Final Project Now Online!

My final class project, my Digital Humanities site on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War is now online.

Simply navigate to http://web.uvic.ca/~leochan/ and click on HUMA 150 Final Project to view my project.

Thank you all for reading, it’s been quite an experience blogging for my HUMA 150 class at UVic.

Signing off,

-Leo Chan

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Blog #8 – Report on Progress

Since the disaster of my laptop’s hard disk dying last week, I have managed to somewhat “pick up the pieces” of my lost research and hard work. While I still don’t have my laptop back (as the computer technicians are still servicing it), I have managed to acquire a Mac Mini as a temporary replacement. Though I was able to restore most of my digital life from an Apple Time Machine backup on my external hard drive, unfortunately, all the work that I had done on my Digital Humanities project was done after the last backup (I do weekly backups) and thereby, lost forever.

Heeding the British war quote “Stay Calm and Carry On”, I decided to press forward and face this crisis with a clear head and started from scratch once again. One of the first things I did was to make a new folder for my project on my computer…and on a portable flash drive. I didn’t want to face the same problem again so I decided to keep numerous backups for my project. In terms of actual project work, I had to redo my research and find my sources which was a major pain to say the least. However, I was able to track down some of my key sources, one of which included a very interesting article on “Famous Historical Events” (http://www.famoushistoricalevents.net/hiroshima/) about the initial confusion that Japanese emergency authorities faced when evaluating the first bombing victims that they treated. Authorities initially believed the American attack was chemical as some victims died spontaneous deaths without apparent cause and also because first responders at the disaster mistook the smell of ionization for a chemical agent.

There is quite an interesting story to tell about how I rediscovered this website after I had “lost” it as a result of my computer’s death. I remembered that in my blog, I had written about the “smell of ionization” which was a direct quote from the article. Knowing this, I typed the query “hiroshima and nagasaki smell of ionization” into Google and lo and behold, the first result was the article. But surprisingly enough, under the first result, Google listed my final project website and my course blog as the next two top hits! I found this to be simply incredible!

My Final Project Site and Course Blog are top hits!

After rediscovering more of my sources in places such as JSTOR and though looking through the Wikipedia works cited listing, I set out on finding and downloading the relevant images I needed for the project site, especially for the Digitization and Remediation component and for the information bubbles in my interactive Map and Timeline. To ensure my own piece of mind, I saved and am continuing to save all these images on both my computer and my portable flash drive.

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do more since Thursday as I had to redo an entire History 105 essay that I had lost as a result of my computer failure. However, since I have finished that, I now am free to do more extensive work on the project and am planning to work on the text analysis and data remediation component of my project this week. As well, since I am presenting on my Final Project this week in class, I will be working on my PowerPoint/Keynote presentation tonight. This informative slideshow will be much like a trailer for my project – to give an indication of what my project is to class, to discuss what I am up to and what my final work will look like.

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Blog #7 – Report on Progress

In today’s class, I began taking the first steps on my project. I first created a new page within this blog for the project. On discovering that I could not upload my site directly onto my blog, I decided to create my site separately on the UVic server and post a link on my blog that would link to the website for my final project. Unfortunately, I had never used the UVic Student Web-hosting service before and had to enlist the help of my professor, Dr. Meagan Timney, to assist me with setting up this for the first time.

After a bit of detective work that involved my Professor punching in code into the OS X terminal and dealing with SSH to determine where my directory was located, we eventually discovered a lot of fine details and specifics that I needed to know to upload my site. Such as that despite the fact that my site was to be located on “web.uvic.ca”, I actually had to upload (via ftp) my files to “unix.uvic.ca”. After these technical kinks were solved, I was eventually able to begin building my site using iWeb.

The first thing I did was to create a navigation directory on my main page at http://web.uvic.ca/~leochan to direct visitors to my Humanities 150 project. Once this was done, I uploaded it via ftp (using the CyberDuck software) and began work on the actual project site. For now, my site merely consists of a Welcome/Introduction page and pages for the remediation component, the text analysis and the map/timeline portion of the project. The introduction page has an image of the nuclear explosion and text from my last blog post (instead of the lorem ipsum dummy text) and the rest of the pages remain to be filled (they currently have filler images and text.

Unfortunately, after visiting the Computer help center after my laptop crashed during class and returning to my residence later in the evening, I discovered that my computer’s hard disk had died, effectively destroying all the research data I had compiled in the previous week. Since my last computer backup was on November 15th, it seems that I will have to start from scratch once again. I will be out of my laptop for a week (if not more since my hard disk needs to be replaced) .

