Reflection on Final Project

Since Humanities 100 is a project-based course, our final project for this class is to create a website and reorganize all the tools we used to analyze Payne and Froehlich’s travel journal. In order to make an integrated website that presents all the amazing jobs we have done this semester in such a short time, we decide to divide the works and assign each person the part she is most good at. First, we used the spiderscribe to list all the works we have to do and the tools we wanted to present on the website.


Throughout the semester, we learnt so many digital humanities tools such as Juxta Editions, TimeMapper, Gephi, Mapping with GIS. I took the job to reorganize the data on TimeMapper since I like to use TimeMapper the most and at the same time, I accepted the job to design the website to get a chance to learn something new and challenge myself.

TimeMapper is an advanced chronological tool with an interactive timeline whose items connect to a geomap. In the TimeMapper, we put events on a straight line in time order, which can better show more specific time sequence and time distance between each other.


At the same time, by plotting geography, chronologies became precise and testable in a new sense and passion for exactitude to represent time in novel ways. To create a timemap with TimeMapper, I need to fill all the data in a spreadsheet template and share and copy its URL. After filling all the events happened near the same time period, TimeMapper provides us a chance to think about the story and the relationship behind each event that it shows us the different events that happened in the same period with different locations around the world. This is one reason why I like digital humanities that I can have different thinking from various aspects. The timemap we created before was the one with the events happened around the world in 1740s since we wanted to explore the relationship among the countries. However, our final project is based on the travel journal of Payne and Froehlich. So I reorganized the data and mainly focused on the events in the United States according to the time of Payne and Froehlich’s travel journal. I deleted the information and events happened in Europe and China and added the information about Port Tobacco, colonial ferries and the smallpox broke out in Pennsylvania mentioned in the journal. By putting all these information on the timemap, we can discover the relationship and the reason of the travel and routes, which we cannot find out by reading the journal alone. However, TimeMapper still has some shortages that I met some problems when I was using TimeMapper. First, it’s really hard to make a specific location spot on the map. The places named in the journal might be changed and the present-day map used in the TimeMapper is not matching the geography at 1740s exactly. Second, the system of TimeMapper does not work well sometimes. The information I added in the spreadsheet template wasn’t shown in the timemap and the location was not matched the slides.

The other role of mine in the final project is to design the website. To me, this was a really challenging job since I have no background in editing website at all. The first challenge I encountered was to make editing decision on the theme and structure of the website. Since this is a group project, everyone’s advice should be taken and it’s hard to unify all the advices. Luckily, with the help from Professor Faull and our efficient group discussion, we quickly chose the theme as Parabola. Also, we decided to present four slides pictures and four columns on the presentation page. The second difficulty was to set the menus and its structure. At first, I could not figure out where to add a new menu and classify all the pages my classmates wrote. I tried different ways with Professor Faull, but it still won’t work. I was really confused and worried whether I could finish the design of website on time. However, I didn’t give up and kept thinking about other possible ways to try. After multiple attempts and thinking more logically, we decided to try to add a new page with the name of the category and then add it to menu with the interrelated topics as sub items. Finally, when we click on the button of visit site, all the menus we added is shown and the pages are under the proper categories.Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 4.38.08 PM I got so excited when I figured all this out that it felt like I got the key of the mystery box. I felt more confident to continue my work and ready to meet more problems. This is another aspect of digital humanities that I like. I truly enjoy in the great feeling after I spending times to think over the problems and finally overcoming them.

As an accounting major with no sense of digital tools in the beginning of the semester, I can’t imagine that I can use so many different tools to analyze readings and data now. I know how to use Juxta edition and TEI files to do close reading; I can utilize Gephi visualization to draw the relationships between people; I am able to use the ArcGIS to map my own story. The great thing about this course is that I do not have to be afraid of understanding and capturing the knowledge we learnt. Because we learnt these tools step by step, we would be able to master the tool before we moving on to the new one. At the same time, these digital tools are very useful that they can be used for other classes as well. For example, I used TimeMapper for my history class to list the important geology locations and events happened in the history, which is easier for me to see and remember the connection of those historical events.




Geospatial Visualization

As David J. Bodenhamer wrote in his article, geographic information systems (GIS) have spurred a renewed interest in the influence of geographical space on human behavior and cultural development. GIS provides us a chance to discover relationships of memory, artifact, and experience that exists in a particular place and across time. The multilayered map of Payne and Froehlich’s travel journey we were creating in the past few weeks is one potential of the spatial methods. GIS provides tools to display and analyze information geographically. By layering information on top of a map, we can visually represent data in a way that can be readily understood by other non-humanists. It enables me to find out more information with different aspects of the journey and think much more deeply on questions such as how they made their travel decision and both the natural and human environment around the places they traveled.

