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2015 March

royston7

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March 27, 2015

Voyant: DH in the Classroom

March 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

In recent years, teachers in the humanities have begun to see the importance of incorporating technology into our research—if only to make our lives a little bit easier. This change in the way we conduct research has also extended into our classrooms. I aim to adapt my classroom so that it mirrors how students are interacting with the world today, and a large part of that adjustment includes making use of current technology. At times, this has not been an easy evolution, as we all too often teach in the way that we ourselves learned. But not every student we encounter shares our innate love for literature. This means that we must do the best we can to make literature both accessible and interesting to students of the 21st century.

Because I am using Voyant for my CHI fellowship project, I also intend to use this tool in my classroom. This summer I will teach an Integrated Arts and Humanities course online. Largely intended for non-majors, the course title is, ‘Literature and the Environment: Self, Society, and Nature’. I’ve been brainstorming the ways in which this tool might benefit or otherwise engage non-majors in this subject. Here are some of my collected thoughts on using Voyant in the classroom:

The use of Voyant helps me integrate my research with my teaching. Students using Voyant are engaging in the same type of research in which I engage. And students new to literary studies see that they can engage in collaborative, digital, and visual methods of literary research. They see that literary studies is not limited to the solitary act of reading, with a professorial figure largely directing the meaning of what they read the night before. Instead, students using Voyant can look for patterns or uncover interesting facets of the text themselves—creating a truly student-centered learning experience.

Students might track the use of a particular term (or a set of related terms) over the entirety of a novel or play. Perhaps students are asked to locate and then visualize the use of seasonal terms throughout a text; does the use of these terms change in frequency or in terms of specific seasons; how might particular uses draw our eye to pivotal passages within a text?

Or, students can relate texts to one another over the course of a semester by tracking and then visualizing the same terms over a variety of texts. There is potential for finding surprising connections or conversely, locating defining differences between texts. Using Voyant in this way may initiate conversations regarding the connectedness of texts; students see how texts from different authors, time periods, genres, etc. are similar or different.

One of the benefits of Voyant is its accessibility. It is extremely user-friendly and the visualizations users create are easily exportable. Students can use Voyant just once (no log-in or download required), for a simple homework or in-class individual or collaborative assignment. Further, this assignment can be extremely student-centered if students are allowed to pursue their own curiosities. Using this text mining and visualization tool to provide proof of the significance of their interest, students learn the value of evidence in forming a thesis. Lastly, of course Voyant may be used as a formative assessment in support of a larger assessment like a traditional research paper.

Voyant might be especially useful for helping students engage with poetry—a genre that demands attention to detail, sometimes at the level of a single word. Or, for example, students might track the use of pronouns throughout a poetry anthology as a way to reflect upon the speakers and/or subjects.

Lastly, Voyant might be used for non-literary texts. News articles, blog posts, or journal articles could be tracked visually. And perhaps the most interesting use of Voyant might be for students to track their own writing. This would be especially useful as an end of the term project as students reflect on the papers they completed for class. This assignment would allow students to see what their engagements with the texts were, allowing greater insight into who they are as scholars.

The limitations to this tool are slim, but should be considered. Texts must be uploaded to Voyant; therefore the text must be in a digital format. Also, I’ve used Voyant in some sophisticated ways, tracking dozens of terms through thirty or so texts and in this way, I’ve reached some of the limitations of the tool; but these are less likely to occur in semester-length student assignments. Lastly, with the use of many digital tools, accommodations might need to be made for students with special learning needs.

It is my view that Voyant is an excellent tool for reaching students, especially those new to literary students, or students new to the digital humanities. Visualizations can start conversations, they can be created collaboratively, or analyzed collaboratively. Further, Voyant can be used in the face-to-face, hybrid, or digital learning environments. I encourage humanities instructors to use this tool and to cater it to their individual interests, or better yet, their students’ interests.

becca hayes

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March 20, 2015

Mapping Street Harassment Activism

March 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Washington Post called 2014 the year that street harassment became a public conversation. As someone who studies activist rhetorics about street harassment and the impact of digital technologies on rhetorical historiography, I was keeping a close eye on the events that contributed to the rise in discourse around street harassment in public spaces, particularly digital ones, like Twitter and Youtube.

