Course Introduction

Humanities 100: Digging into the Digital is a project-based course in the humanities that introduces students to the world of digital humanities through the use of selected digital tools and methods of analysis. Open to first years and sophomores only.

Our Subject: One of the first graduates of Bucknell University was J. Merrill Linn.  A captain in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Civil War, Merrill Linn left a multitude of notes, diaries, drawings and papers that recorded his observations of the campaign on the Chesapeake. These papers, housed in the Bucknell University library archives, have until now never seen the light of day.  In this class, students will become digital pioneers: they will learn ways to present these fascinating documents to the world.  Using the latest digital technologies, students will identify central issues of humanistic interpretation and will make critical decisions about how to analyze and interpret the papers of J. Merrill Linn.  Students will learn how digital modes of engagement shed new light upon humanistic problems of critical analysis and interpretation.

Method of Instruction and Evaluation: Through a project based approach, students will engage in the research process typical for a humanities scholar: namely, the discovery of artifacts, the formulation of research questions, followed by the analysis and synthesis of findings culminating in the publication of initial findings in a digital medium.  Class time will be divided between discussion of critical issues, group projects, sharing of findings, and the creation of an ongoing collaborative writing environment that will allow students to develop, reflect upon and share/publish research in-parallel with their work.

Course Design: This course was developed to encourage examination and experimentation with a range of digital humanities approaches. Digital humanists apply computational methods that involve textual analysis and data visualization. In order to provide a framework for your examination, the course has been divided into modules (see below, Course Outline) that serve as a dialogic engagement with subject and tools. As you analyze a cross section of the Linn materials (covering the period February – April 1862), you will apply the following methods and tools to those materials:

  • Textual analysis (distant reading using text visualization tools from the Voyant suite; close reading using TEI text markup)
  • Time and space analysis using tools such as TimeMapper, ArcGIS Online, and Neatline
  • Network visualization using such tools as Gephi and Palladio.

Note: don’t worry if the terms and tool names seem unfamiliar to you now. You will become well acquainted with them by the end of the course.

Instructional Materials and Sources
Students will work with  primary archival materials and digital modes of inquiry and analysis.  Extensive use will be made of online environments and platforms that emphasize important forms of digital engagement, including collaborative online writing environments, close and distant reading vehicles, temporal, spatial and network visualization platforms, and artifact curation framework.


Your core text will be a selection of the manuscript pages of the Linn collection. You will also read a selection of essays and articles (in electronic format) pertinent to the course. In addition, you will use scholarly research resources available through the Bucknell library and online. These primary and secondary sources will assist us in understanding the period in which Linn wrote and the events in which he participated. During the course we will spend time discussing credibility and attribution – crucial subjects to scholars and important for you to understand.

Software Tools and Platforms:                                                                      

Over the course of the semester you will be required to have access to and work with a variety of software tools and web-based platforms. Other than the text editor software that comes bundled with your Mac or PC, you will not be required to pay for any software applications. You will need to install Oxygen and Gephi software on your personal computer – cannot be accessed on Bucknell library or lab machines.

  • ArcGIS Online (web-based, Bucknell account)
  • Gephi (open access software – download)
  • Google spreadsheets (Bucknell Drive account)
  • Image viewer (Mac: Preview, Windows: Windows Media Viewer)
  • Oxygen XML text editor (30 day free trail version – download)
  • Omeka/Neatline (web-based, Bucknell account)
  • Palladio (web-based, free account)
  • Text editor (Mac: TextEdit, Windows: NotePad)
  • TimeMapper (web-based, free account)
  • Voyant Tool Suite (web-based, no account required)
  • WordPress (web-based, Bucknell account – course site)