This is very unfortunate but only serves to further illustrate to me that digital technology is quite volatile and cannot be completely relied upon. I will be buying or renting a new computer in the meantime and will try to catch up on my research and work as soon as possible.

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Blog #6 – Pitch a Project

For my final project for the Digital Humanities class, I plan on doing my project on the American atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. I plan on creating a website that explores the attacks and remediates them by “re-living” them step by step through the use of timelines, maps and images. I chose this topic as I have always been interested in world history, specifically the Second World War and twentieth century history. In this context, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are critically important when considering that they were one of the catalysts for the Nuclear Arms Race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War.

For the project, I plan to utilize images and maps heavily for the remediation aspect of the project. For instance, I plan on having a page which compares images of a certain building, neighborhood, or street before and after the bombings and also of the same location in the present day. The purpose of this is to both demonstrate the immense destruction inflicted by the bomb and also how Japan has recovered since the atomic bombings. One key aspect that I will point out in this section is how many scientists predicted that Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be inhabitable and the land rendered unusable for at least a hundred years. Yet 65 years after the immense devastation, life has resurged in places that were nearly condemned.

For the text analysis component of the project, I will gather accounts made by survivors of the attack and by doctors and soldiers who arrived to treat survivors and attend to other victims. Since the use of atomic weapons was unheard of before these attacks, it was initially believed that the attacks incorporated chemical weapons. This was because many survivors became violently ill and vomited incessantly and the strong smell of ionization in the detonation area misled investigators into believing some chemical agent was to blame. As well, some victims without visible wounds or burns died within a few hours without apparent reason and doctors at the time did not have the full understandings of how radiation affects the human body.

In the text analysis component I will use tools such as ManyEyes and Voyeur tools to analyze the written accounts and find concordance and identify certain words that come up most frequently in the testimonies of survivors and emergency first responders. I will use the results of this to develop or augment a thesis that I will create.

Finally, for the Map/Timeline portion of the project, I plan to use a map to illustrate where devastation was most severe and use this in conjunction with the image remediation component of the assignment to link certain images to certain locations within the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I will also use maps to illustrate the flight path of the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the bombs) from the US base to Japan.

As well, I will also include a timeline that will detail the process that led to the atomic bombings – beginning with the inception of the concept of atomic warfare by Albert Einstein in a letter to American President Truman all the way to the eventual Japanese surrender following the atomic bombings.

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Blog #5 – Remediating History Through Mapping

For the class lab this week, my partner and I chose the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in New York as the historical event that we wanted to map. I suggested to my partner that we choose this as our topic as I had studied the “9/11 Digital Archive” and analyzed it with a group in this class a few weeks previous for the lab “Evaluating, Collecting and Presenting”. I remembered that website had some very stark and graphic images relating to the 9/11 attacks and would be a very thought provoking topic to further analyze and remediate this week. My partner and I decided to split up the work and each of us created three placemarks. The three placemarks that I created were “West St & Barclay St”, “Church Street – Vesey Street” and “Solidarity with the Americans”.

The map that we created (http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=108198624854418379317.00049418d79f99a65dee6&ll=40.714606,-74.009356&spn=0.009677,0.017488&z=16) includes metadata that includes

  • Who the author of the photo was
  • Where the picture was taken
  • Where the picture was found
  • A URL for the picture
  • The copyright status of the picture
  • It’s relevance to this assignment

Any information that I used in this map for describing the historical event was based on my own personal knowledge and also from directly observing the images that I chose to include. The images that I included in this assignment were from the US Library of Congress, the site History Pin and the 9/11 Digital Archive. For the first source, the US Library of Congress, the photo is not copyrighted as it was taken by a US Government official in the course of his or her duties and as per US Government policy, cannot be copyrighted. The other two sources consisted of user submitted images. While the image I used from History Pin did not mention copyright since it was submitted anonymously, the user that submitted the image that I used from the 9/11 Digital Archive asserted his copyright to it.

The first picture I chose was from the US Library of Congress and shows the intersection of West and Barclay in the days immediately after 9/11. It shows rescue workers still trying to find bodies amongst the carnage and showed them carrying equipment such as spine boards and first-aid kits. I chose this image as it showed how even a few days after the attack, the roads around Ground Zero were still covered in rubble and dust. As well, smoke can still be seen lingering in the air. It shows the immense confusion and chaos, even after the immediate attack.

