): 198-216.
  • Gray, Mary, “Algorithmic Cruelty and the Hidden Costs of Ghost Work,” Microsoft and Harvard University, video, 23m59s (2019). https://video.ias.edu/publiclecture/2019/1106-MaryGray
  • Roberts, Sarah T., “Content Moderation,” in Schintler, L.A. and McNeely, C.L. (Eds). Encyclopedia of Big Data. Springer (2017).
  • Optional Reading for the “Third Engagement”: Matsakis, Louis and Paris Martineau, “Coronavirus Disrupts Social Media’s First Line of Defense,” Wired, March 18, 2020. https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-social-media-automated-content-moderation/

Weekly Deliverable

Blog Assignment (complete after class, “due” by March 30th)

  • Reflect on the assigned materials and previous discussions. In your blog post (400-500 words), focus on one area that you find particularly thought provoking. Consider exploring the following questions or pose your own question(s).
    • What might online labor systems, such as content moderation, tell us about culture, democracy, and/or identity in the digital age?
    • How does online labor and/or content moderation fit in discourses on the automation of work as we are seeing it take place right now in the midst of COVID-19?

March 31

This week, we will present where we are with our final project planning under these new conditions.

The readings assigned for the next class/unit (April 7) will be posted below on or around April 1.

Unit 6: Digital Search in Historical Research with Lara Putnam, John Markoff, and Scott Weingart (April 7)

This unit focuses on digital search in historical research with Lara Putnam and John Markoff to discuss a classic piece (co-authored by Markoff) on the selective transmission of historical documents, and its increased relevance today.

All readings are in the Putnam Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

April 7

Discussion of research process and reception for The selective Transmission of Historical Documents: The Case of the Parish Cahiers of 1789

Weekly Deliverable

  • By noon on April 13, write a critically reflective blog post (500-750 words) linking the readings and the discussions in class.

Unit 7: Big Data Initiatives at Pitt with Michael Madison

This week will be an overview of current big data initiatives going on at Pitt, featuring Michael Madison, a law professor at Pitt who is involved in the initiatives.

All readings are in the Madison Box folder, unless otherwise specified.

April 14

Final Showcase

April 21

Location: Zoom!