Updates for 2019 fall term: Creating a WordPress site and Updating the Carleton DHA page

During the fall term 2019, I’ve been working on the WordPress site and updating the Carleton DHA page.

In the former project, collaborating with professors from the Classics Department, I created CHIANTI site, a WordPress site. To add and organize various contents, I used several plugins: Elementor to organize the content pages, Shortcodes and List category posts to order posts sorted by categories on a page, Document Embedder to convert language learning sources to be downloadable, Smart Slider to use a video carousel on the student portal page, and Pods Admin to create a submission form for faculties.

chianti site
French page for the instructors (The var on the left shows the code for showing posts sorted by tags)

In the course of arranging and refining the site, I realized some tips which would be helpful when creating websites at another time. I’ll write them down for future use.

  • Clarify the audience and objects of the website.
  • When you get stuck, google for the troubleshooting first. There is maybe somebody who is in the same situation and already asked similar questions.
  • Be careful about the consistency – theme colors, fonts, font sizes……
  • When you are not sure which plugin to use, see their review, download numbers, the latest update date.
  • If you create a website and then yield control over it to the third party, make sure to create a concise and easy to follow instructional document. (preferably with some screenshots as needed) This is actually a great way to keep information in one place, such as the theme colors and fonts.
  • Finally, although there is a lot more to mention, communicating with partners/clients is crucial to improve the website closer to what they expect.

Regarding updating the Carleton DHA page, with permission to access and edit the page, I mainly updated the DH members for this year and the past projects. Updating past projects especially required some important things to keep in mind: 1) Use visually eye-catching screenshots of the project, 2) Check the copyright of the image within the screenshots, 3) Avoid controversial contents/images publishing on the web, 4) Make sure that private information is hidden.

As you’ve seen, I spent most of the time working with WordPress. For the next term, I hope I’ll be working with other types of digital tools.

Mapping the Fifteenth-Century London Chronicles: Experimentation and Collaboration

One of the projects I’ve been working on this year has been a textual analysis of the fifteenth-century London Chronicles for an English professor’s research. The professor hoped to identify and isolate place names in the text (such as London Bridge, Sussex, etc.) and make a map of all the data. This is where the Digital Humanities team came in: what software and digital tools could we use to extract this data and display it in an insight way?

The first tool we examined was Voyant, an online textual analysis tool that creates data visualizations. We uploaded a PDF of the London Chronicles to Voyant and played around with the website to see how it worked and determine whether it was effective.

A screenshot of the London Chronicles data visualization in Voyant

While Voyant was great for analyzing macro data sets and getting a holistic view of the text, it was rather ineffective for gathering specific iterations of place names and appeared no better than manual close reading for this purpose. One of the other problems we encountered were the variations in medieval spelling; for example, Voyant created a separate category for “London” and “Londan” even if they referred to the same place.

We then turned to a different tool to help map our place names: Edinburgh Geoparser. Geoparser created a wonderful map of the place names. However, it was unable to quantify the number of times a place name appears or arrange the place names in order of frequency. Thus, it was great for visualizing the places but not ideal for textual analysis.

The map of the London Chronicles created by Edinburgh Geoparser
The map of the London Chronicles created by Edinburgh Geoparser

Finally, after testing these different softwares, we stumbled upon a Gazetteer of Early Modern Europe which contained a list of place names, their spelling variants, and their location. We collaborated with a member of the Data Squad, a local Carleton organization dedicated to organizing data, to produce a program that would cross-reference The London Chronicles PDF with an XML of this data. In this manner, we would be able to get a reliable count of place names in the text that included their spelling variants.

The Early Modern London Gazetteer

This process has taught me that Digital Humanities is a lot of trial and error. In doing this research, I’ve learned there might not be one perfect tool for a project, but combining different resources and collaborating with others allowed me to find an innovative solution. This experimentation and sharing of ideas and research is vital to the work we do as Digital Humanities Associates.