Introduction to Digital Humanities

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

Author: Child of the West Wind

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This will be our final project. We hope you enjoy it. If you want to learn more, visit the main blog post or take a look at the website itself!

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Mapping and Visualizations

Cushman-Collection Google Fusion Tables 1
Using Google Fusion Tables to graph the Cushman-Collection
Cushman-Collection Palladio 1
Using Palladio to graph the Cushman-Collection

For my visualizations, I used Google Fusion Tables (the one on top) and Palladio (the one on the bottom) to graph the Cushman-Collection. Although both programs are mapping tools, you can see that there are distinct similarities and variations between the two.

Of similarities, both are maps that display geocoordinates, placing dots at the location where photographs were taken. In this case, while Palladio offers more color customization, GFT is a bit easier to read, using red dots with a black outline. You can zoom in and out of the maps to get a better sense of location.

It is also here that you can see the most difference. First of all, when clicking a dot on GFT, you quickly pull up all of the information associated to that location, from URL to date and description. As you can see in the first picture, my mouse if hovered over a dot near the top of the picture. Everything related to Buthart’s Gardens is displayed. On the other hand, Palladio is much more specialized in the data it presents, allowing more of a comparison of specific categories. The timeline at the bottom shows when pictures were taken and the chunks on the bars depict approximate how many of the pictures fit a certain category. For example, in the bottom picture, my mouse is hovered over one of the chunks in the bars, which shows the pictures that are “snapshots.”

While we are on the subject of comparisons, I’d like to add that both maps are useful tools in spatial visualization. As Jenna Hammerich, explains in her article, “Humanities Gone Spatial,” spatial visualization allows us to view spatial relationships and change over time in ways that we couldn’t before. While both tools map out locations, they don’t solely exist as mapping tools. Both programs allow for the creation of graphs and other such useful information to compare information. I’d say that Palladio appears to be more appealing than GFT in that aspect, nonetheless. It allows side-by-side visualization of graphs along with the maps. However, GFT is certainly much more trustworthy than Palladio, as Palladio constantly freezes up and has a long loading time.

Cushman-Collection Google Fusion Tables 2
Closeup of the map from Google Fusion Tables
Cushman-Collection Palladio 2
Closeup of the map from Palladio

As useful as maps are from both programs, there is an inaccuracy. As Zephyr Frank states in his article, “Spatial History as Scholarly Practice,” maps are usually altered and therefore are not exact representations of the actual locations. You can tell when you view a closeup of both photographs that there are differences in locations. Sidney (the top-most point on the upper left hand corner) and Butchart’s Garden (the second top-most point on the upper left hand corner) are located farther apart in GFT than they are in Palladio.  It is difficult to say which is more accurate. Of course, in this case, I doubt either program was attempting to misconstrue data to make it aesthetically more pleasing, but the trouble of accuracy remains. I would trust GFT more, seeing that GFT comes from Google, which uses precise satellite images to create maps. As a bigger company, it would make sense that it has more funds to ensure that its products are accurate. That’s not saying that Palladio completely inaccurate. It’s merely that it is less so.

Cushman-Collection Graph

Graph of City and States

I chose a pie chart as my graph. The individual slices represent the percentages of cities and states used in the Cushman-Collection. The city used the most is Agua Prieta, Sonora and the lowest is Alberton, Montana. Nevertheless, the graph doesn’t represent the whole as there are not enough pie slices.  The names are listed in alphabetical order, so the graph only graphs the first ten cities.  As a result, the city used the most may not necessarily be Agua Prieta.

My Omeka Experience

For lack of a better word, using Omeka is an interesting experience. At worst, Omeka is not that useful for people unless they want to become a historian or other such figure that documents information (there are many useless things in the world, nonetheless, and this is not the most useless at the very least). Data classification and inputting metadata is a tedious task, but something quite necessary in order to assemble items efficiently. I particularly realized this when I wasn’t able to find certain images except by going through them one by one due to inaccurate tags.

Inaccurate metadata and tags lead to challenging identification.
Inaccurate metadata and tags lead to challenging identification.

While I did think creating a collection was rather mind-numbing, what I did think was interesting was putting together a webpage, which is something I may continue to do in the future via blog posts. Omeka was useful, here, and had an efficient interface. Adding pictures using the site was easier than doing so with WordPress and already had references attached to them. While formatting left nothing to imagination, it was quite easy to use and would be sufficient for those who merely want to put forth information.

Finishing this project prompted me to think about some of the past readings. As I refuted before, I have to refute again, using our recent project as an example. Although Mark Sample states that “The Digital Humanities is Not about Building, It’s about Sharing,” he is inaccurate in that there would be no Digital Humanities without building, for without it, the Digital humanities would merely be a database and nothing more, like Omeka’s catalog of items. While sharing is an integral part of learning, it is more fundamental to build. Only then can there be improvements made to a field. Omeka’s catalog would only be a database, but our exhibitions were built on that database, thus allowing us to share it in addition to new information. It was through our creation that we were able to impart to others what we learned. Kathleen Fitzpatrick summarizes this, opposing Sample, quite nicely in her article, “The Humanities Done Digitally,” stating “The particular contribution of the digital humanities, however, lies in its exploration of the difference that the digital can make to the kinds of work that we do as well as to the ways that we communicate with one another.” In other words, building and then sharing.

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