Blog Post #4 – Voyant Tools

Through my exploration of the program ‘Voyant Tools’ I’ve discovered that they first of all are just tools. Voyant tools, along with other digital text analysis tools are just tools. What this essentially means is that these digital text analysis sites do not do the work of actually analyzing the text for you. What it does do is gives an almost surface value analysis of the text, looking for things such as common words, phrases, correlations, and such, but not much deeper than that. As historians we can make use of this surface value information to find a deeper meaning into the text comparison or analysis, but if we don’t, the digital text analysis tools are not much use. 7q9w4cyr1r3edmpy6dc0_400x400

However, despite that negative, these digital text analysis tools are easy to use and can segway into a deeper look into a topic. The site Voyant tools is super easy to use, you just take two texts (or even just one) and copy and paste them into the box, or upload them and then a simple analysis with patterns and other generic information comes up. This is good because as a historian not only is it simple to use and efficient for quick uses, but it helps get a more basic understanding of the connections between a text in order to take that further. It becomes a tool that historians would not typically use  or necessarily want to access from a ‘traditional historian’ aspect because of all the digitalization around it. What I’m essentially getting at is historians are most often the type of people that read something, take notes, read the other paper, take notes, and then compare the two for similarities, differences, patterns, etc. However, these sites are able to do those generic things for you which goes against the traditional historical analysis ideal. It’s interesting that it goes against it because the site Voyant Tools was such an interesting way to look at the two poem’s that we did, because had I not known about the digital text analysis tools I never would have otherwise thought to use them but rather stick to my traditional historical analysis techniques.

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My personal experience with Voyant was quite eye opening. While yeah, it didn’t give me a close, deep analysis of the two poems, it gave me a look into a program I never would have thought to look into. The simpleanalysis that it did comparing specific words in the poems, and the different ways that you could see those patterns displayed was quite eye opening. As a very traditional person, I just write everything down. However, not only did this site save me time and energy, it allowed me to look at the patterns in multiple different formations giving me different links and views to the connected words and patterns which I found really interesting. What I am essentially taking from this digital text analysis website isthat even though it can’t do all the deep analysis for me, it is an easy and time saving way for historians to begin segwaying into their paper by letting the site do the easy analyzing for you.

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Assignment #3 Digital Maps

I had a lot of fun looking at the AfricaMap because it gives so much information on everything. On this interactive map you can look at languages and family dynamics, conflict data, religions, and even the trans-atlantic slave trade. The first thing that caught my attention was all of the colours when you first get to the site and from there I was set.

This site is super easy to navigate which makes it accessible and interesting for almost everyone. You can click on specific tabs and overlays on the and get rid of other ones, or have them overlap and compare some things such as comparing language and religion. Also, when you go to the side to click on a specific tab of information, as your cursor is over top a blurb comes up about that topic. For example, there is one part where you can see Rwanda memorial sites, but as you scroll over it there is information about the Rwandan genocide which I find really informative. Despite knowing about most of these events already, it was interesting to see how they word the information in such a small amount of space so that it’s not a major paragraph but still informative. Below there is a photo of the side where the overlays are, the blurb on the Rwandan genocide (this one was a bit longer) and where the memorials are located on the map.

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This digital map can be very useful for how we understand the history of Africa as a nation. While it didn’t cover all of the history of Africa, naturally, it did a pretty good job in covering the basics. There are interactive geo-referenced maps to see what specific places were like in the past, it is entirely interactive and it’s attentive to the reader. Nothing about this map lost my attention, I was looking at it for hours!

The ONLY thing I would say about this map and the way the site works is to go back and check that all overlays on the side, for example some of the ones under the trans-Atlantic slave trade, work. Some of the links I clicked on for it to come up on the map did not work and so it was a bit disappointing that I couldn’t exactly see where everything was, but I could still read about it.

Despite that, I think this map does a really good job in bringing African history to life and being able to see how things have changed and where events played out. It could be used as a historical document even because of all the different ways you could look at things and visualize Africa. This map was really interesting and definitely broadened my knowledge of African history.

