Tag Archives: Tools

Simile Timeline’s Linkage Capabilities

Synchronicity seems to be Simile’s strength.  The tool plots one or multiple sets of data against one or multiple timeframes, enhancing its users’ contextual awareness.  The timeline and timeplot are Simile’s basic mechanisms, the former being pretty self-explanatory with the latter being essentially a line graph.  However, Simile enables users to utilize these tools with a little more originality than you learned to use them with in elementary school.

ENMC 3600 Short Blog Post #2, Picture 1

As seen above, the timeline of “The Life of Monet” displays some of Simile’s basic capabilities.  Events are labelled with circles, the color of which signifies certain types of events.  Here, blue dots denote life events while green ones signify significant Monet paintings.  Short descriptions can be accessed by clicking on the circles.  Bars indicate ongoing events and two axes are utilized, one labelling years with the other giving Monet’s age.  Chronicling a person’s life is nothing new, but Simile’s ability to synthesize information is really showcased in its homepage “JFK Assassination timeline”.

ENMC 3600 Short Blog Post #2, Picture 2

Here, Simile overlaps chaotic events surrounding the murder, plotting them down to the minute, and even second of their occurrence.

The timeplot tool plots numerical information, relying on relative fluctuations instead of an axis with precise values.  Finally, the exhibit tool allows users to see applications of Simile, such as plotting the birthplaces of US presidents on a map of the US, or plotting the births of breakfast cereal characters on a timeline.

Simile would provide an interesting way to display information in literature, especially for books such as those in A Song of Ice and Fire (“Game of Thrones”), in which multiple points of view can disrupt time and event linkage.  Simile’s ability to render relative significances could be of value to the Huck Finn group, perhaps enabling us to graph different-sized dots – denoting things such as the amount of plot dedicated to a specific location – against the Mississippi River.  Plotting the publishing history of authors would also be useful.  The preface, by Keith Nelson, of my version of Huckleberry Finn mentions the novel’s location as being a turning point in Mark Twain’s career, with more pessimistic works being published afterwards.

Short Blog Post 2, Group B

Last week, students wrote about Digital Humanities projects. This week, you’ll write about a DH tool.

If you’re able to, install or explore the tool you’ve been assigned to get a sense of what it’s for and how it works. Some tools will be easy/practical to install, while others may simply require research on your part to get a sense of what it does. Once you have a sense, tell the class about the tool, how it works, and whether it is likely to be useful for our digital projects. The questions here are not meant to be a list that you answer systematically, but to spur your thought process as you write about the tool:

  • What is the primary purpose of this tool?
  • How have people used this tool in a digital-humanities context OR how might someone use this tool in a digital-humanities context?
  • What does this tool do that other tools can’t?
  • What is distinctive/notable about this tool’s approach?
  • How would this tool be useful to scholars doing/presenting research?
  • If we wanted to use this tool, how would we get started with it?
  • If this is a tool that many of us are already familiar with, what are some features of the tool we might not know about?
  • Are there any aspects of this tool that might be useful to the project groups in our class as they conceive of, design, and implement their digital projects?

The goal of this report is less to judge or evaluate any given DH tool than to explore how DH scholars are doing and to find aspects of these projects that might inform the approach of groups in our class.

The specific assignments/projects we discussed in class are after the break.

Continue reading Short Blog Post 2, Group B

Short Blog Post 2, Group A

In the next two rounds of blog posts, students will explore and report on a Digital Humanities project or a DH tool. Our first group, group A, will be working with projects.

Spend some time with the project you’ve been assigned/the project you’ve chosen, and ask yourself some questions about it:

  • What is the primary purpose of this project?
  • What does this project hope to do that a print resource (a book/books, a journal article, a reference work, etc.) couldn’t?
  • What is distinctive/notable about this project’s approach to its subject matter?
  • How would this site/project be useful to scholars doing research?
  • Is this project designed such that it might reach a broader audience/readership than scholars doing research?
  • Are there any aspects of this projects approach that might be useful to the project groups in our class as they conceive of, design, and implement a significantly smaller-scale digital project?

Keep in mind that some of these projects made compromises based on the constraints of the time at which they were started. The goal of this report is less to judge or evaluate any given DH project than to explore what DH scholars are doing and to find aspects of these projects that might inform the approach of groups in our class.

The specific assignments/projects we discussed in class are after the break.

Continue reading Short Blog Post 2, Group A

An Online Home for Your Group

Your project groups are in the process of selecting texts to focus on for the project, and in class, we’ll take a look at some projects that students in a similar class at another institution completed.

Beyond picking a text you think you’d like to work on, I’d like the groups to begin pursuing two other tasks for the week ahead.

First, establish an online presence for your group distinct from our class home page. I encourage you to use WordPress for this. We’ll link to your group’s page from the home page. You can do this in a few ways, each of which has some advantages/disadvantages:

    • Use Collab. As a member of the UVA community, you can create a Collab site to which each member of your group belongs. If you enable the WordPress tool, it will establish a WordPress site for the group. I used to do this for all my classes, but I wanted a bit more control, so now I host my own WordPress sites. This is dead simple, though, except for some minor complications with how you set user roles. You can read about this tool here.
    • Use WordPress.com. It’s easy to set up a blog on WordPress.com, and it gives you a fair amount of free space. You give up some customizability (you need to pay, for example, for access to CSS), but it’s a nice implementation of WordPress that will let you create a decent WordPress site.
    • Host a WordPress site yourself. If you have a domain name/web space, or if the group wants to pool resources to buy web space, this is also an option. This gives you the most control, but it’s a bit more complicated (and costs money).

