U.S. Librarians and Faculty weigh in on Digital Humanities

Here is the link to an article posted in American Libraries Magazine: How Librarians and Faculty Use Digital Humanities

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Crowdsourced digital history: Project South at Stanford — via NPR.org

Linton Weeks, in a post for NPR, describes a unique digital audio archive at Stanford on the civil rights movement: Project South. Here is part of Weeks’ description of the archive:

The Background: Exactly 50 years ago this year — in the summer of 1965 — a group of eight students filtered out into the Southern United States. Under the aegis of Stanford’s Institute of American History — and with help from campus radio station, KZSU — the young people gathered more than 300 hours of amazing audio recordings. They interviewed a lot of people — young and old, black and white — including members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In the mountain of material: Audio appearances by Ralph Abernathy, Charles Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Hosea Williams. Andrew Young leads a singalong. The enterprising students captured the sounds of a Ku Klux Klan meeting and an address by Robert Shelton, a KKK imperial wizard.

Weeks invites readers to help him crowdsource the archive….

Historically speaking, I need your help.

Davis Houck, a communications professor at Florida State University, recently pointed me toward a little-explored archive at Stanford University called Project South.

It’s an intriguing trove — full of original source material. In fact, it’s so rich with historical moments, I need your help to sort it all out.

So I am asking anyone who is interested — historians professional and amateur — to do some research sleuthing. Let’s commit historical crowdsourcery.

[…]

Davis Houck, who wrote about the Project South archive for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., in 2014 tells NPR History Dept. that the relatively obscure archives “are just remarkable: from the highs of Dr. King’s oratory to Fannie Lou Hamer’s amazing testimony, to lots of singing, to a Klan rally! And I would underscore, and keep in mind this is somebody who writes about civil rights for a living, there’s simply nothing else even remotely like it.”

Read the rest of the NPR article here: http://goo.gl/QuRKzG

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. AP

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Spanish Flu Project at Virginia Tech via Chronicle of Higher Education

http://chronicle.com/article/Big-Data-Project-on-1918-Flu/190457/

Soldiers with the Spanish flu are hospitalized inside the U. of Kentucky gym in 1918. In one prevention method examined in a new study, New Yorkers were advised to refrain from kissing “except through a handkerchief.” – via the Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 27, 2015) contains an article by Jennifer Howard on the Spanish Flu Project: a big data project funded by the NEH (among other entities) exploring reporting on the 1918 Spanish Flu. As Howard describes the research:

The team began with several questions: How did reporting on the Spanish flu spread in 1918? And how big a role did one influential person play in shaping how the outbreak was handled? . . . Royal S. Copeland was the health commissioner of New York City in August 1918, when a ship arrived in New York Harbor from Europe with flu victims aboard . . . . Copeland helped set the tone for how the nation reacted to a viral threat—and has been the subject of debate among historians ever since, with competing camps arguing about whether he did enough.

Researchers would typically scour public statements by Copeland to answer these questions. But since the outbreak was “well documented in the popular press of the day,” it seemed an ideal topic for “digitally enabled scholarship.”

Using the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database of historical newspapers, the HathiTrust Digital Library, and other sources, the Virginia Tech researchers sought out direct and indirect evidence of Copeland’s role: mentions and quotations, references to flu-containment strategies he promoted. “You can see his influence even if his name’s not used,” Mr. Ewing says.

The article does a good job highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of this form of digital scholarship. As Howard notes, this complex project requires both “code and context”:

To produce useful results, this kind of investigation depends on customized algorithms. But coming up with a good algorithm involves both code and context, a mingling of the complementary strengths of computer scientists and humanists . . . . The hybrid, trial-and-error nature of the Spanish-flu investigation may say something about the current state of computer-assisted humanities work. Mr. Bobley of the NEH says he has been impressed with the flu researchers’ “candid thoughts on how computational approaches like data mining are no magic bullet,” even as they expand what humanists can do. The work is a reminder, he says, that “historical documents like newspapers are rich, messy, nuanced, and complex documents that defy easy computational analysis.”

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HathiTrust Research Center UnCamp–March 30-31, 2015

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Save the date! HTRC UnCamp, March 30-31, 2015

HathiTrust Research Center UnCamp
March 30-31, 2015
University of Michigan
Palmer Commons
100 Washtenaw Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2218

SAVE THE DATE!

This year’s HathiTrust Research Center UnCamp will be held March 30-31, 2015 at the University of Michigan Palmer Commons (100 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2218).

Mark your calendars. HTRC is hosting its third annual HTRC UnCamp in March 2015 at the University of Michigan. The UnCamp is part hands-on coding and demonstration, part inspirational use-cases, part community building, and a part informational, all structured in the dynamic setting of an un-conference programming format. It has visionary speakers mixed with boot-camp activities and hands-on sessions with HTRC infrastructure and tools.

Who should attend? The HTRC UnCamp is targeted to the digital humanities tool developers, researchers and librarians of HathiTrust member institutions, and graduate students. Attendees will be asked for their input in planning sessions, so please plan to register early!

Registration. The UnCamp will have a minimal registration fee so as to make the Uncamp as affordable as possible for you to attend.

Additional information about the 2015 UnCamp will be posted at http://www.hathitrust.org/htrc_uncamp2015  as it becomes available. The 2012 and 2013 UnCamp programs and presentations are still available online.

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A cogent critique of maker culture – theatlantic.com

Debbie Chachra writes a timely critique of maker culture in today’s The Atlantic:

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

This is something digital humanists should be aware of in their rush to uncritically embrace the “more hack, less yack” ethos.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/

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How to find English-language fiction, poetry, and drama in HathiTrust.

The Stone and the Shell

Although methods of analysis are more fun to discuss, the most challenging part of distant reading may still be locating the texts in the first place [1].

In principle, millions of books are available in digital libraries. But literary historians need collections organized by genre, and locating the fiction or poetry in a digital library is not as simple as it sounds. Older books don’t necessarily have genre information attached. (In HathiTrust, less than 40% of English-language fiction published before 1923 is tagged “fiction” in the appropriate MARC control field.)

Volume-level information wouldn’t be enough to guide machine reading in any case, because genres are mixed up inside volumes. For instance Hoyt Long, Richard So, and I recently published an article in Slate arguing (among other things) that references to specific amounts of money become steadily more common in fiction from 1825 to 1950.

Frequency of reference to "specific amounts" of money in 7,700 English-language works of fiction. Graphics from Wickham, ggplot2 [2]. Frequency of reference to “specific amounts”…

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A lovely title cloud of the “most recommended” novels. Via http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/

You can view this visualization by the nationality and gender of the author.

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/novels-everyone-should-read/

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