Introduction to Digital Humanities

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

Author: Kyle C.

Quoth the Raven

Quoth the Raven: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe


Kyle Cookerly

Kat Elliott

Ashley Colombo


Our project was to examine transcripts of Poe’s writings in an effort to reach two main conclusions. First, our goal was to determine if the content and the themes of his work changed over time or if they stayed roughly the same over the course of his relatively short writing career. Second, we wanted to determine if the themes of his work reflected the hardships or triumphs that he was faced with during his life, in their relation to the time he wrote them. In addition to our findings on this topic, more content about the life and works of Poe can be found by clicking the above link and visiting our page.

Palladio Example

This is a visual representation of the Cushman Collection of photographs and the locations of their source material. The map was created using the software Palladio.

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Digitial Maps, Helpful or Hurtful?

Our reading this week seems to, at least in a small way, bring us back to our readings and discussions a few weeks ago about whether or not cultural heritage should be digitized or not, and the potential problems with doing so. While that discussion was mainly taking into account the importance of the items and heritage to groups of people, and how it should or should not be shared, the readings by Patricia Seed suggest that digitizing other forms content, specifically maps, can also have significant drawbacks that in some cases outweigh the benefits.

The practice of digitizing maps, according to Seed, has many important benefits for those who want to have access to them without needing the original copy or a large print reproduction. The reality of accessing maps prior digital scans and photographs of the original physical copy did not allow for easy viewing and comparisons to the original maps to be made. Now, rather than taking a large book or a cut out page to a location of an original map to compare the two, everything can be stored on a flash drive that can be plugged into any computer.

civil_war_mapHowever, Seed argues that there are potential serious drawbacks if great care is not taken to preserve the original integrity of the work. In the reading, Seed recalled when she requested to view a scanned copy of an original map at a museum, and noticed that it differed greatly from the copy that was for sale in the gift shop. She explained that the employee at the museum stated that the scanned document was edited to make it more visually appealing for sale. This editing of the map ruined the integrity of the map, as locations were now inaccurate on the edited map, and any scholarly use for the edited piece was no longer possible (Seed).

Unlike the preservation needs for cultural heritage as we previously discussed, digitizing maps presents issues that are not issues of who should be able to access the material, rather the issue is how accurate it the material. The fact that digital reproductions of maps can fall victim to Photoshop editing and the inherent limitations of the scanning process means that the viewer should never take what they see when viewing maps accurate without any doubt. How accurately a digital map is depicting the source material can be very accurate or very inaccurate, and other sources should be considered before making a determination on the accuracy of a particular piece.

Now, to turn your attention to the map posted above, it is clear that this is the type of map that you would have to use other sources to interpret to determine the accuracy of the digital copy. Without viewing the original work, you may say that this map looks accurate, the colors look vibrant and there does not appear to be any distortion on any of the ample lines on the map. However, we have no way of knowing that this reproduction of the original map is completely faithful to the source map. For example, some of the many rivers and borders on the map may have been retouched in editing post scan if there were damaged or faded on the original. If this were the case, depending on how much care was put into retouching the lines, the accuracy of the map may be compromised.

Kyle C.



Image Source:

Seed, Patricia. “A Map is not a Picture: How the digitial World Threatens the Validity or Printed Maps”.

Data and Capta

data3In Johanna Drucker’s article titled “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”, Drucker offers her view on the shortfalls of data visualization and how they can act against the viewer of the data. She states that visual displays act as a sort of “intellectual Trojan horse” (Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display) where assumptions can hide behind the outward appearance of the data in question. One way that she offers the ability to fix this inherent issue is to re-conceive all data as capta. Data, she describes, is a “given” where capta is “taken” or captured (Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display). My interpretation of her description of the difference between the two is that data must be something that can be observed without effectively looking for it, and, in contrast, capta is information that is, to borrow her description, effectively “taken” from a source and then used to create these tables and

To use an example to further clarify my interpretation of her distinction between data and capta, I will now turn your attention to a data collection project I did in the past for a company looking to analyze their website visitors and Facebook page likes. For the project I collected unique user data for the company’s website using Google analytics and collected data regarding the age and gender demographics of their Facebook page users. Using Drucker’s classification, the data I collected would effectively fall into the category of capta, because I did not record and observe the data in question without looking for it, rather I actively sought it out using their analytic tracking software. Had I, for example, went to their on-the-ground store and viewed the customer’s demographics, without effectively searching it out, under my interpretation of her description of the difference between the two that would qualify as data.

