We are living in a moment where we get to discover the exciting possibilities of working, learning, and sharing on digital formats. I have decided to use this as an opportunity to appreciate the ways in which others have already embraced the power digital platforms to enhance their research. In this post I will highlight three amazing digital humanities projects that researchers right here at the University of Illinois contributed to. For each project I will provide a link to their official web page, a brief description of the project, and the name and department of the UIUC researcher who contributed to this project. Prepare to be wowed by the amazing digital work to have come out of our University research community.
There is no doubt that technology is changing the way we interact with the world including that of centuries old institutions: Museums!
Historically, museums have been seen as these sacred spaces of knowledge meant to bring together a communities and historically, this also meant a physical space. However, with the heroine that is technology constantly amplifying in our everyday lives, there is no doubt that this would eventually reach museums. While many museums have implemented technology into their education and resources, we are now beginning to see the emergence of what’s called a “virtual museum.” While the definition of what constitutes these new virtual museums can be precarious, one thing is in common: they exist electronically in cyberspace.
The vast empire of Digital Humanities is allowing space for these virtual museums to cultivate. Information seeking in a digital age is expanding its customs and there is a wide spectrum of resources available—Virtual Museum being one example. These online organizations are made up of digital exhibitions and exist in their entity on the World Wide Web.
Museums offer an experience. Unlike libraries or archives, people more often utilize museums as a form of tourism and entertainment but within this, they are also centers of research. Museums house information resources that are not accessible to the everyday scholar. Virtual museums are increasing this accessibility.
Here are some examples of virtual museum spaces:
- Illinois Distributed Museum — A virtual museum for the University of Illinois campus highlighting the innovative work that has been accomplished at Illinois
- Museum with No Frontiers — Collections of cultural heritage
- WebExhibits — Presentation of a wide array of topics and provides supplemental tools such as virtual experiments to promote learning and curiosity
- The Virtual Museum of Canada — A cybernetic hub for online exhibits to come together on a single platform collecting contributions from almost 1600 sources.
- Google Art Project — Interesting in-between of a permanent exhibition but through new means of experience
- Digital Museum of Digital Art — Consist of digital art media and it’s downloadable!
- And on top of all this – more and more museums offer options of a virtual museum tour through VR technology!
While there are arguments from museum scholars about the legitimacy of these online spaces, I do not think it should discount the ways in which people are using them to share knowledge. While there is still much to develop in virtual museums, the increasing popularity of the digital humanities is granting people an innovative way to interact with art and artifacts that were previously inaccessible. Museums are spaces of exhibition and research — so why limit that to a physical space? It will be interesting to keep an eye on where things may go and question the full potential this convention can contribute to scholarly research!
The Scholarly Commons has many resources that can help you create your own digital hub of information. You can digitize works on one of our high resolution scanners, create these into searchable documents with OCR software, and publish online with tools such as Omeka, a digital publishing software.
Maybe one day all museums will be available virtually? What are your thoughts?
This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features one of the newest members of our team, Spencer Keralis, Digital Humanities Librarian.
What is your background and work experience?
I have a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University. I started working in libraries in 2011 as a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Fellow with the University of North Texas Libraries, doing research on data management policy and practice. This turned into a position as a Research Associate Professor working to catalyze digital scholarship on campus, which led to the development of Digital Frontiers, which is now an independent non-profit corporation. I serve as the Executive Director of the organization and help organize the annual conference. I have previous experience working as a project manager in telecom and non-profits. I’ve also taught in English and Communications at the university level since 2006.
What led you to this field?
My CLIR Fellowship really sparked the career change from English to libraries, but I had been considering libraries as an alternate career path prior to that. My doctoral research was heavily archives-based, and I initially thought I’d pursue something in rare books or special collections. My interest in digital scholarship evolved later.
What is your research agenda?
