Homework Day_5: Ways that spatial humanities techniques might influence my scholarship.

In my dissertation work, I had already begun to experiment with spatial humanities techniques (although I did not know that was the term for them), by working with GoogleMaps and placing pins on the known ‘haunts’ of Degas in Rome, Naples and Florence, and then (as my dissertation is very analog) saving those maps as jpgs and including them as figures in the final product. The results were static, and (admittedly) not too helpful for readers.

From the get-go of my dissertation, I was frustrated with the limitations of more traditional tools, and had developed a few small-scale hacks to try and work through the limitations (e.g. the static GoogleMaps), but the experience left me wanting. Thus, this experience was important as it was one of the catalysts to get me thinking about how (what I learned is called ‘digital humanities’) could help me push arguments further/engage with the information in different ways/etc., and lead me to this point in my development as a provisional D(A)H.

Fast forward to the crystallization of my thinking on Mapping Paris, i.e. summer of 2013: in the first iterations of the project, I planned to simultaneously to plot the social AND spatial maps of the artists (and their circles) living and working in Paris between the years of 1855-1889, but as the project truly moved into its planning stages, I realized that not only did I need create geographical and temporal limitations (which would be easily expandable), but I decided that I needed to limit the project to the social sphere only, in order to make it focused and do-able in the short(er) term.

Long story, short: the spatial elements are going on the back-burner for now, but I am excited to learn about them, and think about ways to incorporate them at least into my pedagogy in the short-term. I also think that I will include in the design of the database, a field for spatial information, in the hope that as the project grows, that the component can be ‘easily’ [and I knocked on wood as I wrote that] tacked on at a later date.

In other news, do keep an eye on the Drupal MappingParis website (which is still bare-bones), which I am using at the moment as a sandbox/showcase for some of the tools that we have learned. The contents of my attempts are slim-to-none, but the tools themselves are what is of import.

Note: the link did not work when I first posted it, but I have corrected the error here and in the original blog post.

Source: Homework Day_5: Ways that spatial humanities techniques might influence my scholarship.

Homework Day_3: The strengths and weaknesses of the platforms

In our hands on session today, I dove into Drupal Gardens (at least at first). I chose Drupal Gardens because it was touted as having the most flexibility in terms of site-design and capabilities (or at least that is what I took from the conversations around it), but that it might require a bit more elbow grease in getting the project/site off-the-ground.

This led me back to another set of issues that I have been contemplating, off-and-on, since my first thoughts about/on/around Mapping Paris: how much do I need to know about the technology going on in the background? If I need to reach out to others with different knowledge sets in the design/start-up phase of the project, how do I make them active contributors and not just service-providers to the project? Which led me to the place where I am now in this thinking: that I need to know at least a little bit about the inter-workings of the technology and software, so that I can (try to) 1) speak the language 2) understand other contributors 3) take software/tech into consideration while in the scope/planning phase of the project.

Drupal Gardens took too long to populate my website, so I decided to try my luck with the one-click installation of Drupal onto my webpage hosted by Reclaim Hosting. From what I understand, the differences between Drupal Gardens and Drupal, is that while the former is more flexible and open-ended than Omeka and SCALAR (the other CMS introduced today), it is more user-friendly and more regimented than plain-old Drupal, which is bare-bones AND (most important for me) needs some knowledge of HTML coding to really flesh out your site.

Which brought my previous musings on knowing the tech-side to the very-tangible present. I was able to make a node (a page, in Drupal-speak), but all it contained was some bare-bones text AND I was able to change the color schema and remove the logo (which I thought was distracting). Everything else will have to wait until I remind myself how to add emphasis to text via HTML tags, and (significantly) up-the-ante on my HTML skills. I have left my plodding work up for the moment, in an exercise of making myself vulnerable and allowing the unpolished, work-in-progress nature of the project to be visible, but it probably will be hidden soon, as I make slow progress towards a functional site. For now, check out clairekovacs.org/MappingParis/ to see my work, thus far.

Where am I going to start learning HTML? Good question, but here are some places I am going to start thinking about*:

The Programming Historian

Women’s Coding Collective


*My thanks to Lauren, Sharon and Stephanie for the programming suggestions!

Source: Homework Day_3: The strengths and weaknesses of the platforms

Homework Day_2: Project Planning

Sustainability and standards: two important concepts that came out of our discussions today (which traversed ground from the social and political ideologies of DH, to Zotero, to Google-Fu, to metadata and back again). While the range of topics had relevance to Mapping Paris, the important take-aways from today focused on conceptions of metadata and the foundational (relational) database that the whole project will be based upon. While I began to think about the theoretical implications of database design (writing about it for my presentation at the Arts, Histories and Complex Networks/Leonardo Satellite Symposium and thinking about it through Crone and Halsey’s “On Collecting, Cataloguing and Collating the Evidence of Reading: The ‘Red Movement’ and Its Implications on Digital Scholarship.” [1]), it is only at Rebuilding the Portfolio that I have begun to seriously think about such concepts in their practical application and implementation in Mapping Paris.

We were introduced to the importance of schema for metadata, in other words, ‘a standardized set of fields used to describe an object, field or identity.’ [2] Examples include the Dublin Core, MARC standards, VRA core and CDWA. In addition, Sharon kindly responded to a question that I had about sustainability DH tools and platforms, and in doing so, circled back around to the importance of establishing your descriptive information, from the get-go, in a series of fields that can easily shared, scraped or migrated from platform-to-platform. Such ideas are of the utmost importance in this process of thinking about/designing/implementing the database for Mapping Paris to ensure that the data is publicly usable and accessible (as well as the website – but that is a story for another blog post), that the project is conceived in a spirit of open access and that the data is not irretrievable, but rather accessible and migratable (is that a word?) in the future permutations of D(A)H.


[1] Crone, Rosalind, and Katie Halsey. “On Collecting, Cataloguing and Collating the Evidence of Reading: The ‘Red Movement’ and Its Implications on Digital Scholarship.” In History in the Digital Age, edited by Toni Weller, 95-110. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. (Note that this was pulled from Endnote, as I have not yet made the formal jump to Zotero, nor do I currently know how to properly footnote in a blog.)

[2] Loosely quoted from Sharon Leon’s talking points today (8 July 2014) @ Rebuilding the Portfolio.

Source: Homework Day_2: Project Planning