1B: WordPress 101

Debates over the definition of the Digital Humanities are by this point very clichéd, to the point that many people have begun arguing that we stop worrying about it altogether.  There is a building consensus that DH, however you define it, is above all a community, or if you like a social network; specifically, a community of practice that is open, public, collaborative, and above all welcoming.  The main thing you have to do to get involved, is to just get involved.  Express your interest by joining the community.  One of the main ways people do that is by posting, blogging and tweeting their ideas, projects, and questions publicly on various platforms.

To that end, you will all be reading, writing, and sharing what we do this term on this blog and your own, which we’ll set up next week.  This is not just about trying out the digital humanities.  It is also about practicing skills that will serve you well beyond your college career no matter what you choose to do.  Having control over your internet presence is crucial in this day and age, and building your own website is one of the best ways to craft and maintain a public, online identity.


In Class

For starters, you’ll register for this class site so you can comment on assignments, post to the blog and get familiar with the WordPress interface, if you aren’t already.

Follow these instructions to register for our course site and post your first comment.

Once you’ve done all that…

  1. Log in to the Hacking the Humanities class blog and make a new post sharing the 2D image of your house that you exported from SketchUp and telling us about your process. How easy/hard was it?, what elements particularly bogged you down?, what compromises did you have to make?
    • Make sure to also share a tip for other novice SketchUp users about the tool that you found most useful, or a technique that you wish you had figured out sooner.  Part of the digital maker philosophy is sharing the knowledge you gained, so make sure to pass it on.

Congratulations!  You have posted your first blog post and can now share your interests and knowledge with the world.

We barely scratched the surface of what you can do with this platform in class, but we will get deeper into the weeds next week as you set up your own WordPress instance with complete administrative control.


Carleton College’s own web services group has a lot of good resources for how to write for the web effectively.

1A: SketchUp 101

Since we will be telling stories that take place in versions of Carleton College that no longer exist, one of our primary collaborative efforts will be attempting to recreate elements of the college as it once was using 3D visualization and simulation techniques.  We will be discussing the theoretical implications of such a project throughout the term, but since the skills required to model in 3D are complex, we will begin practicing in week one.

SketchupLogoThe 3D software with the gentlest learning curve is SketchUp.  Formerly owned by Google, it puts an emphasis on ease of use and compatibility with other popular platforms like Google Earth.  This is the software that many of the 3D buildings you might have seen in Google Earth were created with. Despite the user-friendly goals, SketchUp is a powerful program used by industry professionals and will let you start making impressively detailed models very quickly, which can be exported in a variety of formats.

We will eventually be modeling buildings as accurately as possible, but it is useful to start with more free-form projects to get a feel for the various drawing, transformation and navigation tools SketchUp has to offer, so that’s what we will focus on here.


In class, we modeled a simple dog house to get a feel for the software.  (If you’d like to review that project at your own pace, you can watch a tutorial video of it here.)

Your assignment is to use the techniques we employed to make a model of the house you grew up in.  Don’t worry about photo-realistic accuracy, just try to get the basic features, colors and textures in place, so that someone who knows the house (your parents, say) could recognize it.  If you grew up in a ranch house, then your building should be long and contain only one row of windows, whereas if you grew up in a bungalow or a cape cod you’ll have a taller building with a half or full second row. You get the idea. And don’t worry about the inside!  We’re just focusing on the external features for now.

When you are happy with your model, export it as a 2D graphic and save it to the Google Drive shared folder.

During the next class we’ll set up blog access, and you’ll use this image to write your first post along with some thoughts on your process.  As you model, think about how easy/hard it was, what elements particularly bogged you down, what compromises you had to make, etc.  Also think about a technique or tool that you wish you had figured out sooner, so that you can provide a tip for other novice SketchUp users and share your knowledge.


There are millions of SketchUp tutorials available online (just google SketchUp + what-you-want-to-do and you’ll be overwhelmed with options), but here’s a targeted list of resources to get you started.

  • If you haven’t already, download and print out a Quick Reference Card, so that you can start using keyboard shortcuts to switch between tools and get good fast.
  • Watch the Getting Started with SketchUp tutorial videos.  The first two are particularly useful for exteriors, but the third and fourth will give you more advanced techniques and tool tips, if you’d like to explore further.
  • SketchUp has also put out a couple series of videos that let you watch pros at work and give you great advice.

Lynda.com is a paid service, so not open to everyone, but you can access its tutorials by logging in with your Carleton ID.  If you want a more structured course, their SketchUp Essential Training is a great place to start.


Feel free to leave a comment if you’re having trouble, or if you discover something really great, and feel free to respond if you know the answer to a question.

Happy modeling!