So much for a new librarian to learn… and reflections

The first workshop that I attended was Mobile Apps – my UConn- Project Overview From the Ground Up. During that presentation and discussion I thought that it would be nice for me to create a list of computer software and coding languages that could be helpful for me to become familiar with to help in my work as a librarian. I would like to eventually create a list of useful resources that could help me to learn more technology related skills. When I first thought of making the list I had intended to learn all of the software and languages that were mentioned in workshops that seemed to be of great importance. At the end of the weekend, I know realize that what I learn will depend on what is necessary for my work. As was pointed out by one of my coworkers during an internship, you cannot learn everything.


Software and Coding Languages Mentioned During THATCamp that I Could Learn:


Phone Gap

Sencha Touch



Google Analytics



JQuery Mobile (not sure of spelling)






At THATCamp, I was introduced to a large number of new topics in a short period of time. In addition to hearing of computer applications and languages that I was unfamiliar with I was able to learn about the many different digital humanities projects that people are working on. It was nice to discuss with people face-to-face and listen to detailed discussions. I am coming away from the unconference at the starting point of learning about digital humanities.



To go with the session on playing with non-textual data, Peter Leonard, Lauren Tilton, and I put together an interactive browser for images. Using d3 and html5, it lets you take a large set of images and their metadata and arrange them graphically in the browser. It adds local hosting, mouseover effects, and (most fun) animated transitions to its inspiration, Lev Manovich’s ImagePlot.

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 4.24.23 PM

We can’t link to it right here because the prototype runs on some highly copyrighted Vogue covers. We’ll set it up to work with open Library of Congresses images later.

The next step will be to automatically pull in some makefiles so you can run it on any arbitrary, medium sized (50-5,000) collection of photos.


Maker Challenge

Don’t forget the maker challenge at 4pm. Just remember to post your idea and add the category of maker challenge.


Maker Challenge: Correspondence Network of Isaac Hull

For the Maker Challenge, I present two network graphs of Isaac Hull’s correspondence. These graphs are a visualization of the letterbook of Master Commandant Isaac Hull, of the U.S. brig Argus, from 1803 to the end of 1805, when Hull was stationed in the Mediterranean and was part of the capture of the city of Derna (the engagement from which the Marine Hymn takes its phrase “to the shores of Tripoli”).

I built these network graphs in Gephi.

Here is a network graph depicting the correspondence of Hull using his correspondents as the nodes. The major correspondent, you’ll notice, is William Eaton. This isn’t surprising, considering that Eaton was the major American diplomatic player in the Mediterranean at the time, and also the mastermind of the capture of Derna.


The second network graph is a little more interesting. This graph shows connections not between people, but between places. I used the places as the nodes instead of the correspondents. I did this in order to demonstrate first, how much the same people moved around, and second, the potential problems encountered when a correspondent tried to write an important letter to a ship captain on the sea or military commander on the march.

Using the geographic indicators from the letterbook and other published papers from the Barbary Wars, I recorded the location of the sender and the probable location of the recipient. I geocoded these location markers in R and then uploaded that file as my nodes worksheet. Though the time constraints of the Maker Challenge did not allow me to layer this graph onto an actual map (besides the problem of finding a map that can distinguish between locations 12 miles apart and locations over a thousand miles apart), I did form the layout in a roughly geographical arrangement.

What you’ll probably notice is that no one place is extremely prominent. The US Navy used ports and consulates all over the Mediterranean for their operations, and as a result they communicated often with a wide and varied geographical area.



Just imagine the Mediterranean Sea on the right third of the graph, and the Atlantic Ocean on the left two-thirds.




Screwing around with non-text

Plenty of digital humanists have gotten quite good at knowing how to take text files and, as Steve Ramsay says, “screw around” with them in fairly sophisticated ways using various algorithms–TF-IDF, topic modeling, N+7. But lots of digital artifacts aren’t text. We aren’t (I’m supposing) as good at screwing around with those.

So I want to talk about what the basic toolkit is or should be for playing around when you have a big file with some other kind of digital files–particularly images or sound files. What projects out there are making creative use of open-source image-processing software we can drop on our own files? Can we make some of the format-agnostic techniques that we sometimes use for clustering texts–normalized compression distance, say–be useful on binary audio or image files as well as on ASCII text? Are there any open source image-processing programs out there with the potential to be as useful for historians of visual artifacts as MALLET can be for textual scholars?