As a final point regarding Drucker’s article, she mentioned a representation of knowledge and how it effects how we perceive information contained in these graphs, which is important because graphs are almost always created to convey some form of information. How this relates to the chart being knowledge or a representation of knowledge is an interesting question. I think that it is both, as long as the chart is one that easily conveys its meaning. A chart in its most basic for cannot exist without some basic form of knowledge to be displayed in the chart. Thus, the cart must be both knowledge, as it has a base of knowledge to draw from as its source, and a representation of knowledge because it conveys that knowledge.


Kyle C.


Drucker, Johanna. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display”. Digital 2011. retrieved from

Image Sources:

Going Digitial

We are currently in the midst of a technical revolution where we are experiencing everything from new software innovation, to hardware getting smaller while still gaining leaps and bounds in terms of performance. The new iPhone 6s and 6s+, with their processor performance rivaling that of processors that were in laptops and desktops just 6 years ago, comes to mind as an example of this. However, even considering all of this, we are, indigital-book my opinion, just scratching the surface of what will be possible in the coming years. It is clear that digital is where the world is going, and, to illustrate that point with an example, think about the last time you used a source for a paper or a project that was not a digital source. How long has it been? A few months, maybe a few years? I, personally, cannot remember the last time one of my sources was a physical book or publication that was not the textbook that I had for the class. That is largely because of the digitizing of texts and the widespread availability of information on the internet. However, that is not to say you can find anything online, and that is one of the main points that Jerome McGann touches on in his article titled Radiant Textuality.

In McGann’s article, he states that “we stand at the beginning of a great scholarly revolution”, that revolution, he summarizes, is to make the resources that are housed in libraries, museums, and archives available to everyone no matter if they have the ability to physically go see these institutions for themselves. He states that to make this happen, this content must be digitized, and it is easy to see why this is the case. To truly make these resources available to everyone who wants to access them, or wants to use them for a scholarly purpose, the easiest way to do this is to make it available online, which will theoretically allow access to these resources with the device that the vast majority of us have in our pocket right now.Ebook

Now, to go back to my original point about using digital sources, how much would it help to not only have access to what we already have access to on the internet, but also have access to publications and books that are housed in libraries that many of us will not see, and therefore, will not use? I would wager to say a lot, especially for more detailed papers with the need for scholarly articles and sources. Now it is true that there is a cost factor, and McGann states in similar projects corners were cut, such as the removal of the front and back covers of books, to save money, however, I think the cost will be worth it when you consider how these materials can be used. Also it is important to mention that this article was written in 1996. The costs that were involved with a project like this in 1996 are likely much higher than they would be now, due to innovation and progress with digital technologies. In addition, the information should be even more accessible now than it would have been at that time. Overall I think that this is something that not only should happen, but will happen eventually, as the draw of moving towards digital is just too great.

Kyle C.


Image Sources:×298.jpg?v=1367526457

Work Cited:

McGann, Jerome. Radiant Textuality. Victorian Studies, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 379-390

Metadata, Marketers, and Social Media

        It should be no secret to any of us that companies want to get as much information about us as possible. Usually the data that they are after is thought of as our traditional idea of what data is, including our name, location, gender, and age. With the widespread use of the internet, this conventional idea of data has expanded to include, for example, our online purchasing habits, as well as our search habits, by way of internet cookies and other technologies. Marketers use this data to better target the people who are most likely to purchase the product or service. However, data like this is not the only form of data that a company can use to expose who you are. Metadata, which effectively is “data about data” (Setting the Stage), as described by Anne Gilliland, is increasingly being used to take anonymous information that many companies keep about their customers and cross-reference it with other data sources, such as social media posts, to determine exactly who each piece of anonymous data belongs to.

