Close reading and Prosopography

Recently, we learned how to use different kinds of digital humanities methods to transcribe and study diaries produced hundreds of years ago. By doing distant reading, we had a rough understanding of author’s purpose and destination. In order to have a better and more precise understanding of the diary, we did close reading by tagging words with Juxta edition and Oxygen. Close reading helps us learn more details, such as the route, the people they met and the events on their way to their destination. We even learned about the relationship between places and people, places and time and events and places.xml

Compared to Juxta edition, by which we could only roughly tag people, place and time, Oxygen enabled us to tag more, such as emotions and objects. It even had a more detailed classification, for example, it separate tag “name” into two parts—“persName” and “roleName”. It also distinguishes “time” from date, which would be more convenient when readers want to find specific date from tremendous database. When I was tagging the words in Oxygen, I was confused since there are too much information to decide which word to tag and which word not to. This recalled me of Elena Pierazzo’s idea of diplomatic edition—there are infinite facts in the work we are going to edit so that we need to have a selection among these facts. The selection should, as Elena said, “aspires to equal the object to be studied.” But, “be simpler than the object it models”. Therefore, I prefer to tag information about where, when, who, what, what happen how it looks like and how people feel about it.

I did lose something from the original pages during the transcription procedure. But as Elena said that transcription was “not a mechanically complete record of what is on the page.” –making tags to emphasize some parts from the diary and correcting the misspelling the author made from the original pages. What I did in my transcription procedure made information from the diary clearer and easier to read.

pageWhen I was designing the web, I did not change the color of background and most words, since it fit to most people’s reading habit. But I chose to made “placeName” bold, italic and red, and “persName” bold and blue. Different colors made them eye-appeal and I think place and people are two main parts in the diary. I also change the color of “characteristic” into green so that we can easily figure out people’s feeling about the events or the objects.

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