CS 4999: Computing and the Humanities

Prof. Kathleen R. McKeown

Spring 1998; Tues & Thurs 4:10-5:25

Newsgroup: columbia.spring.cs4999

Office Hours

About the Course


Assignments and Grading



Class Notes

Class URLs

Submitting Assignments

Office Hours

Prof. Kathleen R. McKeown
Tuesday 5:30 - 6:30 in 720 CEPSR
Thursday 11:00 - 12:00 in 450 CS Building

TA: Carl Sable
Monday 1:30 - 2:30 in 724 CEPSR
Wednesday 1:30 - 2:30 in 724 CEPSR

About the course

This course provides a broad introduction to the information age. We will cover principles, software, tools, and analytic methods for humanities computing. This includes research using electronic texts of all types, ranging from on-line newspaper text to transcripts and recordings of speech. We will cover the encoding of electronic texts using various forms of markup languages, the fundamentals of information retrieval and tools for statistical analysis of electronic texts.

In addition to electronic texts, we will also look a the use of of other forms of data in humanities computing, including images, video, and databases.

We will study the use and analysis of these different media in a variety of humanities applications, including:


For CS students: CS 3139 (Data Structures) For Humanities majors: CS1001 (Intro to Computers) There will be different expectations for CS students and Humanities students in terms of the programming projects (see below). However, Humanities students will be expected to know how to use the computer as a tool. While instruction will be given on how to use the software packages given for assignments, students are expected to be familiar with general use of computers, including email, editors, word processors, internet access and basic unix commands.

Assignments and Grading

To accommodate students with different types of background and experience, there will be 3 types of assignments. Homework assignments, final projects, and exams will typically (not always) include the 3 categories listed below. Students will have some freedom in choosing topics and types of assignments, but all students will be required to turn in assignments of at least 2 of the 3 types listed here. Thus, humanities students may choose not to do programming assignments, but would have to do both data analyses and essays; cs students may choose not to do essays, but would have to do data analyses in addition to programming tasks. CS students will be required to do at least one programming project and Humanities students will be required to do at least one extensive essay. There will be:

Class project. Each student will be responsible for designing and completing a research project that demonstrates the ability to use concepts from the class in addressing a practical problem for humanities computing. A significant part of the final grade will depend on the three project assignments. Students will need to submit a project proposal, a progress report, and the project itself. Students can elect to do a project on an assigned topic, or to select a topic of their own.

The final version of the project will be put on the World Wide Web, and will be defended in front of the class at the end of the semester. In some cases, students may be allowed to work in pairs, e.g., a CS student might pair with a humanities student to collaborate on a larger project.

Click here to get to the class resources directory (not available yet).



Jan. 20th

Creating/using electronic text data-bases

Jan. 22nd

Fundamentals of information retrieval

Jan. 27 - 29

Online encoding of words and phrases

Feb. 3 - 5

Literary analysis

Feb. 10 - Mar. 5

Analyzing Speech

Mar. 10 - Mar. 12


Mar. 24

Computer Aided Instruction

Mar. 26 - Apr. 2

Images and art

Apr. 7 - 16

History, Law, and Legal Reasoning

Apr. 21 - 23

Issues for Digital Libraries

Apr. 28 - 30

Student Presentations

May 4


Readings will consist of various book chapters, journal articles, WWW pages, and so on. Materials that are not on line or in library reserve will be distributed in class, or can be picked up during office hours. Click here to see a list of readings, which will be updated as the class progresses.