        The use of metadata was not originally conceived with marketing purposes in mind. Rather, it was used in libraries, to create indexes and abstracts, and museums. Another application of metadata, resource discovery, can be closely related to what marketers use metadata for today. The way marketers use metadata to determine who the nameless profile is in a database is similar to how libraries used metadata to create groups of work based on content and metadata relating to the work. In the article by Robert Lee Hotz, this process is better described. After starting with said nameless profile in a database, this activity can be cross referenced with data from social networking sites. This data from social networking sites contains metadata of its own, time stamps, locations, and people tagged in the photo or status, that can be then compared to the anonymous data to create a match.

        The question is, however, does this use of data to gauge everything from buying habits, to who you are with, and where, invade the buyers privacy? For better or worst we live in a world of transparent personal data, in part because of our widespread adoption of the internet, and particularly social media. To touch on an interesting part of this concern for privacy, I have found that people are often concerned with marketers having this data, but never think twice about the people seeing the same posts on these social media sites.

        So to address the privacy concern, I want to pose a question. Is there a difference between your 250+ friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, having this information about you, and the marketers who want to push products to you? What about when you consider that some of your “friends” or followers on these sites you may not actually know personally? My opinion on the subject is that if a person is concerned about marketers having this data, perhaps they should examine exactly what they are posting on these social media sites in the first place, and determine if they are posting too much.

Kyle C.

Gilliland, Anne. “Setting the Stage”. Introduction to Metadata. retrieved from

Hotz, Robert Lee. “Metadata Can Expose Person’s Identity Even Without Name”. The Wall Street Journal. January 29, 2015. retrieved from

My Relationship with Technology and the Importance of Accessibility

I consider computers and technology one of my biggest hobbies outside of school. I started interacting with computers on my parents’ Windows 98 machine back when I was about seven or eight years’ old, and ever since then I have embraced technology as the useful tool and source of seemingly endless entertainment that it can be. This relationship has led me to assume a sort of “IT support” role in my family, as usually I am the first one who is called if someone in my family has an issue with their computer, smartphone, or their WiFi network.binary-code

This great relationship with technology I have is one of the reasons that I am considering switching majors here at Pacific from business to computer science, as it is something that I have a great deal of interest in. The world of coding, and how what you code makes the computer work and think, is something that is endlessly fascinating to me. Currently, coding and learning new syntax is a sort of side project of mine that has taken a back seat now that we are in the midst of the semester, but I have coded for my good friend’s web and software development company in the past, with some of my work currently online, and I plan on doing much more in the future.

To address the podcast, what I find interesting is the connection with the smaller percentage of women involved with computer science and the advertising for technology that focuses mostly on men, as mentioned in the podcast. For some reason, technology still seems to be something that is targeted more towards men, or at least the specifications of the technology and the inner workings are targeted more towards men, with the entertainment value more often targeted towards women. While that targeted audience is slowly changing, I feel, from my experience there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of men involved and interested in technology. If this is a primary effect of advertising and perceptions or computer science as a field for men, then I believe marketers should promptly reassess who they are targeting, and make the change to target both genders. As it stands now, many women who are interested in technology are effectively shut out from the field because they may not have the exposure to it or may feel intimidated because it appears to be such a male-dominated field.

Moving on to the interesting point that the Williams article touched on, specifically the need for accessibility built into software and hardware, I think this is of great importance because technology is now being used by more and more people, with increasingly unique sets of needs. Rather than coding a program, or a website, two or even three times to prepare for the different accessibility needs, it makes much more financial sense to use a universal design when you are creating the website or program. I think that this is an important precedent to set for all programmers, as it will create hardware and software that can effectively be used by everybody, regardless of any needs they may have.

Kyle C.



