I’ve spent a lot of this term cleaning up the Carleton Guide to Medieval Rome from Reason site. While I have worked a decent amount with Omeka before, this project has given me a whole new level of appreciation for how much detailed, meticulous work goes into making these types of websites look their best. And while there have been a few times I got frustrated or confused (such as when a random coverage field box would not disappear), it has been really rewarding to see it slowly start to look better and more uniform and to become truly familiar with a collection. Because it turns out that I like spreadsheets. I like metadata. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes work needed to help make projects presentable to a public audience.
I’m graduating soon, so for me I think what I’ve appreciated the most this term, through all the projects I’ve worked on, is the opportunity to cement for myself that I do truly enjoy this type of work. While graduation is still scary, at least now I feel a lot more comfortable and confident going into my post-graduation plans. (Plus writing the Star-Bellied Sneetches Twine story example with Karah was such a fun break from my endless comps research!)
Early on in the term I spent a couple weeks working on class handouts for PSYC 384, providing examples for ways the students can reimagine the class’s usual final project to be a digital endeavor. When the class was in person, students would create games that demonstrate how prejudice works and ways to combat bias.
I had so much fun coming up with different ways of creating digital game boards and playing with online tools as we made examples for the PSYC class. I learned how to use Twine, a site where you can build choose-your-own-adventure stories. Marcella and I enjoyed writing a Twine story example about Star-Bellied Sneetches so that it would fit into the class theme of reducing prejudice. We were really able to play around and be creative with this project, which goes to show just how many possibilities the digital humanities can offer classroom settings and beyond.
I particularly enjoyed being a visitor in the PSYC 384 class because we were able to describe all the work we did and share the ideas we had come up with for games they could make. It was also great to simply see the faces of everyone who would be using the materials Marcella and I put together for the class. It’s the smaller things like this that I am appreciating this term.
I learned a lot this term from concrete skills like website building and how to add plug ins on WordPress, to more abstract concepts such as how much information companies like Facebook have about me or how to effectively work and communicate all online. For the sake of this short reflection though, I’d like to focus on my personal growth and increasing interest in digital humanities.
One thing I have loved about learning new digital skills is how much it has demystified the digital world for me, particularly code. As someone with a lot of friends in CS, that world has always rather terrified me, and it has been hard to get past the view of people working in coding languages as wizards who go clickity clack on their computers and magically make things happen. I’ve always respected it, but firmly believed I could never do anything like that. While I have certainly not done any real coding for this job, learning more digital skills and having coding language pop up in small, manageable, understandable ways has really helped build my confidence as well as make computers seem a lot less scary. And the more I realize just how doable using digital tools for humanities projects is, the more I want to share with my peers in the humanities who have perhaps not yet drunk the Kool-Aid. I want to share the knowledge that we shouldn’t be scared of the digital world and should instead embrace it as a helpful resource and a good way to bring the subjects we love into the 21st century while potentially reaching a wider audience.
In addition, getting to work more with metadata this term has helped solidify my desire to continue my education in library sciences after I graduate. It’s been posted here before, but having worked a lot this past year with Omeka, this meme felt appropriate and made me laugh:
I had a great term, and I’m looking forward to winter!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed my training as an DHA and am excited for the upcoming year. The interdisciplinary nature makes the field extremely broad, requiring us to take a #multifacetedapproach. I really enjoy this dynamic aspect about digital humanities. As a result, I made the following meme.
I am excited to learn more and expand my horizons further in my work as a DHA!
I finished my first week of Digital Humanities training and it was really fascinating – the word that comes to mind is “insightful.” It was definitely not what I was expecting so far as I was expecting the focus to more be on concrete skills than discussion and mental exercises but this had no impact on my enjoyment of the training. From what I heard of how DH works, I decided upon this meme:
I am really excited and intrigued for what’s to come next and I am sure I will need to take on new skills and difficulties. These difficulties are bound to be fascinating and something I learn from which is why my hashtag is #preparingforinsightfulchallenges.
I finished a week of Digital Humanities training and here is what I think of Digital Humanities now……
Digital Humanities is interdisciplinary and involves a variety of information and tools. Through the training, I found Digital Humanities more interesting and harder to grasp the whole concept of itself, and it keeps me thinking of its unlimited possibilities.
Finally, my hashtag for the training is……#packingforanewadventure. I’m excited about exploring the world of Digital Humanities!
We have a new cast and crew, but we’re ready to get #backtoit. With five new DHAs joining us this year, you can expect we’ll be involved with quite a few projects this year; please look forward to it! And since we’re ready, a Spongebob meme seems appropriate:
(After all, in the end, a good portion digital humanities is figuring out how to present data in a way that hides just how messy it actually is—or was.)