All posts by hpollack

DH Midterm: Jill and Harris


0 – Not meeting any expectation 1 – Below Expectation 2 – Meet basic expectation 3 – Above expectation 4 – Excellent
Content displayed -Difficult to understand what the research question is

-Obvious and relevant information missing

-Research question is not clear

-Information is lacking in content

-Research question is present but lacks clarity

-Content is understandable but lacks clarity or has obvious flaws

-Research question is outlined clearly but not the first thing the user sees

-Content is appropriate but lacking certain material

-Research question clearly defined and present

-Content is relevant and complete

Presentation -No visualizations -Visuals are not of good quality

-Some scattered and unorganized visuals are present

-Decent framework of images and/or text, but lacks balance between visual and text -Adequate visuals are present -Visually captivating

-Simplistic and engaging, good balance of text and visuals

Visualization -Presentation lacked any interactive elements -Presentation is scattered and disorganized

-The interactive elements are not presented clearly

-Presentation is okay but could be better

-The interactive elements are present but not easy to navigate

-Presentation is acceptable with minimal mistakes

-The interactive elements are present but contain minimal problems

-The project possesses impressive interactive elements

-Writing clear with no mistakes

Accessibility -Hyperlinks are not present or nonfunctional

-Project is not navigable

-Hyperlinks are present but not easy to find and some are nonfunctional

-Project difficult to navigate

-Hyperlinks are present but not great quality

-Project is easy to navigate but complex

-Hyperlinks function

-Project is easy to navigate and simple

-Hyperlinks function well and are relevant

-Project is navigable and intuitive

Sustainability and Possibility of Growth -Does not have continuous funding

-Website is completely not working

– Have some funding

– Part of the website is not functioning

-Have small amount of funding

-Website is working but lack of up to date maintenance

-Have some continuous funding

-Website is working under maintenance but does not have a lot of traffic

-Have sufficient amount of continuous funding

-Website is constantly updated and maintained with high traffic

Academic Importance -Does not contribute to any academic field

-Never used by scholars or public

-Have a little contribution to a specific field of study

-Seldomly used by scholars and public

-Have some contribution to a certain field

-Sometimes used by scholars and public for a specific area of study

-Have some contribution to a variety of academic fields

-Often used by some scholars and public

-Have a huge contribution and importance to various field of study

-Always used by scholar and public studying different fields

Credibility -No citations at all in the project

-Obvious factual mistake

-Not all citations are present or are in improper form

-Some easily noticeable content flaws

-Citations are present but in a improper form

-A few content flaws and factual mistakes are minimal

-Citations are generally correct

-Content flaws are minimal

-Citations are well-presented

-No content flaws or factual mistakes






Content Displayed: 3/4

The Perseus Digital Library homepage has information regarding its most recent blog posts, release announcements, and popular texts. There is also a toolbar at the top of the page with different options the user can select. The tabs include, ‘Collections/Texts’, ‘Perseus Catalog’, ‘Research’, ‘Grants’, ‘Open Source’, ‘About’ and ‘Help’. The user has to select the ‘About’ tab in order to access a page that explains the research questions and purpose of the website. The content is not so much lacking certain material, because the material is available, but it is not immediately present to the user. Within the ‘About’ page, the user finds that the Perseus Digital Library exists to explore possibilities and challenges of digital collections. The research question is “what happens when libraries move online? We gave The Perseus Digital Library a 3 out of 4 because the research question was not immediately in front of the user as the project was accessed.


Presentation: 2.5/4

The Perseus Digital Library project is one based on textual objects. There are not many visual graphics that need to be displayed. The project is text-heavy and daunting when a user opens the website. There is not much balance between the visuals and text. However, the framework for the text is very simple and manageable for all users, there is just quite a bit of it. That being said, we gave the project a 2.5 out of 4 because we think that it straddles a decent framework as well as adequate visual design.


Visualization: 4/4

As mentioned above, there is a lot of a text within the project. The text is clear, concise and does not have any writing mistakes. Additionally, when sifting through the collections and texts that the digital library contains, the tools are interactive and make the process of reading quicker and easier. For instance, imagine the user selects a certain book. There is a sidebar that allows the user to jump from Chapter 1 to Chapter 10 in one click. Furthermore, there is a tool at the top of the page that presents the book in a timeline fashion. The reader can see which chapter is the longest, allowing the user to skip from chapter to chapter with this feature in addition to the toolbar. Also, the user can automatically look for certain people, dates, or locations. One of the coolest visualizations is the map. This visualization pinpoints all of the locations discussed within the text using a google map. Due to all of these impressive interactive elements and clarity in the writing, we gave this project a 4 out of 4 for visualization.


