Textual and Content Analysis: Introduction to Problems and Projects (with Manhattans & Martinis)

To mark the end of the teaching year, DACKI will be hosting its third year-end, relaxing introduction to the digital, featuring Manhattans & Martinis. On May 7th at 4:15 in Allbritton 311–the room with the view–come for a cocktail, some snacks, and conversation. We’ll listen to several of our colleagues share their reflections on trying to engage with digital and computational textual and content analysis in the classroom and in research.

There are a wide variety of software and methods available that promise to let us see and use our texts and entire textual corpora more effectively. Some also allow for parsing interviews, sounds, and visual content. In some cases, the data might be big, vast streams of tweets or advertising, but in others they are conventional bodies of literature or even just a few texts seen in a new light. Possibilities seem endless, a bit intimidating, and we hope to help by clarifying directions, since digital content analysis promises to enrichen teaching as much as research.

This should be a good way to start thinking of summer research and reading, and I hope to see you there.

New Ways to Map and Be Mapped with Diana Sinton

UVL14157_SintonPosterMapping space and place has become a pervasive and popular activity in society today, driven by the ubiquity of location-based goods and services as well as our growing ability to be front and center in our own maps. Geospatial data enables participatory communicating for scholars and citizens alike, and is creating innovative ways to collaborate in the classroom. Find out why maps, mapping, and spatial perspectives are fundamental to how we teach, learn, and think in our daily lives and the world around us.

seminar: New Ways to Map and Be Mapped

presenter: Diana Sinton

location: Downey House Lounge

date: Thursday April 3

time: 4:15 pm

Diana S. Sinton is one of the most influential proponents of GIS and spatial literacy in the liberal arts. She is currently the Executive Director of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS), and an adjunct associate professor at Cornell University. She recently wrote The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking (NCGE, 2013). She worked previously for the University of Redlands and the National Institute for Technology & Liberal Education (NITLE). Her interests include spatial literacy and the use of geospatial technologies in higher education. You can find more of her ideas at dianamaps.com and teachGIS.org.

This event is sponsored and supported by DaCKI, ATTLaS, and an Allbrittion Center for the Study of Public Life Collaborative Grant.


DaCKI presents Manhattans & Martinis, II

On March 27th starting at 4:15, DACKI—the Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative–will hold its second Manhattans & Martinis event. I can report that the first was fun. This is a sort of technology happy hour:  classic drinks, sharp snacks, clever people.

As with the first on 3D printing, our focus will be on showing what we’re doing at Wesleyan.  This year, we’ve launched a few innovative courses in modelling, data analysis, GIS and digital history, and collaborative computer science courses linking CS and non-CS students. Other colleagues are developing additional courses across the three divisions for coming years. These courses are accessible to most all Wesleyan students. We’ll hear about these but we’ll want to think especially about technologies and pedagogical practices that might improve what we’ve done and make it easier for other faculty to develop such courses.

So, we’ll have colleagues from ITS and elsewhere show us new tricks; we’ll take a look at how people are innovating elsewhere, but we’ll also raise questions about how best to collaborate on campus to make digitally enhanced, visually powerful, and computationally precise courses attractive to teach and to take. What spaces, what sorts of collaboration, what sorts of software and in-class support needed are some of the issues we’ll approach. 

If you’re wondering what’s going on—what DACKI is, for instance—come and see. If you have been testing out techniques and technologies in your courses, come and help. In any event, come and have a snack.

We’ll meet in Exley 509A/B.

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives


On February 12th, Wesleyan will have the chance to hear one of the the nation’s most prominent advocates for shaking up the social sciences with the possibilities of quantitative methods and models. Nicholas Christakis will be here to discuss his passion for the power of social networks. His talk is called “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.”

Nicholas Christakis is the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. Tellingly, he holds appointments both in the Sociology Department and the School of Medicine. His work has frequently been in the news. He and his collaborators often use large-scale quantitative analysis to understand the nature of social and pscho-social behaviours, for instance examining the nature of medical prognoses or the effects of bereavement. Most prominently, he has studied the role of social networks in explaining the demographic and epidemiological characteristics of such things as obesity, quitting smoking, and happiness itself. He has showed how much whom you know will determine many of your key medical characteristics and behaviours and how they might change.

Christakis Lab at Yale : http://www.nicholaschristakis.net/

TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_christakis_the_hidden_influence_of_social_networks.html

NYT op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/lets-shake-up-the-social-sciences.html

Viral Textuality: Uncovering Reprinting Networks in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers

I’m delighted to tell you that Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University, will be coming to Wesleyan on Thursday, November 21st at 4:30 to give a talk on his work and share his perspective on digital scholarship. Ryan has routinely contributed to thinking on digital matters in research and in the undergraduate curriculum as you can see from his writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education among other venues.

