Reflection On Final Project

Since the beginning of HUMN 100 class, we have used a bunch of digital humanity tools to study the diary of the journey of Payne and Froehlich. We have done the work that starts from distant reading and ends to close reading. The work we have done on this diary is like a tree that Omeka and Juxta Edition are the most basic things of the work just like tree trunk and Oxygen, Timeglider, Time Mapper,  GIS and Gephi are all very detail and all presents different aspects of the diary, just like branches.

Spiderscribe of work assigning
Spiderscribe of work assigning

Since we have done a lot of work on this diary, we decided, at the end of the class, to make a website presenting the work we have done through the whole semester to people outside our class, including humanists and people who are not in this area. Therefore, we decided to go over most  of the work we have done in this class and divide it into different work to everyone in our class.  My job in this final project was to put original archive on Omeka and do the proofread of the transcription we did in early time of this semester on Juxta Edition.

omeka provides a simple description for the diary and categorizes it into group called shamokin diary
omeka provides a simple description for the diary and categorizes it into group called shamokin diary

The job I got was crucial to the job we have done since they were quite fundamental in all the work we have done. The first step is to put original archive on Omeka. I have two choices: either to put all the images of the archives into one item or to put each pages into different items. At first I tried the first one, thinking it would be more convenient for viewers to find out all the pages of the diaries if I put them together. However, there were some problems if I chose this. The first thing is that, once I put them all in one item and I submit them, they just appear in random order, for example, the first page follows the third page and the last page follows the second one. Therefore I decided to change the name of the images so that viewers will know which page they are reading. However, I found it would take a lot of time to find out the right page and it is inconvenient since every pages look similar and it is easy to mess up. Therefore, I decided to put image of page on Omeka separately which means I put one page into one item. I searched out the item with all the pages we transcribed from Omeka and added something on it based on my previous experience on Omeka. I added description, which is manuscript, language, which is English and type, which is journal. The information gives viewer a deeper understanding of the work the first time they see it.

Showing how Juxta edition present transcribed documents
Showing how Juxta edition present transcribed documents

The second step is doing proofread of the transcription we have done on Juxta Edition. The rule of the thumb of this work is to make sure the transcription work is as similar as possible to the original archive.  However, such goal is hard to reach, since once we transcribe, we lose something, for example, calligraphy, the material of paper, the fringe of the text and different shades of color of the text. I used as much as I could use on the Juxta Edition to make sure not only we had the same spelling of the word in the transcription work with the original archive but also similar format of the text with the original one. I fond some mistakes we transcribed in spelling word: some are misreading and some are just typo. Also, we made some problem in format, and the most common one is that some of us choose to ignore the writing deleted by the author in the original transcription. So I added them on the transcription. I could not recognize some of the words Payne deleted and I counted how many letter Payne deleted and replaced them with “x”. I also use the “delete” format in Juxta Edition for these “x”s.

The work we have done this semester gives us basic understanding of digital humanity study. At the beginning of this semester, I was very confused about the work we would do. However, as we did more and more work on Payne and Froehlich’s diary, their journey became clearer and clearer to us. The work was becoming more and more detailed as we using different digital humanities tools. We started from transcribing the original document, which enabled us to read. Then, the work of XML helped us to extract the names, places and time and other traits from the text. We put them on time glider to extract the important events connected to places, people and time. Then, we explored more detail of this study—Gephi: explore the relationship between people. At last, we used GIS  to make story maps. This work is quite different from the work we have done before, in which we just focused on the diary itself. However, GIS helped us to  extend our study— we not only has the route of Payne and Froehlich’s journey, but also different map layers, which brought different events or aspects that happened in the same period together. By putting different layers together, we can learn about something that we can not know by simply reading the diary, for example, how did Payne and Froehlich picked up their route. The final project not only gave us a chance to present our work that we have done in the whole semester, but also enabled us to review what we have learned before.

I always believe that subjects are always connected with each other, and they are not as separated as we think. This project helped me to identify this idea: in my geography class, our professor introduced it but we did not have a chance to use it. However, in this class, we learned how to use it, which helped me to gain a deeper understanding of GIS. Also, the digital humanities tools we learned in this class improved my understanding in geography class and art history class.

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Reflection on Final Project

In the beginning of the semester, we worked together as a team of Humanities 100 students and professors to transcribe Payne and Froehlich’s 1747 travel journal. Using the digital copy of the journal, various digital humanities tools, and help from our professors, my classmates and I were able to look at the journal from both very broad and very close perspectives. Every person was able to develop a different understanding of the journal, depending on the questions she asked throughout the process. Even though we each found our favorite medium of interpretation, every person’s contribution provided insight and allowed us to come to a greater understanding of the journal.

Realizing that our combining our efforts, talents, and interests would provide the most thorough analysis of Payne and Froehlich’s journey, we decided to do a collaborative final project. As a class, we created a website that contained our work from throughout the semester; every member of the class was responsible for contributing a different artifact for the site. Each digital humanities scholar chose her favorite digital humanities tool and we used Spiderscribe to divide the work and delegate tasks.

Assigning roles with Spiderscribe.
Assigning roles with Spiderscribe.

Fiona and I were both most interested in working with ArcGIS as our contribution to the website; after some discussion, we determined that our separate research questions provided diverse perspectives and having two ArcGIS maps would enhance our project.

The question that I aimed to answer was: How did location impact the perception of the Moravian travelers and why did they choose this route?

I combined the ArcGIS map that I created, which touched mainly on the perceptions are Moravians in different places, with Suné’s map, which provided a helpful overview of their journey.