The second image I chose was a photo, taken by the user “Action Images” on the site “History Pin” near the corner of Church and Vesey Street. It shows a ball of flame erupting out of the South World Trade Center tower immediately after the second plane hit. I chose this photo for its graphic and stark nature. It aptly illustrates how terrible the terrorist attack was and one can only imagine how many lives were lost in that large explosion of fire.

The final image I chose to add was a photo I found on the 9/11 Digital Archive website. It was submitted by a user named Don Schwartz and was taken by him “a few weeks” after 9/11 when he went to visit his daughter at NYU. Judging from the landmarks, it seems to have been taken near the former Deutschbank building. I chose this photo as it shows a Canadian flag pinned up on a gate near Ground Zero and represents Canada’s solidarity with America during those tough times. Not only did Canada send rescue workers after the attacks to help with search and rescue, but Canada also accepted diverted flights into it’s airports in the aftermath of the attacks when US airspace was shut down. Thousands of stranded Americans were welcomed into Canada and into the homes of strangers all across the nation, stretching from Vancouver to St. Johns, Newfoundland.

I would have liked to include metadata of exactly when the photos I chose were taken but unfortunately this was not possible as all of the images seem to be scanned versions of print images. I don’t find this particularly surprising since back in 2001 digital camera technology was not yet commonly used by the average consumer (due to price limitations and low resolution quality).

I think that creating interactive maps for September 11th attacks helps other people understand history and this event in particular as it makes information much more accessible and tangible. When viewing interactive maps, a viewer can “see” pictures taken at specific locations and if they do choose to visit the specific location where it was taken, they can compare what they see to the image or images they saw online. As well, with technologies such as Google Street view and sites such as History Pin, which overlay historical images onto Street View, a viewer can more easily picture where certain events took place, giving their learning experience more immediacy and realism. This creates a stronger connection between a viewer to the actual location where an event took place.

History Pin is a collaborative project where users can submit stories and pictures of historical events which become geotagged and also overlaid into Google Street View maps of the modern location. This site could likely be used by and greatly help students doing history documentation projects which require pictures from certain locations. Also, a general curious web surfer could find this site quite fascinating. As well, people who wanted to contribute to a global information commons could submit their own personal photos to add to the cache online.

The site CommunityWalk differs as it is mainly a site for mapping communities and building interactive maps. It is similar in that it also utilizes the Google Maps API but it differs since its purpose is much more broad. This site could be used by realtors, property owners of a subdivision, business and property owners who want to mark locations (such as that of a golf course) and more.

The final site discussed, “Trippermap” is a web service that allows you ro put a flash based world map on a website or blog. This service automatically searches your photo collection at a site such as Flickr for location information and plots it on the map created. A major difference with this service is that it does not utilize the Google Maps API for creating maps. Instead, it uses its own proprietary maps and renders the final result as an animation. As the site’s description suggests, this service would most likely be utilized mainly by bloggers or personal/family website owners who want to tag their own photos and plot them on a world map.

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Text Analysis and Data Visualization Assignment

For the Text Analysis and Data Visualization assignment, I analyzed Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, as found on the Project Gutenburg website. I am quite familiar with this work as I studied it extensively last year in AP Literature 12 and also re-read and wrote an essay about it recently in History class as part of our studies on imperialism in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century.

The novel “Heart of Darkness” is set at the turn of the twentieth century during the peak of imperialism and imperialistic activity in Africa. The novel follows the character Marlow as he leads a faceless and purposely unnamed Belgian ivory trading Company’s ship into the Congo to discover what happened to another ivory trader named Kurtz. His assignment from the Company is to remove him from his post deep in the jungle and return him back to “civilization”. Through Marlow’s journey into Congo, a land that supposedly needs to be “civilized” by Europeans, he discovers falseness of the entire colonization “mission” and sees the extent of cruelty that humans can do to their fellow man.

