Blogging Homework – Day 4

Can it REALLY be only Day 4? Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon have done a remarkably amazingly fantastic job of putting together this seminar. I really CAN NOT fathom that it has been only four days; I have learned so much.

Which is also why there is no way I’m going to be reading How to Lie with Maps, a book about mapping as a resource and research platform written by Mark Monmonier (second edition even!). I want to. Oh, do I want to! But I reckon I have about an hour’s worth of battery life left in this brain and I want to get some thoughts down and answer the questions for today.

The first issue we were asked to think and blog about tonight is this: “Consider how to incorporate different types of resources into your digital project for analysis.”

First off, I need images. I learned how to use TinEye to find images (though it has yet to work for me; I have such weirdo images). I have been able to find several through searches on museum databases and through other web searching tools I’ve learned this “week” (as in four days). So, my site will need images.

I had originally thought I might need some kind of mapping. I still might. I will know more after tomorrow’s discussion (and when I  eventually read  How to Lie with Maps).  I had originally thought to “plot” the images in Tuscany on a map. But the reading I *did* do tonight, by Richard Wright “What is Spatial Mapping” makes me wonder. I took two things from this reading that makes me stop and think:

1. Mapping is about moving through space. I am dealing with paintings and in many cases the provenance is etchy-sketchy (yes that is an industry term). If I am not even sure where the images came from, and mapping is about spaces, then maybe this is not the best tool for my project.

2. Wright ends his piece by saying : “Visualization and spatial history are not about producing illustrations or maps to communicate things that you have discovered by other means. It is a means of doing research; it generates questions that might otherwise go unasked.” Do I really need a map to see the Byzantine influence in the panel paintings produced by Italian artists in the thirteenth century? Does a mapping tool communicate that influence and no other means can? Clearly that is not the case, since I have already identified some iconographic markers that demonstrate influence. So…I’m now rethinking the mapping issue. Hopefully tomorrow will shed light on what such a tool can – and can’t or should not – do.

And this leads me to something I was thinking about earlier today when I was coming back on the bus: you should not let the tools – as totally freaking cool as they  are – guide the research. You still need to ask the disciplinary questions and then see if there are the tools that will answer them. So, is mapping a useful tool? I still think it might be. But just because I WANT to use a mapping tool (and I will learn how to do it tomorrow) does not mean that it is necessarily the best tool for my project. I think the use of the newest shiny toy just to use it might be at the core of why many scholars are skeptical or outright hostile to the idea of digital humanities research and publication. And the answer of “but it is up on the web and therefore digital and for the public” is not a good enough answer. It has to be solid scholarship – that is enhanced or actually created by the digital tools. Thus, I need to figure out what my project is really about and find the best tools to help it develop.We were also asked to think about our home institutions and how much support or lack thereof we will find there. I am REALLY lucky. I have a lot of support at my home institution in the form of tech people. I am very lucky in that I have great librarians with whom to partner, as well as Instructional Technologists (yes, I’m talking to you Steve Kerby!), as well as others who are very digitally inclined (like the Social Media Ninja, and he knows who he is). Yet, I do believe I might be The Only faculty member who will be attempting digital research. I think some are embracing digital tools for teaching (and one thing I LOVE LOVE about our group is that when we learn a tool, you hear a ripple around the room of, “oh, I could so use that in class!” The energy is really great). But I think I will be a Lone Wolf back at McDaniel when it comes to the research angle. But that is OK. I predict this group will stick together digitally for some time forward. And we have our awesome website and Twitter hashtag: #doingdah14. Could there be more money? Sure. Could it be helpful if there were more staff? Yeah. But I’ve got good people and enthusiasm. And that’s carried me through on other projects before this one. Bring it on Day 5!!!

Source: Blogging Homework – Day 4

Platform salad

Each platform offers possibilities for different aspects of my project:

1. I want to be able to have annotations that appear if you roll over tags; in these annotations I want to be able to include text, images, maps, links to other pages etc. ThingLink was wonderful for this, especially because it is embeddable. It is so great when these platforms can “talk to each other” and work together, which doesn’t always seem to be the case.

2. I didn’t get a chance to explore Scalar, but from the demo it looks very appealing as one way of presenting my project as a text rich with media, annotations, and dynamic features. I am not sure that I could build my whole project there. Right now I see it as a way to make a “book version” of my project, so to speak–with a sustained analysis, argument etc etc but not with all the interactive features of the map-based idea. I don’t mind thinking of this as a companion platform that could be linked to the map site.

3. I like OHMS for a different research project where one of my sources is a video on Youtube made by a Berlin collective, which is an oral/video history of that community. I’ve been annotating it manually by writing down the minutes and seconds of important passages and transcribing them, but OHMS would make the work so much easier.

