digital humanities

Visualizations for the Data Rich

This awesome tool takes visualization up a notch in sophistication. Palladio was designed by DHers at Stanford University and it allows complex data to be converted into maps, graphs, lists and galleries. The next time you’re working with big data sets, consider Palladio as a go to visualization tool.

Going Semipublic

In her article “How to Talk About Books You Have Read,” Sharon Marcus links the role of the ‘semipublic’ intellectual to the profession of the teacher. She asks, “How does one do this kind of writing, which involves distilling copious research and complicated ideas about difficult texts into crystalline points that any intelligent eighteen-year-old can understand? We have a name for this in academia: we call it teaching. . .” (476). Marcus makes a well-argued point; academia is already invested in conveying complicated points to uninitiated undergraduates. Why not approach public intellect the same way? Why not become a teacher outside of academia as much as inside?

This argument handily combats the idea that public or semipublic intellectual work is inherently less rigorous and intelligent than work published in academic journals. In fact, we may even be able to view the semipublic intellectual as occupying a more difficult spot, making intelligent points that are still accessible to a general readership. Although this approach will inevitably step on some toes, stagnation is never combatted by people afraid of offending. If anything, a sort of productive offense must occur. Intellectuals must encounter and counter current publishing practices, searching for a new method for disseminating intellectual work.

I support Marcus’ stance and would like to further contend that it is important for the humanities to shift towards a more public face, not because of an attack or crisis within academia, but because the nature of the humanities should be human. Humanity is an incredibly diverse thing or project or idea, and academia, regardless of the diverse backgrounds of faculty, has remained surprisingly homogenous in its publishing mores. To reconnect the study of the humanities to the thing that fuels it (that is, the human experience), the intellectual community must cast their net further. For what use are the artifacts and studies of the humanities if they remain proudly pinned on the walls of an ivory office? Spread them to the masses and see what wonderful things may happen when you become a teacher of the many instead of the few.

Works Cited

Marcus, Sharon. “How to Talk About Books You Have Read.” PMLA 130.2: 2015. 474-80. Web.

Digital tools can be used for virtually everything–including bees. You heard right. Bee Lab is a project that uses a range of digital tools to help spread the word about bees and beekeeping. Although it might just seem like a hobby for some, beekeeping has become a serious endeavor for many environmental advocates, especially with the rapid decline of honeybees everywhere.

Open-source electronics, tracking systems, forums, and media releases are just some of the ways beekeepers are spreading the word. In reality, Bee Lab revolves around communication and media, connecting people–including the general public–with the science behind bees. This inspiring project is working to bridge the gap between sciences and humanities, all while working from a digital platform.

A Shift in the Weather

Inspired by Sarah Tindal Kareem’s lecture and a following conversation with another TA, I think it’s interesting to ponder the shift in weather scale. Kareem’s lecture focused on the weather in Jane Austen and how it exerted agency over the characters; a rainstorm could fundamentally alter the days activities. However, today we find a different situation. If it rains, we simply grab an umbrella and hop in our cars.

In this way, have meteorological events shifted to meet human’s increasing ability to defy the agency of weather. We’ve talked a great deal about the Anthropocene in this course. Could we view it as the weather maintaining agency as humanity becomes more resilient to ‘lesser’ weather?

Digital Zombies is in some ways a game, and in other ways it is a digital tool for teaching historical research methods. Headed by Professor Juliette Levy at UCR, this project deals with topics such as human-kind’s control of nature and, naturally, zombies. Students develop creative projects and accomplish various tasks by performing research in physical and digital collections. The goal is to get students to think differently about their own historical research methods, as well as different perspectives enabled by digital platforms.

Interestingly, the term “digital zombie” is a name for someone so involved with social media and digital technologies that they become fixated with a “faux reality.” It is also used to describe students who only use sites like Wikipedia and Google to do research, often using digital sources indiscriminately, without ever coming in contact with physical sources.

