Essential computer tools and skills for humanities students

The Digital Humanities is a hot new field within the Arts. Its practitioners are often at the forefront of developing new topics within ICT itself.

But what about if you are not interested in the Digital Humanities? Or are interested in them, but don’t consider yourself particularly computer literate? What are the computer skills you need to thrive in the traditional humanities or get started in DH?

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of tutorials on basic computer skills and tools for students of the Humanities. It should be of use to those just beginning their undergraduate careers, for graduate students hoping to professionalise their research and study, and for researchers and teachers who have other things to do that follow the latest trends and software.

What kind of thing can I learn from this series?

The focus of this series is going to be on basic tools. It is going to assume you know nothing other than how to turn on a computer and get on the internet. It will make some recommendations about basic software, starting with such simple things as browsers. It will also cover some basic techniques: how to use styles in word processors, how to use a citation manager or spreadsheet.

How often will they appear?

I’m going to mark this as a special cluster in my blog (using a special tag, basic computer skills). But I’ll publish them irregularly, as the mood strikes and I have the time. I’m also hoping to get some guest authors involved. Mostly students who have done presentations on these things in my classes.

What if I have an idea for a tutorial? What if I disagree with you?

If you have an idea for an article in this series, I’d love to hear from you. If you have already written something on a topic I’m covering and would like me to know about it or link to you, please let me know as well!

Articles in this series

The following are links to the other articles in this series. You can also find them using the tag basic computer skills

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University of Alberta Talk: Ken Wissoker Editorial Director of Duke University Press

Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director of Duke University Press

Title: Writing and Publishing in a Time of Media Transformation
Date: Thursday, 16 October, 2014
Time: 1:00pm-2:30pm
Location: HC L-3, University of Alberta, Edmonton

*** Light reception to follow in HC 4-29, between Ken Wissoker’s talk and Sara Ahmed’s (in HC L-1 at 3:30).

Abstract: Taking research done for a thesis or for an audience of like-minded scholars and turning it into a book that will be read across oceans and disciplines has always been a challenge. Now, in a difficult financial climate for publishers and with electronic forms of the book proliferating, it is more difficult than ever. This talk will cover both the biggest issues — what might we expect books to look like in five years — and more grounded advice on how scholars should approach their own writing and publishing.

: Ken Wissoker is the Editorial Director of Duke University Press, acquiring books in anthropology, cultural studies and social theory; globalization and post-colonial theory; Asian, African, and American studies; music, film and television; race, gender and sexuality; science studies; and other areas in the humanities, social sciences, media, and the arts.  He joined the Press as an Acquisitions Editor in 1991; became Editor-in-Chief in 1997; and was named Editorial Director in 2005. Starting this fall, in addition to his duties at the Press, he will be Director of Intellectual Publics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

He has published close to 900 books which have won over 100 prizes.  Among the authors whose books he has published are Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jack Halberstam, Charles Taylor, Joan Scott, Lisa Lowe, Lauren Berlant, Brian Massumi, Arjun Appadurai, Sara Ahmed, Randy Weston, and Fred Wesley.

Wissoker is the author of the Cinema Journal essay “The Future of the Book as a Media Project and the earlier Chronicle of Higher Education articles “Scholarly Monographs Are Flourishing, Not Dying” and “Negotiating a Passage between Disciplinary Borders” the latter of which was later reprinted with responses from five social scientists in the Social Science Research Council newsletter, Items and Issues.  A three-part interview with him by Adeline Koh appeared in April 2013 on the Prof. Hacker blog.

Introducing Shuji Watanabe

The GRAND Digital Humanities project welcomes Shuji Watanabe. He is an Associate Professor of Image Arts and Science visiting the University of Alberta from Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. He is in Edmonton on sabbatical for 7 months with his family.

His research is around prototyping user generated content games. At the University of Alberta he is collaborating with GRAND researchers Geoffrey Rockwell and Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon.

