Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Author: Zephyre

Fantasmic Disney Fanatics

Hey there!

This is our final project for this class. Ours is called Fantastic Disney Fanatics. Basically, what we hoped to do with the project was analyze how Disney female characters have changed throughout films over time through reviews from the audience. We cherry picked several movies, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989), Mulan (1998), and Frozen (2013). Afterwards, we analyzed the reviews using Antconc and Voyant. A timeline was created to augment the conclusion. There was a lot of hair-pulling and stress to make the end project turn out the way it did, but I feel as though it is a success. In any case, I hope you all enjoy visiting the site. Leave comments if you wish~

Palladio and Google Fusion Tables Mapping

Palladio Mapping Relationships


GFT Mapping Relationships

Google Fusion Tables

Palladio is an interesting tool to use and is a bit  more complicated than advertised. While other mapping programs were guessable in that the steps used to generate a map could be done by clicking buttons randomly (please take this with a grain of salt – I’m joking for the most part), Palladio would almost certainly require a guide. Additionally, there are glitches in the program when occasionally, the program would freeze. In the tutorial, I tried out both Palladio (the first picture) and Google Fusion Tables (the second picture) for mapping. While Google Fusion Tables also works for a similar result, its functions are nowhere as in depth as Palladio. It is, however, easier to use. As seen in the picture, both have a function that depicts what type of relationship people have to each other. Google Fusion Tables does utilize color and directional arrows, and Palladio does offer a function that allows a person to switch off between two data sets. The advantages of Palladio and Google Fusion Tables are clear. For me, I’d prefer using Google Fusion Tables for the ease of use and when I wanted to make something more visually appealing. However, Palladio would be the main choice if I were to seriously map out relationships for the purpose of studying them.

This time around, I focused mainly on Palladio. The uses of Palladio consist mostly of mapping out relationships between two or more things, represented by nodes and edges, as explained by Scott Weingart in his article, “Demystifying Networks.” It is useful not only for mapping out relationships but also seeing how people connect with each other. As Kieran Healy demonstrates in her article, “Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere,“ she is able to utilize several matrices and mapping tools to not only show who has a relationship with each other but which of their parties connect the most. In the present-day setting, something like this would be extremely useful for ferreting out hostile groups. And even if not for that, it would still prove to be useful in gathering data, allowing a person to more accurately aim their advances towards the right group (i.e. attempting to research a certain topic and going around talking to related individuals.

Palladio Mapping Relationships

Palladio with sized nodes to depict the prevalence of person

Palladio Mapping Relationships 2

Palladio timeline

In the example I used, the data set was of primarily the relationships of Ralph Neumann to others. The relationship network demonstrates who was a giver and who was a recipient of help (if not both) during the time of the Holocaust. Ralph Neumann was hiding underground along with several other people to escape prosecution. Here, as opposed to the first picture of Palladio, I used sized nodes show the people who were connected with each other the most and those who received the most help. As this is a data set on Neumann, naturally, he had the biggest node of all. There was also a timeline function that allowed a person to edit the time of help, which can be seen in the second picture.

Palladio Tutorial

Cushman Collection Palladio Graph


The Cushman Collection Palladio Graph shows the amount of photographs taken throughout the years. The photographs document the United States and various other countries. In this graph, it shows that the most photographs were taken in 1952. On the other hand, 1942 seemed to be a year with very few photographs taken.  Charles W. Cushman appears to be quite fond of Identification photographs, seeing as most of the pictures depicted on the graph are of that type (I highlighted the key in the graph such that the light blue would show Identification photos).

Spatial History v. History

Spatial history is different from reading about history through passages in several ways. While a history attempts to chronologize a certain time, offering a linear glimpse of the past, spatial history offers a more comprehensive understanding of the past, overlaying various mediums to visualize and explore the relationships of objects (i.e. people, locations, etc.). In Frank’s words, the advantages of using spatial history are as follows: “1.) the possibility of creating multiple interlinked narratives; 2.) the possible integration of images, maps, commentary, and primary sources in the same field of vision; and 3). the ability to curate and shape the reader/viewer’s experience, with nudges as well as explicit direction, allowing for a hybrid experience in which exploration of the material is conducted with the aid of an unobtrusive but effective guide.” The disadvantages are as follows: “1). the danger of getting lost, of missing major aspects of the larger argument owing to the lack of a single unifying narrative line, and 2). the risk of simple cognitive overload or dissipation of energy in clicking through various strings of linked material on the site.”