The first form of analysis I did with the text was to manually extract metadata from it. For this, I followed the outline that we used in the second lab/blog post and used the “Digital Text” criteria sheet as a guide. However, I also added additional questions and variables (such as country of publication and more…)

▪       Title/Name: “Heart of Darkness”

▪       Author: Joseph Conrad

▪       Publisher: Original Publisher: Blackwood’s Magazine, Online Publisher: Project Gutenburg

▪       Date of Creation: Original Date: 1899 / Online Publication: 2006-01-09

▪       Date Viewed: October 16th 2010 8:36PM PDT

▪       Persistent Identifier: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219.txt

▪       Language: English

▪       Format: .txt

▪       Media Type: Raw Text File

▪       Subject: Psychological Fiction / Imperialism – Fiction

▪       Category: Academia, Psychology, Literature,

▪       Tags: Imperialism, Europeans, Colonialism, Africa, Psychological Fiction, Congo, Belgium, Heart of Darkness

▪       Copyright Status: Public Domain (Internationally)

▪       Country of Original Publication: United Kingdom

Description: A psychological thriller dealing with the issue and myth of the “colonizing mission” and of European conquest in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century

For the second part of my text analysis assignment, I created a Wordle out of all the words used in the novel. Using Lab/Blog #3 as a guideline, I created a Wordle, keeping the design in mind and tried to have it reflective of the nature of the work. As well, I used the resulting Wordle image as a tool for analysis of the work in general.

Interestingly, the largest and commonly used word in all of the Heart of Darkness text was the name “Kurtz”, the name of the ivory trader that had gone rogue in the heart of the Congo jungle. The second largest and second mostly commonly used work was like, followed by the word man. The frequency of the usage of the word “Kurtz” illustrates nicely how obsessed Marlow becomes of Kurtz throughout the novel. Kurtz is fascinating to Marlow as he supposedly a “civilized” European that has been seduced by the wildness and the lack of control and rule in the jungle.  I interpreted the frequency of the word like to how the book focuses a lot on human desires and needs. At the base human level, we desire freedom from the control and structure of society and in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century there was no formal rule or law. This lack of social structure caused Europeans in Africa, people who had lived and grown up in a world of rules and regulations, to act out and test out what were the limits of human cruelty in a world where nobody was there to police them and say “no”. This is a theme that is reflected in the novel and seems to come out of Joseph Conrad’s own personal experiences in the Congo jungle – experiences which allegedly inspired him to write “Heart of Darkness”

For the graphic design of the Wordle itself, I chose a dark and subdued “Autumn” theme that reflects the somber and dark nature of the novel. I chose a black background to reflect them “darkness” of the book and lighter though still dark reds and orange hues of the text in the center of the Wordle to reflect the “Heart” in “Heart of Darkness”. One final change I made to the appearance of the Wordle was to change the orientation of the text to “Mainly Horizontal”, as the initial automated rendering of the Wordle had made the text mainly vertical, which was hard to read for me without having to bend my neck.

I think the Wordle compliments and reflects the topic of “Heart of Darkness” quite well. The abundance of contrasting words in the Wordle, such as “black” and “white” and “night” and “light” reflects the constant motifs of contrast in the book (such as between the “light” of the civilized world, and the “darkness” of the wilderness and of evil men’s hearts”

For the final aspect of analysis for this assignment, I submitted the entire text of “Heart of Darkness” for analysis through “Voyeur Tools”. Through the use of this online text analysis application, I gained some valuable information about word concordance and frequency

Here’s some of the statistics:

In “ Heart of Darkness” there were 40,850 words used. Out of these words 6,411 were unique (meaning they were used in only one instance). Out of all the words, before the stop list was utilized, the most common word was “the”, used a grand total of 2,427 times. After learning this information, I used the Compare text function to compare “Heart of Darkness” with “Shakespeare’s Plays” – a preset option that Voyeur Tools offers. After performing the comparison, the result was that there were very few similarities between the two texts. In fact, the most commonly shared words were basic grammatical phrases such as “the” (594 common occurances) and “of” (362 common occurances) and many others too common to mention.

For all purposes and intents of this assignment, I found text analysis though manual metadata hunting and using the Wordle visualization tools the most useful in gaining a better understanding of the text. The metadata I generated would be quite useful if I was to analyze the context of the novel as a whole (which I had to do for my history class in fact!). For example, through my metadata research for “Heart of Darkness”, I discovered that it was initially published by “Blackwood’s Magazine” which was, in fact, a prominent Tory (or Conservative), magazine in England at the time. This is very significant as Heart of Darkness is widely considered today by many academics as a treatise on the evils on imperialism in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century. When considering this, a possible explanation could be that at the time of publication (1899), readers were more taken in by the description of the natives as “savages”, rather than analyzing the content and overall message of the novel as a whole. I found “Voyeur Tools” to be the least helpful towards the analysis of my text as it merely provided structural data regarding the book (such as how many words were used). While this would have been useful had I been doing an analysis on a different type of text, such as a dissertation or a technical publication, for the analysis of historical literature, Voyeur did not prove valuable in this instance.

