interactive data

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. <;.

Digital Phenomenology

In the article “Text: A Massively Addressable Object,” Michael Witmore celebrates the work he and his colleagues have been doing in the digital humanities. Their 1,000 text compilation of quantifiable, data driven digitized text is no small feat. However, he calls attention to the primary problem scholars face when handling these digitized texts, and managing them as objects.

Witmore contends that these large compilations of digitized texts are “massively addressable at different levels of scale.” Where “addressable” means that “one can query a position within the text at a certain level of abstraction…[and] implies different levels of abstraction (character, word, phrase, line, etc.), which are stipulative or nominal…they are, conventions” (Witmore). That is to say, in this new way of organizing text as digitized, data objects we are able to make different conclusions about the literature that extends beyond the established mode of critical analysis of what a text represents.

Moreover, Witmore contends that we need a new way of reading which he describes “as the continual redisposition of levels” (Witmore). He proposes that scholars “need a phenomenology of these acts, one that would allow us to link quantitative work on a culture’s ‘built environment’ of words to the kinesthetic and imaginative dimensions of life at a given moment” (Witmore). In other words, Witmore recognizes the digitized text as an actual object for analysis and interpretation that is capable of being interpreted similar to some of the historically established modes of analysis. However, there is an intellectual gap between the way we conceive data, and its interpretation than the way we have interacted with physical books. According to Witmore, there is a need that extends out of the digital humanities to bring the physical, phenomenological, kinesthetic and imaginative as a means to interpret these large sets of quantifiable data.

While Witmore makes a productive call to action, he doesn’t exactly provide a viable solution to his problem. How might we imagine, or re-imagine examining and interpreting the quantifiable conventions that the addressable text presents?

Candide and Commentary

This project from the New York Public Library selected a set of readers, or “gardeners,” and had them annotate specific chapters of Voltaire’s Candide. The NYPL then left the project open over several months and allowed readers to contribute their own comments. The result is a collaborative “public reading,” of Candide, and while the project ideally would have garnered more attention, it opens valid questions into the nature of communal interaction centered in literature. How does the textual experience differ with a dialogue surrounding it? How are our perceptions different if we understand text alongside the critiques of others? Can unique perspective breed only in isolation?

Walking Ulysses is one of many online tools designed to help readers better visualize literary works by using maps. Developed by Boston College, Walking Ulysses lets you follow maps around historic Dublin, tracking characters and events from James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses. You can read overviews, toggle between historic and contemporary views, and precisely measure the distances characters travel.

Visualizing Data-Interactive Maps

Visual Eyes is a tool that allows users to visualize multiple forms of data in an interactive format. I could see a tool like this making a compelling visualization of Robinson Crusoe’s island or the travels of Victor Frankenstein.

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