Reflection on Final Project

To finish out the semester, we, the students of Humanities 100, decided to create a final masterpiece together as a class. We decided not to go off and do our own individual final projects, but to instead tie everything we accomplished throughout the semester together by creating a website that connects all of our individual works. Since we had already done most of the behind-the-scenes work throughout the entire semester, this project required us to create a visual presentation of all our separate works as one project.

Assigning roles with Spiderscribe.
Assigning roles with Spiderscribe.

We started to plan out our approach to this project by assigning roles among ourselves with a website called Spiderscribe. The way we went about assigning these roles was to let each erson decide what they like to do the most out of everything we’ve done this semester. We had to choose between tools such as Omeka, Juxta Editions, oXygen, TimeMapper, Gephi, and GIS. Caroline and Fiona were good candidates for doing the story maps with GIS because they both liked mapping and writing about the journey. They did a very nice job with making it look good and easy to understand. Yuting gladly accepted two of the more difficult jobs in my opinion. She was assigned to work with TimeMapper to map out what other historical events were happening during the same time. On top of that, she accepted the responsibility of designing the entire final project website. She really did a fantastic job with the design and organization of the contents. Along with Yuting, another person who accepted more than one responsibility was  Shengjue. She was responsible for talking about Juxta Editions while also making an exhibit of the journal in Omeka. She was chosen for working with Omeka because she has had some experience with it from helping Professor Faull in the past.

I was responsible for using oXygen to make sure the TEI files were consistent and formatted so we could publish a nice transcription of the journal online.

XML file in oXygen
XML file in oXygen

I was happy with this assignment because I enjoyed marking up the files in oXygen. Before I could start, Professor Jakacki had to compile our individual TEI files into one big file and email it to me. With the help of Professor Faull, we made sure the tags were consistent throughout all the files. It was important that all the people and role names were consistent, because I want to keep track of all of the characters in the text. We had to make sure that everyone tagged emotions and references to Jesus since the journal was written with an exceptional amount of emotion and most of it because of the writer’s strong religious beliefs. We needed to check that everyone marked words that were spelled differently than they are today. This may not have seemed as important for others to mark up as it was to me. It is very interesting for me to see how simple things like that change from then to now. So I wanted all of the files to have those words tagged. It was most important to have all dates tagged because I knew that this would be necessary for the CSS file and would be very noticeable if it was wrong.

After making sure everything was tagged correctly, I started to edit the final CSS file that was linked to our tagged files. With this file I could edit the way the files would be displayed online. I could format the fonts by tag, for example we could make all names of people appear in a green, italicized font if we wanted to. After thinking about this project as a whole even more deeply, I realized that it is more important to change the format of tags that are not just people, places, and dates. The reason is because those are basic tags that are already available through Juxta Editions. If I want to show off the great work I was able to do through <oXygen/> then I should highlight this by changing the color of words that were tagged as emotions and role names.

Our final transcribed journal.
Our final transcribed journal.

So this is exactly what I did. I changed the color of words tagged as “emotion” to blue and “roleName” to purple. I also decided to stick with making the dates stand out so the the journal stays easy to read. I still chose to italicize words that were differently spelled back then than they are now for the same reasons previously stated. As for paragraph breaks, I decided to break before each date in addition to after each actual journal page.

My role in this project helped me to realize just how revolutionary this field of study is.  Digital Humanists are able to view our project and use it to rediscover our artifacts. These technologies allow for them to do this from the comfort of their own homes. There is no need to travel around the world to find the artifact and then transcribe it. I like the integration of historical artifacts with modern technology. The connections that I was able to make and the conclusions I was able to derive from the artifact would not have been possible without the collaboration of these different technologies. Digital Humanities constantly fascinates me and creating this final project made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. It gave me a chance to formally publish work that I’ve done in a format that I can share with the world. It has been made clear to us that opportunities like this are usually not given to undergraduate students and we are very fortunate to have been able to use these tools and to be a part of a project like this. My favorite part of this project though, were the people that I was able to work with on it. My peers not only did a great job, but also made it fun and the class periods we spent working together flew by every time. My classmates were a pleasure to work with, especially because we were a very diverse group. Click on the image below to read more about us and to view our final project.

Click here to read more about us and to view our final project.
Click here to read more about us and to view our final project.