One of those events, was a video called, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” produced by Rob Bliss Creative, and released on YouTube on October 28, 2014 by Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization, self-described as “a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world.” The video is an edited 2-minute clip of a “conventionally beautiful woman” who walked through NYC for 10 hours and experienced over a 100 incidents of street harassment.

In its first day online, the video had over 10 million views  and, in its first month, over 37 million views and nearly 140,000 comments on YouTube. There are also hundreds of videos, video responses, blogs, and born-digital media articles that mimic, support, mock, and lambast the video, makers, funders, research methods, subjects, politics, agenda.  In short, the video played a key part in the exploding public conversations about street harassment in public and digital spaces.

Watching that public conversation unfold, I became interested in how people took up the video’s format of filming someone walking in public spaces for extended amounts of time to problematize mainstream, non-profit , white, feminist anti-street harassment activism.

For the initial phase of my CHI project this spring,  I use Mapbox Studio as a tool to begin curating, mapping, and rhetorically analyzing a small sample of the videos that employ the “10 Hours of Walking…” format.  Some of those videos include “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman in Hijab,” “10 Hours of Walking in Paris as a Jew,” “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a White Man,” and “10 Hours of Walking in Seattle as an Asian.” I’m particularly interested in ways in which the video creators’ adapt the  “10 Hours of Walking…” meme as a productive way to draw attention to the the complexity of interactions between movement in public spaces and seemingly visible identity markers such as race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality. nationality, and ability.

neejerch

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March 16, 2015

Thinking Research & Preservation at the Library of Congress

March 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

photoThis spring break I was lucky enough to visit the Library of Congress in Washington, DC to conduct research on my dissertation, and to specifically look at materials for my CHI project.
At the LOC, I worked my way through thousands of pages of documents from the bicycling industry and nineteenth-century bicycle culture. The LOC has a collection of rare cycling magazines and periodicals from the 1890s which have yet to be digitized. Most of the sources for my project have already been digitized, such as major newspapers, government reports, popular magazines, and women’s rights documents. My major tasks involve reading them, organizing them, and building bridges to connect brief mentions of my topic into a larger narrative. My work at the LOC was quite different. With nothing but stacks of periodicals which filled up many shelves, I spent my week flipping through each volume page by page, looking for any discussion of women cyclists. I read article after article from what then were popular magazines such as The Wheelman’s Gazette, American Cyclist, and Cycling Life. These periodicals were designed and published primarily for male bicyclists, but members of the bicycling industry also read them regularly. While men’s cycling dominated these magazines, reporters did discuss women’s cycling at times, and some magazines even published regular columns specifically by and for women riders. In these columns, women shared bicycling tips, discussed new gear, and extolled the pleasures of riding to those new to the sport. The columnists often highlighted women’s role in the bicycling industry, especially as inventors and work in retail.
Digging through all of these periodicals page by page made me even more appreciative and passionate about digital preservation. Many of these periodicals are damaged and showing great signs of wear. Some are falling apart at the binding, and others are so fragile that LOC staff was unable to let me view them. One periodical was even lost in the stacks, and despite the help of a few librarians, was unable to be found. These materials are increasingly at risk for decay and damage as time passes, and they seem like a perfect candidate for digital preservation so they can be available to future scholars and scholars who cannot access the LOC.
Lisa Bright

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March 9, 2015

Mapping Tools

March 9, 2015 | By | One Comment

When my CHI project shifted from database driven to my new mapping focus I had a decision to make; which mapping tool to use? There are many great tools available for free, or for limited cost, but there were a few key aspects I needed to consider.

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