Accessibility: 2/4

This is the weakest part of the Perseus Digital Library project. In regards to the hyperlinks, some links are broken. For example, under the funding tab, ‘The Dynamic Lexicon’ link is broken and does not work. Additionally, the project is easy to navigate but it is complex. It is complex due to the breadth of information that is on the website. We are not sure if there is a better way to organize the material, but in some cases, the user has to click through many links in order to finally get to where they want to be. In regards to the goal of the project, which is to increase the accessibility of Pre Modern texts, it does succeed in doing so. However, it is a complex website due to the vast information. Therefore, we gave this project a 2 out of 4 for accessibility.


Sustainability and Possibility of Growth: 4/4

The Perseus Digital Library is funded through various sources, which are all listed under the Grant page of the project. Different fundings from distinct sources go to a specific part of the project and are well-described in the project. Moreover, as we see the funding list, it only shows the active grants that support the research. The project first started in 1985 and it is still getting funded today. As a result, we are really optimistic that it will keep being funded in the future and the library collection will keep growing.  In the description, it lists the two major funding sources which offer 2.8 million and 2.5 million for the past two decades. These two huge amounts of continuous fundings is the main reason we give the section of sustainability a 4 out of 4. Also, in the front page of the project and in their own blog, the developers keep a good track of the updates of the materials in the project and different versions that have been launched. The constant updates and maintenance make sure that the project can last and be active for a long time.


Academic Importance: 4/4

The mission of The Perseus Digital Library is to make a full record of humanity, from various fields of studies. The whole collection consists of texts and documents from different time periods and different cultures. The concreteness of the collection and the amount of detailed descriptions in each catalog of the collection can be useful for a wide range of studies and research. Since the library is open to public, everyone can use it as a resource for research. Due to the large amount of data stored in the library, we believe that it is constantly used by scholars. As mentioned above, the website is being constantly updated, which is also an indicator for the amount of traffic that the project gets. Moreover, the project lists its current ongoing researches to let the public know about the work they are doing. For the above reasons, we give the project a 4 out of 4 for academic importance.



Every document or text in this project is properly cited and well-presented. There is no visible mistake or flaw in either the design of the project or the content displayed. Every picture it used has been credited to the original photographer. One thing we think that makes this project a professional one is that it has a list of people who are evolved in the project and those in charge. Reading each of their introduction page and getting to know the team that is behind the project offer the user more information and will make this project more reliable. Moreover, there is a list of publications that are works of the staff and collaborators of the project. The amount of information that is being offered make us believe that the work presented to us is trustworthy.


~ Jill Fu & Harris Pollack

Lab 3: City Witness

Part I

What are the two spatial arguments being made?

My Dear Nelly: This project uses the letters that Hotchkiss wrote to his daughter, Nelly, to signal location and movements of Hotchkiss during the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg. This creates a correlation between location and rhetoric within the letters. This project attempts to narrate a historical event through a visual and interactive medium.

Gemini over Baja California Sur: This project looks at two types of satellite images that interact with each other. The author of the project is interested in the similarities and differences between the Gemini photographs and modern satellite imagery of the same locations.

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

My Dear Nelly: The project uses a map in the background. Letters are placed on top of the map and the user can select on the letter. The user is able to select numbers which represent the historical context behind the story of Hotchkiss. This historical context is marked by the numbers. Within the letters, the names of locations are circled and arrows indicate the location of the indicated place on the map. For example, when he references his home, an arrow points to where his house is in relation to Fredericksburg. Furthermore, There is a timeline included at the bottom. This timeline enables the user to see when the events happened.

Gemini over Baja California Sur: On the bottom, there is a current satellite image map of Baja California Sur, and on top of the map are two photographs taken from Gemini 5 and 11. Each photo was taken in 1965.

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

My Dear Nelly: The project is very confusing when the user first opens the website. We cannot imagine our parents or grandparents having patience to figure out this website. We barely had enough patience to explore it. We kept finding new features. The front-end development is not incredibly user friendly. That being said, we can imagine that learning like this in high school would be enjoyable. It would be enjoyable after we learn all the features.