Screenshot from Suné's story map
Screenshot from Suné’s story map

 

 

 

Screenshot from my original story map
Screenshot from my original story map

 

 

While I was extremely proud of my own ArcGIS map and the story it told, combining it with Suné’s only enriched the work that I had already done. Piecing the two maps together allowed me to obtain a more complete answer to my research question. Having done both distant and close readings of the journal, I had a few passages in mind to incorporate into the story map.

On the home slide of the compiled story map, I decided to put both the Waggon Map and the Mission Map layers, to provide an overview of their journey in the appropriate time period. On the next slide, I combined the information from Suné’s map about the beginning of their journey with my own. I was able to successfully insert a picture of the Pennsylvania countryside into the side panel. Though this was a fairly easy task on this slide, I ran into trouble inserting and formatting an image on the following slide titled “Stay in PA Overview.” I was unable to make the image fit the slide well so you can only see portions of it at a time and need to scroll to see the whole image.

The difficult slide
The difficult slide

Though attempting to fix the image was time consuming and frustrating, it served as a valuable lesson; I learned about the glitches in and limits of the ArcGIS program. Also, I realize that this issue is a minor one that, in the grand scheme of the project, does not detract from the explanation of the travel journal.

In order to try to connect the digital artifact that I created with the original text, I sprinkled quotations from the journal throughout the story map. I was attempting to find an answer to the research question that I posed through the travelers’ own words. This allowed me to come to more accurate conclusions about the ways they were perceived in different locations and ultimately why they chose to travel along the route that they did.

Using Payne and Froehlich’s words and the layers provided by Professor Faull, my peers, and ArcGIS, I was able to uncover information about their journey that we had not discovered using any other medium. Though, the work I did on ArcGIS was made possible by the class working rigorously to transcribe and make sense of the original documents. By working so closely with one journal throughout the semester, I was able to become very familiar with the story. Originally I thought that I would come to conclusions and master the material, however as the semester went on I found myself asking more questions.

In my first blog post, On Material and Digital Archives: Old Info, New Medium, I wrote, “[a] major advantage to having information on a digital platform is that it can be analyzed in new ways.” When I wrote this post, this statement was more of a speculation that I was able to test as I learned to use different programs and tools. After working with TEI files in Oxygen, creating a timeline in Timemapper, exploring personal networks with Gephi, and documenting their journey on ArcGIS, I have proven my hypothesis and analyzed the same nineteen pages of text in many different and new ways.

In my first post, I also noted the possible dangers in digitizing the journal:

 

“One of which is the inevitable bias that comes with republishing work. By taking anything out of its original context alters the meaning of the work and skews how it is perceived by readers. Even just the way information is grouped, categorized, and framed impacts the way in which readers will come to understand it. Therefore archivists must be aware of the way they frame their work and display it to the world.”

 In examining a document that is over 200 years old, it is important to keep the cultural context in mind. Regardless of how hard we try as scholars, it is impossible to eliminate our own biases and perspectives from the work we produce. Therefore it is important to regard the information as interpretations of the text rather than as whole truths. Not only are we framing the material differently, but we are also adding information that the travelers did not have. For example, on my story map, I show the slave population density and locations of plantations in the 1740s. I use these things as evidence, along with the text, to further demonstrate my point; in doing so, I am manipulating the material. The perspective of the scholar is essential to consider when reading a product from republished work.

 

The map on this slide shows the slave population density at the time of Payne and Froelich's travels
The map on this slide shows the slave population density at the time of Payne and Froelich’s travels

I have found that it is quite easy to be captivated by small details. This led me to become sidetracked and at times include unnecessary information that could muddle the actual material at hand. Keeping material focused and on point was a major challenge for me, especially with the abundance of accessible information on the Internet. For the final project I edited my work and eliminated superfluous information.

The resulting story map provided an answer to my research question: How did location impact the perception of the Moravian travelers and why did they choose this route? I found that the travelers were well received for the first ten days of their travel, as they were staying among fellow Moravians. But as they moved south, below what would soon be the Mason-Dixon line, they were met with skepticism. Their mission to share knowledge of Jesus with slaves made them tread into unfamiliar territory and interact with dubious slave owners. In addition, the pair had to travel through towns that had justices who could sign their passes. These were some of the factors that contributed to their travel decisions and the route that they took.

I am confident in the work that I produced and the conclusions I have come to, however I cannot say that my deductions are conclusive. The story map is a representation of my own truth, not necessarily Payne and Froehlich’s. The compilation of artifacts provided on our final project website, Payne-Froehlich Journal 1747: Moravian Itinerant Preachers Visit the Slave Plantations of the Chesapeake, are all interpretations of the text. However, making the information accessible and presenting it in one place allows researchers to explore the artifacts in a more complete way. The culminating final project not only allowed each member of the class to delve deeply into her chosen area of interest, but also allows us to add to the digital archive of historical information.

LINK TO STORY MAP: http://arcg.is/1D3OXWH

 

Bibliography

 

MacLure, Caroline. “On Material and Digital Archives: Old Info, New Medium.” Web blog post. The Humanities Now! Bucknell, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. <https://thehumanitiesnow2015.blogs.bucknell.edu/2015/01/25/on-material-and-digital-archives-old-info-new-medium/>.

 

 

Swart, Suné. “Highlights of the Jasper Payne Journey: October 28th – November 27th, 1747.” ArcGIS. Bucknell, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://bucknell.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=546bf0af1ad740dea6aa4149d3d8ea86>.

 

MacLure, Caroline. “Travel Route, Location, and Attitude Towards Moravians.” ArcGIS. Bucknell, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://bucknell.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=64e5bb56e60f48c48440a3ab806b2c8f&edit>.

 

 

Course website: https://thehumanitiesnow2015.blogs.bucknell.edu/

Final project website: https://paynefroehlich.blogs.bucknell.edu/