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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 museums 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:
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.
This is a guest blog by the amazing Kaylen Dwyer, a GA in Scholarly and Communication Publishing
As William Tringali mentioned last week, 2019 marks an exciting shift in copyright law with hundreds of thousands of works entering the public domain every January 1st for the next eighteen years. We are setting our clocks back to the year of 1923—to the birth of the Harlem Renaissance with magazines like The Crisis, to first-wave feminists like Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy L. Sayers, back to the inter-war period.
Copyright librarian Sara Benson has been laying the groundwork to bring in the New Year and celebrate the wealth of knowledge now publicly available for quite some time, leading up to a digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, and the Re-Mix It! Competition to be held this spring.
A collaborative effort between Benson, graduate assistants, and several scholarly contributors, The Sweet Public Domain celebrates creative reuse and copyright law. Last year, GA Paige Kuester spent time scouring the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in search of something that had never been digitized before, something at risk of being forgotten forever, not because it is unworthy of attention, but because it has been captive to copyright for so long.
We found just the thing—the beloved Honey Bunch series, a best-selling girls’ series by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The syndicate become known for its publication of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and many others, but in 1923 they kicked off the adventures of Honey Bunch with Just a Little Girl, Her First Visit to the City, and Her First Days on the Farm.
Through the digital exhibit, The Sweet Public Domain: Honey Bunch and Copyright, you can explore all three books, introduced by Deidre Johnson (Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate, 1993) and LuElla D’Amico (Girls Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, 2017). To hear more about copyright and creative reuse, you can find essays by Sara Benson, our copyright librarian, and Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker and producer of Everything is a Remix.
If you are a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, you can engage with the public domain by making new and innovative work out of something old and win up to $500 for your creation. Check out the Re-Mix It! Competition page for contest details and be sure to check out our physical exhibit in the Marshall Gallery (Main Library, first floor east entrance) for ideas.
Hello, researchers! And welcome to the bright, bold world of 2019! All around the United States, Copyright Librarians are rejoicing this amazing year! But why, might you ask?
Well, after 20 years, formally published works are entering the public domain. That’s right, the amazing, creative works of 1923 will belong to the public as a whole.
Though fascinating works like Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room are just entering the public domain Some works entered the public domain years ago. The holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, entered the public domain because, according to Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain (2019), its copyright was not renewed after its “first 28 year term” (Paragraph 13). Though, in a fascinating turn of events, the original copyright holder “reasserted copyright based on its ownership of the film’s musical score and the short story on which the film was based” after the film became such a success. (Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, 2019, Paragraph 13).
But again, why all the fuss? Don’t items enter the public domain ever year?
That answer is, shockingly, no! Though 1922 classics like Nosferatu entered the public domain in 1998, 1923’s crop of public domain works are only entering this year, making this the first time in 20 years a massive crop of works have become public, according to Verge writer Jon Porter (2018). This was the year lawmakers “extended the length of copyright from 75 years to 95, or from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death” (Porter, 2018, Paragraph 2).
What’s most tragic about this long wait time for the release of these works is that, after almost 100 years, so many of them are lost. Film has decayed, text has vanished, and music has stopped being played. We cannot know the amount of creative works lost to time, but here are a few places that can help you find public domain works from 1923!
Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has an awesome blog post with even more information about copyright law and the works now available to the public.
If you want to know what’s included in this mass public domain-ifying of so many amazing creative works book-wise, you can check out HathiTrust has released more than 53,000 readable online, for free!
Finally, the Public Domain Review has a great list of links to works now available!
Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. (2019, Jan. 1). Public Domain Day 2019. Retrieved from https://law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2019/
Porter, Jon. (2018, December 31). After a 20 year delay, works from 1923 will finally enter the public domain tomorrow. The Verge. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/31/18162933/public-domain-day-2019-the-pilgrim-jacobs-room-charleston-copyright-expiration
Computational text analysis can be done in virtually any field, from biology to literature. You may use topic modeling to determine which areas are the most heavily researched in your field, or attempt to determine the author of an orphan work. Where can you find text to analyze? So many places! Read on for sources to find unique text content.
