Doing Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities has been a curious adventure for me so far. I dove into this opportunity because of the recommendation of a professor at SJSU and the chance to expand on my experiences in literary studies. Having navigated the activities and studied the readings, I was steadily progressing in getting a grasp of DH and finding innovative prospects in Humanities. As each module built a new step towards the final project, I felt more and more confident mingling in this field and was excited to discover what directions I can take in regards to Literature by using digital tools.

Although my initial project to map East of Eden by John Steinbeck did not materialize, I did set off to use those ideas and instead applied them to Mapping Dubliners by James Joyce. All of John Steinbeck’s writings are under strict copyright and may not be available digitally for free use until the 75 years will pass after the death of the author.

With Mapping Dubliners, I did not have a tangible goal as far as an expected outcome; rather I was curious to see how DH can interpret, re-visualize, or present a new perspective about a classic literary piece that has been analyzed by many scholars. At first, I planned to see which digital tool offered a feasible opportunity to explore the text. Voyant seemed like a good start to look at word frequency. In the same time, I also realized that in order to complete a comprehensive mapping of the entire book, I needed to re-read Dubliners. As a result, I looked for the story with the most locations to begin — “Two Gallants” was the one.

The inspiration to execute the project came from Modules 7-9 when we looked at digital tools such as Voyant, CartoDB, and Palladio. I was particularly fascinated with two projects: Linked Jazz and Putting Harlem on the Map. The results these projects have put forth with the use of DH tools allowed for a fresh perspective in both cases. Ambitiously, I was hoping to do the same with my project. My queries regarding mapping Dubliners were: What more can we learn about the characters or the author’s intentions by looking at specific locations on the map of Dublin? How have these locations changed? How many still carry the same name? (As I found out some street names have changed.) What sorts of activities happen in those areas of Dublin today? How do they differ from the activities during Joyce’s time? Then of course, I realized that using these tools, I would simply just begin to scratch the surface. In order to answer these questions, perhaps crowdsourcing is a way to go by inquiring residents of Dublin about the places or gathering anecdotes or photographs to link to the locations. As a different approach, a twenty-first century Dublin could be constructed and linked to Joyce’s Dublin as it appeared in 1914.

In my project, I was curious to see how I might be able to manipulate Palladio and find a network of connections between characters and locations. I was able to work with the data to see the network of characters and locations in the story I have mapped. This made me think about how once all the stories are mapped,  the links of places and character, could offer a look at which part of the city the female characters are more likely to be versus the male characters. Overall, I believe that the data from one story alone is just not quite enough to show a bigger, more complex perspective.

While Palladio took me to visualizing simple links between characters and locations, I wanted to explore CartoDB’s mapping. Again, CartoDB gives a great visual of the places these two gallants were walking  through in the story, but I was not exactly sure what elements of the book these maps might enhance. Perhaps they do not have to add to the reading experience, only accompany it.

Then again, following the wonderful example of the Linked Jazz project, it would also be a promising prospect to create a linked map of the names of characters, pictures of locations, and quotes from the book. CartoDB has the ability to show character names, streets, and the limited text I added in from the story regarding what was happening at that location. In addition, this project might incorporate Irish music or any relevant audiovisual element to enhance the experience of reading Joyce’s book that is so deeply steeped in the geography and culture of Dublin.

As of now, the seeds of Mapping Dubliners is posted in my portfolio, however, in order to make it more comprehensive and interactive, it will have to be moved over to its own site. I hope to continue adding to this project by mapping the rest of the book and exploring other digital tools to see it evolve.

Working with DH tools, watching the media additions and reading the course literature, I have found that one of the remarkable aspects of Digital Humanities is that the ideas of a project grow in ways unexpected at the start. Via digital tools, visualization, links, presentations, and crowdsourcing these DH projects yield a certain historical and cultural expansion.

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