Maps can reveal significant data relationships that are difficult to find otherwise. First, by mapping the travel route of Payne and Froehlich, I have a general idea of the places they traveled and the routing of their journey. After putting the layer of “ Payne Froehlich Travel Journal”, the places they traveled will be shown as red labels with the order of the time they arrived. I noticed that they didn’t travel exactly follow the river and they didn’t follow the way they went through when they returned. Then, the layer of “Moravian Itinerant” shows us that Payne and Froehlich traveled to the places where was the concentrated areas of itinerancy and preaching and I think this might be a factor for Payne and Froehlich to decide their travel route since they wanted to stay with the Moravians and the people they knew. Another fun fact of mapping the journey is that we can use the tool to measure the distance between the places they traveled and figure out the miles they traveled a day. On average, they will travel 20 miles per day on foot and they will slow down if they traveled to a ferry or other unexpected events happened. For example, they stayed at Oley schoolhouse for 3 days because of the rain. Map can be worth thousands of words that it turns into a journey by adding something is contextual.

The story points that I have created are the overlaps between the plantations and the places they traveled ( I wanted to discover whether there is a relationship between these two. The using of maps and spatial thinking helps me get out of the zoom of understanding the complex history. It lets me think about the plantations or the places separately and then I can combine them together to have a broad view, which is an easier way for me to comprehend the complexities of history.

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Close reading and Prosopography

Opposite to distant reading, close reading places great emphasis on the single particular over the general, makes us paying close attention to individual words. In the past few weeks, we did close reading from transcribing the Payne Journal in the Juxta Editions, learn TEL-compliant XML markup and use the Oxygen editor to markup the transcriptions. Also, we used these tools to publish the edition of Payne Journal on the web instead of in print. Juxta Editions allows us to compare the original documents and our transcription words by words. However, it only can do the subscription, simple tags of person, place and time on the transcription. In contrast, Oxygen helps us tag more parameters such as the event, object and trait. By marking up the parameters, I gained a different aspect understanding of the journal. The name of the place, the emotion of the role, and other contents in detail, which might be ignored by distance reading, was impressed in my head when I did the markup. I started to think about the relationship between the places, the emotion of the role and the event happened deeply. Now, let me talk more about my experience of using these tools to edit documents that published on the web with Elena Pierazzao’s article “ A Rationale of Digital Documentary Editions”.

As Pierazzao stated that scholarly choices constitute the base of any transcription and subsequent diplomatic edition, when I was doing the markup, I have to make a choice on the source. There are potentially infinite sets of facts to be recorded and my goal is to edit as many of the characteristics of the journal as I can. Therefore, it is a challenge for me on how to choose, which features of the primary source I should reproduce, and where shall I stop? Pierazzao said that we must have limits on the selection based on the scholarly purpose. So, I decided to markup documents by choosing one category of parameters at one time. For example, based on the nature of the journal, I did markup for place name that I read through the entire page and only highlight all the place names.Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.35.45 PM In that way, I can ensure all the parameters I need are reproduced while I will not mark mass useless words. Also, in order to ensure the uniform of our decision as an entire Journal, we created a Google document in class to share the editorial decision to we made.

Another decisive challenge for editing is the design and style of the web. I chose white background with black text at the beginning, but after I thought about the comfortableness of the reader to read and search online for the best matched background, I changed the web to a black background with white text.Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.34.48 PM Since this document is a travel journal, the places they traveled and the emotion of the role in the journal is important, I mark the color of the place names to yellow and emotion to red. I also changed the font style of the misspelling in case od readers’ misunderstanding.


Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. It is really important to us because it determines the actual temporal sequence of past events. While historical texts have been subject to critical analysis, we ignored the formal and historical problems posed by graphic representations of time, the most important tools for organizing information for a long time. The “timelines” used to present the history is simple and intuitive while are not without a history themselves. At the same time, it shows us a story of history that held a status higher than the study of history itself. This week, we have experienced the Timemapper and the Timeglider to analyze the transcript of Payne Travel Journal. Let’s explore more with these two tools.

The web-based timeline software Timeglider is kind like Google maps, but it’s for a time. We can create and collaborate with other’s work together as interactive timelines. I can add the event from Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.26.53 PMthe journal with the time, dates and the images of the event. Also, I can edit each event in different words size with different color theme according to the importance of the event. By zooming in and out of the timeline, I will gain a broad view of the sequence of major events happened, which creates a brief outline of the story.

Chronology is also the study of the geologic time scale. Grafton observes that chronology and geography were the two eyes of history. In geography, the visual metaphor fits beautifully. By plotting geography, chronologies became precise and testable in a new sense and passion for exactitude to represent time in novel ways.Timemapper is one of the interactive timeline whose items connect to a geomap. Compare to Timeglider, Timemapper shows us the different events that happened in the same period with different location arouScreen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.25.22 PMnd the world. When I looked over the Timemapper we created in the period of 1740s, it gave me a chance to think about the story and the relationship behind each event. However, the exact place of the events might be difficult to locate since the location’s name and boundary might change over time.

