Blog #4: Voyant Tools & Digital Text Analysis

This week I had the opportunity to explore Voyant Tools, a free and easy to use online source for digital text analysis. This tool allows users to simply copy and paste text or a URL into a textbox, by which the website transforms into data regarding terms used within the literature. Voyant tools produces data which provides historians with insight as to which patterns emerge among terms. For instance, Voyant tools analysis of digital text produces information on how many times certain terms are used in a body of text as well as links between terms. In addition, the tool allows historians to analyze larger bodies of text way faster while simultaneously comparing it to other texts. However, this tool doesn’t necessarily help historians and should only be used as a starting point in digital text analysis.

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Example of Circus tool on Voyant

Although, Voyant tools has its benefits there are also various downfalls. Due to the fact that this tool provides information regarding patterns of term usage and links between terms, historians may limit their focus to the surface information instead of digging deeper into the literature. This error could, however, be attributed to the user instead of the online text analysis tool as you must be an informed and educated user. In addition, the text analysis tool doesn’t seek to make claims about the subjective meaning of the terms either. Therefore, there is really no deep analysis of the text presented.

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Example of a Graph on Voyant

In conclusion, I believe that the Voyant text analysis tool provides historians with an easy to use site which highlights patterns that emerge within a body of text(s). However, this tool doesn’t provide historians with new information that they couldn’t have accessed otherwise. But, offers its users a quick and basic analysis of text which could be used as a starting point to further their research. In this case, Voyant text analysis tools aids in the traditional forms of historical reading. Allowing users to effortlessly and efficiently recognize patterns within the literature and begin their own thoughtful analysis, rather than the traditional more time consuming method of historical reading.

Blog #3: Analysis of Digital Mapping

This week I had the pleasure of exploring various digital mapping sources through GeoSpatial Historian, that being said, ‘Beijing of Dreams’ is the website which caught my attention. The website displayed the lost ‘Beijing of Dreams’ through the use of photos remaining from the time when Beijing was considered the greatest walled capital city anywhere in the world. Additionally, the website offers an interactive map which is available through various different electronic devices which allows tourists to pull up images of vanished glories of Old Beijing as they visit each location in real time. Residents of Beijing are able to see the magnificent structures which once stood where they live.

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Above is an image of the interactive map, the objects highlighted in red represent structures such as gates, walls and corners which once stood there.

I found this website to be extremely easy to navigate and quite visually appealing. Which I guess the website should be, since the only information it provides is that of images of that particular era. It provides the user with straight forward information regarding the structures which once stood in Beijing while also allowing them to compare the landscapes of the past to that of the current time period. Additionally, the subtitles along the top of the page allow for easy exploration of the site while remaining only a click away from the home page. I also found it beneficial that they incorporated an English and Chinese version of the website, as it doesn’t restrict its users to only those who speak Chinese.

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The image above is a hand painted map of Old Beijing which was also incorporated in the website and was done by Wu Run-De around 1901.

However, I found the interactive map to be rather disappointing as it literally only offered the user with a link to the photo gallery as they hover over the structure with their mouse. There was no additional information provided to describe the structures and their significance, except for the structure’s name. The map also didn’t incorporate any map overlays, which would’ve been beneficial and quite interesting in displaying the landscape of Beijing as time progresses and it’s structures crumble. Since the creators of the website didn’t include a map of Beijing from recent years it is impossible for those who have never visited Beijing to comprehend the differences between Old Beijing and the city today. Due the lack of information provided by the website the audience is limited to that of tourists and residents of Beijing.

 

 

Blog #2: Digital History Archives

Looking at the Ancestry archive, the site offers little to no information to users who aren’t ready to pay for an online-subscription. This site offers a one stop shop for their information to its users for a monthly fee of $14.99. However, the information is typically very broad and general. This means the researcher must initially have a few detail specific facts related to their topic prior to using the archive and even then it can still provide useless information. The fact that anyone who wants use this archive, whether it’s just someone trying to develop their family tree or a great historian, having to pay for information that is most likely unhelpful and unrelated is a huge limitation.

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Shifting our attention towards the Darwin Correspondence Project archive, right from the top the site is FREE for everyone to use. And by everyone they mean everyone, as it has worldwide access to those with an internet connection. The site provides it’s users with copious amounts of information, although that information is only pertaining to Charles Darwin. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to historians and those who want to further their knowledge of Darwin. Additionally, this site is easy to navigate as it has a general flow to its layout, allowing you to look deeper into a topic while not straying too far from the home page.

Similarly to the Medici archive, the site was also free and provides its users with loads of historical information. Although, the information is only useable to historians who already have a decent understanding of the Medici family or Italian history. Additionally, the site would be far easier for a historian to explore as opposed to a regular student who isn’t sure what they are looking for exactly as its layout is quite distracting and leaves the user not knowing where to begin.

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Having said the various flaws incorporated with digital archives, it is important to remember that they do typically provide a researcher with a large amount of information compiled into one source. It’s up to the researcher to be informed and choosey when searching for historical information.

 

 

Blog #1: Introduction & “Promises and Perils”

Hi,

My name is Sierra MacIsaac. I’m a third year psychology student here at Brock, and although I am nearing the end of my program…I am still in the process of deciding which direction to take once I have completed my degree. Since I have some interest in history I tend to take various history courses as my electives, which is what brought me to Digital History and becoming a digital historian. Although I attend school at Brock, the majority of my life is based out of the city of Hamilton. Where I typically spend my free time either around friends or going to the barn to ride my horse. I’m also a member of the Wellington-Waterloo Hunt club, which is a blast! All members and guests gather weekly with their horses to enjoy the wind in our hair as we travel trough diverse terrain and gallop along the beautiful countryside.

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In the introduction to Digital History, the authors Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig present various, yet, contrasting views towards our highly advancing technological future. Those who are in favour of change and a different future were deemed cyber-enthusiasts as they support the “promises” for digital history. However, for those opposed to a digital history, were known as techno-skeptics. Throughout the introduction, we are also presented with the “perils” of a digital history.

The authours outlined seven of the “promises” cyber-enthusiasts share regarding a digital history. They believed in better accessibility, allowing you to easily access to obtain desired information. As well as capacity, which allows you to take all this new found information and store it in one small place. And flexibility, allowing you to present the information through various forms of media. Diversity, giving more people the opportunity to research and share their findings with the world. Also manipulability was a huge positive, as users could go back and view things that they could have missed in earlier research. Additionally, interactivity adds a two-way feature allowing for better communication rather than the basic one-way style. Finally, hypertextuality allows for information to be transferred more easily through the use of different text.

Additionally, the authors also outlined the various “perils” of a digital history. Historians worry that the quality and readability of their historical research/ data may be compromised. Another fear is the durability of these digital records and whether they can be accurately preserved and for how long. Passivity has also been a factor, as many historians believe that the information is provided to the user as opposed to them searching for it. However, that being said, there is also an inaccessibility issue as access for various digital sites are restricted to the average person.

In my opinion, I believe that both sides bring up strong arguments. Although, as a  student I couldn’t imagine a world where there isn’t a highly specialized system used for researching, storing, and retrieving information from the comfort of our own homes. The digital world provides us with so much more than we could ever imagine, readily at our fingertips. Even though we may stumble upon information that is untrue, we must be educated users and decipher what true and what is false.

As the year continues, I am excited to learn more about digital history and develop better skills in understanding and navigating the digital world!