On Distant Reading

For my investigation into the Linn letters I used a set of word I initially hypothesized to have some relation to the internal changes within Linn himself. The Jakacki hypothesis states, that a profound shift can be found half-way through the text that reveals a deep change and loss of innocence for Linn. Using the words received, brother and mother I was able to gain some insight into Linn’s relationship to his own family and Linn’s level of acknowledgment and mutual interest among those closest to him. The visualization revealed little other than that mention of family increases near the beginning and end of the letters.  I find little evidence to either verify or refute the original hypothesis, even carefully chosen words reveal few patterns as do carefully selected sets of words. I believe that Linn’s writing style makes it exceptionally difficult to derive deeper trends within his texts. My own investigation didi reveal that he rarely mentions any family member other than immediately after he left and before he came back, hardly evidence for the hypothesis.

The technique of using transcribed text and visual analysis tools might be helpful in some situations. Unfortunately, I have found little evidence that those methods reveal any more information in this particular case. This does not mean that distant reading methods are entirely ineffective, as the cirrus cloud did illustrate the relationships between words and their frequency. Small trends like the appearance of the word “boat” and “wounded” did match up with the general shape of Linn’s experiences. Overall however, this particular exercise revealed little evidence to support the hypothesis. grab




On Digital Archives

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 2.25.04 PMThe new layout for the Sample DH is very easy to navigate. It clearly shows the seven categories: Archive, Visualization, Mapping, Digital Edition, Network Analysis, Textual Analysis, and Audio Analysis. It is very easy to find what you are looking for. Under the Archive section it is simple to navigate Old Weather, Lincoln at 200 and Database of Indigenous Peoples in North America. There is a little summary given for each of the three sites to peak your interest.

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I thought that Old Weather sounded pretty fascinating because it was about old ship’s logs, and you could read some of them. The website is fairly easy to navigate and understand, but it does ask you to log in to view the archives so I was not able to see them.

There are many advantages to creating digital artifacts from archival documents. First is the accessibility it enables. With artifacts online, anybody with Internet connection can retrieve information on the archives, not only the specialists that are granted access. They are also fast and normally very easy to navigate. Also, this new technology even allows the specialists to read more of the documents than they could have before. This is because some of the documents are illegible and too fragile to try and flatten out to ready. So with technology, even the oldest and most delicate artifacts are available for the public to view.

However there are also some disadvantages to digital artifacts. You do not have the document physically sitting in front of you. Viewing it online is not the same experience as being able to pick up the artifact. And although most of the time transcribing the artifacts makes it easier to read, sometimes doing so could affect some of the writing and make it more illegible than before.

As I build my digital humanities project, there will be many challenges that I will have to face. Transcribing will definitely be a struggle as well as working with the website for the first time. I also know that I will struggle when trying to organize my words and images clearly.

Looking Into Archives

After visiting the new and improved Sample DH Projects phase, one can see that the level of organization for this page has gone way up. Especially under the “Archive” section where one is able to navigate a variety of archives including “Old Weather” and “Lincoln at 200.” The projects are categorized in the ways in which one would go about transcribing artifacts. For example, “audio analysis” and “mapping.”


Some advantages of creating a digital artifact from archival documents include accessibility and availability. By having an artifact online, one can access it from anywhere on the planet (with internet). If the artifact that you are trying to look up exists in Turkey but you’re in London, no problem. Just pull up the artifact digitally and it’s like you’re there. Why pay for a plane ticket when there’s no need to? From an access standpoint, a digital artifact provides all the availability one needs. Seeing very old and decrepit documents can be challenging for even the most prominent of historians. Many times the artifacts will be in such bad condition that they won’t want anyone touching them for risk of the artifact being destroyed. With a digital artifact, there’s no possible way to destroy the artifact.


On the contrary, there are also some disadvantages to having a digital artifact. One disadvantage is the inability to put your hands on the document. By not being able to do this, one might miss something that they would only pick up on when in the same room with the artifact. A lot of times, things are translated digitally as perfect as they are in the real world. Small print may become blurry, and minute details that one could only catch with the naked eye might disappear. It’s for these reasons that one could argue looking over an artifact digitally is much less preferable than being there in person.

Some challenges I could face when building my own digital humanities project is the inability to be in the room with an artifact. It’s very tough for historians to get into rooms with prominent pieces, much less a freshman in college. To navigate this, I will have to settle with digital artifacts and do my best to be very careful when scanning over them.

On Physical and Digital Archives

I primarily looked at the Indigenous Peoples of North America project and oldweather.org for reflection from the course’s archive. I was struck by the effect of good graphic design on the experience of digital humanities research, beyond the fundamental organization of the site, visual appeal comprises a surprisingly large compone

The search function is one of the most powerful tools in digital databases.

The search function is one of the most powerful tools in digital databases.

nt of digital humanities. The Indigenous Peoples of North America project was especially compelling in its visual layout. The search function was especially important, in the Indigenous Peoples project, the search results allow users to go through document pages and metadata within the thumbnail view. The ability to view full citations and search through tags and keywords are very well managed on the Indigenous People’s project. The project organizes thousands early 19 to 20th century documents and photographs, monographs and newspapers1 in a way where users can search by location, subject. Search functions represent one of the major advantages of digital artifacts. Databases containing millions of dates, people and subjects can be parsed within seconds. This ability was in the most-part unavailable before the information revolution. Multimedia is also one of the advantages of digital artifacts. Users can experience an artifact through detailed imagery and simultaneously listen to audio or narrated material. The Indigenous Peoples project especially contains a feature where selected text can be read by a computer generated voice. 

While most digital humanities projects are created by experts and researchers, some harness one of the Internet’s greatest powers, the wisdom of the crowd. Old Weather aims to help scientists determine mid-19th century Arctic and worldwide weather observation by having users transcribe ship logs. Users can pick vessels and journeys to transcribe logs and collaborate with other users across the globe. The project has completed 39% of logs and has transcribed 63,125 pages. The size of this project demonstrates the things that crowdsourced digital archives can do, transcribing thousands of pages without the need for hundreds of researches. 

Oldweather.org allows users to pick vessels to transcribe  logs.

Oldweather.org allows users to pick vessels to transcribe logs.

While there are many huge advantages to digital artifacts, some very key aspects are still better with physical artifacts. The presence of an on-call expert or curator is an improvement over a stagnant website. Physical objects are often hugely complex and details often unseen in digital documents can emerge.