Data Visualization and Network Analysis

After working with our own data and creating our own network this week, I learned that everything has to follow the same format in oder for it to work correctly. As we looked at our network on RAW, we started coming up with different questions and realized we needed more information/data in order to answer those questions. I’d imagine that this is how some, if not most of DHer’s research questions come about.

Data visualization and network analysis are important tools in the DH field when used appropriately and correctly. Like Scott Weingart said in his Demystifying Networks blog, “networks can be used on any project. Networks should be used on far fewer.”

Data visualization and network analysis provide an easier way to look at the information/data you gathered and help develop questions. I’m anxious to see if we will use it for our final project and if so, how we will use it. Will it work the same as our in class lab with raw? Will we come up with different questions/angles to our project along the way?

I also enjoyed looking at Kindred Britain this week. It’s nice to get a chance to explore different types of DH projects and see how much work and effort go into them. I think that’s also where humanists draw a line; more tools, less understanding, more effort. We talked a couple weeks ago about this ongoing battle between digital humanists and humanists and how they’re both limiting themselves from the benefits of the other. A traditional humanist might not understand the benefits of data visualization tools and creating a digital networks because it’s over their heads and it probably seems overwhelmingly difficult and complex. However, (coming from an inexperienced and beginner “DHer”) after working with these tools I can confidently say that they do have their benefits. Working with our own data and creating a network last week proved to me that these tools seem scary and complicated, but they don’t have to be. You’re providing with the data, you’re in charge, and these tools are just there to assist you.

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Coding in DH

Now that I’m getting to know more and more about DH I can confidently say, it’s a lot of WORK. We did just a small portion of that work this past week when we were introduced and played around with command line. Code isn’t something I prefer doing, or even something I saw myself doing a few months ago. Although it’s relatively easy to follow instructions, when using code I’ve learned you have to make sure you’re following the correct instructions, step by step, or nothing will work. I guess that could be where this whole building vs. critiquing thing could come in as well. Personally, I don’t think all DHers need to know/learn code. Collaboration is an important part of DH, so it’s fine if there’s a DH who doesn’t know how to do code, I think they should just be able to understand it and how it works.

To backtrack a little, I never even knew digital humanities existed until I saw it on the CAL website. I was originally a Spanish minor (after 7 years of Spanish your brain works in two languages…ALL THE TIME) and I wasn’t having that. Plus I think computers and technology will be taking over the world one day and I wanna make sure I know more about how to use different things that will benefit me more rather than another language. But I guess computers have their own language(s) as well, and coding must be one of them. Basically I didn’t want to spend my time studying something people can use Google Translator for.

One day I hope to have the opportunity to create things and work on projects like the ones we saw while visiting Matrix. I want to be an asset to a technologically advanced world (where people first search the internet for information, rather than the books in the library). I mean people use the internet in order to search for books in the library and its a very valuable asset to have, which i’m also assuming is DH work or could be DH work?

Anyways, coding is definitely not something I saw myself doing and now I’m using code in two of my classes. Personally, I like using GitHub and TextWrangler for coding in my other class (I think it’s easier), but using command line with Terminal was definitely interesting to use. It’s pretty crazy how I’ve went from not knowing anything about code or coding tools a couple months ago to critiquing other tools now. Every time I use a computer now I think about the amount of coding and effort someone put into creating each website, application, etc. It’s amazing what computers are capable of, and it’s amazing what DH is capable of. I can’t wait to learn more about it and continue with our project.

A Different Look at DH

It was great to read some alternative theories about DH last week compared to what we’ve been reading. In Differences 25.1, both Matthew Kirschenbaum and Richard Grusin shed light on the idea of builders vs. critiquers; that DH is looking at someone else’s work. I thought it was interesting that Grusin questioned whether or not some things are considered DH work or not, because I wonder the same thing. I suppose the answers to that question would be different depending on who you’re talking to.

In class we talked about how DH brings intrinsic value to humanities. There seems to be this ongoing battle between traditional and digital humanities. Will traditional humanities still exist in the future, assuming that technology will continue to advance? Why do traditional and digital humanities remain so separate?