On Distant Reading

In the past, people tended to value close reading over the broad brushstrokes of information visualization. However, the subtlety of word choice and the nuance of phrasing reveal that apparently straightforward texts are more complicated. Then, a number of scholars have cited Franco Moretti’s concept of “distant reading”. Distant reading means understanding literature not by studying particular texts, but by aggregating and analyzing massive amounts of data. Opposite to close reading, distant reading can uncover the true scope and nature of literature. Also, it provides us the opportunity not only to enhance our vision but also to rethink some of our basic assumptions about how to read by using visualization tools. Text visualization tools propose distant reading as complementary practices that promise wide-angle perspective on the large corpora of texts housed in digital archives and the serendipitous discovery of the knowledge these archives contain. Now, Let’s explore these tools with our transcription of the travel journal.

Links is one of my favorite tools. It represents the collocation of terms in the text by depicting them in a network through the Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.14.38 AMuse of a force directed graph. The frequency of the word is indicated by the relative size of the term, which helps me find the main term easier. The most attracting part is that I can click on any term I’m interested in, after I click on the term, other terms related to that term would appear. By doing so, I can discover more and more relationships between the terms in the text.

Bubblelines is another tool that visualizes the frequency and repetition of a word’s use in the text. Each document is Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.34.18 AMrepresented as a horizontal line and the selected word is represented as bubbles. The size of the bubble indicates the word’s frequency. By checking the box of separate lines for terms, the bubble line will be split into separate lines with different terms and colors. When you click on a bubble, you can see the entire text that includes the word in the bubble.Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.34.41 AM




Digital or not, Making your own choice

The cultural heritage is now taking digital form, whether born digital or born-again by conversion to digital from other media. The projects in the DH sample books website are categorized according to the DH methods used. From the left to right, there are seven categories: Archive, Visualization, Mapping, Digital edition, Network Analysis, Textual analysis and Audio analysis. Under different categories, each project focuses on one specific kind of information to demonstrate. Under “ Archives” category, the projects are trying to keep the originality of the data. In Old Weather website, we can see a photocopy of detailed records kept about weather in ships’ logs, which will give us theScreen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.19.09 PM
information about climate change. In Database of Indigenous Peoples, we can see the original documents of the hand-written letter.

Our Humanities Now class is a project-based course that using digital tools and Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.31.45 PMmethods of analysis. Creating digital artifacts offers unique advantages. First, information and content may be delivered directly to users and can be retrieved remotely. The flexibility of the digital material is another advantage. It’s easy to edit and print the data compared to the fixed paper and printed text. Moreover, digital artifacts own the ability to provide a large number of users’ access to unique collections’ material at the same time. By allowing a wider user to view digital artifacts of primary material, the utility of the collection increased. There also are some disadvantages of digitization. You will not have sense of touch that provided by a physical archive. Also, it’s hard to get any options to start a new archive after you finish using one. However, when you go through a library, you will see lots of options in front of you.

The exhibit I created is Maps of SusquehannaScreen Shot 2015-01-25 at 3.12.20 PMFor me, the biggest challenge to build my Omeka Exhibit was to choose a topic for my exhibit. When I browsed the items and collections, there were too many data and options showing on the screen. And after I chose the topic, it’s hard but really important to keep all my data added into my exhibit focuses on one specific kind of information. Also, it’s important to make my website clear and easy for readers to read.

Analysis of Benjamin Franklin’s Letters’ Republic

The purpose of the Digital Humanities project “ Mapping The Republic of Letters” is to help people understand the networks of correspondence, the social and physical networks of famous scholars who live before the industrial revolution through the development of sophisticated, interactive visualization tools. I will examine the case of Benjamin Franklin in this post.

The primarily use of visualizations in Franklin’s case enabled people to understand the nature of Franklin’s correspondence and correspondents network that was comprised between 1756-1763. The examination of visualization also provides people important information about Franklin. By sreading the “letters” spreadsheet on this web page, people can find out the month and particular locations of letters that Franklin received. The spreadsheet on the right shows the countries that Franklin received most of his letters from between 1757 and 1763. Franklin received nearly all his letters from two places: British America and England. This leads people to think about the timing of Franklin’s ascent into the ranks of the “cosmopolitan” on the world stage. In July 1757, Franklin arrived in London to represent Pennsylvania in its dealings with Britain. And the year of 1757 is the starting point for a groundbreaking investigation of Franklin in the world of ideas. Therefore, the information provided by the spreadsheet makes sense that Franklin received letters most from British America and England. On the other hand, the spreadsheet shows the process that Franklin was on his way to becoming a giant.

Similarly, by reading the “correspondents” spreadsheet, people can learn Franklin’s top correspondents in details such as their gender, county of birth and community association or professional group. People can even find out where do women rank in Franklin’s network—he wrote most of his letters to men.

Besides examining visualization can provide important information, the research team developed the approach to further defining terms “Cosmopolitanism”. It compares Franklin’s correspondence network with Voltaire’s to reveal the prospects and limits of “Cosmopolitanism”. The geomScreen Shot 2015-01-18 at 12.12.34 AMap on the left shows Franklin’s network (top) and Voltaire’s (bottom).