My classes are not only about "what happened"
in the past,
but how we know
what we think
I often tell my students that history is the process of deciding which stories to tell and which stories to hide.
I regularly ask them to reconstruct historical events using primary sources, which makes the study of history far more discombobulating for them,
but also infinitely more rewarding, meaningful, and useful.
I believe history is critical to becoming an active, engaged citizen, so I encourage students to
deploy their knowledge outside the classroom as well. For examples of some of the public-facing projects my
students have done, see the website of the Digital
that I run at Illinois Institute of Technology.
Women in Computing History
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Fall 2016--will be offered again certain Fall semesters)
Perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S., this computer history course
explicitly looks at computing's past through the experiences of women who
worked in computing at all levels—from data input to programming to
hardware design. It strives to be intersectional in its analysis, showing how
gender is but one window into the historiography of computing and how it
must be taken together with an analysis of class, race, sexuality, ability, and
many other categories in order for us to truly understand how computing
structures lives and whole economies. Students did
projects in this class designed to engage the public on this still largely hidden
history: In addition to a wiki-storming exercise,
they also created
public history projects, like video games, podcasts, and comic strips. See
the news coverage of their projects
in Chicago Inno
post on their projects
on the Digital History Lab.
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Fall 2015--will be offered again certain Spring semesters, including Spring 2017, as part of the Digital Humanities requirement)
I created this course as part of Illinois Tech's Digital Humanities undergraduate degree program, which I helped design.
While designing the largely skills-based and technocentric program we realized that it would be
very important for students to have a robust and critical understanding of how they themselves fit into the history of
the digital tools they were deploying. The class looks at all forms of digital labor—from
human to non-human—and takes students through the historical trajectory of digital
labor from its early days as hardware programming to its more modern incarnations in the form of digital piece work.
Along the way it asks students to grapple with questions about what "counts" as digital labor, and why we should care.
Filming the Past
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Spring 2014--will be offered again certain Fall and Spring semesters)
How does historical knowledge make it from the archive into the mainstream?
This course traces that process, showing students how primary and secondary
sources get turned into books, news stories, popular media accounts, and
sometimes into documentary films and Hollywood movies. Students explore what is
gained and lost through each successive translation, and how documentary film
can be a vehicle for social justice. Students deploy the filmmaking tools
available to them through the campus Digital History Lab
videocameras, Roland R-05 audio recorders, and laptops with audio and video
editing tools) to make their own historically-informed documentary film at the
end of the semester, working in small groups that serve as makeshift production
teams. They not only learn how to translate their insights into the medium of
film, but also get an opportunity to disseminate historical knowledge outside
the confines of the classroom. As a result they begin to understand the
intellectual contributions they can make using their humanities education.
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Fall 2012--will be offered again most Fall semesters)
How does what's broken in society get fixed? One way is through disasters,
which sometimes require that a problem be addressed. This course uses disasters
around the world to talk about how cataclysmic events can produce regulatory
and legislative change. It also teaches students that not all disasters produce
positive change and highlights other elements that must be present in order for
a disaster to be "productive." The class invites students to look at how social
and political change occurs, underscoring the fact that historical change never
just "happens" in an easy or straightforward way but is always the result of
struggle. See examples of student essays from the course here
(scroll down to the comments section to read their essays, based on research
done in the Times
of London historical newspaper database).
Science and Technology Studies Seminar
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Spring 2013--will be offered again certain Spring semesters, including Spring 2017)
Science and Technology Studies asks what sociology (the study of the social
relationships that make up our world) would look like if we also included our
relationships with machines in the equation. This course is an introduction to
the tenets and major theories of the field. It gives students the opportunity
to deploy their knowledge in hands-on ways in addition to studying theory. See
for examples of a previous class's attempts to
"socially construct"—or rather re
History of Computing
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Fall 2011--will be offered again certain Fall & Spring semesters)
Why do we think that we've witnessed a computing "revolution" in the 20th and
21st centuries? This course contextualizes Silicon Valley's current obsession
with change-for-its-own-sake by showing how the fiction of disruption has a
long and well-established history. From World War II codebreaking, to intra-national spying initiatives,
this course asks students to
look behind industry hype and explore the interconnectedness of computer
technologies with the aims and goals of strongly centralized technocratic
Gender and Technological Change
(Illinois Institute of Technology, Spring 2012--will be offered again certain Spring semesters)
How do categories of difference structure technological design? This course is
a laboratory for students to explore answers to that question, using
gender as a guiding principle. To see the university-recognized class project on gendered
infrastructure that students completed the last time this course was offered, read about the
project on my blog here
or read my article in Syllabus.
History of Technology
From the Middle Ages to the present day, technology has enhanced, defined, and
limited what people and societies can do. This course takes students through
that history, providing a longue durée view to help them gain
insight into current trends in technology.
20th Century European History
(Duke, Spring 2008)
This course surveys the history of Europe in the 20th century paying special
attention to the social movements that sought to bring European society into line
with its oft-professed but unevenly enacted ideals of equality and civil rights for all.
Politics & Sexuality in the Modern West
(Duke, Fall 2008, 2006)
This class explores at how movements for sexual equality have defined the political
landscape of America and Europe from the 19th through the 21st century. The course
won a university-wide fellowship award for innovation in teaching when it was
first taught at Duke University.
Ethical Dimensions of Progress
(NCSU, Fall 2008)
This course looks at how technology and society often interact to produce
thorny ethical conundrums. It teaches students to use and critically analyze the
intellectual tools we have at our disposal to try to solve these difficult problems.
Science, Technology, and Human Values
(NCSU, Fall 2007, Fall 2004)
An earlier variant of the course above, this class was offered at NC State
University in order to help students fulfill their "science and human values"