I’m coming at this from a position of a few experiments but no deep expertise. I think we’ll be able to rope in some people with more experience with clustering and classification techniques on big stores of images. If you have some fantastic way of exploring through MP3 files or archival photographs, or some idea about what software out there we should be taking advantage of and aren’t–or if you have a big stack of archival photos and want to do something useful with them–I’d love to see it.



Hi campers,

Remember we’re starting off the day at Dodd and not HBL. See you tomorrow.


Integrate Omeka Repository into WordPress Site

At THATCamp Prime this summer, I considered entering the Maker Challenge with this very problem.  Four months later, I’m still working on it, so why not try again?

During DorkShorts on Saturday, I’ll present the current version of Encodinghfrs.org, the website I am building with the goal of developing a community of practice focused on markup of historical financial records (HFRs) within the international Digital Humanities community.

My goal for this site has always been to include an Omeka-powered library/repository of things like the white paper for our 2011 ODH Start-Up grant and the ODD file for the TEI model we are trying out.  (Oh, and limericks.)  It would be possible simply to post these files using WordPress, but I want to use Omeka because of its facility for recording metadata.  Given the choice, I always prefer to be able to include more information than less because I can’t know how others will be interested in using my stuff.

I also want to be able to pull links to the Omeka objects into the WordPress theme because I’m now happy with the look of the website.  This summer the whole website (version 0.1?) was made from the Omeka theme “Thanks, Roy,” and I just did not know enough about Omeka to make a site that satisfied me.  Sigh.

To date, I haven’t had time either to learn enough PHP to write code myself or to find the best of all possible code on GitHub that I can just tweak….  So.  I’m using the maker challenge as incentive.  Because needing a stable url for a publication (by like, yesterday) just doesn’t seem to be enough.


THATCamp New England Business Meeting

THATCamp New England is a loosely run organization, but it does have some business to transact. I’d like to hold a session on Saturday to take care of some business. Ideally the following kinds of people would come:

  • previous organizers of THATCamp New England
  • anyone who is interested in organizing a future THATCamp New England
  • and anyone who just wants to be in the loop

The main business to transact is to find the institution (or institutions) who want to hold THATCamp New England next fall or spring. There is no need for a firm commitment at this point, but if you’re interested, then you’ll want to get in line tomorrow.

The other business is to thinking about sustaining THATCamp NE from year to year. There are two things to keep in mind. First, the Mellon grant to CHNM that funds the central organization of THATCamp (i.e., Amanda French’s amazing efforts as chief THATCampista, and thatcamp.org) will be finished soon, and the central organization of what will follow is still being organized. This shouldn’t affect THATCamp NE too much, since we haven’t received Mellon money for a couple years, but we do need to make plans for continuity on our part and on how we can contribute back to the international organization. Second, our multiyear grant from NERCOMP which has provided the lion’s share of our funding for the past three years will run out after next year, and we need to make plans to continue sustainable funding. It would be great if people with connections at their institutions could help make plans for raising funds (we don’t require much).

I hope we can wrap up this business very quickly (let’s say no more than half an hour) and move on to other sessions.


Where do games fit?

Catch-all for gamers, game-players, and the game-curious. A no-holds-barred arena for figuring out whether making and/or studying games really do(es) fall under DH, and for making a list of the possible ways to say “Yes, games are part of DH.” Above all, let’s compare notes on treatments of this question that we’ve run across, like Patrick Jagoda’s essay on gamification, which I link below.

Background: I’m embarked on a lunatic quest to persuade the world that games precede the humanities themselves, and that the humanities could benefit greatly from seeing texts as rulesets. Cf. this post on Play the Past.

See also: Patrick Jagoda’s contribution to the debate over gamification and his much fuller treatment in a recent essay.


DH Project Pattern Language

In at least two fields that I know of, practitioners make conscious use of documented patterns. You can’t swing a chicken without hitting them in the software and web development worlds, from the Gang of Four book to Yahoo’s design pattern library, perhaps throwing Twitter Bootstrap into the mix. Architecture holds a place as the development of the first pattern language I know of, Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”, but maybe there are earlier antecedents.

What would it mean to create a bootstrapping set of patterns for DH projects? Miriam Posner wrote a moderately high-level version of one, as did Paige C. Morgan. How can we build on or further atomize these beginnings? Certainly, I’m not talking about prescribing all the steps of a project, but Alexander never claimed that houses should all be cookie-cutter either. I assert, though, that a set of patterns could help new entrants to DH make early projects, could help with prototyping more ambitious projects, and could raise the bar in general. I’m optimistic enough about our abilities that I think we can describe patterns at different scales than Morgan and Posner, but also optimistic about humanities scholarship that we will always be undertaking projects that are beyond simple patterns.

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