Some results from the Bloomsday hack session, where we discussed small digital Joycean projects we might take on that day and continue working on over the following weeks:
We decided to create a dataset that could be used in Gephi to make something both informative and pretty: a log of the social interactions among characters that could be turned into a social network visualization. Chad Rutkowski read through the Wandering Rocks episode and logged a list of character interactions, which I then turned into a dataset and manipulated in Gephi to produce (click image for larger version):
Character nodes are weighted by the number of edges touching them (i.e. by how many interactions with other people a given character has), so unsurprisingly for anyone who’s read Ulysses, Father Conmee appears as one of the most connected characters in the episode.
Our next step will be to answer some questions about types of character interactions and include these answers in our dataset:
Do we want to log the direction of an interaction to cover cases where, for example, and conversation is one-sided? (Yes, but this means creating two edges for every dialogue: Bloom > Molly as well as Molly > Bloom).
What counts as an interaction? (Telegrams, letters, overheard shouts in the street?)
How do we handle time? (Is Bloom > Molly recorded only one time in our Ulysses datatset, or every time they interact? If the latter, how do we decide when an interaction counts as ended?) If we can find a satisfactory and non-insanity causing way of coding this, we could create a time-lapse visualization of interactions in the novel, perhaps with some sort of cumulative or heatmapping feature.
How to handle different types of interactions? We discussed assigning different numbered weights to interaction edges so that its easy to see the degree of interaction taking place (was a character imagining a conversation with Bloom, or actually talking to him?), but there’s some difficulty in deciding what types of interaction are deeper than others in order to place these on a spectrum and make visual apprehension easier.
Ben Schmidt also did some neat and quick work with the Circe episode, running a script to gather character names by grabbing the all-caps words in that section and mapping interactions stepwise by linking the names that appears next after a given character in the text.
We’ll continue working on this project as we have time, so if you’re interested in helping out, send us a tweet! The work involved is pretty easy: identifying a section of the novel you wish to attack, then making a list of the characters who interact and ID’ing the type of interaction according to a scheme we’re using.
I’m back from a busy four days at THATCamp CHNM (aka THATCamp Prime). I’ll start by discussing the fascinating presentation by Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other exciting digital projects from “our nation’s attic.” I thought Sharon Leon‘s choice to use an interview format was excellent and made for a much more dynamic and engaging forum than a straight-up presentation. The Citizen Archivist Dashboard grew out of the Open Government Platform initiated by President Obama. The goal of Citizen Archivist is to make NARA’s documents more accessible while also serving as a forum for engaging the public in the intellectual work that makes accessibility happen. Pam realized that simply opening the archive’s data to the public without any guidelines would be like dumping out a load of raw cake batter: it might be yummy for the most dedicated enthusiasts (e.g. “Lincoln Lady”) but most people would like to have a “cupcake” — i.e. a specific task or subject on which to work (e.g. the Titanic is the featured “cupcake” right now).
So far, Citizen Archivist has been wildly popular: within two weeks of going live, the archive received 1,000 page transcriptions (by contrast it took Sharon several years to reach the same number of transcribed pages for the Papers of the War Department). The 1940 census received 20 million hits the morning it went live. Pam hoped that one of the hackers at THATCamp or elsewhere would design a “pocket archivist” app that would allow users to upload images while they are doing research at NARA. She also asked for suggestions for other topics and projects to add to the initiative.
Another way that NARA engaged the public was in the redesign of its website. They received 4 choices from the designer and then let the public vote on which one they liked best. Voters overwhelmingly chose the simplest design (which many at NARA found too minimalist). This is something to keep in mind as my colleagues and I set out to redesign our department website. Perhaps we should survey our students to see what they want from a website?
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