There are many ways that a class such as “Creating History in New Media” might be structured. It might emphasize database design and deployment; it might concentrate on creating visualizations, or it might stress the uses of interactivity. This iteration of the course emphasizes visual communication—both graphic design and information architecture—for the web. By its nature the class
HIST 697 Syllabus PDF
is an applied history course in which the twin goals are to gain familiarity and facility with the design tools and concepts that underpin digital history design. As a result, the 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. Finally, the course will experiment with what interactivity might bring to digital history.
The texts (of one kind or another) serve three purposes: 1) to provide you with the background in graphic design and usability; 2) to introduce you to some texts that are intended to promote some “right 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.
- Kim Golombisky & Rebecca Hagen,
White Space is Not Your Enemy
- Edward Tufte,
- Robin Williams,
The Non-Designer's Photoshop Book
- Jon Duckett,
HTML & CSS
- Ellen Lupton,
Thinking with Type, 2nd ed.
All the books are available at the campus bookstore or from vendors of your choice.
Blogs have become an important element on the web and something that you’ve already done in Clio Wired. Rather than have a group blog or design a blog from the ground up, you’ll be doing something a bit different. Because you’ll need a blog that has a photo album, I’ll recommend two options. (Why not one of the free services like Blogger? Because I have experienced enormous problems with downtime, trolls, and spam in previous semesters.)
You can obtain a Plus-level subscription to Typepad, a blog. The cost is $8.95 per month or roughly $27.00 for the semester (the cost of a modest textbook). The best thing to do is sign up for a free trial; this will furnish you with two weeks of free service. At the end of the semester, you can cancel your subscription. Or, you may discover that you like blogging so much that you retain your subscription. The advantages of TypePad are ease of use and the option to customize your design.
Alternatively, you can use WordPress, a free blogging application. You can do one of three things: install WordPress at your own ISP, sign up for a blog at WordPress (free), or use a Wordpress hosting service ($). The WordPress application is free, but the installation of the software can be challenging on your own ISP, and you will need to contact your ISP to ensure that the necessary software is in place. Be aware that most free web page areas do not support CGI or MySQL or charge extra. I do not recommend doing your own installation unless you have some solid computer skills and access to a sophisticated ISP, but there may some in the class who can avail themselves of this venue. In the past, students have signed on with WordPress or other inexpensive hosting service.
A word about design. There are a number of designs suitable for history, but please avoid anything on a black or dark background with light or white type. Known as “reversing out” among graphic designers, this format is very difficult to read. If you elect to use TypePad or a WordPress template, avoid the special interest design or media designs unless you will be using the features of a media design template extensively. Be sure to enable comments and the RSS feed so that you can access your classmates’ blogs using a newsreader. This will save you an enormous amount of time. Or, you can simply use the “Students” list on the website.
Class participants will also need an image editor or access to an image editor. For those who envision using new media as an ongoing part of their history graduate work, Adobe Photoshop CS5.5 is the de facto standard. For those who see their new media work as occasional, Adobe Photoshop Elements (10.0 for both Mac and Win) is an extremely powerful (and inexpensive) program that, except for some advanced color capabilities, has the same features as Photoshop CS5. If you use Elements, please understand that there will be some techniques that the software cannot manage. One of these is Zoomify.
Clio 2 students will also need an HTML editor. Adobe Dreamweaver has become the standard (and the one installed in the lab). Adobe products are available at Patriot Computer at an educational discount, but order early so that you will have software for the requisite class assignments. You may also wish to explore acquiring Adobe CS5 Premium Suite; it contains both Photoshop CS5 and Dreamweaver5 as well as a host of other useful applications. There is, of course, a matching price tag. Those who envision using digital media in their professional lives should opt for the Adobe CS5 Suite.
Since we will be working extensively with CSS, you might also find a dedicated CSS editor handy. StyleMaster, a cross-platform product from WestCiv, is a good bet. Expresso for the Mac is also intuitive and easy to use. There are undoubtedly other CSS editors available for the Wintel platform.
Finally, class participants will need to subscribe to lynda.com for the duration of the course. There are training videos on the site that are required for the course. (There are also lots of other good and helpful videos that you might find useful.)