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/

 

One Journal, Many Maps & Many Stories

Moravian Brothers Jasper Payne and Christian Frolich set out from their town of Bethlehem, PA in October of 1747 to visit slave plantations along the Chesapeake Bay. Using ArcGIS to map their travels provides further insight into their journey and is helpful in the sense-making of their experiences. We are able to see what paths the travelers took, the demographics of the areas through which they traveled, and a variety of other things.

The travelers took a route along an old Native American trail; opting to navigate trodden paths. The men seem to travel between 10 and 20 miles a day, depending upon the people they encounter. These are not things that are explicitly stated in the travel journals, which shows how crucial the mapping of the story is in getting a fuller picture of what they did and where they went. As so eloquently said by David Bodenhamer in The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship, “GIS is a seductive technology, a magic box capable of wondrous feats, and the images it constructs so effortlessly appeal to use in ways more subtle and more powerful than words can” (17 Bodenhamer). It was very easy to get swept up in the variety of features that GIS could reveal about our precious text. Things that, despite almost a full semester of work with the journal, we never detected.

Mapping their journey allows us to not only visualize but also to better understand their journey. The layering feature on ArcGIS allows users to combine a number of different map elements, maps and travel routes. By playing and experimenting with the layers, we are able to put together and combine the different layers in a meaningful way that helps tell the travelers’ story.

With all the different layers and features, it becomes clear that the travel diary provides us with not one, but many stories. Depending on the angle and perspective an ArcGIS user decides to take, he or she will come up with a number of different stories to tell, even based on the same transcribed journal.

I chose to tell the story of how attitudes towards the travelers changed throughout their journey. In the beginning, the men were cheerfully greeted and welcomed by their Moravian brothers as they visited places with much Moravian influence and presence, as shown in the image below.

This is a screenshot from my storymap that shows the initial stops of the travelers and that they fall into areas of Moravian influence.
This is a screenshot from my storymap that shows the initial stops of the travelers and that they fall into areas of Moravian influence.

As the men left these regions (marked on the map by gray spheres) of Moravian influence, they were met much unkindly, receiving questions ridden with mistrust by skeptical acquaintances. In a way, I am analyzing how the varying cultures of these places impacted the way the men were treated. As Brodenhamer wrote, “More important, [spaces] all reflect the values and cultural codes present in the various political and social arrangements that provide structure to society.” This enforces that the actual spacial locations of the men represent culture and their experiences allow us to make sense of this period in time and the prominent cultures.

David Bodenhamer mentions, “Spaces are not simply the setting for historical action but are a significant product and determinant of change. They are not passive settings but the medium for the development of culture.” Mapping the locations of the men with the various filters, allowed me to further synthesize their experiences. It became obvious that location and the spaces and cultures through which they traveled greatly impacted their journey.

My story map is just one example of being able to better understand history through mapping. However, there are endless ways in which mapping can add pieces to an otherwise incomplete puzzle.

 

http://arcg.is/1D3OXWH

Closer Look: Close Reading and Prosopography

The process of tagging and marking up the Travel Journal of Christian Froehlich and Jasper Payne to Maryland and Virginia was a dissection process resulting in a deeper understanding of the text. Details that previously were not explicit became plainly clear through the decisions of our editorial board.

 

These decisions were made as a group to establish consistency throughout the text. However, the team was unable to eliminate biases from our choices.  As  Elena Pierazzo said in her article, “A Rationale of Digital Documentary Editions,” “The process of selection is inevitably an interpretative act: what we choose to represent and what we do not depends either on the particular vision that we have of a particular manuscript or on practical constraints” (Pierazzo 465). Pierazzo emphasizes that the choices made by editors will influence the reader’s understanding of a piece. The travel journal, for example, is represented through the choices we made about what to classify in different ways.

 

For example, our editorial board decided to categorize “Holy Spirit” under <persName type=”deity> (as shown in the below image).

This is an excerpt of the marked-up XML file from page 7 of the Travel Journal.
This is an excerpt of the marked-up XML file from page 7 of the Travel Journal.

We discussed the option of making “Holy Spirit” and related words such as “Lamb”  objects, however decided that persName made the most sense for this text. This decision, will impact the way that the readers ultimately come to interpret the text. In this way, as written by Pierazzo, “Perhaps then we should simply say that the notion of objectivity is not very productive or helpful in the case of transcription and subsequently of diplomatic editions” (Pierazzo 466). Had we been objective, very few tags would have been made and even fewer trends would be able to be detected by readers.

