Rhetoric & Digital Humanities – E 388M

Rhetoric & Digital Humanities

electronic circuit board

This course will survey the development of Digital Humanities alongside a careful examination of Rhetoric and Composition’s sub-fields of Computers & Composition and Digital Rhetoric. Set as a conversation between two separate but related scholarly traditions, the course will explore productive overlaps and future potentials for how the two fields may mutually inform one another’s possibilities. Readings and assignments will involve an array of media production, providing students an introduction to the many genres that comprise Digital Humanities projects: proposals, data sets, markup practices, promotional websites, project presentations, white papers, grant proposals.

Course Outcomes

  • Be conversant about the development of digital tools and methods in humanities scholarship
  • Demonstrate awareness about digital humanities and digital rhetoric theories
  • Show facility with researching, planning, and producing digital scholarship

NOTE: This course is designed to be an introductory survey of the various discussions, debates, and methods for the overlapping topics/fields of “digital humanities,” “digital methods,” and “digital rhetoric.” As such, the course will require regular attendance and active participation in discussions. Further, while no special, prior technological skill is required, students should be willing to try new approaches that will often involve unfamiliar tools and methods.



Johanna Drucker, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing

Federica Frabetti, Software Theory

Katherine Hayles, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis

Matthew Jockers, Macroanalysis

Stephen Ramsey, Reading Machines: Towards an Algorithmic Criticism

Jim Ridolfo and Bill Hart-Davidson, eds. Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities

Richard Rogers, Digital Methods

Several required PDFs and online texts/projects will be available on the course site


David Berry, Ed. Understanding Digital Humanities

Doug Eyman, Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice

Matthew K. Gold, Debates in the Digital Humanities

Tony Sampson, Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks



[full assignment sheets will be provided]

Reading Responses – 10%

Each week, students will post a short, focused response to that week’s readings. We will discuss an outline for these responses in class but, generally, I would like for each response to deeply engage with the readings, demonstrate an understanding of the context for that reading, as well as speculate on possible avenues of elaboration for that reading. The latter may include critique, but I am much more interested in responses that productively build on/from established work than responses that only seek to find fault or locate weakness.  

DH Project Analysis – 10%

Each student will be responsible for identifying, examining, and reporting on a mature/semi-mature DH project. Students will gather any and all material they find–white papers, website information, publically accessible grant information, etc.– about an established or emerging digital humanities project and write a short report that outlines the project’s aims, history, participants, and possibilities. Students will present an informal 3-5 min version of the report to the class.

Tool Intro and Demo Workshop – 15%

Each student will be responsible for identifying, introducing, and workshopping one digital research tool for the class. Many of examples of tools can be found at DIRT Directory (Digital Research Tools) but students are not obliged to only those tools. Students will sign up for a date on the first day and then will be responsible for selecting and running a short demonstration/workshop for that tool for the class. 

Module Exercises – 15%

Throughout the semester, we will complete 4-5 module exercises designed to explore a set of tools and/or methods for digital humanities research. Most of these will be done in-class, but some may be complete outside of class (with a quick turnaround). The Module Exercises will vary as individual assignments, work done as a group, or exercises done as an extended group (more on this as the class develops). These assignments will serve as hands-on practice for the tools and methods we will be reading and discussing throughout the semester.

NOTE: One or more of the products of these exercises may be developed further for final projects.

Final Project –  50%

Students will research, design and compose a semester long project that responds to our shared readings and methodological discussions, as those pertain to digital humanities. Ideally, students will use the course as a framework to extend their own research for ongoing projects (dissertations, proposals, articles). While a more substantial assignment sheet will be provided mid-way through the semester, the general outline is that each student will complete a brief proposal, progress report, presentation, and finally a finished project.


Course Policies


Class attendance will not be used to determine the grade, but, as a graduate course, I do expect regular attendance and full participation.