Richard Pryor’s Peoria can be considered spatial history as it is not merely a history of Peoria, although the creator of the website has added the typical historical aspects. Scott Saul also augments the history with “alternative media–namely,…interactive websites filled with links to primary documents and short filmed sequences designed to provide a visually rich narrative pathway into the material for novice users.”  Through the website, users of the website can interact with various aspects of Peroria and formulate their own opinions rather than just merely believe in a single written history. In that way, the illustrations also become the basis of arguments rather than mere documents that are taken at face value.

Richard Pryor's Peoria

If I could do a spatial history, I would do it on the life of classical musicians. It’s interesting to note where the musicians came from and what influenced their music. Not only does location play a part in that, but their interactions with other musicians and acquaintances do, too. If I created a website, I’d add a list of composers who worked with each other and a history of their interactions with possible influences. Their personalities and life history would be something I’d research as well, allowing others to understand why a composer may have written a certain piece. As an additional resource, musical terms would help teach a person how to read a piece, giving in depth knowledge of the emotions that go into writing it.

Perpetua and Felicitas: Is Martyrdom Worth It?

The story of Perpetua and Felicitas is a tale of Christians preferring martyrdom over recanting their faith. They find strength in their friendship and companionship with the remainder of those captured, particularly as they are thrown to beasts. A particularly moving example of faith is exemplified by Perpetua who chooses to become a martyr despite all of her family’s attempts at persuading her, voluntarily dying for her faith. She is not even a full Christian yet, merely a catechumen, a young convert or initiate. In the end, all of those who choose to die rather than recant their faith eventually go out peacefully with the knowledge that they have performed their duty.

Martyrdom is an interesting concept. It makes a person wonder what is worth dying for. Some people would say nothing, as a life is one’s own and he or she only has that one life to live for. Others will say it is worth it to save the life/lives of another – equivalent exchange in other words. And perhaps the strangest reason for me is for the sake of a religion or belief. I am not a religious person nor do I hold any belief strong enough such that I would die for it, which is perhaps why dying for religion or belief is something alien to me. For that, I can only say that a life is not worth an idea.

Theoretically, martyrdom is performed as an expression of the deepest faith. It appears to make sense; to galvanize and encourage the remainder of those who hold the same beliefs, show them it’s worth dying for. As the reading explained, Jesus, the focus of Christianity, was one who became a martyr. As martyrdom is something rare, anyone who commits to it is seen as incredible, a person worthy of admiration. However, you then have to question if beliefs are worth the price of  a life or lives. Many will be encouraged by the moving action, but when faced with a similar persecution, will they also do the same? The reading from PBS appears to suggest that they won’t. Additionally, as an individual, it is not worth it. Disregarding the idea of equivalent exchange, an individual’s death impacts those who are closest to him or her. Dying for one’s faith, despite encouraging the remainder of the believers, will yet cause pain an anguish to family members and friends, perhaps those who a person should truly be living for.

Perpetua’s case particularly baffles me, as she voluntarily throws herself at the governor, asking to become a martyr. She is not captured nor is she actively pursued. And yet, she chooses to die, very much throwing away her life when she has no need to do so. It is one thing to become a martyr when captured. It is a completely separate matter to do so intentionally without reason save for belief. Should all others commit to the same action, there would be no one left of the belief to follow it and teach it to others (of course, that is highly unlikely, but it still stands). There are better uses for a life aside from voluntary suicide, for that is what it is.

Institutions and Their Databases


I will be emphatically refuting many things from Terra’s blog post. It is probably best not to comment on this post or even read it unless you don’t mind me ranting. Also, I don’t have a lot of experience with using online databases to digitally render new materials, so what I say may potentially be very biased and uninformed. And for that, I apologize.

The maker’s revolution does allow for new material to arise, but unlike what Melissa Terra states in her blog, not all information should be made available, as there are certain sensitive bits of information out there, as Leopold states in our other reading. Not all individuals wants their information (cultural or otherwise) easily accessible by everyone else. We have to take peoples’ personal ideals into account. Additionally, if some people do want their information in the air but does not want it to be reused, that is also their right. Institutions do not get to choose. The original authors do. If not them, the law does. And institutions have to obey the law. This has nothing to do with cowardice, as Terra puts it. In fact, you could make the argument that if she weren’t such a coward, she’d use the copyrighted material herself. (She does say other people will use the copyright material regardless, but that carries less weight than for an actual institution to allow it.)

