How are history, social change and stasis, and the actions of people over time simply and creatively represented on a website? How do the computational structures, design paradigms, and visual histories of the digital medium reify social norms? Do gender and sexuality play a significant role in the performative experience of the computer interface? To address these complex questions, this course will study the redesign of OutHistory.org. This public history site focuses on the U.S. history of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and heterosexuals. It will serve as a case study for the interplay between social history, design, and the digital technologies of the web. In this process-oriented, project-based course, students will work with NYU faculty and staff and the founder of OutHistory.org, Jonathan Ned Katz, to explore creative, yet intellectually rigorous ways to address the challenges faced by organizations that use the digital medium to tell the history of sexuality and gender.
The course will include readings across a wide range of methodologies and fields relevant to digital humanities, visual design, and the history of gender and sexuality from authors such as Katz, Baudrillard, Butler, Carr, McLuhan, Phelan, Sedgewick, Traub, and Tufte. Through workshops and practical sessions, students will work with a variety of materials in different media and gain experience with a range of accessible digital platforms, such as WordPress, Omeka, and Timeline JS. Furthermore, students will be asked to develop prototypes for the site that expand its display possibilities and consider how the site can act as a digital archives for important documents from LGBTQ that aren’t housed in existing archives. Course projects will include essays based on original research, the creation of timelines and other forms of visual chronographies, and collaboratively designed prototypes and information architectures for a redesign of OutHistory.org.