All posts by amarr

Lab 3: Spatial Humanities

Step 1

What are the two spatial arguments being made?

The Swarthmore Sit-In map displays the geo-spatial representation of the events that occurred after the death of the President. They essentially argue the importance of the spatial organization of protests, and in this case, on college campuses.

The Hotchkiss’ neatline of the Battle of Chancellorsville displays the timeline and geographical representations of the movements that occurred. Arrows referred to the movements of the army help to understand the impact of the Battle. Text and pictures that explain how the decisions were made and the aftermath are linked to the map to help understand the event.

What features, display techniques, or visualizations advance these spatial arguments?

The Swarthmore Sit-In map uses traditional the Google map-like satellite visual to illustrate the campus on a realistic medium. They use zoom features and a magnifying glass to focus attention on the intended area. Once one is zoomed in close enough, the specifics of the event are indicated with red dots that signify the chronology and date of the proceedings. They highlight different locations and link to assets like pictures, articles, letters, and other relevant files that help give more context to the situation. This design is strong because it provides a visually intriguing and realistic design, and uses hyperlinks to provide more information, so the visual is not cluttered with words.

The mapping of the Battle of Chancellorsville displays the movements of an army across virginia over a three day period.  The site features interactive color overlays on a map of the region in which the battle took place.  Using numbering, arrows, and shading the project attempts to map the movement of the army.  Each of the three days has its own unique map overlays that display information about important events.  The effect of these display and visualization techniques is to give the user a better understanding of the movement of the battle over time. Important events are highlighted and both text and images are used to give users a better picture of the events that transpired.

What might you have done differently to strengthen the argument(s)?

In order to strengthen the argument, we would include an overview before entering the visual depiction because it would clarify the event before exploring the details. Also, we would suggest a path to take when exploring the different red dots, so we know we view the situation chronologically. The google map feature is interesting because it is realistic, but it does not need to be able to zoom out as much as it allows, because it makes navigation to the visualization more challenging to get to.

One technique that could have strengthened the argument of the Battle of the Chancellorsville project would have been to display the information one piece at a time.  Rather than dropping a large chunk of information, arrows, and links onto the map for each day, the project makers could have included more user interaction by chronologically displaying one section of the battle at a time.  This way users could focus on individual events one at a time, then move on to the next or add the next section to the map.  This would give users a better sense of the movement of the battle and a greater understanding of the change over time.

Step 2

  1. What are the two spatial arguments being made?

The Beijing of Dreams hypercity attempts to create a digital conservation of the architectural artifacts from Beijing. They consider this important because there are already few traces of the past, and it is important to conserve at least photographs so one can imagine traditional China.

The City Witness project follows the citizens of Swansea during and after the hanging of William Cragh, a Welshman who is said to have come back to life after his death.  Using documentation and archaeological evidence, researchers hope to display the movements of people throughout the town in order to better understand this miraculous event.

What features, display techniques, or visualizations advance these spatial arguments?

The display for the Beijing of Dreams project revolves mostly around a map of the city, with an interactive function that allows you to click on different walls, corners, gates, and artifacts that then leads you to images that are of or around that particular place. This function is successful because it not only gives the layout of the city in a visual map, but also allows you to delve into specifics without crowding the map. The basis of this project is relatively straight-forward, as its goal is to allow people to imagine how Beijing looked in the past. Another interesting aspect their emphasis on multi-platform use. Not only can one find the map on their computer, but they also can use their hand-held devices to consult the interactive map, which they encourage tourists who are actually in these parts of Beijing to do.

City Witness features 3d visual representations of the historical landscapes and buildings in medieval Swansea.  There are geospatial maps that attempt to display the city as it was at the time of the hanging, complete with interactive links and map overlays that show movement of villagers throughout the town.  Images, documents, and interviews are combined to give users a better sense of what this medieval city would have looked and felt like during the 1300’s.  The site includes virtual tours, games, and blogs that offer visitors to the site a wide variety of interactive activities.

What might you have done differently to strengthen the argument(s)?

If they wanted to strengthen the argument, they would have provided more context to the existing images, and added more assets than just images. Though they give a brief descriptions to what the photos are of, it would be stronger if they implied why certain images and places were important, and the impact they had on Beijing as a powerful city. Additionally, it could be interesting to have a comparison with the current map of Beijing, just to provide context to how much architecture has changed, and if possible, explain how and why through historical context.

The City Witness site could use different theme colors to make the website itself more attractive. Also, a drop-down menu from the top navigation bar may help users to get access to contents they want to know since users will need to click into different sessions to get further information right now. It would be more interesting if they could plot some of the important historical events or famous people to the maps.