Plus/minus grades will be assigned for the final grade. I’ll follow the scale below (which is the Canvas default) to assign final grades. Final grades will not be rounded.


%    Letter grade
94-100    A
90-93 A-
87-89 B+
84-86 B
80-83 B-
77-79 C+
74-76 C
70-73 C-
67-69 D+
64-66 D
60-63 D-
<60 F



Documented Disability Statement

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities at 512-471-6259 (voice) or 512-410-6644 (video phone) or e-mail: ssd@austin.utexas.edu or http://ddce.utexas.edu/disability/


Academic Dishonesty

University of Texas Honor Code: As a student of The University of Texas at Austin, I shall abide by the core values of the University and uphold academic integrity. The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.

Definition of Plagiarism 

Religious Holy Days

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL) If you are worried about someone who is acting differently, you may use the Behavior Concerns Advice Line to discuss by phone your concerns about another individual’s behavior. This service is provided through a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Call 512-232-5050 or visit: http://www.utexas.edu/safety/bcal



[Subject to Change, Often]

Aug 26

Week One – Introductions

Start up & Tech Skill/Interest Grid

Survey of Resources


Sep 2

Week Two – Definitions

Matthew Berry, “Introduction” from Understanding Digital Humanities (PDF)

Anne Burdick, et al., “A Short Guide to the Digital Humanities,” from Digital_Humanities (PDF)

Doug Eyman, “Defining and Locating Digital Rhetoric

Part I of Debates in the Digital Humanities, “Defining the Digital Humanities” (available online)

Jim Ridolfo and William Hart-Davidson, “Introduction,” from Rhetoric and Digital Humanities

Katherine Hayles, How We May Think, Chapters 1-2

In-class: How We Think: A Digital Companion & Stephen Ramsay’s “Who’s In and Who’s Out”


Sep 9

Week Three – Database

Lev Manovich, Database as Symbolic Form (PDF)

Charles Cooney, et al. “The Notion of the Textbase: Design and Use of Textbases in the Humanities.” LSDA

Sharon Daniel, “The Database: An Aesthetics of Dignity.” from Database Aesthetics (PDF)

Ed Folsom, “Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives.” PMLA 122.5 (Oct 2007), 1571-1612 (includes responses).

Christiane Paul, “The Database as System and Cultural Form: Anatomies of Cultural Narratives.” from Database Aesthetics (PDF)

Collin G Brooke, “Databases, Data Mining” and “Personal Patterns: Mapping and Mining” from Lingua Fracta (PDF)

Suggested Readings

Jeff Rice, “Networks, Place, and Rhetoric” in Digital Detroit



Week Four – Archive

Jussi Parikka“Archives in Media Theory”

Siemens, Ray, Meagan Timney, Cara Leitch, Corina Koolen, and Alex Garnett. “Pertinent Discussions Toward Modeling the Social Edition: Annotated Bibliographies” 6, no. 1  

Casey Boyle, Low-Fidelity in High-Definition: Speculations on Rhetorical Editions. (RDH)

Johanna Drucker, “The Book as Call and Conditional Texts

Tarez Samra Graban, Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne and Whitney Myers. “In, Through, and About the Archive: What Digitization (Dis)Allows.” (RDH)

Liza Potts. Archive Experiences: A Vision for User-Centered Design in the Digital Humanities. (RDH)

Jenny Rice and Jeff Rice. “Pop Up Archives.” (RDH)

Kate Theimer,Archives in Context and as Context.” JDH 1.2 (2012).


Sep 23*

Week Five – Metadata

Tarez Samra Graban, “From Location(s) to Locatability: Mapping Feminist Recovery and Archival Activity Through Metadata.” College English 76.2 (Nov 2013): 171-193. (PDF)

Kieran Healy,Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere.

Geoffrey Nunberg, “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars.” CHE, August 31, 2009.