Mapping the Payne and Froehlich Journey

Throughout the last week, we have been playing around with a map of the travel route of Jasper Payne and Christian Froehlich on ArcGIS. The software allows us to add insightful layers to the map, like Native American paths, slave plantations, and several others. Mapping the travel route for this journey has helped me to better visualize how far they actually traveled. As David Bodenhamer states in The Spatial Humanities, “We are inherently spatial beings: we live in a physical world and routinely use spatial concepts of distance and direction to navigate our way through it.” (Bodenhamer 14) Thus, being able to spatially visualize this Moravian journey helps us to better relive their experiences.

Mapping their journey also revealed some interesting facts. When I turn on the Native American Paths layer, I can see that the Manocacy Path lines up exactly with the destinations that Payne and Froehlich visited in Pennsylvania. This is very interesting because the Native American trails were some of the only “roads” or ways of travel back then. Once the journey progresses into Maryland, I can turn on the Wagon Map to see how they traveled along the wagon road. When I turn on the Slave Density layer, I can clearly see that they are moving straight into the most dense area. The layer called “Plantations Prior to 1770” shows slave plantations in Maryland and Virginia prior to 1770. Turning this layer on shows that they visited plantations in an area where there were less plantations in one area, whereas there were some areas with big clusters of plantations.

I wondered to myself why they would not go to the area where there is a big cluster of plantations to spread the Word of the Lord. Then I turned on the Moravian Itinerant layer which revealed something important to me. This layer shows where there are areas of Moravian preaching and where there are Moravian congregations. Viewing both the Plantation and Itinerant layers together, I realized that those big clusters of plantations were already in an area of occasional Moravian preaching. It was clear that Jasper Payne and company were traveling away from areas where active Moravian preaching was occurring. This proves how determined and dedicated they were to spreading the Word to “uninformed” people.

Using the Measure tool on ArcGIS I could measure the distances between the points of their daily destinations. I tried to measure the exact path that they took as much as I could. I found that on average they traveled distances ranging from about 10 miles to 18 miles a day. Some days they travel farther than other days. In the beginning they had plans to stay with specific people who they knew, so the locations of their homes may have determined how far they traveled that day. They also tend to stay longer with people who they knew or when there is bad travel weather. As you can tell, there is so much information to be learned from mapping the journey that can’t be learned from just reading the journal. I really liked using GIS for mapping. I agree with Bodenhamer when he says, “GIS provides a way to manage, relate, and query events, as well as to visualize them, that should be attractive to researchers.” (Bodenhamer 22) I think the Map Journal that I made using GIS looks awesome.

In my Map Journal I have four slides. I touch on Payne’s journey through Pennsylvania, into slave country, and I talk about why he chooses to go the route that he goes.

Click on this image to go to my Map Journal.
Click on this image to go to my Map Journal.

The most fascinating idea that occurred to me from doing this mapping is that these places still exist today and each of these places has “seen” so many different stories. People a long time ago spoke and wrote about the same places that we talk about today.  It’s like Bodenhamer wrote, “[spaces] are not passive settings but the medium for the development of culture.” (Bodenhamer 16) It makes me feel some kind of respect towards these places, such as the ferries, the school house in Oley, the wagon road, and the Native American trails. I want to acquire the knowledge that these places hold.

Close Reading and Prosopography

In the last month, we have come a long way with our analysis of Payne’s travel journal. We have gone from looking at very distant analyses of the text online to reading the text at a much closer distance that allowed us to create our own databases of the text. We started by marking up our transcriptions on Juxta Editions with the very basic categories such as people, places, and dates. This was done with a few clicks of the mouse in Juxta.

After this we moved on to <oXygen/> XML, which we used to mark the text up with more intricate tags. We downloaded our transcriptions from Juxta and imported them into <oXygen/>. Immediately, the tags we added in Juxta showed up in <oXygen/> and we started to add tags for objects, emotions, misspellings, role names, events, and references to Jesus. As Elena Pierazzo states in her article, “we need to rethink the reasons why we make our transcriptions.” We thought very deeply about what kind of words to tag.