Hypercities (see, vs. Neatline: What are the major differences between these two platforms/tools? Compare and contrast these two platforms/tools? What makes these “better” platforms/tools for making spatial arguments?

Hypercities has a clear and complex navigation system and makes use of multimedia to show the history and geographical changes of cities overtime. Audience could get information not just from maps, but also from images, interactive games and some origin documents. However, Neatline focuses more on the interactions with audience. Neatline projects always have a map as the basic layer and show the timeline of a series of events based on the same map. Users could learn about the information by clicking on the arrows and maps and through other interface designs.

Summary Statement

Though it is hard to generalize spatial humanities projects given their varied content and intentions, it is important to look for the patterns that make projects successful. One of the most important aspects of any spatial humanities project is the ability for easy and coherent navigation. If someone finds a certain project with valuable information, but cannot understand the most efficient way to navigate or the intended way to navigate, the project will not be successful. People who contribute in making these visualizations should do their best to create a clear and interesting display of information that does not take much “fiddling around” to navigate.

It is important for a geospatial humanities project to be accessible and user friendly.  Complexity and an abundance of information can make a user feel lost in the data.  By using shading, overlays, pathways, arrows and various other interactive techniques, researchers are able to break up information into simple, yet comprehensive chunks.  This is best displayed by the City Witness project’s “Discover Medieval Swansea” spatial map.  Using several interactive markers on various important locations in the town, researchers are able to display vast amount of information for each location on the map.  Users can click on a location and find information about tours in the area, the history of a location and its connection to the hanging, photos of the buildings today, virtual maps, and even images of artifacts that have been discovered. One if the main advantages of a spatial humanities project is the ability to show movement over time in order to develop a narrative.  Therefore, it is important for a project to direct the user through the map over time, rather than simply overwhelming them with a cluster of information.

It is also important to consider what kinds of contents are the most successful for spatial humanities projects. Maps are essential elements of such projects, and the importance of maps implies that  location matters and geography is important. Maps with arrows, highlights and images on it could clearly display the movements of people, property, and resources over time. The neatline project of the Battle of Chancellorsville is better displayed using a map also because the decisions made during wartime were also based on the maps. Hence, the maps will make it easier for the audience and users to learn about the history and the role that geographical elements played in the events. Using of maps can also reflect the relationship of time and geo-spatial changes. The Beijing of Dreams project is trying to show the Old Beijing with old photos and maps in this project show the changes of buildings overtime.

Lucy Marr, Dylan Thies, and Chenchen Zhao

Project Evaluation

What is the difference between a “website” and a digital humanities project?  How do research questions change our understanding of a typical website and a DH project/site?

A website is a term used for any page on the Internet. They do not necessarily have to have a specific goal in mind for displaying information. A digital humanities project is more specific. Though they can seem very different at their core, they collect, organize, and display a specific collection of data to answer a pointed research question or questions. Research questions direct the viewer to what the aim of the DH project/site is while a typical website does not give as a specific of a focus. More than just a website, digital humanities projects work to compile humanities archives through computing and technological techniques to build and improve upon existing data to provide more accessible information to a wider audience.

What is the research question in each of the sites below? 

Digital Harlem:

What events and activities happened in New York city’s Harlem neighborhood during the years of 1915-1930? Where can one find published information on numbers of arrests, churches, sports, nightlife, and January 1925?

Women Writers Project:

What are the trends and patterns of women writers in the pre-Victorian era? The goal of the project is more focused on providing accessibility and opportunity for future research rather than answering a driven question.


Interactivity (Digital Harlem):

Digital Harlem shows a high level of interactivity through its map setting. The user can manipulate the map according to churches, sports, numbers of arrests, January 1925, and nightlife. After selecting any of these categories, they can see which years had the highest numbers for each subset. Each category has a color coated pin depending on what classification it belongs to.

Intellectual Rigor (Digital Harlem):

Digital Harlem possesses a high degree of intellectual rigor. While it may not look like a traditional piece of scholarly work, the site contains many court files from: the Municipal archives in New York City, newspaper records from the New York public library, records from the Manuscript and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, and records from Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture. Under each category, hundreds, and even thousands of records are referenced. This information is turned into the interactive map that spins the archived assets into new type of data collections.

Impact (Womens Writers Project):

The Women Writers Project shows a high degree of impact because it is focused on trying to reach the community in a variety of ways. They are primarily interested in providing a database of information including records, metadata, and contextual reference, but they expand on this idea by offering opportunities to spread this information through educational efforts. They have workshops, seminars, internships, and additional resources that encourage the audience to get more actively involved.

