See the syllabus for general assignment guidelines.

Group Research Blog

Due each week by noon Friday (evaluated at the end of Week 6 and Week 11)
Posting logs are due by noon on Friday, Feb. 12, and Friday, April 1 (via Blackboard)

Students will form groups of 10-12 in order to collaborate on a group research blog. Students should expect to contribute original posts on a weekly basis, and to engage in discussion via comments. The blogs will not only serve as an online archive of each student's progress in this course, but will provide a place to record ideas and resources that you're thinking of using in your assignments, as well as a forum to voice your thoughts and questions about weekly readings and topics covered in class. Group members are expected to interact with each other, commenting or replying to each other's contributions in order to engage in (and ultimately produce) an ongoing dialogue about different aspects of the course topic. Links and block quotes are welcome, but these should never stand alone -- they should always be accompanied by discussion of contents and an explanation of why they are included.

While blogging groups are welcome to originate their own lines of discussion related to the course, the formal grading of the blog assignment will be based primarily on students' blog posts in response to weekly assigned questions, which I will post to the main course blog at least one week prior. This means that you will normally receive the week's blogging question each Friday afternoon, with the weekend and following week to think about it and post a response. In other words, your overall contribution to the blog will consist of at least 12 assigned responses, though students are welcome to go beyond this and use their group blogs to generate new lines of discussion, provided they're somehow related to the course topic.

Each blog will be reviewed twice over the course of the semester—once during the first half of the semester, and once during the second half. Students should keep a log of their blog contributions (just date and url, in txt file format) and upload their log to Blackboard by the evaluation deadlines.

Your grade for this assignment will be based on the consistency and relevance of your individual contribution to the blog. Here, "consistency" means that contributions are made on a weekly basis, and reflect a timely, ongoing engagement with weekly readings, materials, research, etc. "Relevance" means that the contribution contains one or more of the following: familiarity with course readings and other materials (lectures, group discussions, etc.), as demonstrated through the use of specific examples, author names or theoretical concepts; inclusion of themes and points that have a clear and direct relevance to the course topic; discussion of literature, problems, ideas, examples and current events that pertain directly to your assignments, which includes consideration of the course readings and themes.

I recommend posting using your full name, but if you are uncomfortable doing so, you may use your first name and last initial, or a different online handle. The goal is to avoid having members of blog groups who are anonymous to each other, to the class, and to the professor and TA. For that reason, our Blackboard site will contain a complete listing of blog groups, and the name under which you're blogging must appear along with your real name. However, that listing will only appear on Blackboard, where it is visible only to people in the course.

Groups should decide for themselves which blogging platform they will use, depending on familiarity and personal preference. Some good free ones to consider are WordPress and Blogger. (I advise against using Tumblr, as it can be difficult to attribute names to posts.) However, your blog must indicate the time and date of each post, and your blog must be open for posting and commenting only to those in your blogging group for this course. Finally, group blogs must be brand-new blogs created specifically for this course.

Encoding Challenge

Due Friday, Feb. 19 (via Blackboard)
Report: 6-7 pages (excluding references, code, and images)

This group assignment is intended to introduce students to the complexities of digitally modelling print and manuscript materials, as well as other types of texts that pose a challenge to represent digitally. Students will begin by selecting a short text like a poem, scene from a play, prose fragment, or other example of primary source material, and then encode it in XML. This involves making choices about which aspects of the original to encode, and how to contend with the structural constraints of XML. Students should follow the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), which allow considerable latitude for customization. We will spend considerable class time preparing for this assignment, and I expect to consult with groups as they think about scale, strategy, and choice of materials.

Students will complete this assignment as a subgroup of 2-3 people, drawn from within your larger blogging group. The blog posting topics leading up to this assignment will give your subgroup opportunities to work through problems and questions collaboratively. The subgroups for this assignment should identify themselves to me by January 28, after which point I may assign group members arbitrarily.

This assignment will be submitted in three parts, to be submitted at the same time, but in separate files:
  1. The first part is a stand-alone XML file containing your code. It does not need to include a valid schema, but it must be well-formed (these terms will make sense after our first class on markup).
  2. The second part consists of an image file (in any standard format) showing the example that your group chose to encode. Please be sure to use an image editing program such as Gimp ( to reduce the image filesize to 4 MB or less.
  3. The third part of this assignment is a 6-7 page report in which your group articulate the rationale for the choices you made in your XML encoding (even choices you regret!), and to reflect on how the process of encoding can lead to new ways to understand the material. The report should draw upon appropriate secondary sources in markup theory and practice, beyond the TEI Guidelines or TEI By Example.
One group member should submit all materials on behalf of the group. Please ensure that all group members' names are included on the report. No need to include student numbers.
    This assignment will be graded on the appropriateness of the selected material, the clarity and critical strength of the written rationale, the quality of the writing, and how well the submitted XML reflects concepts discussed in class and readings up to this point.

    Final Paper

    Due by noon Friday, April 8 (via Blackboard)
    12-14 pages (double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman), excluding bibliography, figures, and title page

    This final essay should explore a topic appropriate to the course, drawing upon primary and secondary sources to advance an original argument. Your essay could take any one of a number of approaches, such as: a review of a particular digital resource (or group of them); an exploration of a theoretical question we've examined in the course; an analysis of a key historical moment in the development of the book; a critical reading of a particular tool or born-digital artifact; an analysis of a social phenomenon related to the history of books and reading; or another approach that builds on the readings, concepts, and focus of the course. I encourage you to start thinking about your final paper as soon as possible, and to consult with me about it. This may require you to read ahead if you wish to write on a topic covered toward the end of our schedule.

    Note: I am open to unconventional approaches to this assignment, such as papers that combine traditional academic writing with a design experiment or mock-up of some sort. Students considering this option must consult with me at least four weeks prior to the due date.

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