For us it was important to tag dates, events, and places because it is a journal that we transcribing and we want to keep track of a journey. Sometimes we had to face even tougher decisions than just whether or not to tag a word. For example, it required some more thinking to determine whether a word was a  place vs an object.  We had to just all agree on the same tag so we could be as consistent as possible. It was important to tag people and role names, because we want to keep track of all of the characters in our text. Tagging emotions and references to Jesus was very important since the journal was written with an exceptional amount of emotion and most of it because of the writer’s strong religious beliefs. We also tagged misspellings since there are a lot of them, because this edition was written during a time period when people phonetically spelled out words when they wrote them down.

Marking up our transcriptions helped us understand some of the deeper meanings of some words according to the Moravians, especially when religious references were made. It also helped us realize that most of what tagging is is making informed decisions  almost every time a new kind of word comes up. Most of our decisions followed Pierazzo’s five parameters of decision making, including (1) the purpose of the edition, (2) the needs of the readers, (3) the nature of the edition, (4) the capabilities of the publishing technology, and (5) the amount of time available for the job. Parameters (1)-(3) required more thinking every time we came across a word. Whereas, parameters (4) and (5) were more automatic and required little to no thinking. The first three parameters helped us to know “where to stop,” as Pierazzo writes. In other words, it helped us not only to know which words to tag, but, just as importantly, it helped us to know which words NOT to tag.

After tagging the transcription, we made a prosopography of our people and places. We could organize that data any way we wanted. Then we added a CSS file that was linked to our transcribed pages. With this file we could edit the way the files would be displayed online. We could format the fonts by tag, for example we could make all names of people appear in a green, italicized font if we wanted to. This required more thinking and decision-making. At first, I changed the colors of every different kind of tag and changed the fonts until the text actually became to distracting to read. So, I took a step back and thought more deeply about what the reader should get out of reading my edited transcription. I chose to enlarge and bold the dates, underline place names, and bold person names, because this is important information for the journey. I also chose to italicize misspelled words so the reader will not be confused or to show how the language has changed over time. Here is a before and after of my edited file:

Before thinking more deeply.
Before thinking more deeply.
After thinking more deeply.
After thinking more deeply.

Doing this helped me understand how edited texts were produced and how distant reading can be done on texts using this. this made me realize that we could start by closely reading a text and collecting and organizing all of its data, which will then help others to distantly read our text.


Without chronology, history is just a million different little stories thrown together. According to Grafton, “While history dealt in stories, chronology dealt in facts.” (Grafton, 10) Chronology adds order and reliability to history. The chronology of events has shown Christians, for example, “when to celebrate Easter” or when other important events may occur (Grafton, 11). It is also useful for combining and comparing more than one “line” of events. For example, we can compare the history of a certain place in the world to another place and see which events happened at the same time and create an even broader history of events.

Modern timelines can show more than just the chronology of events. We can represent history not only via the chronology, but also via the importance and the geography of the events. Grafton observes that “Teachers and theorists claimed, over and over again, that chronology and geography were the two eyes of history: sources of precise, unquestionable information, which introduced order to the apparent chaos of events.” (Grafton, 17)

1740's timeline in TimeMapper.
1740’s timeline in TimeMapper.

TimeMapper “clarified” historical events by adding a geographic aspect to each event. Along with ordering the events in chronological order, it also adds a pin onto the map for each event. Timeglider on the other hand, adds the importance aspect to each event. Along with ordering the events, you can adjust the size of the text of each event to signify the importance or relevance of each event depending on the subject of the timeline and ultimately the judgment of the creator.

Timeline of Jasper Payne's travels, 1747.
Timeline of Jasper Payne’s travels, 1747. In Timeglider.

Although each mode of representation offers a different “clarification” of the historical events, each one may also obscure parts of it. Sometimes it may look like two events occurred in the same location on the map in TimeMapper when in fact they occur in two different places just very close together. In Timeglider, events may be deemed unimportant when they should have been more important. These tools rely on the creator’s judgment and willingness to do deeper research before creating the timeline.

The point is, a line does not just represent the chronology of events. It is indeed a visualization of events over time. Therefore, it does not even just tell us a story; it shows us a story.

On Distant Reading

An distant reading tool called "Knots" from
An analysis of Payne’s Journal using a distant reading tool called “Knots” from

The picture to the left may look like a children’s drawing to most people, but in reality it is an analysis of the frequency of five different words in a document. Every time the word shows up in the document, the assigned, colored line takes a turn at a specified angle. This is a clever visualization, which Digital Humanists use for something called distant reading.