Crossing Research, Teaching, and Services (Womens Writers Project):

The project does a great job integrating collaborators from different fields to develop a basis of diverse perspectives. Beyond just having a strong collaboration base, they also have ongoing projects, discussions, workshop series, and exhibits that work to reach the community in unique ways and integrate the diverse perspectives from different fields to reach different kinds of people. Additionally, they keep track when their database is used by other digital humanities project to show the potential influence the database gives to various academic communities.

Georgia Miller and Lucy Marr

Writing Assignment #2: Cultural Analytics and US Politics

With a lot of digital humanities projects, the question of “Why should I care?” arises. One of the reasons I find cultural analytics to be one of the most effective approaches to compiling and displaying data is that this question becomes a little easier to answer. Visualization techniques help allude to why we should care about certain things, because we are able to see changes, patterns, trends, and subtle shifts of what is considered important at the moment. One successful cultural analytics project is “Digging into Global News” which analyzed montage visualizations of President Obama’s Weekly Address videos from 2009-2011.

This project exemplifies how beneficial digital humanities, and cultural analytics in particular, can be for illustrating what is considered significant or important during a particular time in history. The US is powerful player in world politics and arguably the most influential in terms of policies and actions taken to improve the global framework. With this in mind, it is not hard to understand why the way the media portrays statements by the president is important. In this particular project, they focused on many different ways of displaying data to indicate different things. First, they used snapshots from President Obama’s speeches to show subtle changes that reflected the political dilemma at that time. For example, Obama wearing a purple tie during the debates about Gay Rights, or changes in setting like being in a lab rather than his office when discussing climate change. These subtle changes are very interesting in portraying the nuances between each Weekly Address, yet would not have been as obvious without the visual layout. They also recorded the length of the addresses, which when displayed visually, lined up relatively precisely with events that occurred around the Weekly Address that require more air time to address, like shootings or policy changes.

They also used frequency techniques to analyze the “background noise” in Obama’s Addresses, like what the media chose the camera shots to focus on, or have in view while he spoke. Besides just showing the object recurrences themselves, they also compared across different media companies, seeing what they chose to focus on. This data is important because it allows us to see the directions different channels lean, and the potential biases they have. Finally, they also analyzed the content of the addresses, which led to a subject visualization that essentially showed what was of highest priority to the president, thus alluding to the values of the country at that time.

I think this cultural analytics project is one of the best we have seen thus far due to its relative lack of ambiguity. Though some projects were able to display information in a novel or interesting way, the desired reaction for the audience was not necessarily clear. In this project, the data shows a straight-forward presentation of information that one can easily draw insight about American politics from, without having to watch each Weekly Address separately.


Losh, Elizabeth. “Digging into Global News”

Manovich, Lev. “How and why study big cultural data.”

Writing Assignment #1: What is Digital Humanities?

Digital humanities is a process-based discipline which encompasses and combines traditional humanities studies with digital and computational tools and methods. It operates under the principle that knowledge is never set and there is constantly more questions to uncover and ask. The discovery of helpful tools in displaying and explaining patterns in humanities data leads to more questions that can work to fill issues of ignorance that the digital domain holds above us. Though many of the methods require systematic techniques, digital humanities depends on the ability to shift when new information warrants new questions. Given the increasing dependency on technology as a source of information, digital humanities is important because it provides the basis of a framework for how we should integrate disciplines that are not traditionally compatible with computing processes. Digital humanities are made possible by a combination of specialists among humanities, technology, and other interdisciplinary fields that come together to recreate and produce content on different multimedia platforms, in the goal of creating an increasingly accessible and networked community of scholarship. People who practice digital humanities must be aware of the interdisciplinary and open nature of the field, in that collaboration is vital to combine opinions and specialties of many fields for success. In brainstorming a project, it is important to weigh multiple aspects in order to organize the data, integrate the data, and display the data in an intuitive and relevant way. Overall, digital humanities is a field, and in a way, technique, that requires flexibility, collaboration, patience, and a spectrum of specialists to create content that delivers and affects to the intended audience in a coherent way.



Berry, Dave. “The Computational Turn,” Culture Machine 12 (2011).

McCarty, Willard. “Humanities Computing.” (2003).

Unsworth, John. “What is humanities computing and what is not?” Annual Review of Computer Philology 4, (2002).

Cultural Analytics Project

What kinds of patterns are being examined and how are they being measured in the projects found at the Stanford Literary Lab?

There are a variety of different factors tested in the projects at the Stanford Literary Lab. Some are focused more on narratives and their sources both geographically and the influence they have beyond the historical context. Others are interested in documenting the interconnectedness of different genres and how to label different works based on their content and origin. Even more studies used data to relate to additional factors like race, geographic location, gender and ethnicity. They all included some sort of focus on the evolution of whatever they were directly focused on.