I really liked reading Trevor Owen’s Where to Start? On Research Questions in the Digital Humanities too. When researching a question for a DH project he suggests to “fit the tool to the question,” which I thought was pretty insightful. That’s not something someone would typically think about. He also explains that you don’t have to pick a research question to start your projects, and your questions can always change. The purpose of a question is to clarify what’s in the project and define where it should start and end.

We began brainstorming and taking notes for our own DH project and followed Owen’s steps to research design, which looks to be pretty useful so far (goals, conceptional framework, research questions, methods, and validity concerns). I’m looking forward to beginning our project in order to understand more about DH and its tools.

As we continue to read I’m starting to realize how complex DH really is and I’m feeling more comfortable as I learn more because even true DHers don’t know everything about it.

Kirschenbaum said a really compelling statement in his essay about DH that really got me thinking: “We will never know what digital humanities is because we don’t want to know nor is it useful for us to know.” What is useful to know about DH? Everyone seems to have their own very different definitions of DH, most likely because it’s a complex field and can be studied in so many different ways. I guess I won’t really know my own definition until I get more involved with it. I’m eager to start working and talking more about our class project this week.

MATRIX and DH in the library

After going to the MATRIX lab, watching the What is Matrix video prior to our visit, and listening to Ethan Watrall talk about projects like South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy and Slave Biographies, I now realize the amount of time and effort that is put towards building, archiving, and preserving.

In Abby Smith’s article Preservation she mentions objects that are “born-digital”. She says “the more normalized and standard a digital object is, the easier it is for a digital repository to take it in.” This reminds me of when we were taking about the Rosetti Archive and the difficulties in preserving physical artwork digitally vs. non-digitally. For example, if you’re adding a piece of physical artwork onto the web it’s not going to look the exact same on a screen as it would on the physical piece itself. Things that are “born-digital” or created online would be easier to transfer and preserve, because they’re made for digital purposes.

Both the trips to the MATRIX and the library really put DH in a better perspective for me. I think being able to see a lot of actual DH work and talk with people in the field is very beneficial. Both centers mentioned the amount of people, effort, and time it takes to preserve projects as well, which is something I never really thought about before.

I also thought it was interesting when Thomas mentioned the difference between “data is” and “data are.” I’ve always used the phrase “data is” because that is what my teachers, professors, and peers have said in the past, and because I think it sounds better. Now I realize I may want to consider using data are after thinking about data as multiple pieces of information that form a whole, rather than just one whole itself.

This week’s trips to MATRIX and the library really gave me a better idea about DH itself, and all of the work that typically gets put into one single project.

Linguistics, Multimedia, and Robotic Poetry

After reading this past weeks articles I began to think about media and linguistics in a different way. In Thomas Rommel’s article Literary Studies he quotes John Burrow, “it is a truth not generally acknowledged that, in most discussions of works of English fiction, we proceed as if 1/3, 2/5, or 1/2 of our material were not really there.” DH gives us a different and more analytic approach when looking at text. Recently we’ve worked with a website called Voyant,where we could see the themes, common words, and times a word was said in a text, or many texts. It’s weird that we don’t realize so many things unless it is brought to our attention. For example, I never really thought about IF (interactive fiction) being used in so many things i’ve seen and used on the Internet, however, it’s there and it’s a part of DH. We also got a chance to look further into multimedia this week. I took a class (Intro to Multimedia Journalism) in the past and that was even a lot to work with; studying all of the different platforms available in journalistic writing, as well as when and why to use which one. There are so many things that contain multimedia this day in age, especially since technology is constantly improving. I enjoyed looking at the Rosetti Archive, and Blake’s Contraries Games (based on the William Blake Archive). They both expressed that when things are “born digital” you typically don’t run into translation problems (as opposed to translating a piece of physical artwork onto the web). They also emphasized that multimedia contains many layers of meaning because they are both text and images. An archive/metadata are capable of putting together and organizing information so we’re able to access it and understand it, but can it organize meaning? Or will it ever?

