Data mining, part 2

The Woman in WhiteThe Woman in White

This is my word cloud (with omitting “said and say” stopwords, although that might be interesting too as an analysis of the narratology of saying versus showing).

Google n-gram

I have been thinking about what “data” might mean for some of my work, and it isn’t obvious what would be a good category for this kind of research. I also work on ekphrasis in Roman poetry, but ekphrasis in this context isn’t manifest by signal words that I could use for different poets. Instead, Roman poets intentionally chose polysemous words, which had meaning in Greek and Latin, and prided themselves on the wordplay that that would allow, and particularly Augustan and so-called Silver Latin poets tried to be as opaque and allusionary as possible in the poetry. So one of the things that I’ve been grappling with is the idea of how to capture that kind of wordplay in a large database or is it even possible to do so?

Another question that I’ve been considering is the one about data in relation to the construction of meaning; that data isn’t “natural” or “unmediated”, but that the “cleanest” data has less interpretive baggage to dirty up the analysis. I need to think some more about this issue of data, what it is and isn’t.

Source: Data mining, part 2

Mining data

Reading the articles for Monday on mining data reminded me of the “revolution” in Classics in the late 80s and early 90s when Perseus was first introduced. At the time, it revolutionized the field: before Perseus, a brilliant classicist was a scholar who knew all the iterations of a particular aorist verb form in Aeschylus and thus knew the meaning and context of the verb. His knowledge (and it was usually his) was based on years of reading Aeschylus (and the other tragedians for context), spending long hours writing verb forms on notecards, and publishing esoteric articles on the language. (We are philologists!) After Perseus, it became so much easier to just find all the iterations of a particular word or words, collate them, contextualize them, and analyze them.  But had the field gone farther?

But first, let me take you to the way back machine. In college in the 70s, I used a typewriter and wrote in by hand my Greek passages for my essays; my husband, who is a sociologist, used punch cards for his research and was considered cutting edge sophisticated. In the eighties, my friends and I in Classics and Art History hacked our machines and got our dot-matrix printers to print Greek AND EVEN THE DIACRITICS!! We were cool, or thought we were. And then came Perseus.

The Perseus project itself recognizes that digital humanities has changed and that there is a huge need for clean data and machine actionable knowledge. It looks like that is happening  at the Perseus site, but not that Classicists are following, at least that I can find. Only last January (2014) was there the inaugural meeting at AIA/APA for the Digital Classics Association; the title of the panel was “Getting Started in Digital Humanities.” There is a CFP for NELA on digital humanities and the classics for May 2015.  Here is an interesting video about the use of computational photography. But this seems to be the seeds of the revolution.

There is lots more that could be done using Perseus digital repository, and it not just focused on Greek and Latin areas of research.


Source: Mining data

Apps vs. web

On the bus to class today, the topic of web content for our students came up: what would students use in their courses, apps or websites?

My students, most of whom are non-traditional, older students who have recently returned to school and claim that they are not “comfortable” with technology, all carry phones and most carry the newest, shiniest, bells-and-whistles iPhones. They may not have computers, iPads, or printers, but they do have phones. They may not care about “pretty” sites, but access to phone apps do appeal to them. (See  this graphic at; it seems that most students, traditional or non-traditional, use apps, not websites.)

So I was excited about reviewing a phone app for my homework assignment, the phone app, Timeline Art Museum. Bad, sad and very irritating. It has the worst aspects of Corbis (you pay for high quality images, even if they are in the public domain), unclear functionality (until you click on the short biography, you don’t know that images by the artist are included in the app), and it focuses on those aspects of art that my students cling to like a lifeboat: biographical details and the canned analysis of the thumbprint description. The image is too small to encourage real analysis by the students, the descriptions encourage shallow understanding, and the argument of the app’s design, as Kimon Keramidas’s presentation pushed us to consider, is the wrong argument. And, as Lauren  Kilroy-Ewbank asked, if this isn’t for students, for whom is it designed?

I don’t know. Not for the audiences that I see at the Art Institute of Chicago; it is much too naive and uninformative. It certainly wouldn’t engage those who aren’t interested in art to become interested in art. And, as I said above, it ain’t for my students.

It does highlight the question of argument for a page and how visual elements contribute to the argument of the page. i want to talk more about this as I discuss the various tools to which we were introduced today. But tomorrow is another day.

The big takeaway, however, from today’s class for me: I need to dress up my WordPress site. It looks shabby, neglected, and woefully skeletal compared with my esteemed colleagues. Let me play some more.




Source: Apps vs. web

Preparing my project

My project involves producing digital modules for my classes, so Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy, though very interesting, doesn’t really help me strategize for my project. Instead, I will be thinking about the threshold learning elements for art history and integrating that into the points outlined by Grant Wiggins in his post on projects vs. tests. (Note: I couldn’t find a permalink on Wiggins blog.)

Source: Preparing my project