As far as how they tracked these patterns, they employed many digital humanities tools to explore and display their information coherently. The “Trans-Historical Poetry Project” employed an algorithm to study poetry patterns, directly linking variation in line and poem length to make observations about patterns throughout a few hundred years. The “Fanfiction: Generic Genesis and Evolution” project was more interested in interaction between Fanfiction and the readers, tracking readership and authorial influence. In using more of a third variable view, “Representations of Race and Ethnicity in American Fiction, 1789-1964” worked to create a visual map of how American literature has treated and integrated different racial groups based on tracking descriptive terms for ethnic groups, and patterns between “racially marked character.” Other publications showed other techniques and tools in displaying their data, but most centered around the idea of tracking a specific asset of literature and linking it to another factor, and then tracking the patterns throughout a certain time period.

The Stanford Literary Lab’s Pamphlet publication also provided helpful illustrations of projects, which helped us conceptualize the projects visually. Visuals of scatterplots represented a vast body of information around trends with most frequent words, docuscopes, genre characteristics, author differences, etc. This pamphlet helped illustrate the scope of directions one can take when looking to integrate humanities into digital humanities.

Review the visualizations listed below.  What makes these visualizations successful?

Overall, these visualizations are organized well, clear, and easy to read.  The color that is involved in these visualizations is a factor that makes them successful.  Color is used in many of the visualizations to display frequency and distribution.  For example, in the visualization that measures the verbs used for characters in Les Miserables, stacked bar graphs using different colors are used to calculate the frequency of verb use with a certain character as well as the distribution of usage across the various characters in the novel.   The visualizations all display the information in different ways visually, expressing the difference in information, thus variation is a factor that also makes these visualizations successful.  At first glance, they also all are interesting to look at, thus they draw the viewer in and engage the viewer.  Some of the visual displays, such as “Bloomberg Billionaires” of are interactive, which is another method to engage the viewer and make the vizualizations successful.  

How would you measure their success?  If you had to develop a list of features that make these visualizations successful, what might those include?

To measure the success of these visualizations, one could look at how often they are cited, look at what others have said about them on those that are linked to blogs, look at how many people have visited the page, etc.






-ease of navigation

Dirt Tools: How might these tools be useful in analyzing large amounts of data?

Overview is a tool that works to analyze large sets of documents. It is a useful tool because its search engine allows for many tools that make locating and organizing information easier, like word clouds and topic-based document clustering. It also has a function where you can code your own plugins that allows you to customize what you can group together and search. For a long time, this tool was mostly used by investigative journalists, showing its success in being able to search and compile through many documents, especially ones that would be helpful in this discipline. Overall, it is a useful tool for making a bulk of data more categorized and organized.

The tool “timesheet.js” allows one to make visual timelines of whatever event or time period you wish you display. This is a helpful tool because it already consists of a large library of data that you are able to pull information to create a timeline from, however specific or general the data you wish to show is.

Lucy Marr and Electra Washburn

Salem Witch Trial Project

What kind of files, data, objects are being used in the project in question?

The Salem Witch Trial database displayed and combined different kinds of file types and data. They have scanned pictures of documents from court records, personal letters, diaries and sermons. They display visual images of maps in which the accusations and  trials took place. They also include documents with lists of names and biographies of people involved and mentioned in court records. Lastly, they have paintings and other visual data preserved from the time period.

What’s the project research question? Or, questions?

Beyond simply organizing and compiling the data in one place, the way they chose to organize represents what information they labelled as important. Through the maps and documentation of the court trials, they perhaps sought to study the spread and influence of the accusations and trials, therefore leading to conclusions of why they were so prominent at this time. Other questions they could be looking to solve are: What is the relevance of the Salem Witch Trials and why is it important to analyze this data? Additionally, what about the historical context of the time in history made witch accusations legitimate, or argued to be at that time?

What tools are being used?  Created?

Most of the tools used were simply ways of getting different types of files and data in the same place. This includes searching through archives and selecting relevant information and scanning/digitizing it. They used a dichotomy of organization to put file types in logistical places on the website. They must have used some sort of scanning tool, or somebody working, to catalogue names and patterns in court documents. Lastly, they compiled similar data and gave items and documents tags in order for them to be easily searchable.

What methods are being undertaken?

In order for the project to be successful, the founders probably had to apply for grant money and funding in order to ensure they could access documents and use the necessary tools. This portion of the method also includes contacting and agreeing to terms with participating archives to allow access to the relevant information. Beyond gaining access, systematic research methods like searching through documents, scanning reports and photos, and organizing data was used in creating a thorough database of information.

Lucy Marr and Electra Washburn