HUM1001 - Enter the Matrix: Digital Perspectives on the Humanities

2022/3 Module description

StaffProfessor Leif Isaksen - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module will introduce you to some of the basic concepts underlying the emerging field of Digital Humanities. It focuses on three ways of approaching humanistic material which are especially well suited to computational analysis: tables, maps and texts. It is not intended as course in specifically quantitative approaches, but explores the interplay between humanistic inquiry, and the opportunities and limitations that the use of automated and formal approaches can offer. There are no pre-requisite modules, and no prior knowledge is expected. 

Module aims

The aim of the module is to provide you with an overview of ways in which digital tools and methods can provide different perspectives on humanities questions. It will specifically focus on how three different kinds of data are to structure and interrogate a wide range of phenomena across a variety of disciplines. Tables – which underpin the vast majority of digital resources but many analogue datasets as well – are a powerful way of simplifying information to create statistical and visual summaries of records as varied as archaeological finds, historical court records and art catalogues. Maps permit the placing of historical and cultural phenomena in space or even time, adding essential context for their interpretation. Texts are the primary non-verbal medium between human beings and still form the bulk of all digital and non-digital communication, whether literary or factual.

Collectively, these information structures pervade every aspect of modern life, and learning how to spot them, what they do, and how they support, direct and obstruct the way we think, offers a powerful perspective which is often missing from traditional humanities discourses. For each type of data, you will receive a grounding in the basic principles associated with them, exposure to a variety of research and real-world applications, and hands-on experience with relevant digital tools. While the course is intended to open up a range of alternative perspectives on humanities questions, it will strongly encourage critical reflection on this process, so that you are able to judge for yourself how and when digital methods can be applied in an effective, informative, and ethically engaged manner.

In addition to offering a specific lens through which to explore the humanities, the module also offers an excellent introduction to a set of skills increasingly sought by employers. In addition to practical skills in data management and visualisation, you will also develop your sensitivity to the use and misuse of data and learn methods for critically appraising and improving your own work and that of others.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate understanding of a range of digital approaches capable of processing, visualising, transforming and presenting Humanities material
  • 2. Present knowledge of different ways in which such approaches can be applied to further humanities research

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Apply skills in specific software techniques for creating, querying and displaying data
  • 4. Critically engage with the impact of digital technologies in a specific domain (the humanities)

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Write for a public audience in a hypermedia format
  • 6. Present, describe and evaluate complex information

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The course is composed of three core sections covering the main themes of tables, maps and texts. Each section addresses a particular topic in three parts:

  • Theoretical introduction to the basic concepts
  • A series of case studies looking at the approaches in practice (including guest speakers where possible
  • A hands-on exercise allowing you to apply some of the concepts to a specific text or dataset.

These central sections are bookended by an introductory and concluding lecture covering broader themes about digital approaches to the humanities.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1515 hours of introductory and case study lectures + concluding lecture
Scheduled Learning and Teaching72 hours of practical exercises for each topic + 1 additional hour of support for practical work in final week
Guided Independent Study128Reading and self-guided tutorials

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
1 x Reflective blog post on practical exercise500 words1, 3, 5-6Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 x Reflective blog post on practical exercises502 x 500 words1, 3, 5, 6Written feedback
Essay 501500 words2,4 , 6Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective blog post on practical exercises Reflective blog post on practical exercises (500 words)1, 3, 5-6Referral/deferral period
Essay 1500 word essay2, 4, 6Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Where you have been referred/deferred for one of the reflective blog posts you will be given a further practical exercise and required to write a 500 word reflective post.

Where you have been referred/deferred for the essay, you will have the opportunity to submit another essay from a list of approved topics.

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Berry, D.M., 2012. Understanding Digital Humanities, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Flanders, J. and Jannidis, F. eds., 2018. The Shape of Data in Digital¬†
    Humanities: Modeling Texts and Text-based Resources
    . London: Routledge.
  • Harris, T. M., Rouse, L. J. & Bergeron, S. 2010. The Spatial Humanities. University of Indiana Press
  • Huff, D. 1991. How to Lie with Statistics. Penguin
  • Klein, L.F. & Gold, M.K., eds. 2016. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2016 Edition. University of Minnesota Press

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Last revision date


Key words search

Digital Humanities, Liberal Arts

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