My current project explores how the HIV-positive body is reproduced and represented in ephemera and popular culture in the visual culture of the early years of the AIDS epidemic. In American popular culture, representations of the HIV-positive body have largely been defined by Therese Frare’s iconic 1990 photograph of gay activist David Kirby on his deathbed in an Ohio hospital, which was later used for a United Colors of Benetton ad. Against this image, and other representations which medicalized or stigmatized HIV-positive people, people living with AIDS and their allies worked to remediate the HIV-positive body in ephemera including safe sex pamphlets, zines, comics, and propaganda. In my most recent work, I’m considering the reclamation of the erotic body in zines and comics, and how the HIV-positive body is imagined as an object of desire differently in these underground publications than they are in mainstream queer comics representing safer sex. I also consider the preservation and digitization of zines and other ephemera as a form of remediation that requires a specific ethical positioning in relation to these materials and the community that produced them, engaging with the Zine Librarians’ Code of Conduct, folksonomies and other metadata schema, and collection and digitization policies regarding zines from major research libraries. This research feels very timely and urgent given rising rates of new infection among young people, but it’s also really fun because the materials are so eclectic and often provocative. You can check out a bit of this research on the UNT Comics Studies blog.
Do you have any favorite work-related duties?
I love working with students and helping them develop their research questions. Too often students (and sometimes faculty, let’s be honest) come to me and ask “What tools should I learn?” I always respond by asking them what their research question is. Not every research question is going to be amenable to digital tools, and not every tool works for every research question. But having a conversation about how digital methods can potentially enrich a student’s research is always rewarding, and I always learn so much from these conversations.
What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?
I think comics and graphic novels are generally underappreciated in both pedagogy and research. There are comics on every topic, and historical comics go back much further than most people realize. I think the intersection of digital scholarship with comics studies has a lot of potential, and a lot of challenges that have yet to be met – the technical challenge of working with images is significant, and there has yet to be significant progress on what digital scholarship in comics might look like. I also think comics belong more in classes – all sorts of classes, there are comics on every topic, from math and physics, to art and literature – than they are now because they reach students differently than other kinds of texts.
If you could recommend one book or resource to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?
I’m kind of obsessed with Liz Losh and Jacque Wernimont’s edited collection Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities because it’s such an important intervention in the field. I’d rather someone new to DH start there than with some earlier, canonical works because it foregrounds alternative perspectives and methodologies without centering a white, male perspective. Better, I think, to start from the margins and trouble some of the traditional narratives in the discipline right out the gate. I’m way more interested in disrupting monolithic or hegemonic approaches to DH than I am in gatekeeping, and Liz and Jacque’s collection does a great job of constructively disrupting the field.
Historically, maps were 2D, printed, sometimes wildly inaccurate representations of space. Today, maps can still be wildly inaccurate, but digital tools provide a way to apply more data to a spatial representation. However, displaying data on a map is not a completely new idea. W.E.B. DuBois’ 1899 sociological research study “The Philadelphia Negro” was one of the first to present data in a visual format, both in map form and other forms.
Digital maps can add an interesting, spatial dimension to your humanities or social science research. People respond well to visuals, and maps provide a way to display a visual that corresponds to real-life space. Today we’ll highlight some DH mapping projects, and point to some resources to create your own map!
(If you are interested in DH maps, attend our Mapping in the Humanities workshop next week!)
Sources of Digital Maps
Some sources of historical maps, like the ones below, openly provide access to georeferenced maps. “Georeferencing,” also called “georectifying,” is the process of aligning historical maps to precisely match a modern-day map. Completing this process allows historical maps to be used in digital tools, like GIS software. Think of it like taking an image of a map, and assigning latitude/longitude pairs to different points on the map that correspond to modern maps. Currently, manually matching the points up is the only way to do this!
David Rumsey Map Collection
The David Rumsey Map Collection is a mainstay in the world of historical maps. As of the time of writing, 68% of their total map collection has been georeferenced. There are other ways to interact with the collection, such as searching on a map for specific locations, or even viewing the maps in Second Life!
NYPL Map Warper
The New York Public Library’s Map Warper offers a large collection of historical maps georeferenced by users. Most maps have been georeferenced at this point, but users can still help out!
OpenStreetMap is the open-source, non-proprietary version of Google Maps. Many tools used in DH, like Leaflet and Omeka’s Neatline, use OpenStreetMap’s data and applications to create maps.