Another aspect of our reading I thought was interesting was Robotic Poetry, which is a link, or relationship between language and robots. Is robotic poetry an art like actual poetry? It definitely isn’t capable of expressing emotion like actual poetry, but it is however, artsy and creative. “Actual” poetry is an odd term to use, is there an actual definition of poetry? Poems can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve never personally read a “wrong” or not real” poem, so i’m not sure if any one person can say that robotic poetry isn’t poetry. Sure, it doesn’t have an actual author besides the site you used to create it but it’s still a poem. RP are poems generated by a computer system that follow rules and codes that a human tells it to. I enjoyed getting a chance to understand it a little more when we used OULIPO rules and generated our own robotic poem. RP really is a cool concept.

After learning all of these different concepts and aspects of DH this week, I think I can now actually confirm that DH is very broad. However, is DH more of an analysis, creating things, or both? I think both. Humanists are analyst, they don’t just consume. Digital Humanists, analyze and create, so your average user can access and understand what you analyzed through what you created. I can’t wait to start experimenting with more DH tools so I can get a better understanding of what this is all about.

Screwing Around

“There have always been two ways to deal with a library.”

Yes I’m sure we’ve all experienced both ways, whether we’ve realized it or not. In Stephen Ramsay’s The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books he talks about these two ways, which I found interesting.

To Ramsay, there is a searching way to navigate a library, and also a browsing way. Search is where you know what you’re looking for and browsing…well, it’s more like screwing around.

I’ve never thought about the different ways people navigate around a library and what they mean, but I’ve now noticed that I’ve used both ways without realizing it. Sometimes I may start a search for information for a paper and at times I’d end up in a browsing standpoint (whether it’s for my paper or just stuff I find interesting). I like that browsing/screwing around allows you to create your own path and lets your interests guide you, as opposed to searching where you’re there to get certain information and certain information only. “Will screwing around become the new research method?” Is a question to think about…and I think it very well could be.

Ramsay states a problem in his article that I think really explains exactly what humanists, especially DHers may run into, “That much information probably exceeds our ability to create reliable guides to it.”

DH uses tools and resources to put certain groups of information or texts in one single place so it’s easier to search for and navigate. When there’s too much information there’s no way there could be one place to put it all. That quote kind of breaks down what DH is about “creating reliable guides”. Ramsay uses the Library of Congress as an example because it contains over 500 human lifetimes of text! I’m curious to know how much really is too much information? I

After reading about IF which i’m still trying to understand), it’s weird to think that so many things i’ve seen or used on the web are a part of DH. Last week I also learned that CAPTCHAs not only help secure websites from bots, but also help the computer look at texts the way we do. We’ve looked at and talked about a lot of interesting things involving DH and I’m looking forward to learning a lot more. I can’t wait to start the class project and use different DH tools and resources to actually help me understand and apply all of the information we’ve been reading about.

Although I’m still trying to get a feel for DH and understand exactly what it’s all about, Ramsay’s inevitable and compelling statements make it much more interesting and exciting.

“Somewhere in there lies a manifesto for what the world looks like when digital humanities becomes the humanities.”

History of Humanities Computing

After reading Susan Hockey’s article The History of Humanities Computing, I’m very excited to learn more about DH this semester. It was interesting to see how humanities computing evolved since the idea was originated, especially with each technological advance. A time I thought was interesting was in the 1990’s when the Internet was introduced. The World Wide Web consolidated a new era, produced new ideas in humanities computing, and brought a new and more interesting perspective in other research, academia, and the public. 

“The expansion of access to electronic resources fostered by the Web led to other areas of theoretical interest in humanities computing. Electronic resources became objects of study in themselves and were subjected to analysis by a new group of scholars, some of whom had little experience of the technical aspects of the resources,” (Hockey). 

Electronics and technology has been a big part of society’s majority ever since it was introduced. Each of those things have a tremendous influence on the way one lives their lives. I’m looking forward to getting to learn and become familiar with computers and also the resources and tools I’ll be using in my DH class. 

In Hockey’s article she also talked about certain codes and things involved in humanities computing and it reminded me a lot about the things i’ll be doing in my Intro to Web Authoring class as well. I’m pretty confident when I say I know the basics about computers, and I can’t wait to learn more. After all, as you can see if you read Hockey’s article that times are changing and technology and electronics keep improving, and you should too (if you’ll be using them of course).

This semester I’m looking forward to learning more about computers and improving my skills, and I’m anxious to get my projects started.