Post 4: Voyant Tools and Textual Analysis

Voyant Tools is a website that provides a free, easy to use, text analysis tool.  Any text can be pasted into the box, allowing the website to create data that comes from the words that are in the text.  For historians, it gives the ability to quickly analyze patterns in larger texts, which I think would help with historical analysis.  We discussed in class a lot how text analysis should be used, however, I think that the methodology is significant to show how things, like Voyant Tools, can help historians.  Through computer programs, larger text analysis provides a starting off point for more in depth reading and analysis.  By seeing what kind of words are used how often in a text it gives you an idea of what the text is about, and the nature of the text.  This information alone isn’t useful historically, but what this information can lead to could benefits historians.

Though I do think that there are ways that text analysis programs could hinder historical analysis.  It could potentially limit the perspective of the deeper reading by the historian that would occur after using the computer program.  For example, after the 95 Theses are run through Voyant Tools, it states that the two most commonly used words are “indulgences” and “pope.”  This gives the historian an insight into the main focus of this text, however, it could also limit the historian to just looking for these topics.  Essentially it could blindfold the historian to look only for specific things, while other aspects of the text could be just as important.  However, this potential hindrance is mainly a problem of the historian, not a problem of the text analysis program.

The Voyant Tools results for the 95 Theses

luther

I think that programs, like Voyant Tools, do not give anything new that couldn’t be accessed before, but rather, it makes what was extremely hard to access now easily accessible.  The amount of times the words “indulgences” and “pope” appeared in the 95 Theses can be counted out by hand, however, the text analysis programs make it a quick and easy task.  What before may have taken hours or days, now takes seconds.  It is another tool for a historian to use in making their own analysis of a text.

Overall, I think that this kind of textual analysis, through Voyant Tools, does help improve traditional historical reading skills.  In specific situations it can make some steps of large text analysis easier and quicker.  The results can become a jumping off point for the in depth reading that would take place after.  It gives the historian an idea of what to look for in a text, while also showing how the words relate to other words.

Post 3: DECIMA Project

My chosen project that I will review is the DECIMA project from the University of Toronto.  It is of Florence Italy from 1561, and maps out the residents of the city by using the data from the tax survey that took place between 1561-62.  This information is displayed onto a contemporary hand drawn map that goes into great detail to show the buildings and streets of Florence.  The tools available within this project are diverse and useful to finding information on many subjects.  For example, it is possible to overlay the path that the plague took when it hit the city, by showing which streets had more infected people.  Another tool is the ability to highlight the churches throughout the city, along with the territorial outlines that they would have been responsible for.

The most important feature of this map however is the data that came directly from the tax surveys.  Each residence in Florence is mapped out so that they can be clicked on individually.  This gives access to information about who owned the building, who lived or payed rent there, how many residents there were, and much more.  All of this information is then searchable by using a glossary which translates the Italian, so that all the occupations can be understood.  Individual occupations can then be searched for, allowing one to see where the members of the occupation lived in Florence and how much they paid to live there.

The visualization of this data is not too complicated, it shows a dot at each house in Florence.  As previously mentioned, these dots are what can be clicked on individually in order to display the information.  When a specific occupation is searched for it will highlight the dots of the people that meet your search parameters.  This is extremely useful for analysing where certain occupations lived in relation to each other and those around them.

(Example of the amount of information)

DECIMA Map

One of the few negatives of this project is that you can not search backwards.  What I mean by this is you cannot click on a random house and work from there toward seeing the rest of the people of the same occupation.  Though this is not a critical flaw, but more of one that is inconvenient when searching for specific things.  In comparing more than one occupation together it would also be nice to be able to have more than one occupation highlighted on the map at one time.  However, this is again only a problem with convenience, because it is still possible to compare two or more occupations.

Overall, I think that this project successfully does what it sets out to do.  It creates an easy to understand mapping system that provides a variety of specific information.  The ability to get a close and in depth look into the residents of Florence makes this project unique.

Post 2: Digital Archives

Each of the three online history archives provide different forms of different information surrounding several important topics.  The Darwin Correspondence was first founded in 1974, and since then has grown out from its main location of Cambridge University.  It is a compilation of all the letters written to and by Darwin during his lifetime.  The website organizes the letters in a way so that they can be searched by topic or author.  Brief commentaries are also provided by the project contributors, along with learning material for people of all ages.  This website does not restrict itself to only people with a history background, showing the importance they have for the contents of the letters.  For historians, this database allows a quick search through letters on specific topics that could potentially be relevant to one’s research.  This makes it an extremely useful tool since a historian can easily find what he or she needs while also not having to struggle with sifting through large amounts of texts.

Ancestry shows many differences from the Darwin Project.  The most notable one of that is the extreme limitation of having to pay in order to access the vast majority of information in their archive.  This is a big deterrent for people who are looking for information, both historians and non historians.  As opposed to the Darwin project, Ancestry does not show the creators/compilers of the content within the archive.  This hurts the legitimacy of the content, for one can not learn accurately who and how it is being compiled.  For example, I searched, using their free option, for my ancestors who I know existed, and was a significant person in Canadian history, Col. John Butler.  The results I did find were mostly pictures of modern landmarks, like his burial spot, while providing no content whatsoever on him as a person.  Ancestry confuses me with what they are trying to be.  There are advertisements on the main page about DNA testing and building your family tree.  However, there is no way for me to see the legitimacy of it without paying.  From my perspective I would rather to the research for free myself, from sources I can trust, rather than pay to trust Ancestry.

Ancestry Search

Here is an example of the search results on ancestry.

The Medici Archive Project felt a lot more similar to the Darwin Project.  It provided the names of the contributors, along with their credentials.  The situation that this project appears to be in is an earlier stage than the Darwin Project.  The website states that all of the collections of the Medici Project will be accessible online, just like Darwin’s.  Currently the online portion does not have tons to offer, but, the promise appears to have great potential.  For historians this could be a valuable resource, to have access anywhere online.

Intro Blog Post

Hello,

My name is Jason Gillard, and I am a fourth year history major here at Brock University.  I live in the nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, and am happy to have a university, like Brock, so close by for me to go to.  With my Bachelor degree, which I should finish by the end of this school year, I plan to continue my education at the seminary on the Brock campus.  There I would be able to, after four more years of schooling, gain my Master of Divinity, and become a minister within the Lutheran Church.  Not many people know that the Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary exists here at Brock, therefore, I am adding a map to show where it is on campus.

map

I have been told, and seen myself, that the majority of students go through all their years at Brock without knowing that the seminary even exists.  Besides schooling, I spend much of my time at home or with my church.

The introduction of the digital history textbook highlights many “promises” that are said to come with digital history.  This includes promises about a “richer” reading experience that would come from the digitization of documents, so they can then be read online.  However, “perils” of digital history are displayed as well in the intro, including how some critics say that it will be the loss of reading altogether.  Both the potential pros and cons of reading with digital history counter each other.

Another promise of digital history is that a much larger audience can be reached through the internet.  This would give the ability for more to learn and analyze history through digitization.  The perils of this are less severe than the loss of reading, however, they should still be considered.  Just because an article is posted on the internet for anyone to read, it does not mean that anyone will read it.  This is especially true when it is considered how much information is added to the internet daily.

Each of these sections of the introduction to the textbook show how and when it will address each topic.  Altogether this makes me excited for the rest of the course.  This course gained my interest because I thought the digital aspects of Prof. Rose’s previous courses were interesting.  Also there is the realization to me that in order to stay relevant one has to keep up with the times, thus, I do not think digital history should be ignored and am looking forward for the weeks to come.