Digital Mapping Humanities Projects
Get inspired! Here are some DH mapping projects to help you think about applying mapping to your own research.
Maps provide the perfect medium for DH projects focused on social justice and decolonization. Native-land.ca is a fairly recent example of this application. The project, started as a non-academic, private project in 2015, has now transformed into a not-for-profit organization. Native-land.ca attempts to visualize land belonging to native nations in the Americas and Australia, but notably not following the official or legal boundaries. The project also provides a teacher’s guide to assist developing a curriculum around colonization in schools.
Other projects use digital tools that show a map in conjunction with another storytelling tool, like a timeline or a narrative. The levantCarta/Beirut project uses a timeline to filter which images show up on the connected map of Beirut. We can easily see the spatial representation of a place in a temporal context. A fairly easy tool for this kind of digital storytelling is TimeMapper.
For a more meta example, check out this map of digital humanities labs by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger. Of course these DH centers do projects other than mapping, but even the study of DH can make use of digital mapping!
If you’re interested in adding maps to your humanities research, check out our workshop this semester on humanities mapping. There are also great tutorials for more advanced mapping on The Programming Historian.
And as always, feel free to reach out to the Scholarly Commons (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get started on your digital humanities project.
The opinions presented in this piece are solely the author’s and referenced authors. This is meant to serve as a synthesis of arguments made in DH regarding transformation.
How do data and algorithms affect our lives? How does technology affect our humanity? Scholars and researchers in the digital humanities (DH) ask questions about how we can use DH to enact social change by making observations of the world around us. This kind of work is often called “transformative DH.”
The idea of transformative DH is an ongoing conversation. As Moya Bailey wrote in 2011, scholars’ experiences and identities affect and inform their theories and practices, which allows them to make worthwhile observations in diverse areas of humanities scholarship. Just as there is strong conflict about how DH itself is defined, there is also conflict regarding whether or not DH needs to be “transformed.” The theme of the 2011 Annual DH Conference held at Stanford was “Big Tent Digital Humanities,” a phrase symbolizing the welcoming nature of the DH field as a space for interdisciplinary scholarship. Still, those on the fringes found themselves unwelcome, or at least unacknowledged.
This conversation around what DH is and what it could be exploded at the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Convention in 2011, which featured multiple digital humanities and digital pedagogy sessions aimed at defining the field and what “counts” as DH. During the convention Stephen Ramsay, in a talk boldly title “Who’s In and Who’s Out,” stated that all digital humanists must code in order to be considered a digital humanist (he later softened “code” to “build”). These comments resulted in ongoing conversations online about gatekeeping in DH, which refer to both what work counts as DH and who counts as a DHer or digital humanist. Moya Bailey also noted certain that scholars whose work focused on race, gender, or queerness and relationships with technology were “doing intersectional digital humanities work in all but name.” This work, however, was not acknowledged as digital humanities.
To address gatekeeping in the DH community more fully, the group #transformDH was formed in 2011, during this intense period of conversation and attempts at defining. The group self-describes as an “academic guerrilla movement” aimed at re-defining DH as a tool for transformative, social justice scholarship. Their primary objective is to create space in the DH world for projects that push beyond traditional humanities research with digital tools. To achieve this, they encourage and create projects that have the ability to enact social change and bring conversations on race, gender, sexuality, and class into both the academy and the public consciousness. An excellent example of this ideology is the Torn Apart/Separados project, a rapid response DH project completed in response to the United States enacting a “Zero Tolerance Policy” for immigrants attempting to cross the US/Mexico border. In order to visualize the reach and resources of ICE (those enforcing this policy), a cohort of scholars, programmers, and data scientists banded together and published this project in a matter of weeks. Projects such as these demonstrate the potential of DH as a tool for transformative scholarship and to enact social change. The potential becomes dangerously disregarded when we set limits on who counts as a digital humanist and what counts as digital humanities work.
For further, in-depth reading on this topic, check out the articles below.
- Synthesis of the 2012 Conversations: The Digital Humanities Moment, by Matthew K. Gold, in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2012.
