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Digital History, Digital Archaeology, Simulations, Games, AR, Romans. Method & Theory.

Guiding the MA in Digital Humanities 2015/2016 Programme at Carleton University


Who's doing which seminar

2 min read


[I've also put the confirmed speakers on this schedule]



Oct 6: How we got here, 'code': Jenna

Oct 13: The Crowd: Marissa

[Oct 20: 5800: Gail Carmichael]

[Oct 23: 5800: Damien Huffer]


Nov 3: Viz & Other ways of seeing: Elise

[Nov 10: 5800: Alban Denoyel]

Nov 17:   **Attention** You are invited to my book launch on this day, at our usual time, in the Paterson Hall History Department Lounge (4th floor). There will be a digital workshop with my co-author Ian Milligan. This will count towards DIGH5000. Which means Jessie's seminar will be moved to a new date (tba).

Nov 24: Maps & Digitized Space: Jessie (11.35 - 1, Discovery Centre rm 481)

[The 5800: DH Maker Bus Crew - Kim Martin et al session is postponed until further notice]


Dec 1: Images & Audio: Richard


Jan 12: Text analysis: Susan

Jan 26: Algorithmic writing: Alex


Feb 9: Sustainability: Beth & Richard

Feb 23: Scholarly Publishing: Sharon


March 8: Archives & Databases: Justin

March 22: Future DH!: Allie


April 5: DH Primers presentation: Tout la gang.


Not on the list?

If you haven't selected a session yet, I think I am going to limit your choices to January 26th, or February 23rd, as there is much there we could cover and two seminar presentations on those days could work nicely. Please consult with the person who has already claimed that spot to ensure that you don't duplicate. Leave a comment on this post to claim your spot!


An Open Notebook

2 min read

There might be times when having an open online notebook for a digital humanities project makes a lot of sense. Tonight, I came across another static site generator that turns your folder of markdown files into a searchable wiki-style site, with rss feeds (rss is a way of piping all of your content out of your site so that it can be resused in different ways. For instance, you could create a twitter robot - yes, you can! - that tweets every time your site is updated with new content, tweeting links to the specific pieces. Originally, RSS was a way of reading in one place all of your favourite content by 'subscribing' to various websites' feeds).

But I digress.

I've written it all up over on my research blog , a slightly more complicated combination of notetaking and website making. The simple version:

The site generator is called 'Pykwiki': . In essence, once it's installed, you put all of your md files in the 'source' folder. Then, you give the command:

pykwiki cache

Your totally functional website will be generated in the 'docroot' folder. To put the site online, you'd just move those files into a github repository (or put it on your own server, if you have one) on a gh-pages branch. 

Ta da! 

(You'll have to look up how to make a gh-pages branch :)


Building your own website with your github repository

2 min read

Now you've learned how github works, here's a neat way of getting a personal website/journal/open notebook up and running. 

1. Fork this repository

2. Rename your copy of the repository in the settings, by hitting the cogwheel icon, and changing the repo name from 'jeckyll-noww' to  (with no )

3. Click 'rename'.  Scroll down - see the green bar that says 'your site is published at!' (yours'll be different, of course). Click on that link - your site is live!

4. If it isn't, we'll just give Github a nudge. On the main page for your repo, click on the file called _config.yml 

5. Click the pencil icon, so you can edit it. Change line 6, to put in your name. Go to the bottom of the page and hit the green commit changes button. Open a new browser window, put the URL in: and ta da!

A more detailed set of instructions is at


You can add new posts to your new blog by cloning the repo on your desktop, and then saving .md files into the  _posts folder. Note that the naming convention has to be the same as the example post. Then sync with your repo, and your changes are published to the web! 

There are lots of reasons why you might do this, but two very good ones is a) free b) you keep control because your materials are on your own machine c) it's fast - the site is static and so no time is wasted computing what the page ought to look like d) it's secure. Well, more secure than many options (ask me about the Heritage Crowd project sometime).


September 29th recap

6 min read


The agenda was at ; future agendas will also appear there.

Putting the agenda on github also allows you to fork a copy for your own records. Once you have a copy, you can also hit the pencil icon on the github webpage for your copy, and write your notes directly in there. The ambitious individual could even compile a collective record of our discussions this way...

I spent the better part of the session talking about my own tortured path to this point - how I became a 'dh' person (for a whatever 'dh' might mean), some critical failures in my teaching to date that have shaped my perspective on what it means to be a teacher and scholar, and a bit about how this course works (especially the idea of the 'dh primer', both a guide for your peers to the world of DH, but also, an advertisement of your own developing sense of what 'dh' should mean in your work. Dh is as DH does, said Forrest Gump).

I also spoke about the point of the and how this will be both an exercise in thinking through how to communicate DH to your non-dh peers, but also a way for you to think through what is important about DH for your own research, a critical and informed piece of meta-thinking about the field. Since this will also live online (like much that we will do; but remember the class policies about that and please talk to me if you have concerns there), it also functions as a kind of weight in the world around which your online digital identity might colesce.

I then waxed lyrical about git, github, markdown, and the virtues of separating form from content. I also had a conversation afterwards with one of you, and I'll reproduce the gist of some of it below:

Why Git, Github, and Markdown?

