Registration Open for Fall ’15 DH Practicum

Registration is now open for the Fall ’15 offering of the lab’s Digital Humanities Practicum (American Studies 850).  This course approaches digital humanities through practical experience in a lab setting and seminar-style reflection upon and discussion of that experience.

The lab develops tools and collaborative work processes that make it easier, cheaper, and faster for scholars, students, and cultural heritage organizations to “do” public-facing digital humanities projects.  A significant expression of this commitment is the continuing development and refinement of DH Press, an award-winning multi-purpose digital humanities toolkit built on the widely-used WordPress digital publishing platform.   Our commitment to developing new models for public engagement through digital humanities is currently being expressed in “Digital Loray”: an extended, community-based effort to use digital technologies to integrate local history into the experience of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the state’s history (the Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC).

Participants will work with Will Bosley, General Manager, and other staff of the DIL to contribute to ongoing DIL project work and to augment and expand published projects.  In addition to exploring and evaluating a range of digital humanities tools, they will learn to use DH Press to design and implement digital humanities projects and explore different ways of visualizing digital humanities data for academic and non-academic audiences.  They will gain valuable experience in developing effective work practices and hone project management and communication/presentation skills of particular relevance to interdisciplinary, collaborative, public-facing  digital humanities practice.

The seminar dimension of course, led by Robert Allen, James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Director of the DIL, will connect the practicum experience with issues and debates in the digital humanities more generally through reading and discussion.

Enrollment is limited and is by permission of the instructor.  This course welcomes participation from graduate degree-seeking students from across the UNC-CH community; staff and faculty; graduate students at Duke, NCSU, and NCCU (via inter-institutional registration); and independent scholars/humanities practitioners (enrollment through Friday Center for Continuing Education).  No previous training or experience in digital humanities is required beyond the level of computer literacy and competence expected of any graduate-level student in the humanities.  This course counts toward the UNC-CH graduate certificate in digital humanities.

The course will meet on Mondays 3:30-6:25 pm in the Digital Innovation Lab (431 Greenlaw). Participants should plan to spend at least one additional hour each week in the lab during business hours working on small-group projects.

Expressions of interest should be sent to Professor Robert Allen: rallen@email.unc.edu

 

“Seeing Ourselves”: New DH Press Prototype

The challenge for first-year American Studies PHD student and DIL graduate associate Charlotte Fryar: build a prototype interface in DH Press for interacting with historical film footage that could be used online and on touchscreen tablets.  Oh, and can you do it in six weeks while you’re assisting for an undergraduate class, working on other lab projects, and taking a full load of classes?

The specs: display, index, and geo-tag identified individuals, places, and events from a film shot in 1942; locate them on interactive map (include contemporary street views); and create a space for streamed audio and transcripts of comments about and memories of the film and the people/places/events it depicts.

The answer: a resounding “yes, I can!”  Here is what she (working under the guidance of Michael Newton and with the latest version of DH Press) came up with.

The film chosen for this use-case is H. Lee Waters’s “Gastonia, 1942,” preserved and shared on YouTube by the Duke University Special Collections Library.  Charlotte used two brief scenes from the film as test content: a shift change at the mill, and workers and their families gathering at the neighborhood movie theater, the Carolina, where they would be able to “see themselves as others saw them” a few weeks later.

The prototype will be further developed this summer in conjunction with the DIL’s Digital Loray project and the Loray Mill’s planned history center.  “Seeing Ourselves” also grows out of discussions with UNC Folklore grad, Martin Johnson (Catholic University) about developing tools to reveal the remarkable work of the hundreds of local and itinerant filmmakers in the US and around the world.

Charlotte’s prototype also points to many other materials and use-cases that could take advantage of these features of DH Press: oral history, folklore, and ethnographic interviews;  home movies; and family history come to mind immediately–and to other settings in which DH Press can be deployed: historic sites, museums, K-12 learning units, college-level classes, online learning. 

“Seeing Ourselves” debuted as a part of Robert Allen’s presentation at the Arclight Symposium on the application of digital technologies to cinema and media history at Concordia University in Montreal the week of May 11th.

