Category Archives: Announcements

Final Reports

To complete your work for this class, you need to do three things:

  1. Over the weekend, resolve any issues that have been filed in our Github repository for the page(s) you are responsible for on the final website. (UPDATE: Please also comment on this important new issue regarding a statement on our front page about the nature of our sources.) We will consider our final project to be in its finished form at 11:59pm this Sunday.

  2. After the project has been finalized, write a report of approximately 950 to 1,250 words. Your report should assess how well our website meets its objective of demonstrating the possibilities and limits of digital history methods to an audience of historians and scholars interested in digital humanities but new to the field. Be specific about the things that you think work well to meet this objective, and the things that would most need work or expansion in future iterations. At the end of your essay, give the final project a score of up to 30 points (with 30 being the best possible score) based on your assessment of its quality. Your final report grade will be an average of your own score together with a score of up to 30 points that I will assign your report based on how well, and with how much specific evidence, you make the case for your assessment.

  3. Respond to the final "team participation" questionnaire of the semester, which I will email to you all individually.

Thanks for a great semester, and let me know if you have any questions!

Final Project To-Do List

I’ve put the to-do list that we made in class yesterday in the README file for our Drafts repo. For the next week, do all of your work directly on the Github files. Remember to "commit" your changes so you don’t lose work! I recommend drafting your work in a text editor and saving copies on your machine just in case.

Note that if you encounter a message while editing saying that someone else has changed the file while you worked, you should see a red banner message at the top prompting you to review the other person’s changes. Click on the review changes link in that banner, and you should see the new text appear in your editing window along with yours. Now you can commit the file incorporating your changes.

Final Project Thoughts

Thanks to both groups for the informative presentations in class today. Now that we all know a little bit more about where each part of the project stands, we need to make some rapid decisions about what we want our final product to look like by the end of classes.

Continue reading

Team Assignments

As discussed yesterday in class, we are going to split up into new teams to begin working on our final web project.

Both teams will contribute two things to the final project:

  • A webpage that contains an introduction to the question, a step-by-step section discussing different methods you tried to answer the question, and a summary of findings and questions for future research.
  • At least one non-narrative visualization illustrating some of the team’s findings.
  • A brief, traditional historical essay that answers the team’s question using a close reading of the available sources. These will be combined together on one page separate from the digital methods reports.

Your team should not only try the methods identified below to answer the question, but also reflect and report on whether these methods actually help us answer the question posed. You should also not take for granted that the corpora we have are already suitably prepared for the methods you want to try; your team may need to think through how to turn the transcriptions and metadata we’ve collected into datasets that are actually susceptible to the kinds of analysis you want to try.

Team 1

Alyssa and Daniel


How similar were Texas ads to ads from the nearby states of Mississippi and Arkansas?


Use text mining methods, such as word trends (in Voyant), TF-IDF, and topic modeling, to compare corpora from Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Team 2

Aaron, Clare, and Kaitlyn


Judging from runaway ads, how were Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana connected geographically in the antebellum period?


Use Named Entity Recognition to extract place names from the ad corpora and then try different methods (place count tables and graphs, Google maps, network graphs) to visualize how often places from one state were mentioned in another state’s ads.

Deadlines for Progress Reports

All progress reports from here on out will be due before class begins.

  • March 31: Report should include schedule for team’s tasks and work and initial delegation of tasks among team members
  • April 7: Report should include a draft of the "close reading" essay required for the final project, as well as update on other tasks
  • April 14 and 21: Report on progress toward final webpage

Got questions? Leave comments!

Don’t Forget …

Just a quick reminder that our primary assignment for this week is to transcribe the unique advertisements that you found for your assigned year in Homework #2. I’ve decided that during class tomorrow we’ll just make time to start tracking down leads for the group assignments made on Monday, so please bring your laptop computer if you have one.

Syllabus Tweaks

Hope everyone is having a good Spring Break! I’m looking forward to seeing you back in class in Monday.

This is just a quick note to point out that I have made a few tweaks to the syllabus. Some of the assignments were initially drafted with a much larger class enrollment in mind. Since we have a smaller group and have developed some more informal ways of working together, I’ve tried to adjust the syllabus accordingly.

I will talk more about these tweaks on Monday, but the most important changes are:

  • We won’t be using CATME to evaluate teamwork, but we will be using informal questionnaires that I will send you two times in the remaining weeks of the semester.
  • Rather than assigning each of you to only one small group, your small groups will shift shape depending on the tasks that need to be done each week.
  • Progress Reports will be written collaboratively and be assigned one grade for all students, but they will detail what each student in your group has done each week.

Enjoy the weekend, and don’t forget to set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time!

Group Presentation Schedule

  • Monday, 2pm: Alyssa and Daniel
  • Monday, 2:25pm: Aaron (and Franco)
  • Wednesday, 2pm: Clare and Kaitlyn

Meetings Tomorrow

Just a reminder that we will not have our regular class tomorrow. Instead, I will meet with each small group individually in my office (Humanities Building 330) at the time we agreed on yesterday.

Photo Exhibit Tonight and Tomorrow

Want a break from your homework? Looking for something interesting to do this weekend that would give you some interesting perspective on our course? Consider attending either the reception or the gallery talk for this photo exhibit on antebellum slave plantation homes in East Texas. If you are able to make it and want to write a comment on this post about what you saw and heard, I am willing to add two extra credit points to one of your grades from Homeworks 1 to 3.

Virtual Class!

In our readings for today’s (now cancelled) class, several authors pointed to the fact that doing history “in the digital” increases ease of access to sources and reduces the “transaction costs that historians have traditionally faced.”

Put another way, digital history means that a snow day freezing rain day doesn’t have to interfere with our discussion of the assigned readings! In fact, not having our face-to-face meeting today gives you a chance to try out your developing Twitter chops. I’ve posted several tweets to the #ricedh hashtag that pose questions about the readings. All of them have to do with the balance of “cost” and “benefit” that historians have to weigh when digitizing sources like runaway slave ads.

  • Based on the readings, what do you see as the major costs of digitizing sources? The major benefits?
  • What would be gained by “marking up” the text of fugitive slave ads like we did for Homework #1? What would be lost?
  • If pressed, how would you answer the question of what “digital history” is? A “method”? A “medium”? Something else?

With your extra free time today, please use Twitter to respond to at least one of these tweets, or tweet a question or comment of your own about the readings. If you need more space to answer the questions, you can also use the comment box on this blog post to write out your answer. This isn’t a full-blown essay assignment; just make the kinds of comments you normally would if we were having class face-to-face. And keep a look out on the blog for a post about Homework #2, which will still be due on Wednesday.