Course

This course is designed as an intensive exploration of the adaptation of history to a digital environment. Although the central goal of the course is development of an original, digital history project of professional quality, the course will also examine “best practices” in digital history, the problems and possibilities inherent in digital history, and issues in information, technical, and aesthetic design. In particular, the course will tackle the problems of creating standards-based, accessible web design. Be aware that this class is both a history and media course. In other words, we will begin by thinking (and writing) about good history and then proceed to learn the tools and techniques to bring history into digital form. Be also mindful that any digital work is a collaborative venture, so be prepared to both aid others and ask for help for yourself. This semester, we are fortunate in having a TAP student who will be on hand to assist students in the class. I'll explain the nature of the TAP student's responsibilities during the first class meeting.

Books

The texts (of one kind or another) serve three purposes: 1) to provide you with the background in several areas that might be relatively unfamiliar to historians; 2) to introduce you to some texts that are intended to promote some “left brain” thinking or provide inspiration; and 3) to furnish you with a modest technical, reference library. We will discuss some of the books briefly, some in depth, and some not at all, but they all should be read either in toto or in small bites. In addition, you are required to obtain a copy of Civilization III or realMyst. Except for Civilzation III and realMyst (which can be obtained at a reasonable cost from an on-line vendor or as a demo download), all the books are available at the campus bookstore. (You might also enjoy one of the old text games (including a history game, “Jigsaw”) these are free and can be played on line, but you'll have to telenet.)

 

Jay Bolter & Richard Grusin,
Remediation: Understanding New Media

 

Katrin Eismann, Steve Simmons,
Photoshop Restoration and Retouching

 

Edward Tufte,
Visual Explanations

 

Erik Spiekermann & E.M Ging,
Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

 

Jeffrey Zeldman,
Designing with Web Standards

 

Mark S. Meadows,
Pause & Effect

 

Steven Heller,
Don't Make Me Think

 

SOFTWARE & INTERNET BROWSERS

Because this course will introduce you to standards-based, accessible design, you will need several browsers to test your web work. This, of course, brings me to the good news and the bad news. Standards-based design is, on the whole, much easier than its predecessor, convoluted table-based design. The XHTML code is much easier to write and cleaner. The bad news is that Internet browsers carry the baggage of the Browser Wars and, as result, interpret CSS, the web presentation language, in a number of different ways. You should download or obtain the several different browsers. Mac people should acquire Safari, Explorer 5.2, Netscape 7.2, Netscape 4.78. Wintel folk should obtain a copy of IE 6.0, Opera 7.23, Netscape 7.1. These are available for free. (The free version of Opera, however, has advertisements.) Mac users face the greatest problem. Mr. Softie discontinued production of IE for the Mac at 5.2 (except for those with MSN accounts); 95% of the world uses some flavor of IE for Windows. For Mac users there is BrowserCam, a friend's PC, or an email to a classmate requesting a site check.