About the Project

The Back Story

Max Brooks’ World War Z (the book – not the movie) is a great account of a global conflict that never was.

It’s an unorthodox choice of books for a history class, but trust me – you’ll learn a lot about how to write history, and how to question the written accounts of history, by reading it. Max Brooks was an undergraduate at Pitzer College, and anyone who has read World War Z knows that a key part of the book is “The Battle of the Five Colleges.” Those five colleges are Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College in Claremont, California.

Just as the “Battle of the Five Colleges" is rooted in the existence of five real-life colleges, many of the events Max Brooks creates for the book have their inspiration in historical events. You don’t need to look very far to see where the idea of an unstoppable plague of zombies comes from.

The 1720 plague outbreak in Marseilles was just one of the many epidemics that have deeply challenged humankind’s control over nature, and over humankind itself. This topic -- the control of nature, of a disease, and of humanity -- is at the heart of every zombie story, and it's reflected in contemporary life as well. Just take a look at the coverage of the spread of the ebola virus in 2014, and the fake ebola vaccines that soon surfaced on the internet.

So – back to Digital Zombies.

There’s a wikipedia entry about Digital Zombies (

A Digital Zombie is a person using digital technology and/or social media to a point that they become fixated only in that faux reality. They have difficulty looking people in the eye or carrying on healthy conversations. Even displaying signs of early onset dementia. Many times they don’t see details of life happening around them and they have limited “people” skills inside the real world. Something many internet gurus including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, is worried about in the future.

I think this definition is a bit extreme -- in this class we use a gentler definition (and I invite anyone to edit the Wikipedia entry to reflect the fact that there can be many ways to define what a digital zombie is!).

Our working definition of Digital Zombie:

Digital Zombie -- A person who only uses Wikipedia, Google, or other Internet sites, tools, and search engines to complete academic research projects. Digital Zombies wander aimlessly through online worlds and virtual space, they do not visit libraries and archives in person, and their faces can often only be seen in the reflection of their glowing screens. Digital Zombies use online sources indiscriminately, without concern for their reliability or origin, and they follow hyperlinks blindly.

Through the Digital Zombies project, you'll complete missions that will help save you from this dystopian fate. You will discover how to search online for relevant and authoritative historical resources and information, and also how to cite these sources for future reference. You'll explore research methods on the Internet, and also in the analog world of printed books, maps, and people. You’ll examine the relationship between these analog and digital approaches, and how to use a variety of tools and methods to write compelling and persuasive essays on historical topics.

So now that you know the back story, let’s get started.

The Mission

Your role is as follows:

Mission schedule: there are weekly deadlines (see the course website), so keep an eye on them! Training starts on the first day of the quarter -- there is no break from training!

After you have completed your missions, you will be asked to write a report. Your skill level will be assessed (in other words, you’ll get a grade), and you will either join the ranks of the living as a “digital citizen,” or you’ll be declared a “digital zombie."

In order to graduate to “digital citizen” and avoid the digital zombie disease, complete the missions using both analog (physical) and digital (virtual) research tools.

If you miss or fail missions you won’t be ready for the final report!

Poor training makes you vulnerable to attack and infection, and you will likely become a “digital zombie” [¬º-°]¬

The goal of this project is to train everyone in digital literacy and awareness, survival skills most helpful in our modern digital and physical worlds.

Help us help you – complete the missions!