Congratulations, Charlotte!

NC Historical Newspapers Symposium

On Tuesday, March 24th, the Digital Innovation Lab, the UNC Libraries, and the Odum Institute for Research in Social Sciences co-sponsored a symposium to explore research, teaching, and engaged scholarship applications of the North Carolina digitized newspaper collection. The symposium took place in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library on the UNC campus and was attended by more than 50 scholars from departments across the humanities and social sciences.

UNC scholars now have access to over 3.3 million pages of historical newspapers dating from the 1750s through the 1920s, digitized through a partnership between the UNC Libraries and Newspapers.com (a division of Ancestry.com). The scale and diversity of the newspaper collection prompted scholars from the DIL, the Libraries, and the Odum Institute to ask, “What can you do with 3 million pages of digitized North Carolina newspapers?” The symposium provided an opportunity to think through this question, with scholars from UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and Northeastern University offering examples of how the availability of digitized historical newspapers has transformed their teaching and research.

AllenThe symposium began with a welcome from Dr. Robert Allen, Professor of American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and Director of the Digital Innovation Lab. Ashley Reed, Postdoctoral Fellow with the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, then offered an introduction to the newspaper interface designed by Newspapers.com for use by UNC scholars. The collection can be reached by any UNC scholar with an Onyen: visit library.unc.edu and type “newspapers.com” in the “Search” field at the center of the page. The interface offers advanced searching and browsing capabilities, including allowing users to narrow their searches by date range or geographic area.

Once attendees had been introduced to the Newspapers.com interface, Nicholas Graham, Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and Krista Hegerhorst, Head of Institutional Partnerships for Newspapers.com, offered a short history of the partnership between the UNC Libraries and Newspapers.com and discussed how it might serve as a model for other public-private partnerships that might help to make historical and cultural materials more widely available. Graham emphasized the scale of UNC’s newspaper collections on microfilm and noted that without the Newspapers.com partnership it would have been difficult to make these materials available in digital form. Hegerhorst noted how quickly the digitized materials have been adopted by Newspapers.com subscribers and the UNC community, with almost 200 new users accessing the collection each month.

BishirThe next portion of the program offered examples of how these newly digitized North Carolina newspapers have already begun transforming research and teaching in the Triangle. Dr. Robert Allen detailed how students in his first-year American Studies seminars have used the newspapers to supplement their reading of scholarly texts including Heather Williams’ Help Me To Find My People and Catherine Bishir’s Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900. Using the North Carolina newspapers and the larger Ancestry.com archives, students are able to extend the personal stories told in these scholarly works and to put human faces on historical subjects. Next Catherine Bishir herself, Curator in Architectural Special Collections at North Carolina State University Libraries, detailed how the North Carolina newspapers have allowed her to exponentially expand the information available in North Carolina Architects and Builders (ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu), an ongoing online biographical dictionary for which she serves as editor-in-chief. Bishir noted that often the most reliable information about the architectural history of a city can be found in the newspapers of neighboring cities, where political loyalties hold less sway and information is sometimes more accurate.

CarseyFinally, Thomas Carsey, Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill and Director of the Odum Institute, offered a vision of possibilities for big-data social science research using the North Carolina digitized newspaper collection. In addition to providing a web interface for searching and browsing the digitized newspaper collection, Newspapers.com is providing to the UNC Libraries all of the raw data created during the digitization process, including JPEG, PDF, and XML files. The availability of over 3.3 million digital files containing machine-transcribed text will offer nearly limitless possibilities for historical data mining and large-scale textual analysis projects. Carsey encouraged scholars with such projects in mind to contact the Digital Innovation Lab or the Odum Institute for consultation.

