Visualizing Digital Humanities Now (and a little Facebook, too) with Gephi

Like many people, I immediately thought of citation networks when we started fooling around with Gephi. What I decided was that I was interested in the Digital Humanities Now blog. I chose this blog because of the “Editor’s Choice” section that aggregates DH content from around the web. I thought it might be interesting to look at the disciplines that the DH Now editors are selecting the content from over time. As an initial foray into this question, I looked at October of 2014 and October of 2012 to see if there were major differences in the disciplinarity of the chosen posts. My hunch was that two years ago, the chosen content would be from fewer disciplines than now. Here is the visualization:


The disciplines are broken up by color: yellow is English, purple is History, green is Communication/Media Studies, red/pink is Library Science. I did this by adding a column to the nodes table and then partitioning by that attribute. Basically, it doesn’t seem like the disciplines are all that different or more varies now than they were two years ago. If I were to continue this visualization I would look at who is cited in the posts themselves. That way there would (presumably) by some more interesting things going on with edge weights, etc. As it is, the edge weights are all the same.

I’ve also produced a visualization of my Facebook network. There are tons of easy tutorials, but all you really need to know is the Facebook app Netvizz. The app will let you download a graph file of a few different kinds of networks. I found it pretty useful to play around with some statistics and layouts and such with a large data set. I settled on Force Atlas 2 and weighting the nodes by degree. The most interesting thing that came out of this was the way the different communities were structured. Gephi did a pretty good job of selecting distinct communities of friends–family, high school, college, some grade school.
You can see the one community that got propelled out of the main network (on the top of the visualization). These are all of the friends I’ve added since moving to Boston (mostly from Northeastern). One other interesting group is of people I met on a trip I took to Australia. They are a small teal community, floating off the top-right of the main mass of nodes, unconnected to anyone else in my network.

Boston’s South End: Burying grounds, Boston College, and my apartment

My Neatline exhibit is about my neighborhood.

Coming from Chicago, a relatively new city (most of it burned down in 1871, thanks Mrs. O’Leary!), I am continually frustrated and amazed by the City of Boston. On the one hand, the maddeningly labyrinthine streets, lack of alleys, and apparent total disregard for the fine art of city planning make it a difficult place to live at times. There is nothing like the smell of garbage baking on the picturesque brick sidewalks of Massachusetts Ave. on a humid August morning. On the other hand, I live in a (delightfully shabby) Victorian brownstone that is older than my previous city! And I constantly pass things that are older than the United States. Crazy! And inspiring, and weird, and creepy at times (I’m looking at you, Old South Burying Ground).

I decided for my Neatline map that I try to represent a few interesting historical spaces that I encounter on a regular basis.

This foray into Neatline (though not technically my first) aimed to both explore possibilities and make an argument. I tried to choose spaces and artifacts that overlapped in some way to provide a narrative of the historic space of the South End and its distinct eras–from the era of “across the neck,” the landfill projects of the South and Back bays, becoming the jazz hub of the New England, the tumultuous 70’s and 80’s, the era of the elevated train coming to an end, to the (ongoing) gentrification in the 80’s and 90’s. The South End remains an eclectic neighborhood, host to Boston’s primary trauma hospital (across from my apartment!) as well as the swanky restaurants and dog bakeries (seriously) of Tremont St. We still have boarded-up beauties like the Hotel Alexandria on Washington St. And we have the thriving SOWA art galleries. And this is only the stuff I know about and the little things I’ve noticed. There is so much more to be explored here.

Though this exhibit is just kind of an initial thrust, I would love to expand on it to a more thematic exhibit based around the eras I identified through my (cursory) research. Obviously these eras overlap, which is where I think the interesting bits would show up. What are some historical artifacts from the era when part of the (mostly African American) South End was also the primary gay and lesbian neighborhood in Boston? I think archival research in this case would be greatly bolstered by my actually physically going to see and explore some places. Huh. Who would have thought a map could influence the way I move around my environment?

Practicum #1: Markup and metadata

One thing that our group foregrounded when completing this practicum was the end goal. We tried to imagine why a scholar would want to access a corpus of reviews of a particular short story. Beyond simply wanting to gauge the critical reception of the work, we thought it would be useful to encode a few things: other works and authors that are discussed, religious references, place names (real and fictional), and one instance of a reference to laws (“Jim Crow”). In a lot of ways, these were very obvious things (i.e. mostly proper nouns) that one would expect an encoded corpus to include. Then we started to think about what we could say about these things. What research questions could we imagine having about the corpus? How could we leverage the specificity and granularity of encoding to think about the relation of the references, critics, publications, and object of analysis?

This led us to try to encode parts of speech when they were in reference either to the work (“The Celestial Railroad”), or to other works or references discussed in the review. We intended this as a kind of sentiment analysis, so we focused particularly on adjectives and verbs surrounding discussions of the principle work and other works referenced. While one can imagine an interesting sentiment map emerging from an entire corpus of reviews–perhaps even mapped to the political affiliations of the publications in which the reviews were published–the sheeer amount of labor required to accomplish this may be prohibitive. Further, it would be difficult, assuming a collaborative approach, to formalize the encoding, as determining sentiment is heavily interpretive (both in the specific case, and in deciding which words warrant encoding). So perhaps this was a misguided trial, but it did lead to some interesting conversations amongst the group.

From working on the Viral Texts project, I think I have a particularly first-hand view of the way the end user (or, imagined end user) shapes the interpretive process of applying metadata. Certain moments in the project raised questions that caused radical revisions of our tagging taxonomy (notably when Prof. Cordell actually wrote an article using the database interface). These were moments that helped us think about how scholars would actually interact with the site. Though textual encoding is a totally different method, this focus on end user was similarly foregrounded in the practicum.

And I’m still mucking around with TEI Boilerplate for fun. I’ll update this post once I get a working version hosted.

UPDATE 10/04/2014:

I’ve got the TEI document hosted on my site and styled with the TEI Boilerplate. It allows for very easy styling by declaring <rendition> elements with your desired styling that can then be referenced as attributes on any element in your document. For instance, I declared

<rendition xml:id=“b” n=“teibp:bold” scheme=“css”>

then applied this attribute to every <persName> element like so:

<persName xml:id=“Hawthorne” rendition=“#b”>Hawthorne</persName>

Simple as that. I stole most of the styles from their demo document, but also modified some for my purposes. One other handy thing is that TEI boilerplate has a built-in mechanism for including facsimile pages in your <pb /> elements using the @facs attribute. Super easy!

Our lightly styled TEI document can be viewed here: