HIST 4261/5261
Data: A User Manual

Professor Cameron Blevins (he/him/his) | cameron.blevins@ucdenver.edu
University of Colorado Denver, Fall 2021
M/W 12:30-1:45pm, Plaza 131
Office Hours: Tues. 10:00-11:00am, Student Commons 3108 (or Zoom)

Course Description

In Data: A User Manual, you will learn the basics of data analysis along with the history of how data has been collected, used, and misused over time. This course runs along two parallel tracks, one technical and one historical. On the technical track, you will learn how to create, process, analyze, and visualize data using the Python programming language. On the historical track you will complete readings and discussions about the history of data, focusing on three topics in U.S. history: 19th-century plantation slavery, government surveillance, and data collection by corporations. Together, these two tracks will provide you with a “user manual” for how to effectively and ethically use data to understand the past and present.

Note: This course provides 3.0 approved credit hours for the Undergraduate and Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies within the Integration cluster. No prior technical experience or coursework is required to enroll.

Learning Goals

In this class, students will:

  • Develop proficiency in processing, analyzing, and visualizing data using the Python programming language
  • Understand data as a historical artifact and its relationship to different topics in U.S. history
  • Build critical data literacy, or the ability to evaluate both the technical dimensions of data and its larger cultural, social, and political contexts


This course is based on similar courses taught by Melanie Walsh and Anelise Shrout, each of whom generously helped me think through its design.