Distant reading is a useful tool for analyzing text from far away. Instead of closely reading every word of a specific document word for word, we can use tools like online applications or programs to analyze the types of words used inside of the document.

A distant reading tool called "Links" from
An analysis of Payne’s Journal using a distant reading tool called “Links” from

These tools provide overall summaries of data like the frequency of words, popularity of words, or relationships (as seen in the image to the right) between words in a certain document. The image to the right is also an example of spatial reading, which means the spaces between the words are there for a reason to do with their relationships with each other.

Recently, we transcribed a Moravian travel journal written by Jasper Payne in 1747. By closely reading this document we learned about the everyday life Payne and his “brethren”  lived on their journey, including the places and people they saw and met. A distant reading of this journal may reveal similar aspects of the writings, but it also unveils broader ideas. For example, the following image shows us many interesting things about the writing that we may not have realized in the close reading (click on image to read more clearly):

An analysis of Payne's Journal using a program named "Jigsaw" by John Stasko.
An analysis of Payne’s Journal using a program named “Jigsaw” by John Stasko.

This “tree map” shows the words that follow the word “our” in the travel journal listed from most common to least common. As you can see, Jasper Payne displayed a lot of emotional religious views in his writing. From this distant reading we can really see exactly how loving and faithful Payne and the Moravian group of people actually were.

On Material and Digital Archives

Digital artifacts created from archival documents provide advantages such as preservability, portability, and easy organization and accessibility. Digital artifacts won’t wear down from being analyzed by people because it is just digital image. The physical artifact may get damaged from being handled by many people. Digital artifacts do not take a long time to find. In online databases, a simple search will be enough to find an artifact, whereas physical artifacts may require traveling around the world to find it.

As a digital artifact, this is one map, but as a physical artifact, this is actually multiple different sheets of paper that have to be lined up next to each other.
As a digital artifact, this is one map, but as a physical artifact, this is actually multiple large sheets of paper that have to be lined up next to each other.

When an artifact is digital and in an online database, it is already organized into exhibits and categories and it never becomes unorganized. When someone analyzes many different physical artifacts, they may become very unorganized and difficult to find. The image on the left is a good example of an artifact that would be easier to analyze digitally than physically.

Disadvantages of digital artifacts might be that you don’t get to hold it and  feel what it feels like. When someone holds a physical artifact, for example an old map, they may feel a sentimental attachment to it because they are holding the same map that certain historical figures held, used, and wrote on in the past.

New Netherlands exhibit on Stories of the Susquehanna Omeka website.
New Netherlands exhibit on Stories of the Susquehanna Omeka website.

When making my Omeka Exhibit I found it challenging to find enough information about each individual artifact to write up a description about each one. The exhibit I created is called “New Netherlands” and it includes historical maps of the region.

Kindred Britain by Stanford University

The Kindred Britain project is a digital humanities project that shows how historical figures, mainly from Britain, are related through mutual connections.

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Home page of the Kindred Britain website. Each blue or purple dot represents a person.

The purpose of this project is to relate any two iconic British figures to each other. The project has almost 30,000 people stored in the database. A user chooses two people and the program shows the relationship between those two people. The two people are usually never directly related. The relationship usually consists of many different kinds of relationships between different people. Here is an example of the relationship between Sir Isaac Newton and William Shakespeare:

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Display after making a connection between two people.

This is a very distant relationship, as there are 22 people connecting Newton and Shakespeare. In the top half of the screen the user can see how exactly the two people are connected. The lines connecting each person in the relationship are color-coded to show if they are married or blood related. In the bottom half of the screen the user can see the life-spans of each person and when they crossed paths with each other.

It is very clear how extremely important the visualization aspect is to this project. The project displays the connection rather than stating, “Isaac Newton was William Shakespeare’s granddaughter’s father-in-law’s brother-in-law’s sister’s grandson’s wife’s sister’s grandson’s wife’s great-great-grandfather’s brother’s great-great-grandson.” Statements like these might give the user a headache and they will not want to use the program anymore. The visualization technique is what makes the project so sleek and easy to use.

The networking method is the base of the project. The project probably consists of a program containing an algorithm that starts from each person and iterates through their relatives until a common relative is found. The network method fits with the scholarly subject matter because the project is relating two people to each other through their common connections. This creates a whole network of people, which is where the visualization method takes over neatly displays the web of relationships.