Terra explains of how difficult it is to search for material using existing institutional databases, desiring for them to use a better platform. What Melissa Terra is asking is for institutions to create a system to help galvanize the maker’s revolution when they have no interest in doing so. I say she is asking for them to create a new platform, as she stresses that existing platforms are unwieldy to use. She also does not give out an alternative platform to use. In any case, I was curious to see if using the databases were as difficult as she claimed, so I decided to try one for myself using “Europeana”, one of the websites she provides. As I stated earlier, I do not have a lot of experience with creating items or using databases to search for cultural materials to use in projects, so perhaps my view does not coincide with that of a participant of the maker’s revolution. I found searching for information to be fairly easy, filtering out objects with key words. I did not need a set cherry-picked files to easily choose images from, which is something she also advocates for (I also feel that cherry-picked files make it such that creativity is lost – everyone would be using those files so they would no longer be creative).

TL:DR: Institutions exist to categorize and put forth information. They do not have the responsibility of galvanizing the maker’s revolution.

On Privacy and Computers

When it comes to technology, privacy is a difficult thing. Due to the nature of the internet, once information is released, it is difficult to take back down. Even if ID Protection is purchased, as our reading explained, that information is still hackable or may not actually be hidden by the website administrators. The Ashley Madison case is an example of that. Truly, if there is a way to hide information, it would be to not give it out through the internet. This also ties back to the other reading as well. Once information is out, “crowdforcing,” as the author puts it, may occur. “Crowdforcing” is when information is shared without the consent of the owner. This is not unique only to information on the internet. Any information that relies on technology is susceptible to it, for example, smartphones. While certain information may not be harmful, nowadays, information like genetics have surfaced, which may lead to discrimination. As technology advances, so too, must the norms and ethics behind it.

I’ve learned about fair use and copyright only slightly. Especially with the internet these days, it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain ownership (or rather, keep its use private). Media is something that has been impacted in particular. Music is freely downloaded and pictures are used liberally without the permission of the owner. Perhaps some websites will take down copyrighted material, but there will always be more cropping up if not on that website, then on another. Many people don’t even know they are infringing copyright as they post information without realizing it. In these days, technology does enhance the difficulty of maintaining the law.

Regarding ethics, it is difficult to do no harm,especially in the realm of nonfiction. Perhaps for research, it is easier as facts are nigh immutable. However, for nonfiction, words are spoken to the discretion of the speaker which may be interpreted differently depending on the individual. At the end of the day, it is difficult to do no harm to whoever you represent as a seemingly innocuous bit of information may yet prove to be inciting to that person or to the public. However, it is correct to say that you should do your best not to do harm.


Technology and Our Fellow Users

As a person who does not have a major disability that makes it difficult to view information displayed on a technological apparatus, I have not paid much attention to the difficulties a person may face if he or she has one. However, from my limited experience, I do have to admit there are not a lot of resources to help. Perhaps, for those who are slightly visually impaired, they will have to rely on enlarging the website (using the zoom function). I have that problem (my eyesight is horrendous) and frequently find myself having to adjust the lighting and sizing of the page. But for those who are completely blind, they do not even have that luxury. They have to rely on a program that reads the information for them.

I agree with William in regard to the difficulties of navigating a page based on listening. Not only is not fast enough, it is also tedious to have to listen to things that are not relevant to what a person may be searching for. Although his program will help reduce extraneous information, there remains a plethora of text to filter through. It is also not fail-proof and will need to be customized to fit a person’s need depending on what degree of disability and what type of disability he or she faces. It is for that reason I cannot agree to an universal design, another point William makes on that matter.

Although having an universal design will suffice for the average person, regardless of extra cost or aesthetics, universal design cannot service everybody. It is correct to say sidewalk curb cuts allow people in wheelchairs easier accessibility to streets, but those individuals easily have more accommodations in their own private dwellings customized to them more so than what is seen outside. My point is that as technology functions as personal tools, there should be a certain degree of customization rather than just a single universal design. Yes, the cost may be greater, but if there is a market for it, surely, some will commit to undertaking extra measures in order to guarantee that extra customization.

There is also the matter of human compassion. In order to make the lives of our fellow inhabitants easier, rather than slot them in as an ordinary person, they should be afforded the extra details such that they are able to experience the full range of functions others are able to enjoy. Take note that I do not intend to insult or discriminate. Rather, should there be something that increases the comfort (or rather, the ease of use in this case) for a person, it should be done. In the end, I say all of this with good intentions, but it would be derelict of me to suppose what those with disabilities would desire. It would therefore be best to create a poll that would confirm or deny such thoughts. In that way, personal beliefs (and corporate ones, too) will not impede what would work best for those disabled.

Digital Humanities: What And Why

Digital humanities are the research of the technology and humanities and how they intersect with each other.