Ryan CordellFollowing this panel the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Ryan Cordell of Northeastern University, offered one example of how the computational analysis of millions of newspaper pages can offer a window into the past. Cordell is co-director, with  Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and David Smith, of the Viral Texts project, which mines the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database and other large-scale digitized newspaper collections to determine which texts—political, literary, informational—circulated most widely in nineteenth-century newspapers. Cordell and his interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates use a combination of algorithms to seek matching phrases across the entire Chronicling America digital corpus. These algorithms return “clusters” of similar texts, providing the project team with an idea of how news items circulated and which texts were most likely to “go viral” in the nineteenth-century United States. Such analysis would be impossible for even a large team of human scholars to perform without the assistance of computational methodologies, and the results are relevant to disciplines ranging from literary studies to political science to history to public health. After a lively and informative question and answer session, attendees adjourned to Wilson Library to enjoy a reception generously sponsored by the Odum Institute.

Faculty, staff, and graduate students who were unable to attend the symposium but wish to explore uses of the newspaper collection in their research and teaching are encouraged to contact the event’s organizer, Ashley Reed (reeda (at) email.unc.edu), to discuss potential projects.

The University Gazette published an article on the digital collection and the symposium event in its online issue for March 31, 2015.

CDHI to Hire Program Coordinator

The Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative is accepting applications for a full-time Program Coordinator. The position will be responsible for administering and coordinating the diverse activities and programs of the CDHI, including the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows Program, the CDHI Graduate Fellows Program, the CDHI Postdoctoral Fellows Program, and (pending University approval), the Graduate Certificate Program in Digital Humanities. Duties associated with coordination of these program include liaising with academic departments and support units in the College of Arts and Sciences and other university academic and support units; organizing and executing selection recruitment evaluation for all programs; supporting the work of the CDHI Faculty Steering Committee Chair and Cyberinfrastructure Taskforce Director; serving ex officio on faculty sub-committees; and maintaining the CDHI website. The position will also participate in and coordinate professional development and training activities in digital humanities for faculty and graduate students, and plan campus activities and events designed to increase interest and involvement in digital humanities across the campus in cooperation with other university units, other universities and digital humanities programs, and cultural heritage organizations.

To read more, or to apply online, see the full posting.

Announcing the Launch of How Do You Say It?

How Do You Say It?, one of two DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship projects for 2014, is now live and available to the public. The project, directed by Lucia Binotti in Romance Languages, is one of two faculty projects supported in 2014 by the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship Program, under the auspices of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative.

How Do You Say It? is an interdisciplinary and community service oriented proof of concept project that exploits the Digital Innovation Lab’s DH Press to layer, map and visualize information about the Spanish language varieties used to address Latin@ audiences in the prevention of intimate partner violence. The project’s long-­term goal is to assess if the choice of different varieties of Spanish more specifically targeted to a regional sub-­group of the larger Latin@ population increases the success/effectiveness of textual literature (brochures, signs, advertisements) as well as direct oral interaction (from support services, doctors, social workers, etc.) in preventing and educating about domestic violence.

The documents repository at a glance

The documents repository at a glance

The project site consists of three sets of data visualizations, including a map of U.S. agencies dedicated to combating interpersonal violence among Latin@ communities. The core of the site features a documents repository — visualized in a myriad of ways — of nearly 230 Spanish and English documents dedicated to interpersonal violence prevention and support for survivors. Site visitors can search for documents based on document type, language, type of violence discussed, and services provided. From this corpus, the project team conducted a preliminary linguistic analysis of a subset of documents to begin visualizing textual patterns. The corpus is also available as a plain text zip file for researchers to download and ingest into text mining tools, such as Voyant.

In the coming months and years, Dr. Binotti plans to grow this project in many new directions. She will continue building partnerships with various agencies, as well as extending the linguistic analysis by incorporating that research into her undergraduate teaching.

Explore the Project

Special thanks to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities for its support of Dr. Binotti’s Fall 2014 fellowship.

And stay tuned for an announcement of the launch of POPP, our other faculty fellowship project, in January 2015!

DH Press 2.5 Now Available

I am pleased to announce the release of DH Press version 2.5! It features many enhancements to the existing toolkit, plus six new visualizations.