Jessica Reyman, “User Data on the Social Web: Authorship, Agency, and Appropriation.” College English 75.5 (May 2013): 513-522. (PDF)

Jentery Sayers, et al., Standards in the Making


Sep 30*

Week Six – Scale Reading

Mathew Jockers, Macroanalysis, excerpts

Matthew Jockers & Julia Flanders, “A Matter of Scale

Katherine Hayles, Chapter 3, “How We Read” in How We Think

Tanya Clement, “Text Analysis, Data Mining, and Visualizations in Literary Scholarship


Oct 7

Week Seven – Topic Modeling

(this is a cluster of posts that should provide a good intro to TM)

Ted Underwood, “Topic Modeling Made Simple Enough” & “What Kinds of “Topics” Does Topic Modeling Actually Produce?

Megan R. Brett, Topic Modeling, A Basic Introduction

Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood, What can topic models of PMLA teach us about the history of literary scholarship?

Lisa M. Rhody, Topic Modeling and Figurative Language

Scott Weingart, Topic Modeling for Humanists: A Guided Tour


Oct 14

Week Eight – Project Consultations – Individual Meetings



Oct 21

Week Nine – Algorithms & Software

Kevin Brock, One Hundred Thousand Billion Processes: Oulipian Computation and the Composition of Digital Cybertexts

Jim Brown, Ethical Programs

Stephen Ramsay, Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism

Annette Vee, “Understanding Computer Programming as a Literacy.” Literacy in Composition Studies 1.2 (2013): 42-64.

Suggested Readings

Federica Frabetti, Software Theory, excerpts

Adrian MacKenzie, Cutting Code

Rob Gehl, “Real (Software) Abstraction: On the Rise of Facebook and the Fall of MySpace” (PDF)


Oct 28

Week Ten  – Delivery/Virality

Jeff Rice, “Occupying The Digital Humanities” (PDF)

Laurie Gries, “Iconographic Tracking: A Digital Research Method for Visual Rhetorics and Circulation Studies.” & “Spatiotemporal Matters” from Still Life With Rhetoric

Bruno Latour, et al., “The Whole is Always Smaller Than Its Parts” (PDF)

Tony Sampson, Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, excerpts

Eunsong Kim, The Politics of Trending


Veronica Alfano, Andrew Stauffer, Eds. Virtual Victorians: Networks, Connections, Technologies

David Beer, Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation

Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution

Nov 4 –

Week Eleven – Digital Methods

Richard Rogers, Digital Methods (excerpts)

Anne Helmond, “The Algorithmization of the Hyperlink” 

Caroline Gerlitz and Anne Helmond, ” The Like Economy: Social Buttons and the Data-Intensive Web”

Richard Rogers, E. Weltevrede, S. Niederer and E.K. Borra, “National Web Studies: The Case of Iran Online”

Skype Visit: Anne Helmond


Nov 11 –

Week Twelve – Speculations

Johanna Drucker, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing, excerpts

Alexander R. Galloway, “The Cybernetic Hypothesis” (PDF)

Gary Hall, “Towards a Postdigital Humanities” (PDF)

Rita Raley, “DH for the Next Five Minutes” (PDF)

Alex Reid “Digital Humanities Now and the Possibilities of a Speculative Digital Rhetoric” (RDH)

David Reider, “From GUI to NUI: Microsoft’s Kinect and the Politics of (the Body) As Interface”  


Kevin Brock and David Reider, “Kinect-ing Together Writing and Gesture Through NUI Technology.”


Nov 18

Week Thirteen – Workshop

(Readings/Discussion Topics will be identified and posted after project proposals)


Nov 25

Week Fourteen – Workshop

(Readings/Discussion Topics will be identified and posted after project proposals)


Dec 2

Week Fifteen –  Presentations

Project Presentations & Course Wrap Up




Rhetoric &
Digital Humanities - E 388M
Casey Boyle | Fall 2015
W 5-8pm | FAC 7
Office Hours: MW 11-1;
T/TH 1:00-:300 & by appt.



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