SYMSYS 255 & 255A
Building Digital History:
Informatics of Social Movements and Protest

2015-2016 Spring Quarter, Stanford University

SYMSYS 255: 3-5 units, Ltr-CR/NC
SYMSYS 255A: 1 unit, S/NC only

Instructor: Todd Davies

Tuesdays, 7:15-9:45 pm
Room 460-126 (Margaret Jacks Hall, first floor)

Interactive website:
(sign up for the class to get access)
image of an old newspaper with "Who Killed
                Alice Walsh?" as a headline

Updated May 10, 2016 - fixed link to presentation/paper guidelines

Course Description

A participatory course focused on the online representation of oral and archival history research. This year's thematic focus is the design and evaluation of history websites focused on social movements and protest. We will survey the field of digital history and its application to social movement research and teaching. The course will utilize materials developed in the 2014 version of the course, which focused on the history of student activism at Stanford. Class will apply lessons from digital history practice and theory to the design of an online repository and community for the collaborative representation and discussion of social movement history at Stanford, and to the further development of source material in a future version of the class. Topics will include participatory design, studies of historical learning, archiving issues, data integrity, and fair representation of different viewpoints, among others.

NOTE: SYMSYS 255 is the full version (3 to 5 units). SYMSYS 255A consists of the class sessions only (1 unit).

Intended Population

The course is intended for any student interested in the design problem of building history collaboratively using digital media, with a special focus on social history. Some background in history and/or digital media design would be helpful.

This version of the course (Spring '15-'16) fulfills the Advanced Small Seminar Requirement in the undergraduate core of the Symbolic Systems Program.

The course is being offered this year as a small discussion seminar, based primarily on assigned readings in Weeks 2-8. The concluding weeks (9 and 10) will feature in-class exercises in participatory design and presentations of student projects.

Main Text

The primary textbook for the course is

The text is available either in paperback ($30.95) or for free via the Web. Other readings, both required and supplementary, will be made available in digital form.

Grading and Required Work

Students enrolled in SYMSYS 255 will be expected to do the following:
For 3 units, the grading breakdown is:

For 5 units, the grading breakdown is:

See also: Guidelines for Student Presentations and Papers

Students enrolled in SYMSYS 255A will be expected to:

For 1 unit, a grade of Satisfactory requires attendance at 8 of the 10 class meetings.

Tentative Schedule

Week 1
March 29

Introductions and Overview

Week 2
April 5

Digital History I

Dougherty and Nawrotzki (Editors), pp. 1-74 ("Introduction" through "The Historian's Craft, Popular Memory, and Wikipedia")
Week 3
April 12

Digital History II
Dougherty and Nawrotzki (Editors), pp. 75-145 ("The Wikiblitz: A Wikipedia Editing Assignment in a First-Year Undergraduate Class" through "Historical Research and the Problem of Categories: Reflections on 10,000 Digital Note Cards")
Week 4
April 19

Digital History III

Dougherty and Nawrotzki (Editors), pp. 146-208 ("Creating Meaning in a Sea of Information: The Women and Social Movements Web Sites" through "Pox and the City: Challenges in Writing a Digital History Game")
Week 5
April 26

Digital History IV

Dougherty and Nawrotzki (Editors), pp. 209-278 ("Writing Chicana/o History with the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project" through "Conclusions: What We Learned from Writing History in the Digital Age")
Week 6
May 3

Social Movements and Protest

Mario Diani, "The Concept of Social Movement", The Sociological Review, 1992

David S. Meyer, "Protest and Political Oportunities", Annual Review of Sociology, 2004
Week 7
May 10

Student and Campus Activism

Frank L. Ellsworth and Martha A. Burns, Student Activism and American Higher Education, American College Personnel Association, 1970

Alia Wong, "The Renaissance of Student Activism", The Atlantic, May 21, 2015

A Graphic History of Student Activism, by The Nation, January 27, 2012
Week 8
May 17

Participatory Design

Ines Anić, "Participatory Design: What Is It, and What Makes It So Great?", UX Design, November 4, 2015

Nancy Fried Foster, Nora Dimmock, and Alison Bersani, "Participatory Design of Websites with Web Design Workshops", Code{4}Lib Journal, 2008
Week 9
May 24

Group Exercises in Participatory Design

Week 10
May 31

Student Project Presentations

Finals Week
June 7
10 pm
Deadline for final paper submission
(required only for 5 units)