Gemini over Baja California Sur: The creator of the project outlines his goals for the project well and creates a clear project; however, he could have gone into more depth in terms of the information that he is depicting. There could be more zooming features and more interactivity that deepens the level of information being put forth.  


Part II

What are the two spatial arguments being made?

City Witness: ‘City Witness’ uses medieval testimonies, along with other documentary and archaeological evidence, to investigate questions of locations and perspectives within medieval Swansea. Specifically, the event investigated is an interrogation of nine witnesses about an event they had seen in Swansea, 17 years earlier. This project aims to make medieval Swansea visible to observers today. Wartime bombing and later re-development of the city center have hidden the traces of the medieval urban lay-out and its buildings in Swansea. This project specifically tries to further the understanding of medieval Swansea to reinforce the connection between the modern city and its medieval stature.

Beijing of Dreams: ‘Beijing of Dreams’ attempts to help people remember the charm, beauty and magnificence of Old Beijing. The goal of the project is for Beijing to not be forgotten. Furthermore, the creators wish for the ancient walls and gates to be recreated so that visitors can see how beautiful Beijing once was.

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

City Witness: This project furthers society’s understanding of medieval Swansea by connecting GIS mapping and 3D digital visualization, with the perspectives experienced by the medieval witnesses within the city. The map shows the topography and landscape features of Swansea. Also, there are many added features to the project. For example, users can play a game that helps develop one’s understanding of medieval Swansea history. Also, there are different types of tours that one can participate in that helps connect medieval Swansea to present day Swansea.

Beijing of Dreams: This project is extremely user friendly. It only takes a minute to realize all of the specifics of the project. The interactive map allows users to select certain gates, walls and corners to look at. If one is interested, he or she may select the feature. Once selected, an old photo representing the feature will display. In some cases, there are slideshows of images if there are many photos or drawings representing a feature of the old city. Additionally, if one is not interested in the interactive map, they can select the categorical feature (ie. gate, wall, corner, miscellaneous, all images, old map) that they want to exclusively look at. Within these categories the specific feature is listed. All images are scanned. Additionally, the project is funded by The History of Chinese Science and Culture Foundation.

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

City Witness: John Baggeham’s account has 12 parts to it in many different locations. It is very frustrating to keep clicking the zoom in, and the zoom out in order to continue the story-line. I [Harris] gave up halfway through the story line because of how tedious it was. I think users should be able to click on the map, but also a timeline explaining all of the events would make the stories more accessible and efficient for users.

Beijing of Dreams: This project could have used more of a comparison between Old Beijing and New Beijing. The City Witness project does a great job of connecting Old Swansea with New Swansea and the Beijing of Dreams could strengthen the argument with a connection between the Old and New City.

Hypercities 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?

Neatline presents an interactive environment that enhances a narrative by embedding it within its geographical space and time period. Hypercities are less linear but draw information from multimedia, social media, archival maps, and hypertext to document the past or make future projections. In this way it can explore a historical narrative. These platforms are appropriate for making spatial arguments because of the effective way they overlay information with the geospatial environment. Hypercities gather information from a greater variety of media but Neatline presents a linear narrative that is usually very easy to navigate.



Part III

Our reflection tackles three questions: 1) How understandable is each project? 2) How applicable to education is each project? 3) How do the visuals succeed in addressing the purpose?

While briefly exploring City Witness (CW) and Beijing of Dreams (BD), is it easy to tell that each archive has different informational complexity. While CW has a vast amount of information with many additional links to click on under each tab, BD is much more simple in terms of the volume of information. In BD, there are no additional links to more information under each tab. Therefore, the volume and the simplicity of the information on BD makes it extremely understandable. Within a few minutes, the viewer can understand what the website is about.  Additionally, the content on BD is primarily visual, therefore the viewer is not overwhelmed by long texts. On the other hand, CW is a much more dynamic and intricate project; however, the volume of information can be overwhelming for the viewer to understand, and the project is more difficult to navigate. [EW]