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Defining the Digital Humanities as Making, Interpreting or Both

The digital humanities, specifically what exactly encompasses the broad term, appears to be a topic that is of much debate between scholars. If we go back to our week two readings, there is an excerpt from our textbook titled, The Humanities, Done Digitally, where the author attempts to define what exactly the digital humanities are, or rather “what is the digital humanities” (Fitzpatrick), as she put it. What is interesting to me about this piece is the fact that our readings for week three both reference the work done by this author very early in each article, implying that she is a sort of expert on this debate.

The debate between what the digital humanities are seems to stem from what each individual considers to be the focus of the digital humanities, namely making, or if it should in fact expand to include interpreting as well. While some consider that the digital humanities should only include making, others, such as Mark Sample, believe that the digital humanities are not about producing, rather they are about reproducing (“The digital humanities is not about building, it’s about sharing”). In a similar attempt to define the digital humanities, Lisa Spiro attempted to create a statement of the core values of the digital humanities, including openness, collaboration, collegiality and connectedness, diversity, and experimentation (“This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”). It appears by the values that Spiro selected, she includes both making and interpretation in her definition of the digital humanities.

From my point of view, I think that the digital humanities are both about making and interpreting. The humanities at their core are about interpreting, but I think when the digital element is added, making is just as large, if not a larger, piece of the puzzle. So far in class we have discussed ideology such as the idea of us becoming post human with the addition of technology in our everyday lives. This is interpretation on our part relating to the digital world we live in. As for the “making” side of the digital humanities, we will be doing that as well, as I understand, later in the semester. To use an example of a program that follows this idea that the digital humanities can be about both making and interpreting, Voyant was made with the ability to interpret in mind. Voyant, in my opinion, represents the digital humanities and both of its sides. The making of the program, Voyant, is obviously the creation of it, and it can then be used to interpret some form of data in a humanistic way.

Kyle C.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally”. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2012. retrieved from

Sample, Mark. “The digital humanities is not about building, it’s about sharing”. 25 May, 2011. retrieved from

Spiro, Lisa. ““This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”. Debates in the Digital Humanities. 2012. retrieved from

Voyant and its merit as a research assistant

It is fair to say that we have all likely written our fair share of research papers throughout both our high school and college careers. One of the challenges of writing a research paper often can be finding sources that meet the requirements for the needed quality of the source, as well as the obvious need for the source to contain the relevant information that you are actually looking for, and also that the information that you find in the source fits the tone of your paper. The ability to recruit a computer program to read the source, and subsequently decipher if it contains this relevant information without actually physically reading the source yourself, can be an extremely valuable method to save time, and reduce frustration, when it comes to writing these papers. This is where Voyant comes in, a computer program that you can use to “read” the material for you and then filter the material using keywords to determine if the source will or will not work for what you are looking for.

To use an example using the text we were provided, if one wanted to write a research paper pertaining to sermons where Lincoln was mentioned, and you happened to have a large source of digital transcripts of these sermons, you could in essence have the program read all of these sermons for you. The benefit to this would be the ability filter out individual sermons, or individual lines in the sermons, which contained information that you were looking for, without having to read hundreds of thousands of words yourself, undoubtedly saving you an immense amount of time and frustration. For example, if you wanted to see the data on how many times the word “justice” appeared in the sermons, the program could give you a detailed breakdown on how many times the word appeared in each work, and which works it appeared most frequently in.



Using this chart above, it is clear that if you were looking for a sermon where the word “justice” was used, you would obviously know where and where not to start when you were looking for relevant information on the topic based on the spikes in the graph above.

I think that personally I would use Voyant in the future for a research paper for one key reason. That reason being that many of the sources I tend to use are digital sources, which I believe, thanks to the scope of the internet, likely all of us rely on today. The ability to quickly paste URLs or text into the Voyant box and determine the usefulness of a few sources at a time without fully reading them beforehand would be something that I know would save me a lot of time when it comes to evaluating if I can, or want to, use a particular source in my paper. In closing, I believe that Voyant can be a valuable research assistant, as long as you have a clear understanding of what you are looking for in a particular document.

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