Digital History

For Tuesday 11/28, please review the article “Digital Junction” (which was assigned back on Nov 16, but that was our library day, so we didn’t discuss it then). It’s posted on Blackboard under “Content.” And read Ch 19-20 of William’s Historian’s Toolbox, though Williams seems somewhat a) uninformed and b) skeptical/wary of digital methods and innovations in the field of history and the humanities. In reality, digital history is a well-established and vibrantly growing area of research and practice. There are a growing number of centers for digital humanities (DH) scholarship.

To name just a few:

Northeastern University NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks
MIT HyperStudio
University of Virginia ScholarsLab
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities

Check out a few of this post’s links before class – what kinds of work is happening in DH centers right now that looks interesting to you?

See also:
Digital Humanities: Projects, Centers and Tools (Univ of Washington LibGuide)
DH Commons (CenterNet)
DiRT (Digital Research Tools, Mellon Foundation)
Black DH, a list

For further exploration, a 2011 New York Times article explores the ways some historians and humanities scholars are use sophisticated mapping, data visualization and other digital tools for scholarly analysis. One of the projects mentioned in the NYT article is the digitalization of the Bayeux Tapestry (all 224-feet long of it), a project of a medieval scholar at Drew University, Martin K. Foys. A CD-ROM digital edition of the artifact can be purchased for about the cost of a textbook, but as one user notes… it’s also been installed in the virtual world of Second Life.

Here are some innovative digital data visualizations, like Alexander Chen’s mesmerizing art/programming/mapping mashup titled “Conductor,” which combined New York subway train schedules, HTML5 + Javascript + Flash programming, and some cool acoustic string sounds to show us the music of the subterranean cityscape. It’s a beautiful and creative way to display a complex system and visualize some highly technical data. A sampling of other gorgeous & smart methods and tools with which historians could experiment:

  • N-gram: visualization of the frequency of use of any word over time, searched across outrageously-many digitized old books
  • Similarly, the Popular Science Archive Explorer maps the frequency of a word used in the entire back archive of PopSci since 1872
  • Name Voyager – the top 1000 baby names over the last century (source: US Census) in a dynamic, interactive graph format
  • Wordle: dump any text in (say, a presidential speech) and get lovely word clouds sized by word frequency
  • Using GIS (i.e. geospatial information systems): here’s just one example of many
  • …and its close cousin: Geolocation, for example using
  • Find more examples of data visualization using (local) maps at Bostonography