New Visualizations

Since the release of version 2.0 in June, our developer, Michael Newton, has been hard at work adding many new ways of visualizing data. In additional to the original Cartesian map that has been at the core of DH Press since the beginning, the toolkit now features the following new visualizations, which we call “Entry Points.” Many of these new visualizations are similar to Palladio, created by the Stanford Design+Humanities Research Lab, which uses the same D3 JavaScript library (learn more). Each unique visualization created for a DH Press project is assigned its own unique URL, thereby enabling users to be directed to a specific view of the data.

Pinboard

Rocky-KnobThe Pinboard visualization functions similarly to the map view, but instead of using an underlying Cartesian map, project admins can pin content to a background image of their own choosing. We have found this to be an excellent workaround for using historical maps without having to georectify them – see these examples from Anne Whisnant’s Parks to the Side project: Linville Falls Pinboard, Rocky Knob Pinboard.

Instead of layering additional maps on top of the base background image, the Pinboard supports the use of SVG layering. Project admins can create and load SVG layers to DH Press to enhance the Pinboard — to annotate images, similar to Scalar’s image annotation functionality. In addition to using DH Press markers to pin objects to the Pinboard, SVGs function as a secondary layer of content, but one that is not tied to the actual data model of a given project. SVG layers can be used to provide additional visual prompts to users, or explain elements of the background image.

Enhanced Pinboard with Animation

It is also possible to add an animation to a Pinboard by tying the optional SVG layers to a media file. Site visitors can play the media file and see various SVG layers turn on/off in sync with the streaming media. This feature can be used to provide a guided tour through the Pinboard. For example, the SVG layers could be tied to a tutorial video filmed by the project team, and used as a way to explain aspects of the interactive visualization.

The animation functions similarly to the Transcript Widget. Elements of the SVG file are assigned to different chunks of the media file via a timestamped plain text transcript (the “animation script”). Currently only YouTube media files work. Note that users will only be able to see, and not hear, the file.

Timeline

Users have been asking for a timeline view since DH Press was still just a prototype. With version 2.5, it is now possible to provide a temporal display of your data. Our timeline supports the visual display of date ranges (e.g. a decade or a century) and single days, both BCE and CE.

Moreover, the DH Press timeline supports what we call “fuzzy” or uncertain dates. Project admins can specify uncertainty in their data, and DH Press will display that uncertainty by fading out the fill color of the timeline entry (see this example).

Fuzzy dates are critical to making the timeline a useful visualization for humanists. Given our uncertainty about much of the past, it allows us to provide a sense of when things might have happened without misleading our users, in a capta-based approach to data visualization (Johanna Drucker, “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5, no. 1 (2011): link).

Facet Flow

A facet flow connecting type of object with materials used to create the object.Facet flows allow you to visualize the relationship between different attributes in your data. For example, this visualization from the How Do You Say It? project shows the relationship between the intended gender audience for a given document about interpersonal violence prevention (Attribute A), and the actual use of gendered grammar, or gendered pronouns determinative articles (Attribute B). The colored bands can be rearranged by clicking on the “alpha” or “size” links for either attribute. Attribute positions can be swapped by dragging the top down to the bottom and vice versa. Hovering over a colored band shows the percentage of relevant results in the data. Clicking on a colored band will bring up all relevant documents in the window below.

Facet Browser

BrowserThe facet browser allows users to explore the project by filtering on any number of attributes. Similar to many e-commerce websites (such as Amazon or Zappos), users can drill down into several attributes at the same time in order to find specific elements of the data (“faceted search”). Project admins may add as many attributes (motes) to this view as they like, though too many will hinder the user experience.

Tree View

The final visualization is the tree view, which displays 1 to N relationships within your data. The most common usage of this is for genealogical family trees, though the tree view can be used for any sort of parent-child relationship in your data (see this non-familial example). There are three different tree views available:

  • a Flat Tree
  • a Radial Tree, where each successive generation is placed at a further radius from the center root node
  • a Segmented Wheel, where each successive generation is a further ring-layer moving out from the center core

New Data Types

To support these new visualizations, we’ve added several new data types:

  • x,y coordinates for Pinboards (similar to latitude,longitude pairs)
  • pointer data for Tree Views
  • dates and date ranges for Timelines
  • YouTube data for the Transcript Widget (see below) and Pinboard Animations

Pointer data can also be used to create relationships between data points without using the Tree View. Project admin can specify a “primary key” in the project to mimic the functionality of a relational database. Setting a primary key tells DH Press to treat a particular attribute of your data (custom field) as the unique identifier, which can be used to connect data points.

