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Week 1: Introductions

Thursday Sept 8: Initial Meeting

Activity: Orientation to class

Worksheet: access to computing stuff.

Readings (aloud in class):

Give Assignment: Mental Maps of students’ neighborhoods

Unit 1: Maps, Texts, Networks

Week 2: Maps

Monday Sept 12: Short History of Boston

Activity: Investigate historical maps at the Leventhal Map Center

Readings Due:

  • Robert Allison, A Short History of Boston, chapters 1-3
  • Nedra Reynolds, “Maps of the Everyday: Habitual Pathways and Contested Places”

→ Before next class: install QGIS (http://www.qgis.org/en/site/) and the Open Layers plugin.See instructions for both at http://programminghistorian.org/lessons/qgis-layers

  • Download files for Thursday’s in-class workshop

Wednesday, September 14

Assignment Due: Mental Maps

Thursday Sept 15: GIS

Activity: Georectification in GIS


  • Denis Wood, “A Map is an Image Proclaiming Its Objective Neutrality”
  • Mark Monmonier, “Lying with Maps”

Useful Resources:

Give assignment: Shoreline and Streetcar Tracing in GIS

Week 3: Texts

Monday Sept 19: Data is Data

Activity: Read census data schema 1800-2000 and individual census records for NU area


  • SHB, chapter 4
  • danah boyd and Kate Crawford, “Critical Questions for Big Data” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369118X.2012.678878)
  • Number Crunching without Programming: The Evolution of Spreadsheet Usability. Martin Campbell-Kelly
  • A Spreadsheet way of knowledge: Stephen Levy, Harper’s Magazine, 1984

Thursday Sept 22: NU Histories

CHANGE OF LOCATION: Northeastern Archives, Snell 90SL

  • Short History of Boston, chapters 1-4, adjusted due date.

Activity: Northeastern Archives and Special Collection

Give Assignment: Investigating an Archival Data Source

→ Before next class: install Gephi (https://gephi.org/)

Week 4: Networks

Monday Sept 26: The Hub of the Universe

Activity: The structure of networks and network data


5pm Assignment Due: Shoreline and Streetcar Tracing in GIS

Thursday Sept 29: Six Degrees of Paul Revere

Activity: Visualizing the Sons of Liberty network using Gephi


Unit 2: Visualization

Week 5: Viz

Monday October 3: History of Visualization

Activity: Sorting history of visualizations


Thursday October 6: Designing for 3D Printing

Activity: Design workshop



Friday, October 7: Assignment Due, Final Project Idea Post #1

Unit 3: Education

Monday, October 10: Assignment Due, Investigating an Archival Data Source

Week 6: Boston Data

Monday October 10: No class, Columbus Day

Thursday October 13: Data Field Trip to the Boston Globe

Readings: data journalism exemplars.

Spotlight “Shadow Campus” report on student housing in Boston; Pulitzer prize finalist

Also for context, look at two other pieces of data journalism.

Week 7: Not Reading A to X

Monday October 17: Computational Reading

→ For Monday: install Rstudio (https://www.rstudio.com/). Installation instructions online under “Handouts.”

In-class discussion: data journalism debriefing.


  • Michel et al, “Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books”
  • James F. English and Ted Underwood, “Shifting Scales Between Literature and Social Science”

Thursday October 20: Text by the numbers

Note: You do not need to read Henry Adams and Malcolm X before class. You must have installed Rstudio on the computer you bring to class following the instructions here

Activity: Text analysis of opening chapters of of Henry Adams and Malcolm X.

Lecture/Activity: The statistics of text

Week 8: Education

Monday October 24: Class cancelled.

Thursday October 27: Distant and close Boston bios


Give Assignment: Not Reading a Bostonian Biography

Week 9: Busing in Boston

Monday October 31:

Activity: Plotting data in R — the grammar of graphics


Thursday November 3


In class:

  • Америка 70-х: Бостонские контрасты (Now in class)

Give Assignment: Blue Sky Proposal/Final Project

Unit 4: Politics

Week 10: Election Week

Monday November 6

Assignment Due, Final Project Idea Post #2

Activity: Merging data and exploring residential segregation.

Readings: – The Big Sort: Chapters 1, 2

Activity: Principal Components Analysis and election results (RStudio). Lecture: Principal Components and political polarization.

Thursday November 10

Readings: – The Big Sort, 10

TBD: Election results.

Friday November 11: Assignment Due, Not Reading

Unit 5: Social Engagement and the City

Week 11: Civics and the Web

Monday November 14: Final Project Workshop

Assignment: bring your two ideas from your two ideas assignments. Be ready to make a brief pitch to the class.

  • Workshop ideas into project proposals
  • Identify potential collaborations
  • Outline a plan of work
  • Looking toward Blue Sky Proposal/Final Project Contract

Thursday November 17: Data Field Trip

Activity: TBD/Field Trip to City Hall

Friday, November 18: Assignment Due, Blue Sky Proposal/Final Project Contract

Week 12: Social Media Activism

Monday November 21: #blacklivesmatter and #ferguson

Activity: Guest Lecture by Prof. Brooke Foucault Welles from 12:30-1:25


Thursday November 24: No Class, Thanksgiving

Week 13: Social Media Text Analysis/Twitter bots?

Monday November 28: 3 Laws of Twitter Robotics

Thursday December 1: The Social Media Marathon

Debate: How much news is fit to print?

Activity: Parsing Twitter data–how is it assembled? How do you get from native to structured like we want?

Thursday December 1: Bots due before class as described in assignment


Week 14: Wrapping Up

Monday December 5: Final Project Work-in-Progress Presentations

** No final exam **

** Final Projects due Dec 12, 2016 at 10:00am **