Week 7: It’s finally time for mapping!

This week’s class is dedicated to mapping, for which I’m very excited because I envision my project primarily as a mapping project. The readings for this week were actually largely built around examples of existing mapping projects and previews of some of the various mapping tools available. For example, one of my favorite projects was Visualizing Emancipation, which mapped emancipation events and the locations of Union army troops onto a map of where slavery was legal. I really liked the interplay of the different types of information represented on the map as well as the fact that each item was toggle-able, which really offers opportunity for a number of different interpretations.

Additionally, one of our readings highlighted the importance of maps as tools for the furthering of history, as well as their role as a point of accessibility for the digital humanities. I think that’s an important point, especially considering the influential role that maps and cartographers have played in the shaping of the modern world. Furthermore, I also found interesting (and enlightening) the insight that maps have to be read as critically and with the same kind of text that one might use in evaluating textual sources. I think that maps are often marginalized as repositories of information constructed elsewhere, as opposed to documents that actually present new conceptualizations of the world and generate information in and of themselves.

All this being said, I definitely enjoyed getting to browse through a collection of various mapping DH projects and play around (ever so slightly) with some of the tools. I will confess, however, that I still remain confused about how to use many of the tools presented in the readings and look forward to learning about them in class on Wednesday so that I can really dig into my own project!

As per usual, thanks for reading!

Mahalo,

– Adam

Week 6.5: Updated Project Plan

I have further revised my project plan and actually assigned some dates to the various stages that I have outlined for this project. While this plan is ambitious and will need some revisions along the way, I’m confident that this is a solid outline from which I can at least get started. Also, for the record, I definitely copied (with some modifications) the plan template from one of my much more technologically accomplished classmates (to avoid giving his/her name publicly without permission, reference available upon request).

Project Plan 2.0

Week 6: Updated project proposal

Hello all! Thank you for joining me again. This week will be dedicated to updated project proposal that will hopefully paint a more coherent picture of what I’m trying to do and what I think I’ll be able to accomplish. Also, for the sake of citing my sources, I straight up stole the general outline of this post from my buddy John Vsetecka (who has a pretty dope blog that you should all check out), so full credit to him. Anyways, let’s get started.

Scope

As I’ve said in previous posts, my initial goal was to map the war memorials in a particular province in Japan, like Aichi or Gunma. However, after giving it some thought, I decided to actually expand the scope of my project to encompass the entirety of the country and try to map all of the war memorials in Japan. Ambitious, yes, but not impossible.

However, I am leveraging my current abilities against the time left in the semester, which makes achieving this goal a bit daunting. However, for this class, my first and primary focus is constructing a plan of attack for this mapping, of which this proposal is the first step. My initial idea is that it may in fact be easier to focus on one particular kind of memorial at a time, working my way down from the more nationally prestigious to the more unknown and local. My hope is that an emphasis on national memorials first will offer me a general sense of the general mnemonic landscape in Japan that will hopefully allow me to make much greater sense of the smaller, local memorials.

Aims/Goals

As stated earlier, the goal of this project is to (eventually) map all of the war memorials in Japan, or at least all of those about which I can obtain information. Ideally, this would entail employing scraping technology to acquire geographic and pictorial data that would form the core of my project. Given this focus, I am eagerly anticipating week 7, where Ethan Watrall will be speaking to us about mapping technologies and techniques. Hopefully then I’ll be able to get my greedy little hands on some programs around which I can orient my data collection/presentation as well as some much-needed advice from an expert on mapping.

Method/Plan of Action

This is the part of my project that I find myself a bit conceptually stymied. I only have to wait another week for our class presentation on mapping, but hopefully I will be able to set up a meeting with one of the data librarians to get starting with these technologies beforehand. My initial plan had been to get into contact with the Asianist librarian in order to gain a better grasp of the content/source material so that I could at least begin looking at the material, which is still my primary goal. However, I have had some trouble getting into contact with said librarian, so I will seek some advice from my instructors and hopefully finally get in touch with the content area librarian, so I can advance with my project. Once that is taken care of (hopefully by the end of the week), I feel as though I will be in a good position to make full use of the mapping tools that will be presented in the coming week. The last thing that I want to do is be complacent and find myself behind and racing to complete my project before the semester ends, so I fully intend to make this week proactive and decisive.

Presentation of Findings/Materials

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my project will present the war memorials in Japan in a map, highlighting the geographic location of each. However, in addition and insofar as possible, I also plan on incorporating photographic data that makes my map more than just a series of dots. Additionally, as far as possible, I plan on including textual information that presents the type of narrative offered at each memorial, as well as the kinds of material/exhibits that comprises each memorial (and possibly a link to each memorial’s actual website if one exists). At a later stage and certainly beyond the scope of this class, I hope to add links to outside webpages containing information on the events memorialized at each site (within reason, although even I don’t know quite what I mean by that). This project will initially be a tool for my own research, and as such will be posted on my blog where I will have access to my project and be able to edit, maintain, and add to it in the coming years.

Overview of Project Steps

” Get into contact with the Asian content area librarian and schedule a meeting, which will hopefully give me a window into more sources than I have been able to find on my own and give me a relatively deep pool of data to draw from.
” Arrange for a meeting with a data librarian for late next week (hopefully in the day or two after the mapping technologies presentation in class on Wednesday) to make sure that I both have access to and understand how to use mapping tools.
” Establish a set routine for working on my project so that I am consistently developing/refining content. I know my own tendency to procrastinate, so it is essential for me to set aside specific times on specific days to do nothing but work on my project.
” As I’m doing the above, continue to look at different mapping projects on the web and glean as much from them as I can so that I can jump right in and won’t have to waste time trying to orient myself once I get all of my technological ducks in a row.
” Begin the data scraping/mining and compilation, posting my incremental progress on my blog so that my friends, classmates, and instructors can hold me accountable and make sure that I’m actively developing a quality DH project.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m sorry that this isn’t a more thorough explanation of my project and that it is still a bit ungrounded, but hopefully by next week all will be well. As always, thanks for reading!

– Adam

Experimenting with digital analysis

So Jim and I were playing around with a few different data sets in Voyant when we each decided to try analyzing a source in each of our languages. I chose a Japanese newspaper article because I didn’t have any Japanese language sources handy. I was really pleasantly surprised at how well it was able to distinguish different words in a non-English language with no spacing to differentiate them. The word cluster function was especially interesting to me.

The article itself is about the suicide of two boys at a Japanese high school, but suicide was only mentioned half as much as the investigation itself (調査) or the bereaved families (遺族) and only one third as much as committee members (委員). I think that this clearly represents the author’s narrative focus, emphasizing the aftermath rather than sensationalizing the suicides themselves, which may be a larger trend in Japanese journalism worth investigating.

Week 5

This week’s readings focused on textual analysis. Textual analysis is one digital methodology with which I was familiar prior to this course, although I’ve never actually tried it. Although it certainly used to look quite complicated (and intimidating), after our command line boot camp and taking some time to understand exactly how it is that a computer, and by extension software, operates, the textual analysis process appears much simpler. Particularly the use of tokens and strings though which the analysis is focused is much clearer and I hope that understanding will help me actually utilize textual analysis more effectively. Contrary to popular belief, computers aren’t actually sentient machines that function on a higher level than humans (at least not yet…but 2029 isn’t far off).

via GIPHY

One thing that struck me about the technique is its double-edged nature. On one hand, it is incredibly useful for helping to visualize or understand general trends that have lots of data to sort through. Many hypotheses are constructed primarily around a relatively small amount of data that the scholar actually has the time and physical capacity to read, meaning that a textual analysis of the remaining huge corpus of text/source material can be incredibly useful to verifying the general accuracy of a hypothesis. I know I would love to be able to be able to refer to general trends in the data that I’m unable to actually physically sift through to check whether or not my research is going the way I believe it ought to be. However, on the other hand, doing a textual analysis would be utterly useless without a strong knowledge of what ought to be in the text and a mastery of the technology used in the process. Without that requisite knowledge, you’ll mostly likely end up with a bunch of unintelligible data.

With that being said, I like to think that my project is moving forward, although the past week hasn’t been quite as productive as I would have liked. I’m still fleshing out the details of my project and I’m still waiting for my meeting with the two librarians, which I’ll hopefully be able to take care of by the end of this week. After that and with any luck, I’ll be off to the proverbial races!