Designing an App for a Text (sort of)

English 331 Project Suite

Project #6: Designing an App for a Text (Our One Analogue Project)


During the course of this semester, we will engage deeply with literature as conceived by our traditional humanities and English curriculum. This involves developing an awareness and appreciation for our literary heritage, contextualizing and analyzing works of literature within their unique historical moments, and expanding these historical contexts in order to gain insight into our own experiences. Furthermore, when engaging these texts we will work to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, recognize nuance and complexity of meaning, and express our ideas in a clear, organized, and well-reasoned manner.

It is in the expression of our ideas, the form these documents take, that we will shift our emphasis to the digital humanities and the pedagogy of “making” things that are usable by a wider audience. In short, we are replacing the traditional essay with a new-media approach to knowledge representation. This project, “Designing an App a Text,” asks you to combine the essential thinking and interpretive skills of the humanities with the design of what would a usable, functional digital artifact that conveys your thinking to a wider audience. By posting your final projects on the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities, you will be making your work available to an audience that extends far beyond a single professor.

The Assignment

In groups, you will “storyboard” and interactive application for whatever text we are reading when your group’s turn arrives. Note: we won’t actually be making a digital app (though I hope someday soon we will!), you will be storyboarding, or explaining, how the app would function—you might provide sketches, diagrams, written descriptions, etc. We will be reading a broad range of work this semester, so the focus for each group may vary; since each group will be approaching these projects at different times with different texts, your goal is to fit the project to what you’re reading rather than what other groups might have done previously.

Your group’s app must/might include:

  • A minimum of 5 “functions.” The majority of these functions should be connected to a relevant, interpretive element of the text, meaning it should further reader/user understanding. When appropriate, include page numbers for reference. How you might represent these functions is up to you, but some possibilities include:
  1. sketches and diagrams
  2. written descriptions
  3. video
  4. audio
  5. pictures
  • For the presentation of the app itself, I suggest using PowerPoint or Prezi. These do not need to be super flashy presentations, but work toward proving as complete a picture of your app as possible.

Groups will post their final projects to the assigned group space in the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities.

Evaluation and Support

Apps will be evaluated on how well they meet the objectives outlined above, as well as clarity, creativity, organization, attention to detail, and design.

Tips & Things to Consider

  • Images: Will you include them? Which ones? Will you find copies online? Most importantly, be aware of copyright, and only use images, for example, with a Creative Commons License.
  • Audio: Do you have it? What audio?
  • Navigation: How do you get around inside the app? Is there a Table of Contents? Does the structure of the app map the structure of the text or take a different approach?
  • Themes of the text: How can an interactive experience highlight some of the different themes you have identified in the text?


  • In a document created in The Commons, I would like your group to collaboratively reflect on the following issues:
  • How did completing this assignment affect how you read the novel? How so?
  • Is there a level of knowledge that was provided uniquely by this assignment, beyond the initial reading itself?
  • What would I change about this assignment to make it more relevant, informative, enjoyable, challenging, or interesting?
  • Do you see an app building project like this being helpful for literary study? Why and how?

This assignment was adopted from the work of Brian Croxall under a Creative Commons license

A note on images for all projects:

One thing about new media and writing for the web is that images are more often incorporated than in traditional print, and this raises issues of permissions.  In order to remain on the right side of copyright law, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  1. Most images at Wikipedia are already available for use

  2. Be aware of what Creative Commons is. Almost every image I use at my own blog was acquired through a Creative Commons search and simply require me to credit the author. Here is the link for a Creative Commons search of sites like Flickr, Google, etc. Copy it and use it in this course:

  3. When you use an image, add a caption that credits the source. Most often, a simple: “Image: Smith” will do.