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Blog #4 – Text Analysis and Digital Tools

In today’s lab, we researched different types of text analysis tools in our team groups. Our group, Team Apollo, researched the web-based text analysis site “Voyeur”.

Voyeur is a web-based text analysis program that allows a user to analyze different forms of texts to find out word counts, compare texts, create trend counts and graphs of word and phrase frequencies and more. A user can upload text in various file types, including PDFs, Microsoft Word documents and plain text files. There is also an option to copy and paste text into an input box for submission for analysis.

The design of “Voyeur” is very user-centric and user-friendly. The design of the main page is much like that of Google – a plain, clean and simple interface with lots of empty “white” space. This uncluttered design enhances the experience of the user by making it very straightforward to use. Once a user submits or uploads their text for analysis, they are directed to a interactive interface to view graphs, counts and also adjust settings. This interface is also well designed – with word count frequencies/graphs on one side and the actual text with key words highlighted on another pane.

One excellent feature of Voyeur is the inclusion of a word stop-list. The stop list allows the user to exclude common words (such as is/and/are) so that the resulting word counts are more relevant and accurate. However, one limitation of this is that the user cannot modify the stop-list to add words that may not be included – such as pg (for page numbers)

As part of our group discussion and collaboration, we answered these questions pertaining to Voyeur…

What kinds of data can you analyse using your suite of tools?

Anything digital text or written text converted to a digital format. This includes Websites, PDFs, eBooks, News Articles. Texts analyzed can also be in words other than English. We tested this with a German and French news site and it worked just fine!

What kind of information can you extract from the data?

Word frequency, count, phrases used, Summary of Statistics, List of Documents, Frequency graphs, List of common phrases and words with a comparative document

What kinds of questions can you ask of your data using text analysis and data visualizations?

  • Why is a certain word used more than others
  • What context are main words used in (you can look up what sentences words are used)
  • What words are commonly used in conjunctions with others (phrases)
  • At what times in the book/text is a certain word used the most/more frequently

What hidden patterns are revealed using text analaysis and data visualization?

  • Where certain words are used most frequently and in what part of the text
  • What words are used less frequently
  • Frequency of slang (abbreviations) vs Formal words
  • Comparing texts

Who would be most likely to perform this kind of text analysis or data visualization?

  • Scholars or Professors reviewing academic thesis/articles
  • People reading large documents
  • Students doing essays on language/linguisitics
  • People studying works of literature
  • Just for fun!
  • Techers checking for plagiarization (using the compare two texts function)

Limitations/Difficulties?

  • Cannot remove words from list – stop list is predefined/ want to customize it – example (pg for page)
  • Would be nice to have a dictionary option for convenience

Why did your group choose the (type of) data/texts that you did?

For our group presentation, we chose to analyze a text from Project Gutenberg – “How to Analyze People on Sight” by Benedict and Benedict. We chose this as it was popular and top read and also sounded intriguing.

What parts of the tool did you use?

Our group used the Stoplist, Copy and Paste text function, the Compare tool (for comparison with Dracula by Graham Stewart), and the Graph function

What did you find out about these texts?

We found out that there was not a lot in common between “How to Analyze People on Sight” and “Dracula” which did not come as a surprise for any of us – though some of us did hope that there could be one or two odd commonalities. The only truly common word we could find was the word was “though” (used 4,108 times) – however, that is a common word and none of us thought much of it. However, some interesting facts we found out was that out of 64,060 words used between the two books, there were 6,958 unique (words used once) words.

Which elements of the tools produced the deepest kinds of analysis (i.e. which were the most useful)?

Our group found the context tool the mose useful for analysis as it allowed us to see what words were used the most in what specifc parts of the books and in which particular sentences. We also found the stop-list to be somewhat helpful, however, it was limited by the fact that we, the users, could not add additional words to it since it was all predefined.

Provide a brief description of what you plan to do for your Text Analysis and Data Visualization Exercise.

For the Text Analysis and Data Visualization Exercise, I plan to analyze the text of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as found on the Project Gutenburg website. I am quite familiar with this work as I studied it extensively last year in AP Literature 12 and also re-read and wrote an essay about it recently in History class as part of our studies on imperialism in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century.

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