- Updated View of the Field: Digital Humanities: The Expanded Field, by Lauren F. Klein and Matthew K. Gold, in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016.
- More history and updates on #transformDH: Reflections on a Movement: #transformDH, Growing Up, by Moya Bailey, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips, in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016.
- Invisible Labor of Women in the First DH Project: Father Busa’s Female Punch Card Operatives, by Melissa Terras and Julianne Nyhan, in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016.
Good news for text and data mining researchers! After years of court cases and policymaking, the entire 16-million-item collection of the HathiTrust Digital Library, including content in-copyright, is available for text and data mining. (Yay!)
Previously, only non-copyrighted, public domain materials were able to be used with HTRC Analytics’ suite of tools. The restriction obviously limited ability to do quality computational research on modern history; most out-of-copyright items are texts created before 1923. With this update, everyone can perform text analysis on the full corpus with different tools. HathiTrust is membership-based, so some restrictions apply to non-member institutions and independent scholars alike (Illinois is a member institution). With the passage of this new policy, only one service, the HTRC Data Capsule (a virtual computing environment), retains members-only access to the full corpus for requesters with an established research need. There are over 140 member institutions, including University of Illinois.
Here’s a quick overview of HTRC’s tools and access permissions (from HTRC’s Documentation).
- HTRC Algorithms: a set of tools for assembling collections of digitized text from the HathiTrust corpus and performing text analysis on them. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
- Extracted Features Dataset: dataset allowing non-consumptive analysis on specific features extracted from the full text of the HathiTrust corpus. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
- HathiTrust+Bookworm: a tool for visualizing and analyzing word usage trends in the HathiTrust corpus. Including copyrighted items for ALL USERS.
- HTRC Data Capsule: a secure computing environment for researcher-driven text analysis on the HathiTrust corpus. All users may access public domain items. Access to copyrighted items is available ONLY to member-affiliated researchers.
Fair Use to the Rescue!
How is this possible? Through both the Fair Use section of the Copyright Act and HathiTrust’s policy of allowing only non-consumptive research. Fair Use protects use of copyrighted materials for educational, research, and transformative purposes. Non-consumptive research means that researchers can glean information about works without actually being able to read (consume) them. You can see the end result (topic models, word and phrase statistics, etc.), without seeing the entirety of the work for human reading. Allowing computational research only on a corpus protects rights holders, and benefits researchers. A researcher can perform text analysis on thousands of texts without reading them all, which is the basis of computational text analysis anyway! Our Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson, recently discussed how Fair Use factors into HathiTrust’s definition of non-consumptive research.
Ready to use HTRC Analytics for text mining? Check out their Getting Started with HTRC Guide for some simple, guided start-up activities.
For general information about the digital library, see our guide on HathiTrust.
How do you make sense of hundreds of years of handwritten scholarly correspondence? Humanists at Stanford University had the same question, and developed the project Mapping the Republic of Letters to answer it. The project maps scholarly social networks in a time when exchanging ideas meant waiting months for a letter to arrive from across the Atlantic, not mere seconds for a tweet to show up in your feed. The tools used in this project inspired the Humanities + Design lab at Stanford University to create a set of free tools specifically designed for historical data, which can be multi-dimensional and not suitable for analysis with statistical software. Enter Palladio!
To start mapping connections in Palladio, you first need some structured, tabular data. An Excel spreadsheet in CSV format with data that is categorized and sorted is sufficient. Once you have your data, just upload it and get analyzing. Palladio likes data about two types of things: people and places. The sample data Palladio provides is information about influential people who visited or were otherwise connected with the itty bitty country of Monaco. Read on for some cool things you can do with historical data.
Use the Map feature to mark coordinates and connections between them. Using the sample data that HD Lab provided, I created the map below, which shows birthplaces and arrival points. Hovering over the connection shows you the direction of the move. By default, you can change the map itself to be standard maps like satellite or terrain, or even just land masses with no human-created geography, like roads or place names.