Professor Watanabe’s experience includes the planning and overseeing of various games such as Magic Pengel(/Garakuta Meisaku Gekijo Rakugaki Okoku)/, which was recommended by the Examination Committee at the 15th Media Arts Festival Media Art Interactive Division, and Minna no shiro, which won the Grand Prize at the First Annual Game Koshien Awards. He is an advocate of “ecological-sketch”, which visualizes rules and is a game design technique that begins from observations of the world as opposed
to imitating the works of others. He conducts research and development in not only traditional game development, but also in applicable fields such as education and crisis management appropriate for “gamification”. He is a member of the Research Committee, Japan Digital Game Association
and Steering Committee, Ritsumeikan Center of Game Studies.

Digital Studies Special Issue, Call for Proposals


The Canadian Society for Digital Humanities/Société canadienne des humanités numériques will be publishing a refereed selection of papers from its May 2014 Digital Humanities Without Borders meeting at Brock University in Digital Studies/Le champ numériques. The issue will be edited by the program chairs, Geoffrey Rockwell and Michael Sinatra. The publication of this special issue is scheduled for Summer of 2015.

Submissions are invited from all participants at the meeting. Speakers may supplement, expand on, or refine the material they presented at the conference. It is expected that most submissions will range from between 3000 to 6000 words (approximately 10-20 pages), but there is no minimum or maximum length. Digital Studies/Le champ numérique is also always willing to consider generically unusual submissions.

The expected timeline for this issue is as follows:

  • October 28th: Submissions due
  • January 30th: Reviews and editorial decisions
  • March 1st: Revisions due
  • March 30: Final copy approval
  • April 30-May 15 Proofing and publishing

Submissions should be in a contemporary word processing format (Word or Open/Libre Office preferred), LaTeX, (X)HTML, or TEI XML. Bibliographic citations should conform to the latest Chicago Manual of Style (author-date format). DS/CN style avoids foot/endnotes as much as possible. Authors are responsible for obtaining permission for any images or similar material in their manuscripts before submission.

Submissions should be sent by email to before October 28th, 2014.

Digital Studies/Le champ numérique publishes in French and English.

Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon: GRAND Scholar

2014-07-13 11.20.55

Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon has been selected to be a 2014 GRAND Scholar associated with the Digital Humanities (DigHum) project.

Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon is a former recipient of the Monbukagakusho Research Student Fellowship awarded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. He conducted research at Wako University (Tokyo) on Japanese video game culture and game localization, expanding on the subject of his master degree previously obtained at McGill University. He blogs for Kinephanos where he is also currently co-editing a new journal issue on Japanese video games and the media mix.

He is currently enrolled at the University of Alberta in the programs of Comparative Literature and Humanities Computing where he has worked on GRAND projects since starting his Ph.D. program. Current projects for GRAND include the translation of the book Famicon to sono jidai, the organization of the coming Replaying Japan 2014 conference, liaison agent for the Bioware Video Game Archive and design for mobile games on the fAR-Play platform. His thesis subject focuses on the analysis of Japanese arcade culture, specifically through the social affordances provided by the interplay between game software, cabinet design and the space of the venue.



Encountering the Media Mix – Perspectives on the Kakokawa Summer Media Mix Program

Kadokawa Summer Program

Two GRAND DH graduate students participated in a special seminar on Japanese popular culture in Tokyo this July that was organized in collaboration with the publishing house Kadokawa hoten and the University of Tokyo. About twenty students from around the world and twenty students from the University of Tokyo were invited to take part in this special research encounter centred around the theme of the ¨media mix¨, the Japanese embodiment of the concept better known as ¨convergence culture¨ in North America. I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of those students.


With the recent works of Henry Jenkins (Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide) and especially of Marc Steinberg (Anime’s Media Mix) the subject of intermedial connections between forms of popular culture is becoming important for academics in the arts and humanities. During the two weeks of the event, we developed our awareness of the issues around the ways media are mixed in Japan as well as becoming better equipped to deal with the mix in our own work. Coupled with a series of fantastic paper presentations by experts in the field and a great on-site cultural experience in Tokyo, this event should have an impact on reflections on contemporary Japanese popular culture.


While a great seminar, the activities were limited to invited students. With the objective of sharing the ideas with a wider audience, I have produced a three-part blog series (in French) on the website of the academic journal Kinephanos in order to chronicle what I considered to be the highlights of the Kadokawa Summer Media Mix Program. I invite French readers to take a look a those entries should they have an interest on Japanese popular culture, the media mix or convergence culture in general. Hopefully, those will also stimulate other to think about those issues.