In the next two weeks of class, we will divide our labor so that we can learn about some different kinds of digital tools that might help us answer (or more effectively present our answers) to our questions about slavery and runaway slave ads in Texas.
You will work with a partner to work through some tutorials (much like you did for Homework #3), and then talk with your partner about how this tool (or others like it) might be useful for our class. Your final task will then be to report back to the class on what you have done with an oral presentation that gives your classmates a sense of what the tool can do and what it might do for us.
Kaitlyn and Clare will be working with some online mapping tutorials to see whether tools like Google Maps would help us with our questions having to do with geography. Here are the tutorials they will begin with:
- A Programming Historian lesson by Jim Clifford (jburnford on Twitter) and others on using Google Maps and Google Earth to put descriptive points and vector layers on a map.
- A tutorial on thematic maps by Jack Doughtery (DoughertyJack on Twitter).
Daniel and Alyssa will be working with a suite of text analysis tools called Voyant Tools, using the following tutorials to begin with:
- The getting started page in the Voyant documentation.
- The notes from a workshop on Voyant taught by the developer Stefan Sinclair (sgsinclair on Twitter).
- A tutorial by Brian Croxall (briancroxall on Twitter) on comparing textual corpora in Voyant.
Aaron (with assistance from Franco) will be drawing on some of their experience in CompSci classes to explore ways to get our computer to recognize visual patterns, such as breaks between newspaper articles, or the presence of a runaway icon on a page. The starting goal will be to see whether they can take an image file of a single ad with the runaway icon and get a computer to roughly outline the icon.
Over the weekend, you should begin working on these tutorials and projects, tweeting problems that you may have to our course hashtag. You may choose to divide up the work with your partner, but get as far as you can so that we can use Monday’s and Wednesday’s class times to troubleshoot problems. You will need by the end of next week to have some ideas in mind for how to present these tools using data relevant to our specific class.
On February 24 and 26, we will have presentations in class by each group, with each presentation lasting no more than 20 minutes. (The schedule of presentations will be determined by the end of next week.) Your presentation should accomplish the following things:
- Must give students an overview of the capabilities of the tool(s) you have used.
- Must contain a "prototype" application of the tool using some of our runaway ads or data from another runaway ad project.
- Must contain some reflections on limitations of the tool that might warrant finding a better tool that does similar things.
- Must identify questions from our list of questions that you think this tool might help us answer.
Your group presentation is worth 15 points, divided up in the following ways:
- Up to 5 points for oral presentation (good visuals, clear organization, balanced participation by both members, clear enunciation and few "filler" words like "um").
- Up to 5 points for progress in mastery of tool(s) and your prototype (if the presentation reveals you were unable to complete the introductory tutorials or accomplish their sample outcomes in some other way, then you will receive 1 or 2 points here; if you do no more than what the tutorials do, that’s worth 3 points; 4 or 5 points may be awarded if you extended your knowledge of the tool by successfully using it on your own data related to runaway ads).
- Up to 5 points for the content of your presentation that reflects on which questions from our readings this tool might help us to answer or address.
Be aware that, as in the past, you may well encounter technical difficulties. Tools change, tutorials become outdated. Part of doing digital history is dealing with unexpected problems by seeking out help. Contact each other on Twitter, tweet the tutorial authors, consult help forums like Digital Humanities Questions and Answers and tell Google about your problems! I will also be meeting with you in pairs next Friday in lieu of our regularly scheduled class.