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.

Spiderscribe
Spiderscribe

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.

TimeMapper
TimeMapper

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.

 

 

 

Timelines: History and Chronology in Spacial Terms

The somewhat young medium of displaying history, the timeline, reinvented not only how people chronologically present history, but also the way in which they think about history. According to Grafton, “The timeline offered a new way of visualizing history, And it fundamentally changed the way that history was spoken of as well”  (20). The chronological, linear representation of events is a fairly new tool as it was popularized in the eighteenth century. However, its use is so widespread now that many do not think of other ways to represent history.

In an attempt to make even more sense of the Payne and Froehlich Travel Journals, we used several timelines to both give context and display the details of their journey. As a class, we used TimeMapper to create a timeline of events from the 1740s, when Payne and Froehlich were writing. Our goal was to provide context for the journal entries. Below is an image from this timeline, we aimed t1740s TimeMapper Battle of Lauffeido focus our events to the US colonies at the time. This would allow us to reach a greater understanding of the journal entries by discerning their cultural context. The TimeMapper allows users to understand the story of the US colonies and the world during the 1740s. The chronology of events is important, as early events impact later ones. This timeline could have also been somewhat misleading, however, as there is a chance that we included events that were not relevant to the Moravians we were studying. If irrelevant occasions are included and emphasized as heavily as highly influential events, it is possible that we would gain false understandings about the material.

While TimeMapper allowed us to see the broader context for the journals, the TimeGlider timeline allowed us to show the chronology of Payne and Froehlich’s travels. We aimed to note the important events mentioned in their journals; showing where they went, who they met, where they stayed, and other details.  Being able to decipher what events helped to move their journey along and putting them on a timeline gave us the opportunity to view their story in a different way. As Grafton referenced W.J.T. Mitchell, “The fact is that spatial form is the perceptual basis of our notion of time, we literally cannot ‘tell time’ without the mediation of space” (13). This emphasizes the importance of spacial relations to telling time and ultimately understanding stories. TimeGlider allowed us to see the spacial reTimeGlider Payne:Froehlich Travel Diarylations between specific events that occurred day-to-day for these men. To the right, is an example of my contribution to the timelines. From this TimeGlider timelines, we are able to see the interactions that the men had with different justices on different days. After combining all of the events onto one timeline, we will be able to see the travelers’ complete story.

In both TimeMapper and TimeGlider, the timeline creator is able to insert images, graphics, and texts that further elaborate on each point. This enables even more details to be provided for events. These digital additions to timelines allow users to gain deeper knowledge about the events.

Grafton points out that timelines as they are not entirely helpful as, “historical narrative is not linear” (20). He mentions the complex ways in which events interact and influence one another. This is an extremely valid point to make when speaking about the traditional timeline. However, the use of digital humanities and tools such as TimeMapper and TimeGlider, somewhat addresses this issue. As previously mentioned, these tools allow for more detail and therefore creates a more coherent and accurate narrative. The tools also allow the timelines to be concise and neat, while still containing copious amounts of information.

Creating timelines for both the travel journals themselves and the historical context of the journals helped to make sense of Payne and Froehlich’s journey. Their story can now more clearly be interpreted not only by its chronology, but also by the details of the events and the spacial representation of time.

Timelines

As Grafton said “graphic representation is among our most important tools for organizing information.” (Grafton, p. 10), time maps and timelines are quite helpful for the study of history. These tools for organizing historical events match “our mental furniture” (Grafton, p. 10) which shows our favor on visual forms. Chronology organizes information in a pattern. It is always with time and events in order or images with time on it.

mapper
we can explore the relationship among different events by divide them by time or by space with the help of timeline or the map.

As technology developed, we now have computers with more advanced chronological tools. Timemapper, for example, turns time and location in the information into visual images. Instead of using chart, we put events on a straight line in time order, which can better show more specific time sequence and time distance between each other. We can also trace the event to the map, by which we can find the space distance between different events. By comparing events happened in different time and space, we can find out more things that have not mentioned in the texts—the hidden relationship of different events. By finding similarities of time and space and events, which can be easily seen on Timemapper, we can connect different events and tell a story—an event can be the cause of the next event or the effect of an earlier event.

“The timeline offered a new way of visualizing history” (Grafton , p. 20), Timeglider gives a good example for this. Timeglider compacts pages of gliderinformation into short titles in order which would be more clear and easier to understand. It is interesting that it organizes titles into “stairs” in order. In Payne’s Travel Journal, for example, we can figure out the route Payne and his partners traveled. We can also figure out the time they spend on different place simplely by seeing different distance between different titles. Titles that are close to the same vertical line show that Payne and his partners arrived in one place and quickly moved to another. Knowing this can help us find out the place where they spent more time staying in and that place would probably be an important place in which important events happened.

Timelines

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.