Once your group has a site up, begin customizing it. Work on an initial post describing what the work is thinking about doing, and post a link to your project’s online home from the course blog.

The other project-oriented task I’d like the group to begin working on now involves “the competition.” Do some online research to figure out what’s out there about your text(s)/topic already, from Wikipedia pages, to other online resources, to Gutenberg/Google Books texts, etc. Begin collecting examples of what else is out there. In the next weeks, we’ll think about what your project will have to contribute that these other resources don’t.

Blog Post 1, Group B

As we head into our second week of short blog posts, we’ll hear from Blog Group B. To reiterate: last names up through Hu should post with Group A, and last names from Kim on should post with Group B.

Now that some of your classmates have done initial experiments with the OED and with Google Ngrams, I’d like Group B to experiment a bit more with the parameters and settings that Ngrams allows. Either build from one of your classmates’ experiences with Ngrams, or design a new set of words to consider.

The “Advanced” section in Google’s information on the NGram viewer will reveal new parameters you can play with in your search. You can, for example, make your search case-insensitive, compare the corpus of English to the corpus of English fiction, search words according to parts of speech, or use wildcards to expand your searches. If we search, for example, “digital *”, Google will reveal Ngrams for the top 10 search hits of that phrase.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 14.25.13Apparently, “digital computer” was very hot as a phrase when “computer” needed specification as a type. Now, we just assume that computers are digital, so it’s largely waned in usage.

In addition to these new search tools, you’ll notice the various links Google supplies underneath the Ngram viewer. These will take you to Google Books searches for the phrases in question, but isolate those phrases by a range of years.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 14.28.23If I want to see some typical examples of how “digital computer” was used between 1972 and 1974, I could see the top hits from Google Books for those years by clicking that link.

By tweaking the parameters and looking into some actual search results, we can get a bit more context about how these words were used at any given time.  So blog group B: your goal is to do a new search, or extend an old one with some of the “Advanced” Ngram parameters taken into account, and then to click through some of these links on the bottom of the page to get a sense of how the words in context read differently or confirm the more blunt information that an Ngram gives us. Then, as before, reflect on the experience–do the new parameters give you more faith in the information? Does being able to click through to Google Books search results make this a better research tool?



Short Blog Post 1

Yesterday, the New York Times published this interesting overview of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)The OED tries to document every word in the English language, including the first appearance of that word in print (and lots of other instances of that word in print. Here’s what part of the second edition looks like on the shelves in Alderman:

2014-01-21 14.44.03Here’s the very beginning of the entry on word:

2014-01-21 14.45.02Of course, the OED is online now, and on grounds (or with the VPN), you can access it at http://www.oed.com.

Screenshot 2014-01-22 14.51.07

The OED offers a remarkable way to think about the histories of words. Another, more controversial, way to take a long view of the history of a word is the Google Ngram viewer, located here. While some of the details of what this tool does aren’t fully transparent, it basically searches for word frequencies across some subset of the archive of Google Books (a project to scan every book in lots of major academic libraries).

For example, I can have the Google NGram viewer make a diagram tracing the relative frequency of “old” and “new” from 1800 to the present:

Screenshot 2014-01-22 14.44.46This picture is a bit small, but in the 20th century, you’ll see that “new” overtakes “old” right around 1912, at the birth of the modernist movement. There’s all sorts of things this diagram doesn’t show us, but it does seem to roughly indicate a shift in emphasis from the old to the new at that time–a shift of great interest to me, since I’m a scholar of modernism.

For the first blog post, I’d like you to brainstorm words that it might be interesting to think about in historical terms. See what the OED has to say about that word/those words, and see what the Ngram viewer indicates about it. Briefly write about your findings–if you can think of a claim we could make using the Ngram viewer, briefly make it. Then, reflect on the value of each of these tools–what are the advantages and disadvantages of using each of them to think about the histories of words?




Today’s Introductory Texts

In class today, we’ll introduce ourselves to each other (and to the spirit of the course) by reading two texts together and willfully not reading several more.

First, we’ll think briefly about two digitally-enabled texts. We’ll start by reading and discussing a story Teju Cole posted to Twitter on January 8.  Cole has experimented with Twitter as a story-telling medium before–see, for example, his “Seven short stories about drones,” which adds a drone strike to condensed versions of famous works of fiction by authors including James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Franz Kafka, Chinua Achebe, and Albert Camus. This time, he had friends and acquaintances post sentences that add up to a cohesive story about a heart attack. Then, Cole retweeted their language to create his own–a string of retweets as a story.

Screenshot 2014-01-13 12.39.51

We’ll also read/view Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’s “Dakota,” a cinematic poem-artwork that YHCHI sees as a kind of rewriting of the first two of Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Screenshot 2014-01-13 12.33.35

Finally, we’ll undertake an activity that critics of the digital humanities sometimes mock as overly simplistic as we use Wordle or Taxgedo to quickly visualize texts that many of us haven’t read before. Word clouds aren’t exactly scientific (little in the humanities is or should be), but this will be an interesting exercise in considering how thinking of texts as a kind of data might begin to reshape the humanistic enterprise.

Screenshot 2014-01-13 12.35.22

This Wordle of my dissertation might give you some insight into the kinds of literature I care about most.