Category Archives: Digitization

Comparing Network and Visual Tools

My last three posts highlight a particular tool for visualizing data. Each site has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choosing which one to use depends upon what outcome the user wants to show.

Voyant is a useful tool for use in conjunction with text mining. It will use the same dataset used for that practice to show key trends within the information. It can provide users with the common words and phrases used. The visuals provided with Voyant are line graphs that show these words and phrases throughout the dataset.

CartoDB uses geographic information within datasets to display the information on a map. This allows users to see the geographic relationships within the topics of their dataset. The various types of maps it can produces will highlight different aspects of the information.

Palladio, while it does have a map feature, relies on its ability to visualize how pieces of information provided related to others within it. The main output is in the form of word maps, which can complement the line graphs that Voyant provides.

Each tool allows users to gain a particular insight into the information. By seeing the information displayed visually, rather than textually, researchers are able to see various relationships that may not come across through reading the material. Seeing which words are used most often can provide the common language of the time, while seeing a map of where events took place can show some of the biases within the information.

Choosing which tool to use boils down to a couple key questions. The first is what the dataset includes. If there is no geographic information, CartoDB has little to no use. But if there is a long history within the dataset, Voyant can track word usage and vocabulary trends over time. And finally, if there are a wide variety of topics that can be compared with each other, Palladio may be the best option.

There is no rule saying only one tool can be used, and if the dataset has enough information all three can be utilized effectively to highlight different aspects of it.

Digitization in Digital Humanities

A big part of Digital Humanities is the act of digitizing an object of some sort, whether it’s a book, photo, or work of art. There are a number of things to keep in mind while performing this act of digitization.

The first thing is to consider the best way to digitize a particular object. Is the object text only, such as a journal article? A photograph or map? A three dimensional sculpture? Each of these examples have different concerns when trying to capture it in the computer. All can be photographed, but several are required for anything with more than one side, and text recognition software can give errors. Journal articles and photos can be run through a scanner, but a sculpture cannot. A video of a sculpture can do wonders for that sculpture, but a recording of a book that it several hundred pages long is time consuming and has very few uses.

Another thing to consider when something is digitized is what is lost in this act. How can someone gauge the weight of an apple from a video or picture? A video can capture the  shape and color of the apple, as well as how it sounds when someone takes a bite, but what about it’s taste? A photo or video will allow someone to see the color, shape, and sound of an object, but anything tactile is lost. You cannot tell how heavy something is,  how hard or soft it is, or whether it is smooth or rough. The best you can get is to have someone describe these things through dialogue.

With so many things to get wrong, why bother to digitize anything? If done correctly, anything that is digitized can be manipulated to further someone’s understanding of the topic. Once that book is digitized in the right form, it can be run through character recognition software, and then can be played audibly through speech software for those who can’t or have trouble reading. Old photographs can be restored to their original form. Artists can create a video of their work, and edit the video to create a new work of art. Museums can digitize their collections, which can then be posted to the World Wide Web, exponentially increasing access to the exhibits.