The title of his talk is “Viral Textuality: Uncovering Reprinting Networks in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers.” The project has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is described here: http://viraltexts.org.

Cordell’s research reflects the best possibilities in the digital humanities. He writes literary history. He collaborates to do so, with computer scientists among others, and he’s revealing new phenomena with old methods and new.

Alongside traditional means of interpretation and contextualization, Cordell takes big data—newspapers for instance—and applies the latest text mining and network analysis to trace key parts of nineteenth century US culture, as they went viral via contemporary social media.

Learn about his exciting research, his innovative methods, and one path for digital research.

The talk will be in the Downey House lounge. Hope to see you there.

If you would like to meet Ryan to discuss specific methodological issues in teaching or scholarship, just tell me and I’ll try to arrange it.



Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

October 29, 12:00-2:00, PAC 100.
Short presentation followed by hands-on workshop introducing fundamental concepts and skills to begin using a GIS. Good for beginner or for current GIS users that want to update to ArcGIS 10.2. Participants may attend all or a portion of the workshop – feel free to bring your lunch with you. Topics include: what kind of analyses GIS can be used for, getting data into a GIS, querying data by location and attributes, simple data analysis and visualization, creating a map for export.

WesGIS event

Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative – Philip Stern Workshop

As part of the Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative, we’re going to have a workshop on May 13th starting at 3:30 in Allbritton 311.

The focus will be on how tools like GIS (Geographic Information Systems) among others can help us to analyze and visualize complex data, whether derived from texts or physical spaces.

Philip Stern, Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, and a graduate of the Wesleyan class of 1997, will anchor the workshop by discussing his first attempts at coping with this complex subject. His remarks are called “Seeing the Past, Visualizing the Future: Possibilities (and Challenges) of Digital Mapping for the Humanties, Social Science, and Beyond”. Phil has a strong interest in cartography for his next current book project, but is very interested as well in the use of network models and the analysis of political and legal texts, all of which he’s been exploring at the Humanities Center at Duke, where he co-directs one of their experimental Humanities Labs, called Borderworks. Within that Lab, research and teaching are tightly knit and the teaching possibilities of digital methods are clear.

Here are some links he considers useful to see what he’s playing at:

Philip Stern has just won a sizeable three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation as part of their New Directions initiative for developing his skills and work in this direction and the workshop is imagined as way we can help him as much as he help introduce us to his project and the techniques he’s considering bringing to his questions. Wesleyan expertise on early modern geography and GIS will be on hand to contribute to our conversation about what’s possible.

Phil received his PhD from Columbia University and his first book, The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Origins of the British Empire in India (Oxford University Press, 2011) won a major prize from the American Historical Association. The substance of his work consistently engages legal, geographical, intellectual, and economic issues within the historical framework.

I hope you can come out to discuss his ideas, our own ideas about how best to advance methods of visualization across the university and within the curriculum, and even if you just were wondering a bit about what GIS is and what it might do for you.

Learning by Making: Digital Methods and the Wired! Experiment at Duke University



I’m happy to invite you, as part of the new Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative, to attend a workshop, or some part of it, led by Duke University professors Caroline Bruzelius and Mark Olson. Caroline is the Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art History and Mark is assistant professor of Visual and Media Studies. They collaborate in Duke’s Wired! Project. While the point is to enlarge our imaginations about teaching possibilities in this digital age, there’s no question that those interested in visual and material culture will find much to intrigue.

Their presentations and our subsequent conversations will take place on March 6 from 9:30-11:30 in Usdan 110. Light breakfast will be provided at 9:00.

The title of their presentation is Learning by Making: Digital Methods and the Wired! Experiment at Duke University

Here is a summary of their project: “Mark Olson and Caroline Bruzelius are founding members of the Wired! Group (http://www.dukewired.org/) at Duke, a team of teachers and scholars who work closely with graduate and undergraduate students in developing a new model of teaching in the Humanities that engages technology to ask new questions about material culture in the historical past. The Wired! group aims towards integrating technology into traditional courses, as well as developing new fields of study that engage with technology to stimulate different kinds of engagement with the places and artifacts of the past. Since 2009 the Wired! team has offered courses and workshops to assist graduate students and colleagues in “bridging the digital divide” and in acquiring skills for digital scholarship. In 2012 and 2013, these 2-week workshops have been held at the digital laboratory that the Wired! group created at Venice International University.

Wired! sponsors a series of long-term research initiatives that unite both on-going scholarship with courses. Among these projects are Visualizing Venice (http://visualizingvenice.org/beta/) and a series of inquiries around the theme of reconstructing contexts for objects – such as the works of ancient and medieval art that fill American and European museums.”