Your Hometown Gone Historical

Since the revolution of the camera, photos have become a wonderful way to chronicle the progression of people or a location and to conjure up nostalgia. Yale University’s Photogrammar is a categorized collection of over 170,000 photographs taken between 1935 and 1945. The photos are organized by state and county on an interactive map and they offer a neat opportunity to peer into the past of your hometown. My home county had only one photo (the header for this post), but it was still neat to look backwards to an older time before diving back into the present.


Works Cited

Vachon, John. Grocery store, Ohio, Route 74. Digital image. Photogrammar. Yale, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <;.

Mindfulness: Creating Space in a Digital World


As we become more and more steeped in a technologically connected world, scholars are turning their attention and work toward understanding both the benefits and challenges with reading on the internet. Much of the conversation revolves around distraction, as noted by Nicholas Carr and Tony Schwartz. In the New York Times article “Addicted to Distraction,” Schwartz calls attention to “[t]he brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification [which] creates something called a ‘compulsion loop.’ Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect” (Schwartz). Ultimately, Schwartz sets out to break the compulsive cycle that he has attributed to constant connection to the internet.

Many of us can relate to the sentiments Schwartz expresses in his article, the compulsive checking emails, and clicking from article to article on the internet. We may even justify these behaviors, that we are reading something and it is entertaining, or informative etc. Schwartz, though, is concerned with the ways it shapes our life, and those of us who are compulsively using the internet have actually developed a sort of addiction to it.

As people we might have a difficult time acknowledging how the internet shatters our focus, as Carr deftly points to in his article. He writes, “[d]azzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.” Because it is often instantaneous, and always available, it is difficult to move out of that space, or that ‘compulsion loop.’ Ultimately, Schwartz commits himself to a detox ritual in order to shift his habit of mind toward a more healthy relationship with the internet.

Schwartz reveals that this was not an easy task. In fact, he did not immediately succeed in his internet detox. Eventually, he reveals that he has “retained [his] longtime ritual of deciding the night before on the most important thing I can accomplish the next morning. [Promising to work] for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption. Afterward, [he takes] a 10- to 15-minute break to quiet [his] mind and renew [his] energy” (Schwartz). This is a deliberate moving away from the allatonceness that the digital humanities often considers a strength. This shift toward technological mindfulness moves the scholar, the professional, the technologically engaged person into a slower paced environment. This new space allows for an active engagement with the digital world, but a more balanced and healthy one. How might we, as educators, incorporate some of Schwartz’s into our course objectives, activities, and teaching philosophies?


Necessarily Considering DH on an International Scale

Is it necessary to consider Digital Humanities on an international scale? Do certain facts or claims about the Digital Humanities only apply to the US or European educational systems? If emphasis on humanities education and research is becoming more popular in Asia, should literature professors simply move where they will be appreciated?

I was recently speaking to a good friend of mine who now works in Singapore creating curriculum for an international high school. His job is to help students be more creative, with a focus on design philosophy and fine arts projects. What struck me most about his experience was the fact that creativity, critical thinking, and aesthetics were deemed essential to the student learning experience. In many instances, the sciences seemed to take a backseat to the humanities. One question that occurred to me while talking to him was: are the Digital Humanities less promising in other countries and/or cultures?

Continue reading “Necessarily Considering DH on an International Scale”

Robots Reading Vogue

Robots Reading Vogue is a collaborative project between arts librarian, Lindsay King and digital humanities lab affiliate Peter Leonard through the Yale Digital Humanities Lab. The large data mining project purports to be useful for disciplines from gender studies to computer science. The visual data represents various changes throughout the magazines history ranging from cover art to word co-occurance. Vogue‘s long and rich publication history (over a hundred years, according to the project’s website) provides a wealth of data to be selected and analyzed.

Since its inception, Robots Reading Vogue has worked several different inspiring projects like these awesome student projects!


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