But, what if you want to combine this new-fangled spatial analysis with something actually historic? You’re in luck! Palladio allows you to use other maps as bases, provided that the map has been georeferenced (assigned coordinates based on locations represented on the image). The New York Public Library’s Map Warper is a collection of some georeferenced maps. Now you can show movement on a map that’s actually from the time period you’re studying!
Perhaps the connections you want to see don’t make sense to be on a map, like those between people. This is where the Graph feature comes in. Graph allows you to create network visualizations based on different facets of your data. In general, network graphs display relationships between entities, and work best if all your nodes (dots) are the same type of information. They are especially useful to show connections between people, but our sample data doesn’t have that information. Instead, we can visualize our peoples’ occupation by gender.
The network graph makes it especially visible that there are some slight inconsistencies in the data; at least one person has “Aristocracy” as an occupation, while others have “Aristocrat.” Cleaning and standardizing your data is key! That sounds like a job for…OpenRefine!
All of the tools in Palladio have the same Timeline functionality. This basically allows you to filter the data used in your visualization by a date, whether that’s birthdate, date of death, publication date, or whatever timey wimey stuff you have in your dataset. Other types of data can be filtered using the Facet function, right next to the Timeline. Play around with filtering, and watch your visualization change.
Try Palladio today! If you need more direction, check out this step-by-step tutorial by Miriam Posner. The tutorial is a few years old so the interface has changed slightly, so don’t panic if the buttons look different!
Did you create something cool in Palladio? Post a comment below, or tell us about it on Twitter!
At the end of June, the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) coordinated their annual international DH conference, Digital Humanities 2018, in Mexico City. DH2018 was the first conference in the organization’s history to be held in Latin America and in the global south. With a theme of Puentes/Bridges, DH2018 emphasized transnational discourse and inclusivity. Here are some highlights from the event!
Latin@ voices in the Midwest: Ohio Habla Podcast
Elena Foulis of Ohio State University discussed Ohio Habla, a podcast project that seeks to educate others on the Latin@ experience in the Midwest with interviews conducted in English and Spanish (and a mixture of the two).
— Jin Gao (@Gaojin_) June 29, 2018
Visualizing the Digital Humanities Community
What does the DH community look like? Researchers from University College London’s Centre for Digital Humanities visualized how authors of DH articles cite each other and interact with each other on Twitter, and compared the two networks.
Network Analysis of Javanese Traditional Theatre
How do characters in Javanese traditional theatre relate to one another? In an excellent example of non-traditional digital publishing, Miguel Escobar Varela of the National University of Singapore communicates his research findings on an interactive webpage.
Achieving Machine-Readable Mayan Text Via Unicode
Carlos Pallan Gayol of the University of Bonn and Deborah Anderson of UC Berkeley work to create Unicode equivalents of Mayan hieroglyphs to create a machine-readable version, ensuring reliable access to this language across devices.
Hurricane Memorial: Chronicling the Hurricane of 1928
A massive hurricane devastated Florida, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Caribbean in 1928, but the story of this storm shifts depending on who you ask. Most of the storm’s victims were black migrant workers from Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands, whose deaths are minimized in most accounts. Christina Boyles of Trinity College seeks to “bring the stories of the storm’s underrepresented victims back into our cultural memory.”
Does “Late Style” Exist? New Stylometric Approaches to Variation in Single-Author Corpora
Jonathan Pearce Reeve presented some preliminary findings of his research on investigating whether or not an author has a true “late style.” Late style is a term most well-known from the works of Edward Said, alluding to an author’s shift to a writing style later in life that is unique from their “early” style. Read a review of his book, On Late Style. Code and other supplemental materials from Reeve’s research are available on GitHub.
4 Ríos: El Naya
A digital storytelling project about the impacts of armed conflict in Colombia, 4 Ríos is a transmedia project that includes a website, short film, and an interactive web-comic.
Researchers from our own University of Illinois participated in the conference, including Megan Senseney and Dan Tracy. Senseney, along with other Illinois researchers, presented “Audiences, Evidence, and Living Documents: Motivating Factors in Digital Humanities Monograph Publishing,” a survey of motivations behind humanities scholars digital publishing actions and needs. Megan also participated in a panel, “Unanticipated Afterlives: Resurrecting Dead Projects and Research Data for Pedagogical Use,” a discussion about how we might use unmaintained DH projects and data for learning purposes.