Genius started as Rap Genius, a site where rap fans could gather to annotate and analyze rap lyrics. It expanded to include other genres in 2014, and now manages a massive database covering Ariana Grande to Fleetwood Mac, and includes both lyrics and fan-submitted annotations. All of this text can be downloaded and analyzed using the Genius API. Using Genius and a text mining method, you could see how themes present in popular music changed over recent years, or understand a particular artist’s creative process.
The Caselaw Access Project (CAP) is a fairly recent project that is still ongoing, and publishes machine-readable text digitized from over 40,000 bound volumes of case law from the Harvard Law School Library. The earliest case is from 1658, with the most recent cases from June 2018. An API and bulk data downloads make it easy to get this text data. What can you do with huge amounts of case law? Well, for starters, you can generate a unique case law limerick:
Wheeler, and Martin McCoy.
Plaintiff moved to Illinois.
A drug represents.
Rocky was just the decoy.
Check out the rest of their gallery for more project ideas.
There are many places you can get text from digitized newspapers, both recent and historical. Some newspaper are hundreds of years old, so there can be problems with the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that will make it difficult to get accurate results from your text analysis. Making newspaper text machine readable requires special attention, since they are printed on thin paper and have possibly been stacked up in a dusty closet for 60 years! See OCR considerations here, but the newspaper text described here is already machine-readable and ready for text mining. However, with any text mining project, you must pay close attention to the quality of your text.
The Chronicling America project sponsored by the Library of Congress contains digital copies of newspapers with machine-readable text from all over the United States and its territories, from 1690 to today. Using newspaper text data, you can analyze how topics discussed in newspapers change over time, among other things.
Looking for newspapers from a different region? The library has contracts with several vendors to conduct text mining, including Gale and ProQuest. Both provide newspaper text suitable for text mining, from The Daily Mail of London (Gale), to the Chinese Newspapers Collection (ProQuest). The way you access the text data itself will differ between the two vendors, and the library will certainly help you navigate the collections. See the Finding Text Data library guide for more information.
The sources mentioned above are just highlights of our text data collection! The Illinois community has access to a huge amount of text, including newspapers and primary sources, but also research articles and books! Check out the Finding Text Data library guide for a more complete list of sources. And, when you’re ready to start your text mining project, contact the Scholarly Commons (email@example.com), and let us help you get started!
Wikipedia is a central player in online knowledge production and sharing. Since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has been committed to open access and open editing, which has made it the most popular reference work on the web. Though students are still warned away from using Wikipedia as a source in their scholarship, it presents well-researched information in an accessible and ostensibly democratic way.
Most people know Wikipedia from its high ranking in most internet searches and tend to use it for its encyclopedic value. The Wikimedia Foundation—which runs Wikipedia—has several other projects which seek to provide free access to knowledge. Among those are Wikimedia Commons, which offers free photos; Wikiversity, which offers free educational materials; and Wikidata, which provides structured data to support the other wikis.
Wikidata is a great tool to study how Wikipedia is structured and what information is available through the online encyclopedia. Since it is presented as structured data, it can be analyze quantitatively more easily than Wikipedia articles. This has led to many projects that allow users to explore data through visualizations, queries, and other means. Wikidata offers a page of Tools that can be used to analyze Wikidata more quickly and efficiently, as well as Data Access instructions for how to use data from the site.
An example of a project born out of Wikidata is the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI) project. The project uses metadata from Wikidata entries about people to analyze trends in gender disparity over time and across cultures. The project presents the raw data for download, as well as charts and an article written about the discoveries the researchers made while compiling the data. Some of the visualizations they present are confusing (perhaps they could benefit from reading our Lightning Review of Data Visualization for Success), but they succeed in conveying important trends that reveal a bias toward articles about men, as well as an interesting phenomenon surrounding celebrities. Some regions will have a better ratio of women to men biographies due to many articles being written about actresses and female musicians, which reflects cultural differences surrounding fame and gender.
Of course, like many data sources, Wikidata is not perfect. The creators of the WHGI project frequently discovered that articles did not have complete metadata related to gender or nationality, which greatly influenced their ability to analyze the trends present on Wikipedia related to those areas. Since Wikipedia and Wikidata are open to editing by anyone and are governed by practices that the community has agreed upon, it is important for Wikipedians to consider including more metadata in their articles so that researchers can use that data in new and exciting ways.