Blog Post #2 – Digital Archives

Digital archives are definitely a controversial, modern idea of historical information. A digital archive is something that most people would see as something super easy to access, all the history is right there online! However, it’s not always like that. We don’t always know where the information is coming from, and even if we do, how to we know it’s liable information? There were quite a few archives we looked at in class this week such as Darwin, Ancestry, and Medici.

To begin with Ancestry, there is not much this site does for us. This site is advertised to be a “super easy way to find out who your ancestors are!” No. This site does next to nothing for historians and really, people as a whole. Ancestry is the type of digital archive that comes from mormons and is looking to make money. Essentially, they play commercials to make you think that if you sign up, you’re going to find out you’re related to someone amazing or famous which almost never happens. However, in my case, I am related to Benjamin Franklin! Anyways, there are numerous limitations to the cite of ancestry and one of the biggest ones for historians is how little it provides to us. There is nothing that can be used off of this site if you’re not willing to pay a minimum of $14.99 a month to see it.

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It’s almost the same thing with the Medici site. While this site was free to access and could provide a lot of information, the information had to be going to the right person. For a historian looking into Italy or art from Italy and the Medici family, this site might be right for you. However, for a second year history student or someone just stumbling across the web, this site is a mess. It looks like a social media site and if you don’t know what you’re looking for or have some sort of sense what you want to find, this site is just going to confuse you which is a huge limitation of the site!

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Finally, Darwin’s correspondence. I really enjoyed this site simply because of the way everything flowed. If you clicked on a specific person, you could just keep looking through the site and end up somewhere completely different from where you started, or right back at the beginning. This site was also completely free to access and had loads of information. While I’m not someone entirely into science and all of that, I love evolution and so looking at this site helped me understand otherwise. There is also a search bar so that you could type in almost anything and see where it takes you in all of his letters. This site was overall amazing and was so fun to look at with little limitations. giphy-downsized-3.gif

While I know it seems like I was kind of just rating the digital archives we looked at, it’s what it almost comes down to. A historian can’t just look at any digital archive and know what they’re doing or find exactly what they’re looking for. Everyone has their preferences about wha they like and don’t like looking at, and a benefit of digital archives is that we as historians have the opportunity to search through millions of sites and blogs and more to find what we’re looking for. While some digital archives may not be for everyone, there’s always something you find that you end up loving. Ancestry.ca is not one of those archives in my books.

Blog #1: My First Thoughts

Hi! My name is Kaitlyn Munro, but I prefer Katie, and I am in my second year of concurrent education (I/S) majoring in history and minoring in English. I commute from Hamilton to St.Catharines every day for my classes, so after the first day I was delighted to know that this class didn’t suck. Probably the most exciting thing about me is that I’m a manager at my local McDonalds in Hamilton, but really, it’s not that thrilling. Oh, I’m also completely obsessed with Greys Anatomy and Friends; if I wasn’t so interested in teaching, I’d be a surgeon.

I am a huge history nerd, especially between WWI and WWII and ancient times, however, I was hesitant on taking this course because I am by no means a tech nerd, I know how to use my Microsoft word and barely. I am a paper to pen person 90% of the time, but I’m actually rather excited about what this course is going to offer.

The introduction chapter of Digital History really covered the pros and cons to digital history entering the historical world. For example, more people could read what’s digitalized online and have easier access to it, however, it could also mean that the reading could be ignored or lost all together. The introduction’s huge focus is these pros and cons. Digital access anywhere anytime would be great for younger people trying to get more involved with the history of the world, but anyone can create a website so who really knows if it’s true. Promises and perils come along hand in hand with the subject of digital history. Whether it be the flexibility and diversity digital education brings to the table because of the more accessible information and who/when it’s accessible, or the quality of the humungous data base that now surrounds history on the internet. Digital history is a thing of the future.

In my opinion, I feel like digital history is a great thing to have in our time and age. Everyone has their phones glued to their hands, fancy computers, televisions, smart apps, you name it, they’ve got it. So if you’re going to do anything with historical evidence and information, it might as well be to digitalize it. No matter how much I like being able to read through an original primary document or search through books, it’s inevitable that technology is taking over and that we as a whole have to pack up out history and move with it.

I am very excited to see how this course plays out over the next few months and to see if my perspectives on digital history change with the information I’m able to gather. I look forward to it!
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