Tracy and other Illinois researchers presented a poster, Building a Bridge to Next Generation DH Services in Libraries with a Campus Needs Assessment, a report of results gathered while surveying the need for future DH services at research institutions, and how the library might facilitate this evolution. View Tracy’s poster in IDEALS.
ADHO gathered all resources tweeted out during the conference that you can view. You can also view a detailed schedule of presentations with descriptions here, or see paper abstracts here. Or, search #DH2018 on Twitter to see all the happenings!
This interview is part of a new series introducing our graduate assistants to our online community. These are some of the people you will see when you visit our space, who will greet you with a smile and a willingness to help! Say hello to Kayla Abner!
What is your background education and work experience?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Humanities and French from Wright State University in Dayton (Go Raiders!). My original plan was to teach high school French or Latin, but after completing a student teaching practicum, I decided that wasn’t for me. During undergrad and after graduation, I always wound up in a job role that involved research or customer service in some capacity, which I really enjoyed.
What led you to your field?
Knowing that I enjoyed working on research, I considered going back to school for Library Science, but wanted to be sure before taking the jump. It was always interesting to see the results of the research I helped conduct, and I enjoyed helping people find answers, whether it was a coworker or a client. After a visit to an American Library Association conference in 2016, I fell in love with the collaborative and share-alike nature of librarianship, and was accepted to this program the next year!
What are your research interests?
Library science has so many interesting topics, it’s hard to choose one. But, I like looking at how people seek information, and how libraries can use that knowledge to enhance their services and resources. I’m a browser when it comes to book shelves, and it’s interesting to see how libraries are succeeding/failing at bringing that experience to the digital realm.
What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I have two positions here in the library, one in the Scholarly Commons, and one working with our (current) Digital Humanities librarian, Dan Tracy. In both roles, I’ve worn a lot of hats, so to speak. My favorites have been creating resources like library guides, and assisting with creating content for our Savvy Researcher workshop series. Maintaining our library guides requires some experience with the software, so I enjoy learning new cool things that our programs can do. I also do a lot of graphic design work, which is a lot of fun!
Completing some of these tasks let me use some Python knowledge from my coursework, which is sort of like a fun puzzle (how do I get this to work??). I’m really interested in using digital methods and tools in research, like text mining and data visualization. Coming from a humanities background, it is very exciting to see the cool things humanists can do beyond traditional scholarship. Digital humanities is a really interesting field that bridges the gap between computer science and the humanities.
What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend?
Our people! They aren’t underutilized, but I love an opportunity to let campus know that we are an excellent point of contact between you and an expert. If you have a weird research question in one of our service areas, we can put in contact with the best person to help you.
When you graduate, what would your ideal job position look like?
I would love to work in an academic research library in a unit similar to the Scholarly Commons, where researchers can get the support they need to use digital methods and data in their research, especially in the humanities. There is a such a breadth of digital techniques that humanities researchers can utilize, that don’t necessarily replace traditional research methods. Distant reading a text puts forth different observations than traditional close reading, and both are equally useful.
What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?
Librarians are happy to help you; don’t let a big desk intimidate you away from asking a question. That’s why we’re here!
On Monday, March 5, the Scholarly Commons Interns (Matt and Clay) hosted the first Project Forum Discussion. In order to address the variety of projects and scholarly backgrounds, we decided that our conversations should be organized around presentations of projects and related readings from other Digital Humanities scholars or related research.
We began by discussing some consistent topics or questions that are present in each of our Digital Humanities projects and how we conceptualize them. These questions will not only guide our reading discussion on this article, but also further conversations as we read work under the DH umbrella.
1. How does the article make its DH work legible to other scholars / fields?
2. How does the article display information?
3. What affordances or impact does the digital platform (artifact) have on the study?
4. How does the article conceptualize gaps in the data?
If you would like to participate in our next discussion, please join us Monday, March 26, at 2 pm in Library 220.