While that is the definition of the phrase, the actual study of it is more complicated than merely that. As Mark Sample explains in “The Digital Humanities is Not about Building, It’s about Sharing,” there have been debates of whether the digital humanities should be practical application (for lack of a better phrase) or theoretical. However, rather than the production of knowledge for either points, it should be the reproduction, “the way the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.”  Sample puts an emphasis on the new forms of communication, trusting it to be what the digital humanities is about, noting that communication is how the communication will aid in identifying who is credible.

While what the author writes is true, that the digital humanities center around sharing information, that is not what the digital humanities are about. Sharing plays a huge role, but the actual study banks on, as Sample himself explains, either the practical application or the theoretical. The new forms of media are merely the vehicles that propel the idea forward.

Lisa Spiro appears to be in accordance with Sample’s idea that there have been debates concerning what the digital humanities are about. However, she takes a more proactive view on how the definition of the digital humanities should be settled, attempting to identify certain regulations that will make the digital humanities and its researchers more credible and legitimate. She suggests a statement of values that will unify said researchers as it will set a common goal, and further explains how to develop one. Spiro emphasizes that the community must come together and agree on a set value in order for it to have a value. However, the digital humanities is quite different from other traditional studies, having different focuses, making it difficult to define in a traditional sense. the digital humanities’ intrinsic values are vastly different as well, the internet being a novel medium of freedom and morality. The author brings all of the information together by proposing values, including openness, collaboration, diversity, and several others.

In class, we learned about the various programs and theories behind the digital humanities that seem to promulgate what the digital humanities are about. Voyant is a tool that aids in capturing the style of writers, dissecting their words and comparing them to other writers, representing the “practical aspect.” On the other hand, representing the theoretical, myriads of articles explain of the hazards or benefits of digital devices. Just as other studies encompass both a practical and theoretical aspect, so do the digital humanities. Both forms add to the knowledge of how technology has changed humans and vice versa. Thus, the importance of studying the digital humanities lies in what we gain from the studies; an understanding of the impacts of technology and how we can further/stop using the technology should it prove to be beneficial/harmful to us.

Voyant on Dataset #2

Voyant is a particularly interesting tool to use to help a person with dissecting various writings. As the assignment was to use it on a dataset, I used Voyant to examine dataset #2.

The first thing I did was to apply the word filter, English (Taporware) to the documents. After filtering out commonly used words, I found “said” to be the most popular word used throughout the documents. “Said” is frequently used in fictional novels, denoting spoken words from a character. Thus, it can be inferred that dataset #2 most likely tells a story of some sort. This is further confirmed by the following most recurring words, “God” and “Christ.” Those words additionally hint that the dataset potentially contains scriptures.

After learning about the subject of the documents, I continued to analyze popular recurring words using the word cloud. “Judgement” and “martyrdom” popped up, as did “tyrant” and “emperor.” The combination of words suggests that the scriptures have a common theme of facing torture and tribulations from a person in power (lord, emperor, etc.) and choosing to follow God’s teaching rather than to submit. Essentially, the theme is martyrdom.

Word Cloud Voyant

Following my analysis of the subject and theme, I turned to word patterns to further my analysis. I wasn’t surprised to find that “judge”, “death”, “tortures”, and “life” were commonly seen together. However, I was surprised to find that “martyrdom” and “death” were not frequently seen together, as martyrdom nearly always means a certain death. Of this, I won’t be able to understand perhaps unless I read the actual documents.

Word Comparison VoyantWord Comparison Voyant 2

In the end, using Voyant to analyze text was an interesting experience. It can certainly help in ascertaining which author wrote which pieces and how the author writes stylistically. However, aside from those niche functions, Voyant does not have many other uses. Perhaps when applied to the internet, it can help filter websites. But when it is used by itself to discern what the theme or subject of a text is about, it would be more prudent to scan the various documents. Key words and frequency of use only go so far. There is a lot of guesswork and analysis in doing that in comparison to doing some light reading. Additionally, using it to discern the location of certain words is also somewhat pointless, as “control f” works as well as Voyant to locate said words. It also does so without having to filter the whole passage or page into a program that takes minutes to reveal text information.

Aside from the usefulness of the program intrinsically, Voyant may cause problems for those going to school in terms of learning how to research. Of research, Voyant may oversimplify research to the point where students won’t understand how to research in the future. Alternatively, students may rely on the program such that they miss pivotal information that may help them in their research – side information that adds to the quality of their work. If most students worked on the same topic, they all may retrieve the same information due to the use of Voyant, thus relegating the point of research moot.

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