Diagnostic tools – or – the pretty visualization is not the end

As the semester and my first graduate digital history class wind down, I’ve been thinking a lot about building DH things for investigation vs. argument.  There’s a lot of good work on tools-as-theory, and whether a digital thing can be a satisfying argument, and an upcoming conference on argumentation in the digital humanities – so I’m not the only one. I also just finished writing 1-2 pages – maybe 1,000 words – based on a…

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Quick note: Timeline of famine philanthropy

I’m sitting down to tackle my introduction, and wanted to say something specific about the timeline for famine philanthropy. Tableau helped to track the total number of donors by organization.  This is a better measure than the total amount of donations – at least until I go back and standardize British pounds and U.S. dollars, but it gives a good sense of time timeline of relief.  

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Teaching theory in history (part two of some) – or – In Theory podcast meets Typhoid Mary

Big theoretical concepts can help us to see the world in new ways.  Big theoretical concepts can help us  see historical events in new ways.  This is especially important for methods classes like the one I am teaching now, since these courses seek to bridge the gap between history as a set of stories that someone else tells, and history as a practice that students themselves can engage in.  We want students to leave these…

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Teaching theory in history (part one of some)

I’ve recently had conversations with several colleagues about teaching theory in history.  As a discipline, we’re not as obviously theory heavy as some of our compatriots in the social sciences, and much of the theory we use is grounded, or embedded in assumptions we make about sources, voices and narrative.  Given the importance, but relative invisibility of theory in history writing (and given that students – especially new majors in historical methods classes – are…

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d3.js + R > Gephi (or, why network analysis helps with history)

Gephi is a very useful tool.  I’m very much looking forward to the new release that seems always on the horizon.  In the meantime, though, every time I open Gephi it crashes, and then I dive down a long rabbit hole of trying to re-write the program code, and then I get angry and go home.  So I’ve been delighted to find that a combination of R (for manipulating and analyzing the data) and d3.js…

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Nodes!

I’m taking a look again at the citation networks that famine newspapers were embedded in.  In the past four years, dynamic network visualization has become much easier, leading to things like this, thanks to Google Fusion Tables: Previously, the closest I could get was a visualization that this (this one is based on co-occuring words in the bibliography of the diss): Times, changing.

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Imaginotrasnference technology -or- books as technology

I’m teaching a class on early American communication technology/introduction to digital history next (almost this!) semester.  For one of the early classes, I wanted to drive home how books (and pens and paper and presses etc.) fit into a history of technology.  While there are some great theoretical articles on book-as-tech, I ended up going with an extended quotation from Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots, on the genealogy of books – and then…

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Fire! July 19th, 1845 – The Financial District

On July 19th, 1845, New York City caught fire.  It started in a whale oil warehouse in lower Manhattan and spread quickly, eventually engulfing warehouses full of explosives.  The fire burned for over eight hours, and when it was finally put out, 30 people had died. The fire was commemorated in popular prints in the 1880s, two of which currently held by the New York Public Library:   I came across the fire while trying…

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These are a few of my favorite maps

I’m putting together an aspirational syllabus for a digital humanities/mapping course, and have been thinking about my favorite maps, and why they work so well.  Here is a very-not-complete list of my current greatest hits: Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: a cartographic narrative. This is, by far, my favorite digital mapping project.  I’ve seen Vincent Brown speak on it, and I was quite impressed by his articulation of why we need a map like this…

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