One would think that the more understandable the project is, the more useful it can be as an educational tool. In the case of CW and BD, both are educational projects. However, CW is the more effective educational project because it presents more of a variety of information. For CW, the objective is to teach a medieval story through an interactive map. This is demonstrated through the ability to change the opacity of the medieval map that is juxtaposed on top of a current day map of Swansea. This project is applicable to medieval education by drawing a connection between present day and medieval Swansea. Beijing of Dreams, on the other hand, is less applicable to an educational setting. The user lacks the opportunity to interact. In some sections, it merely mimics a powerpoint slideshow with different images. The project lacks informational depth, which makes it less conducive to an educational environment. [HP]

BD’s interactive map is successful in helping the user understand Old Beijing. It succeeds because it includes a complete layout of the city which displays buildings of interest as a hyperlink that brings the user to a photo gallery of the building. This makes the site approachable and simple to navigate. While CW presents more information, the visuals do not contribute to the purpose as efficiently as those in BD. An interactive map is present, but it requires boxes to be checked in order to further specify what information is presented. This hinders the readability of the site and makes it difficult for the user to derive a greater understanding of the subject material. However, it does help to bridge medieval Swansea with present-day Swansea. The map includes an ability to change the opacity as a means of overlaying a map of old Swansea on top of modern Swansea to observe the urban development, as well as bring the past to life by drawing attention to historical buildings that are present in both maps. Additionally, other visuals that contribute to addressing the purpose are also present, such as animations and a game which help to improve the site’s readability. [MH]


Created by Michael Hoffman, Harris Pollack and Electra Washburn

DH Project Evaluation (Harris Pollack)

 Analysis of an Archive Development Project

The American Prison Writing Archive is a digital database that represents a culmination of non-fiction writing by currently incarcerated Americans. The inmates write about their experiences inside the American criminal justice system. The project is navigable and easy to understand. Users can quickly understand the project because everything is explained on the homepage of the archive. This project is unlike any other DH project in regards to the material. Additionally, the archive is constantly evolving since letter submissions continuously flow into the database. As much as the prison is meant to keep inmates inside, it is also supposed to keep Americans outside of the prison. This project gives voice to those that have been silenced by the criminal justice system.

The archive holds over 1,300 essays in analog form, enough essays to fill sixteen 350-page books. One of the many goals of the archive is to provide transparency into the lives of imprisoned people with first-hand accounts of those in the American criminal justice system. Furthermore, the database is fully searchable, meaning users can search the prison that the inmates are in, the religion that the inmate identifies with, and other identifying categories. This type of organization makes the documents easy to search, especially if the user wants a viewpoint from a specific type of inmate. This represents the interactivity of the database. It is user-friendly, as exemplified by the easy-to-understand format and design of the database.

The database uses simple tools that make the documents accessible to the public. The documents are scanned, coded and transcribed in order to make the documents searchable. The best part of the website is that anyone that is interested in this project can help out. There are essays that need to be transcribed and any user can participate in the transcription process. By allowing the user to help develop the archive, the user can become invested in this project and develop a personal interest. It is one thing to view a DH project, but it is a completely other thing to be part of a DH project. This American Prison Writing Archive invites users to participate.

The impact of this project touches academic and legal spheres. Professors that want to teach students about the injustices of the American criminal justice system can use these nonfiction letters as examples. Furthermore, when the archive is fully updated, lawyers can use the material to file class-action lawsuits in defense of inmates. Much research on the criminal justice system is hypothetical. These documents break down the hypothetical barrier and give tangible evidence to the misfortunes experienced within the criminal justice system.

~ Harris Pollack

What is Digital Humanities? – HP

What is digital humanities?

In order to define digital humanities, the two words that make up the phrase need to be defined; only then can we try to define the whole term. Digital can be defined as a non-physical representation of ideas and physical objects via digits. Additionally, it is a subset of technology that serves as a general purpose technology that leads to copious possibilities in display, interaction and computation. On the other side, humanities is the study of the human experience. More specifically, it is the study of the human race and what makes a human, a human. Digital humanities is a term that has no concrete definition. In fact, the definition is fluid and controversial amongst digital humanists. Furthermore, there is debate over what makes a person a digital humanist. Some believe it to be an all-inclusive word, while others believe that there are criteria that exclude some from being labeled as a digital humanist. For example, Mullen believes that everyone is a digital humanist and that the tent is very inclusive (Mullen, 2010). Mullen thinks that by making the tent more inclusive, more people will be willing to think about digital humanist projects. On the other hand, Fitzpatrick does not believe that we are all digital humanists. The main reason is that there are scholars who “work with digital materials, but who remain outside the traditions and assumptions of the digital humanities” (Fitzpatrick, 2012). Fitzpatrick would align with Berry who claims that digital humanities is a process, not a final product (Berry, 2011).