 

After tagging the XML files in Oxygen, we were able to link our content through a CSS file to make a webpage. Through the CSS file, we could manipulate the appearance of tagged words or the entire text– color, text style, and text weight were all variables we would alter. I made my decisions based on what I thought would be important for readers to gain out of the text. As stated by Pierazzo, “From the editors’ interpretation of the text and of the author(s) intentions it is necessary now to consider the readers of the edition and ask what must be added to the edition itself to satisfy their needs and expectations” (Pierazzo 470). In my answering of the question “What do the readers want/need to know from this text?” I thought back to both the purpose of the text and what readers would likely be using it for. As the text was written as a travel journal, I decided it was important to highlight the places the men traveled. I also determined that the people the men interacted with and the various roles of these people (Justice, Priest, Brother, etc.).

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.03.08 PM
Above is an example page of the color-coded text. I also made the decision to italicize the words that were misspelled in the text.

In order to make these things explicitly clear for the readers, I had the titles appear in green, the names of people appear in blue, and the places appear in purple (as shown to the left). Color-coding the text allows readers to easily make connections between people and places. In addition, this was extremely helpful to find mistakes or untagged words; it can be difficult to find words to code in the XML format in Oxygen and this cleaner version made errors jump off the page.

 

Distant Reading: Plural Pronouns Reflect Collectivist Society

Distant reading of texts can help readers understand overall themes, concepts, and cultural context. For this reason, distant reading can help to answer the following question: Were the Moravians in the 18th century a collectivist or individualist society? Some distant reading strategies will better display this orientation in society than others, however the theme remains sound. In order to test if this distant reading can adequately answer this question, I will use the the full compiled transcription of the Payne/Froehlich Travel Journal.

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The size of the words indicates the number of times the word was used in the travel journal. Some of the largest words are “we,” “our,” and “us” — all plural pronouns.

Though the writer was directly and heavily involved in the travel events described, he chose to use plural pronouns, as can be seen in the Cirius cloud to the right. This is something that Whitley, in Visualizing the Archive, would identify as a form of “spatial reading.” He continues to explain the ways in which this type of spatial readings, world clouds, blur the lines between close and distant reading. As the graphics display the most frequently used words in the text in a visual way (the size of the words), however are still very much displaying the worlds. This allows distant readers to gather information about the text that may otherwise go unnoticed in a close reading. Whitley also points out that the reader must find a balance between looking at the word cloud as a big picture, or focusing on specific words. In order to help answer the research question posed about Moravian society it is important to notice that some of the largest, and most used, words are plural pronouns.

The below image is another visualization tool that helps to show word use and frequency in the the Payne/Froehlich Travel Journal. The pink line of bubbles represents the use of “we,” the purple represents the use of “he,” the neon blue represents “our,” the yellow represents “us,” and the blue represents “I.” All of the plural pronouns are used more frequently in the text overall. Again confirming that the Moravians were likely a more collectivist society. Though in order to answer the posed research question, it is not necessary to show what segments of the text use the provided pronouns most frequently.

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This tool, Bubblelines, shows the frequency of words in certain segments of the text.

However, it is interesting to note that “I” is used virtually not at all in the beginning of the text, but becomes more frequently used towards the end. There are many possibilities as to why this is the pattern. But, it is something that would have gone entirely unnoticed without the distant reading tools.

The next representation of the text is through Links, which shows both frequency of word use as well as connections between the words.

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This is the first Links image. It shows the connections between words, especially those that are frequently used. There is a “the” cluster and a “we” cluster that are not connected.
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This is the second Links image, that includes “I.” It shows that adding the word “I” was essential to connect two different sets of clusters.

The first links image shows networks of words in relation to the two most frequently used words: we and the. However, the two networks do not connect. Once introducing the word “I,” the clusters become connected. This would prove that though less frequently used, singular pronouns (such as “I”) are more important to the coherence of the text than would have been deduced based on the other two spacial readings. For this reason, this approach is not the most helpful in answering the research question.

Despite the journalist’s personal experiences being documented it is clear that for this society at this point in history a more collective and plural writing style was preferred. The visualization methods used in the distant reading of the Payne/Froehlich Travel Journal allow the reader to see the big picture, instead of getting bogged down in the details of the text. It would be interesting to further research the question of “were the Moravians in the 18th century a collectivist or individualist society?” by comparing this journal with another Moravian travel journal from that time.