N.B. these data types are customized exclusively for DH Press. They are not globally recognized data types (such as nominal, integer, and ratio data). They were created to aid project admins in creating and configuring their visualizations. Please consult our documentation for detailed specifications about how to set up your data.

Enhancements to Current Features

Transcript Widget

In addition to these new visualizations, Michael has added some important functionality to existing DH Press capabilities. Most importantly, he has enhanced the Audio/Transcript tool (now called the “Transcript Widget” in v. 2.5) to support streaming media from either SoundCloud or YouTube. Additionally, he has extended the tool to support a scrolling transcript without a streaming audio/video file. This can be used for manuscript transcription.

For users of older versions of DH Press, make sure to consult our 2.5 Documentation for small changes in the project configuration dashboard, particularly with respect to configuring the Transcript Widget. Users are strongly encouraged to follow the formatting specifications for transcripts in this documentation.

Data Export

We now have the capability to export data out of DH Press. Project admins can create a CSV file directly from their project dashboard. This is particularly useful in cases where many changes were made to the data after import. This enables project teams to update their data in DH Press without having to go back and make the same changes in their original data files. Instead, they can simply export the data after those changes have been made.

Start Using DH Press 2.5

DH Press 2.5 can be downloaded from our GitHub repository. Please consult Michael’s documentation about configuring data and projects for 2.5.

Note that once you migrate your project to 2.5, you will not be able to revert back to an older version of DH Press. We anticipate future releases to support backwards compatibility, but cannot at this time due to significant changes in the plugin’s architecture. For full details about migrating from 2.0 to 2.5, please consult our documentation.

Special thanks to Michael Newton, DH Press Lead Developer, for all of his hard work getting us to version 2.5. Additional thanks go out to the kind folks at OASIS, who have proven invaluable in the process, and to Anne MacNeil, one of our 2014 DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows, who assisted with field testing version 2.5, and whose project inspired many of our new visualizations.

Digital Humanities Postdoc Position

CDHI is currently accepting applications for a two-year Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship.

This postdoctoral fellow will consult with faculty on incorporating digital humanities approaches and materials in their work, and plan programs and workshops that contribute to broader conversations on campus around digital humanities topics and issues. The position will provide project management and technical support for up to four DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows (one or two each fall semester). the position will develop a research and publication agenda through the use of digital technologies in a project to be completed by the end of the fellowship experience. The position will also teach four digital humanities courses over the twenty-four months of the fellowship. The fellow will also hold a teaching appointment in the appropriate department or curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences. Courses will reflect the scholarly interests of the fellow as well as the curricular needs and priorities of the academic department and university, particularly with respect to the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities.

Learn more or to apply online, visit the online listing.

AMST 840 to be Offered Spring 2015

For students interested in Digital Humanities, Digital Public History, or those looking to enroll in a class in pursuit of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities, CDHI Postdoctoral Fellow Julie Davis will offer AMST 840: Digital Humanities/Digital American Studies in the Spring 2015 semester.

This course focuses on the application of interdisciplinary digital humanities approaches within site-based, community-oriented, public history projects. We’ll explore how to incorporate a physical and emotional sense of place into digital spaces. We’ll also consider how to use digital technologies to interpret historic sites in ways that engage broad publics and foster local community. Students will analyze/discuss readings on digital humanities and public history theory, review case studies, and critique examples of digital public projects. They also will analyze ongoing work in the Digital Innovation Lab (DIL), including the Loray Mill project.

Students also will gain hands-on, practical experience in applying digital tools & methods to a public history project. They will contribute work to one or more DIL projects in ways that could be translated into individual portfolios. No prior DH training is necessary, but a willingness to experiment and make small contributions to a long-term, collaborative effort is essential.

The course meets Thursdays from 1:00-3:50. Please direct inquiries to Julie Davis.