Digital humanities is very much a process; it is the application of different methods that take a physical subset and input it into a digital form. For example, taking Walt Whitman’s works and putting them into an online database that everyone can access. The reason why this database is not a final product is because there can be no end to the building of the database. As Ed Folsom notes, the database continues to grow just like the branches and roots of a tree (Folsom, 2007). Digital humanities is the application of new methods to find new knowledge. It is the remapping of traditional disciplines into a digital form. In a way, digital humanities is a renaissance of preconceived notions of “concrete disciplines,” such as sociology. Some argue that digital humanities is an academic field concerned with the application of computational tools and methods to traditional humanities disciplines such as literature, history and philosophy. To me, digital humanities is not so much a discipline, but rather a methodology. Digital humanists are able to take a discipline and apply digital humanity methodologies to the discipline. These methodologies democratize the information for those that have internet access.

If I have showed anything within this post, I hope to show that digital humanities has no concrete definition and everything about the “discipline” can be argued. I believe the definition consists of methodologies applied to concrete disciplines (ie. history, sociology, etc) that take physical archives and create virtual representations open to all that have access to internet and proper bandwidth.

Salem Witch Trial Project – Harris Pollack and Isabella Bossa

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

The Salem Witch Trials Archive uses documents and transcriptions, historical maps, archival collections, and contemporary books.

The original documents were written in the 17th century, and the archive provides access to numerous files that include verbatim transcriptions of the court records (and pictures of the original manuscripts in some cases), records and files of transcriptions of the Quarterly Counts of Essex County, pictures of original court records (located in various libraries and museums around the world), and electronic versions of record books.

The site provides various historical maps, including a map of the Salem Village in 1692, a map of Andover in 1692, a map of Salem in 1700, and a map of witchcraft accusations from February to March 1692. Some of the maps are static, while others are interactive.

Users also have access to pictures of original manuscripts kept in collections in a number of archives across the country, such as the Boston Public Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Massachusetts Archives, the Boston Judicial Archives, the New York Public Library, and the Maine Historical Society.

Lastly, the archive gives users access to scanned versions of six contemporary books relevant to the topic: Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather, More Wonders of the Invisible World by Robert Calef, Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits by Increase Mather, A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale, Some Miscellany Observations on our Present Debates in a Dialogue Between S.&B. by Samuel Willard, and Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases by George Lincoln Burr.

What is the project research question? Or questions?

The project’s goal is to thoroughly analyze the Salem Witch Trials. All the materials provided by the archive allow readers to carefully study and inspect court documents, relevant people and places involved, the time frame of the accusations and trials, and pertinent academic material on the issue. Therefore, the research question is aimed at studying why did the trials happen, who were the people involved (either as a defendant, a plaintiff, a judge, or a simply as a witness or a citizen), how did the trials develop, where did it all happen, and how is the issue perceived in contemporary books.  

What tools are being used? Created?

Throughout the website and archives, scanners are used to scan old documents that include maps, personal letters and record books. The project also includes transcriptions of the original court records, and in some cases, scanned photographs of original manuscripts. Lastly, the website utilizes links from other library and museum archives. The archives typically have either a transcription or a scanned image of a relevant document. Additionally, researchers used a geographic information system (GIS) which gives visual representation of social context of the witch trials episode by placing the people mentioned in court records in their actual house locations in the village. This tool enabled researchers to create a graphic map that represents important location and demographic information (age, gender, frequency of accusations by individuals, etc).

*Funding has been provided by foundation grants.

What methods are being undertaken?

The method used is a well organized website that displays different types of information. The project organizes people by their roles in the trials (categories include executed, trial critics, died in jail, ministers, officials, afflicted girls, defenders of the accused, associate magistrates, and other accusers). Additionally, the project creators have uploaded, transcribed, or scanned photos of contemporary books and documents, maps, and court archives. A user can select what type of primary or secondary source they want to investigate. Furthermore, tools such as the GIS enabled the researchers to test court record accuracy and examine geographic surroundings in Salem that influenced the witch trials.