One of you: "WHY is this important?  WHY is this part of what is called DH? Although I under the general idea is that it makes research better, keeping up with our Digitalized world... but I feel lost at the moment."

Me: "No, those are good questions! And right there, you’re asking DH questions - why these tools? What’s wrong with Word? Be critical of the tool, why you're using it, what it does, the assumptions about how the world works that are built right in.

Turn those questions on their head: what does Word do to your research? The thing with word, excel, and the rest of the microsoft & apple product line - even more so now than in the past - is that they are trying to lock you into their ecosystem.

So the whole schtick with learning markdown (which is just a plain text file with one or two things like asterisks on either side of a word to indicate bolding, and so on) iss that it is as simple a file as you can create: able to be read by any computer or hand held device - not technological or corporate lock in. The thing with word is that those .docx files are in a proprietary format, and one that conflates ​*what*​ you write with ​*how it looks*​. Separate that, and you've got portability, future-proofing, and translation into webpages or epubs or pdfs or whatever. 

When we separate content (what you’re thinking) from container (word, the typography, the bells & whistles) by putting stuff into plain text files, you can start to do some awesome stuff. For instance:

That is a website that displays a slide presentation. The html that makes slides is separated from the markdown plain text file that actually has my content, my ideas. That second file can be turned into an article, a pdf, a set of handouts, a word document (yes), with a single command to the computer.

So - if you keep stuff as plainly as possible - plain text files with the .md extension, or lists etc as .csv (comma separated values) rather than .xls spreadsheets - your research will always be future proof, able to be deposited in repositories or archives, and accessible!

It allows other people to build on your research more easily - SSHRC for instance is starting to mandate that not just articles but research notes too get made open access.

What’s also fun is since Github understands .md and that # means a level-1 heading, you can get Github to display your files as if it were a website etc."


Meanwhile, on Slack

I also posted some stuff in our Slack channel that I think is worthwhile repeating here:

"There are lots of markdown cheat sheets out there; I also like to play with when I’m writing in markdown because it renders everything on the other side of the screen so I can see if something worked or not.

Also: you can use to write directly into a github repository. You create a new repository in github, (remembering to tick off the box ‘initialize with a file’) then at you authorize it to play with github. Then you have an online text editor that is writing and saving directly into your repository.

When we get to talking more about open access publishing, there are platforms for collaborative writing etc that make use of that exact same functionality, like or "


And Finally

and finally, a few blog posts & videos that will help you with git and github more generally:

and a somewhat more involved piece, but it does include a video going over the same things we did:


See you next week! Remember, for 'community', you can be interacting with each other on Slack or with the wider DH world (if they find us here) on this site.



Speakers' Series DIGH5800

2 min read

As part of the coursework in the MA in Digital Humanities, students are required to take part in a 'professionalization' course. This will function more like a speakers' series. In some cases, I will ask that everyone have read a particular piece or examined a particular website before the event so that we can get the most out of the encounter.
I have invited speakers from inside and outside academia to talk with you about their own work and/or research, especially within the context of the sometimes hidden challenges that doing that work entails - a kind of 'what I wish I'd known before I started' approach. It's the problem of being professional in a world where the goalposts are constantly shifting, whether those goalposts are technological or social.
For the Fall 2015 term, we will be meeting in the library's Discovery Centre, Rm 481, at 11.25 am.


First meeting reminder: Sept 29th

1 min read


Just a reminder folks, we don’t meet in person until Sept 29th. The digh5800 professionalization course is still being set up (it’s just a series of meetings w/ movers & shakers in DH, so much depends on their schedules rather than ours). If anybody wants to meet in person for coffee before the 29th, just ping me.



Assessment Criteria

2 min read

I look for two broad criteria in assessing digital humanities work, following along O'Donnel's ideas of the unessay. That is, I look for it to be compelling & effective:

An unessay is compelling when it shows some combination of the following:

  • it is as interesting as its topic and approach allows
  • it is as complete as its topic and approach allows (it doesn’t leave the audience thinking that important points are being skipped over or ignored)
  • it is truthful (any questions, evidence, conclusions, or arguments you raise are honestly and accurately presented)

In terms of presentation, an unessay is effective when it shows some combination of these attributes:

  • it is readable/watchable/listenable (i.e. the production values are appropriately high and the audience is not distracted by avoidable lapses in presentation)
  • it is appropriate (i.e. it uses a format and medium that suits its topic and approach)
  • it is attractive (i.e. it is presented in a way that leads the audience to trust the author and his or her arguments, examples, and conclusions).

Given that this is a graduate level course, I am also looking for work that is critical, analytic, interpretive, original, argumentative, well documented and carefully written/crafted. My domain home is archaeology and history; yours is most likely not. In which case, when necessary, I reserve the right to call on other experts to help assess discipline-specific contributions.




Pecha Kucha

1 min read

The Pecha Kucha is a disciplined form of presentation, built around 20 slides at 20 seconds each, for a total presentation time of 6'40 ".  Examples of the form may be seen at .

For your Pecha Kucha, I want you to upload your presentation to google slides & set it to automatically play the slides. We'll then present in class. The content of your Pecha Kucha? Your DH Primer!




Getting Set Up on Github

1 min read

We'll go over a bunch of this in class, but here's a useful (ish) video.