This month I’ve been making a ton of progress on my project, including building my actual map. I often hear people on campus, especially my students, identify as a “visual person.” Personally, I’ve never felt like I work that way. I think of myself more as an auditory learner, and I rarely find myself naturally thinking about my research data in a visual way. This has been one of the reasons I have found doing a map project so interesting, because it has helped me see my work in new ways and connect different dots that I might have overlooked.
As I have been creating my content, I did not put a lot of time into thinking about about the location of each pin. I vaguely wanted to have a map with some geographic diversity. But I have been focused more on choosing pins that I felt best reflected my topic and figuring out how to craft a clear and engaging description of each pin. Once I started to build my map, I began to notice a number of interesting patterns. Women’s cycling was especially popular in the East Coast, Midwest and the Great Lakes areas, and my dissertation focuses on these regional areas. Yet the content for this project is not evenly distributed across these areas. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that many of the pins are clustered around the major hubs of the bicycling industry — cities and towns with big factories, bicycling magazines, cycling events like races and parades, and lots of bike shops. So far, it seems as though women’s involvement in the bicycling industry very much mirrors the industry itself, and women were less likely to design a new product, work in a shop, or build new frames in areas without a robust cycling scene. This may seem a bit obvious, but it was not to me going in to this project. I was not sure if their involvement would mirror the bicycling industry as a whole. But so far, it seems as though there are some major connections here. While I read all of the locations for each pin, seeing it on the map made this connection much clearer to me. I hope my project will inspire other types of connections as I get ready to launch it next month.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
The grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on murder charges was the first historic event I followed on twitter. I felt helpless, anxious, and inspired as I read the feeds. After a few hours it occurred to me that someone should be archiving this information, but I couldn’t be sure anyone was. How many people do “digital history/humanities” work anyway? So a few hours after the decision was announced I activated an archive on the online tool, Tweet Arivist, to collect all of the tweets on #Ferguson and #MikeBrown. I have now made that archive public on the site Figshare. What follows are some suggestions for how scholars might interact with this twitter data.
Nineteenth-century patents may not seem like the most thrilling subject for scholarly inquiry, but they tell us much more than just meets the eye. Most of us would probably assume that white men filed the majority of patents in the nineteenth-century United States. This is true. Filing a patent required a number of privileges including advanced literacy skills and technical training, but also money to finance the related court costs, especially hiring a lawyer. This does not even include the time and funds required to design and test one’s actual product. As such, Americans who filed patents in the nineteenth century were in many ways not representative of most Americans who lacked such resources.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ‘clairvoyance’ as ‘keenness of mental perception, clearness of insight; insight into things beyond the range of ordinary perception’. Voyant allows users to access a ‘web-based reading and analysis environment’ that encourages scholars with a variety of interests to gain this type of insight into the texts they study.
For my CHI project, I will be using Voyant to explore Shakespeare’s corpus, visually. By searching for terms related to the rise of English artistic theory (see my previous posts for more thorough descriptions of my project), I hope to uncover new ways of understanding some of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays (or even his most hated plays—I’m looking at you, Timon).
In this post I’m going to discuss my project in a bit more detail. As I’ve stated previously, I am interested in the way Renaissance playwrights write about, perform, and otherwise engage with visual art, artists, and artistic theory. So one of the first things I look for when studying this topic is when and how dramatists include visual art as stage properties, painters as characters, or deploy artistic language within dialogue.
For my CHI project, I’ve chosen to focus on Shakespeare’s work since it is accessible and better known to a wider range of people. I’ve also narrowed my scope by focusing on portraiture exclusively. Using Open Source Shakespeare I searched for the following words, each related to Renaissance portraiture: paint, counterfeit, varnish, shadow, table, and perspective. These key words (and their variants) relate to historical usage of artistic terminology. Still, sometimes a table is just a thing with four legs, and not necessarily “a board or other flat surface on which a picture is painted; the picture itself” (OED). So in those cases, I examined the passage to make the determination that term could, in fact, be at least a partial reference to painting.
We all know how complex Shakespeare’s words are so of course these terms pertain to more than just the visual arts. But my reading will focus on these terms because my larger argument (see my larger argument in my dissertation, circa 2016) focuses on the prevalent relationship between Renaissance visual and verbal artists.
Through the lens of the visual specifically, my project explores the ways in which the visual artist, his profession, and his works were used as metadramatic devices to reflect upon the visual nature of drama and its effect. Examining the integration of visual art within drama allows for a new method of understanding the dramatic arts as a counter-paragone medium. That is, while Renaissance artistic and literary theory generally divides forms from each other, (with the intention of privileging one form over others), my reading of these plays suggests that Renaissance visual and textual media are not actually limited by this artificial binary and instead coexist reciprocally through this metadramatic function.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I presented Palladio to the other CHI fellows. Below is a quick graph I created using their web-based visualization tool. While at the moment it contains too much information to be useful (or even very readable), I just wanted to tinker with the platform in order to learn how it works.You can see that my main data points are the keys terms that I listed previously. Each point is sized to correlate to frequency. Aside from that, this graph is pretty difficult to read, but it at least illustrates the degree to which Shakespeare deploys artistic terminology (a lot). Click the image below for a larger view.
This second graph contains less data and is therefore perhaps a bit more easily read and understood. Here, I just (selfishly) included some of my favorite plays and visualized the frequency to which they include my key terms. Click the image below for a larger view.
In the next month or so, I’ll be playing around with the tool, Voyant, which I made reference to last month. I’m curious to see how using their text-based analytical tools might enable me to view this data in a new way.
One of our responsibilities as CHI fellows is to present a workshop on a digital humanities program, tool, or app to the group. I chose to present my workshop on Vizcities, a somewhat new city-based data visualization platform. I was drawn to Vizicities for a few reasons: my scholarly (and not so scholarly) interest in maps and cities, and my desire to take a break from history and discuss a platform that uses contemporary data.
What sets Vizicities apart from other DH map platforms? It combines 3D and live data in one browser-based map. Inspired by SimCity, the creators wanted to build maps which showcase the 3D reality of cities (such as building heights and river depths) and capture live data in those maps. In their development diary, Vizicities has build 3D maps of London which capture live tweets, incoming planes, and even trains in the London Underground.
The creators are particularly excited for the Vizicities’ combination of live and 3D data to assist in urban planning and disaster relief efforts, such as floods, in which it would be key for emergency professionals to have live updates of water levels.
Given my interest in transportation, public space, and urban history, I was struck by the potential of Vizicities for historians. I can easily see historians using Vizicities to study contemporary movement in their city of interest and comparing this data to the same city in their period of study. I can also see sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists diving into Vizicities to study urban areas in a variety of ways. Perhaps as the platform grows, the creators can develop its usability in rural areas as well. Vizicities is currently still in development, and I am looking forward to seeing what scholars can do with this powerful addition to the digital humanities world.