How did they make that?

(Cross-posted on UCLA’s DH Bootcamp blog)

Edit: Dot Porter made a Zotero collection for this post! Thanks, Dot!

Many  students tell me that in order to get started with digital humanities, they’d like to have some idea of what they might do and what technical skills they might need in order to do it. Here’s a set of digital humanities projects that might help you to get a handle on the kinds of tools and technologies available for you to use.

I’ve tried to include a few different types of projects, but it’s hard to provide a really representative list. If you’d like to see more digital humanities projects, you can find directories at art-humanities.net and DHCommons.

Here, I discuss:

A Gallery of Primary Sources: Making the History of 1989

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What it is

A collection of primary sources related to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, accompanied by teaching materials and interpretive essays.

What you’d need to know

  • Omeka.org (which forms the basis of the site), or you could use Omeka.net if you aren’t so picky about the way the site looks and acts
  • HTML and CSS (optional; to customize the way the site looks)
  • PHP (optional; to customize certain site functions, like the way items display)

Get started

A Digital Scholarly Edition: The Willa Cather Archive

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What it is

A carefully edited digital archive of the writings of Willa Cather, along with extensive scholarly essays, analysis, and multimedia galleries.

What you’d need to know

Get started

A Mapping Project: The Negro Travelers’ Green Book

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 8.42.35 PMWhat it is

A searchable map of the addresses contained in the 1956 Negro Travelers’ Green Book, which the user can filter by state or establishment type.

What you’d need to know

Alternatives

There are almost too many mapping technologies to list, but some popular tools include Neatline (which you’d use together with Omeka), GeoCommons (a relatively simple mapping application), and ArcGIS (used for complex or large-scale mapping projects). If you’re serious about learning to build dynamic web-based maps, you’d be wise to learn the client-side language JavaScript (to control the way things show up on browsers), a server-side language like PHP (to interact with data), and the database language SQL (to manage your geospatial data). More mapping tools.

Get started

  • Learn how to clean and map data using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables

A Network Visualization: A Co-Citation Network for Philosophy

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What it is

A visualization of the authors referenced together in a corpus of philosophy journals.

What you’d need to know

  • D3.js, a JavaScript library for producing visualizations on the web.
  • The programming language Python, for manipulating your data.
  • A dataset. This one came from the Web of Science, which allows you to download citation data for academic articles.

Alternatives

You can make network visualizations without (necessarily) coding by using the web-based ManyEyes or the free Gephi or Cytoscape. Other tools for data visualization.

Get started

Computer-Aided Text Analysis: Topic Modeling Martha Ballard’s Diary

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What it is

An analysis of a historical document that uses a statistical method called topic modeling to group together the “topics” found in a large set of texts.

What you’d need to know

  • MALLET, a Java-based software package for text analysis (including topic modeling)
  • R, a programming language for statistical analysis and graphics

Alternatives

The Topic Modeling Tool provides a simpler-to-use graphical user interface for topic modeling, as does Paper Machines (which produces topic models from your Zotero library). But topic modeling is just one kind of textual analysis. Find a rundown of different kinds of text analysis here. Often, people who are new to text analysis enjoy starting with the web-based Voyant Tools. I also like the Lexos suite. More tools for text analysis.

Get started

A Historical 3D Model: Digital Magnesia

 

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What it is

A painstakingly researched re-creation of the Hellenistic city of Magnesia.

What you’d need to know

This particular model is created using the procedural modeler CityEngine.

Alternatives

The easiest way to create 3D models is probably with SketchUp. Serious 3D modelers often use Maya or Rhino.

Get started

Intro to 3D modeling

A Longform, Media-Rich Narrative: The Nicest Kids in Town

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What it is

An essay, accompanied by photographs, video, and sound, that can be reconfigured by the viewer to be read in multiple ways.

What you’d have to know

  • Scalar, a multimedia authoring platform
  • CSS (optional, to add custom styling to Scalar)

Get started

August 30: Post edited to reflect that you don’t need Python to download Web of Science data. Thanks for the correction, Scott Weingart!

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