4. Animoto was super fun, but I probably would only use it to make vignettes for teaching. I like the ease of adding content, but perhaps this ease is precisely what makes Animoto limited for me: I can’t control the timing of each shot, the templates are very formulaic and rigid (and most of them a bit campy!), and I can achieve similar results when I record a slideshow on Powerpoint–except that I can easily add my voice-over, control timings etc. Powerpoint is admittedly much slower and clunkier, and the final file is gigantic and not easy to share, so I suppose Animoto could be best in some situations.

5. Omeka 2.0 looks promising! I tested Omeka yesterday and liked it as a teaching tool, for building my course website and for having students work on their own. Omeka 2.0 seems more flexible, visually appealing (not just on the dashboard side but also on the “user view” side), and easier to work with.

I am not sure what is available at my home institution because I’m joining them in the Fall. It’s a big university and I suspect there might already be resources, people, platforms etc. available. I also think they would be open to new projects and suggestions.

Source: Platform salad

Day 4: Drinking from the Firehose?

Confession: There was a moment today when I felt like I was drinking from the firehose. While the embedded video below doesn’t entirely capture the feeling, it does allow me to showcase my newfound abilities:

I left today’s institute meeting feeling like a giddy child, one who has boxes of chocolates and sugary candies and who doesn’t even know where to begin delighting in the sugary sweetness. After learning about Scalar, Omeka, and Drupal Gardens yesterday, I woke this morning hoping we’d have time to explore them further. The day turned out so much better than I imagined, as we discovered numerous tools to annotate images and videos. Thinglink became my new favorite tool (scroll over the images here). I enjoy annotating images, especially those that are unfamiliar to students (e.g., the Aztec “Calendar Stone”).

Operation_Crossroads_Baker_EditI’ve always done it in Photoshop or some other image editing software, where I draw arrows and include text, but it is always somewhat messy. Thinglink allowed me to annotate with not only text, but also links and videos. And it was easy to use. Come Fall semester, I will use this in my classes and ask students to annotate images. It will be a wonderful way to encourage close looking at images, even if it is a different type of close looking than we might normally expect. I know that I will also employ this tool for my project on Mexican deathways for the same reason that I will use it with students. I can embed these annotated images into my websites as well. For all these reasons, Thinglink ranks as my number one tool of the day.

We also explored Animoto. I must confess that I am normally dismissive of videos made from powerpoints or the like–I find them distracting. Yet Animoto has potential for both my teaching and project on Mexican deathways, particularly because it limits text, focuses on the visual, and displays a clean finished product.

Learning to annotate in Youtube was also wonderful. I feel sheepish that I didn’t know how to to this before today. And what wonderful possibilities it has. I can also download (for free) my Animoto videos and then upload them to my Youtube channel.

Surprisingly, by 4 PM I felt energized and ready to keep exploring all these new tools. They were all simple enough to guide students and colleagues who might want to use digital tools for their own projects or research.

A final note about today’s learning: the new Omeka 2.2 platform that we installed is much better than the earlier version I used yesterday. With a few changes to the hex color codes and a header image, I had a decent looking website in a couple of minutes vs. the earlier version. I plan to use this new version for the deathways project. In particular, it will work well to create exhibitions of objects.

Resources at Brooklyn College and CUNY


There are a few helpful resources at Brooklyn College beyond Artstor, WorldCat, etc. I found some excellent resources on fair use, as well as some individuals who might be willing to help me get clearances. Within the CUNY system, I imagine the CUNY Commons will use useful for making connections with people interested in digital humanities and digital art history, finding different platforms (or at least others who use them), and experimenting with other platforms and tools. I also discovered that Brooklyn College has a list of OERs that could aid my project. I didn’t find anything about specific CMS platforms, but it is possible that this information is not well represented online. I’ve no doubt that CUNY Graduate Center has amazing resources for those interested in digital humanities. Now I just need to find and access them.

Source: Day 4: Drinking from the Firehose?

Day 2 / homework (or not)

Wow. Zotero. Is it a dream or a nightmare?

On the surface, Zotero is a research tool that allows you to incorporate pretty much everything you want to a personal library. This means (very, but very basically) that you can have all the stuff you have gathered on a particular topic easily accesible and together.

Wow. Sounds great? Even fun? Well, it is not. It may be, perhaps even in the near future. But right now Zotero poses for me more problems than it solves, basically because I have done most of the research for my doctoral dissertation and it would be time-consuming to transfer that data to Zotero.

However,  that is not the reason why I feel Zotero is a nightmare. Zotero is the elephant in the room.

 The elephant in the room, lurking in my bookshelf…

Until today I had not realised that I have organised my primary sources (and even my secondary sources for that matter) in a disastrous way. Let me explain the situation: for the past four years I have collected a large volume of information on women artists active in Buenos Aires in the long 19th century. I am talking about 130 GB of information. Images, words and even sound files that are basically uncategorised. It is, to put it bluntly, a messy system.

I need to finish my dissertation, not only because I have to. You see, I really want to use Zotero, the tool that is dreamy and nightmarish at one.

Source: Day 2 / homework (or not)