Day of Digital Humanities 2014

April 9, 2014

Given that I haven’t been the most prolific blogger in recent months, I thought I’d mirror my contributions to this year’s instance of DayOfDH. I find it fascinating that DayOfDH continues to flourish as an annual event even though it seems to me that blogging is much less prevalent in the community than five years ago when the first instance occurred (the demise of Google Reader has been both a symptom and further catalyst I think).

I had three posts: Morning Routines, Student Meetings, and Playing with SSHRC Awards.

Morning Routines

This is my fifth DayOfDH, and as with past iterations, it seems relevant and only slightly self-indulgent to mention a few things about one’s life beyond professional activities. For me that includes waking up and flicking through my Twitter feed (while I wait for the bathroom to be available), eating breakfast, having an espresso, helping kids get ready and accompanying them to school, taking the metro while listening to an audio book (currently book 5 of a Song of Ice and Fire), and stopping at Caffé Art Java while I skim through the news (we have a new provincial government this morning).

Coffee & News

I usually post a picture of my own espresso machine (like this one), but I neglected to take a picture this morning. This led me to search for pictures from previous years, which was a bit discouraging as it seems like the archives are no longer available. My DayOfDH will include nagging some friends about retrieve the archives and make them available.

Student Meetings

Most of the courses I teach are DH-heavy and have a strong project component. In fact, I’m “teaching” a course this term for the first time that’s entirely project-based (LLCU-498) – I have 15 students and we’ve met as a group only three times this term, the rest have been weekly meetings. All those meetings are a fairly heavy burden on my schedule – two to three times more time-consuming than a normal course – but I love that all our interactions are immediately relevant to the students as they work through the challenges of planning and producing a larger project. There’s some great variety as well (games, videos, 3D printing, computer programs, magazines, infographics and visualizations, etc.). One of the frustrations I have is in not being an expert in all the technical and conceptual aspects of the projects, but that’s also refreshing and humbling in good ways.

This morning I had a couple of student meetings for another course I’m teaching entitled “Digital Studies/Citizenry“. The focus this term has been in developing web-based interactive visualizations, especially with D3. Students think about how to express arguments in an interactive interface rather than through more conventional essay-style writing. We cover a crazy amount of  material, both technical and conceptual, but students are for the most part highly motivated by the new experiences of producing  sophisticated digital content. One of the students, for instance, was needing a bit of help with a few details in combining a parallax navigation library with an embedded D3 visualization in a project on drones. Fun!


Playing with SSHRC Awards

A couple of weeks back I was scheduled to talk about digital infrastructures at the FedCan AGM and I was preparing to make some arguments about the rise in interest in the digital and (and related topics), as seen through the SSHRC database of awards (in the end one of my kids was unwell that day and I had to recuse myself from the panel). The argument was two-fold, both of which underline the need for a coherent and efficient strategy for digital infrastructures in Canada:

  1. SSHRC (and by extension Canadian tax payers) have made incredible investments in research and I think there’s an obligation to do as much as possible to make that research publicly accessible. Based on 15 years of data in the Awards Search Engine, SSHRC has funded over 50,000 projects for a total of nearly $1.5 billion!
  2. There’s been a distinct rise in research that’s specifically related to contemporary digital society and digital methodologies and that work requires new infrastructures (people, equipment, tools, etc.) to support it.

I quickly prepared some data last time and generated some simple graphs, and I was intending to return to the analysis work today. Alas, as often happens (DayOfDH is no exception), other things got in the way. I do however have time to step through in a bit more detail the preparation of the data in case it may be of use to anyone.

First I went to the SSHRC Awards Search Engine,  which is a remarkable and underutilized resource – I’m sure designers might have some complaints about the interface, but the functionality is great. I selected Competition Year(s) for 1998-2012 and output as Excel.

SSHRC AwardsThis produces a paginated results table, but at the bottom of the page there’s a link to download the Excel file which contains all rows. I opened that in Excel and then saved it as a tab separated values file with the name sshrc.txt (my version of Excel seems stubbornly adamant about that file extension). Worse than the file extension issue is the fact that I don’t get a choice of character encoding or newline format. If you need other formats, options include using Open/LibreOffice for the conversion or opening the resulting file in a text editor and switching the output to UTF-8.

Now I can run the PHP script that reads the sshrc.txt input file (from the same directory), does a bit of cleanup, and then produces annual files of the titles. The code for this is relatively simple:

TSV to annual titiles

Click on the image to see the code as a GitHub Gist.

Once those annual output files have been created, I can combine them into a zip file and send them to Voyant.

SSHRC in Voyant

SSHRC Award Titles by Year – click on the image to view in Voyant

Here I see the remarkable rise in occurrences of the term “digital” over the past 15 years, though much more needs to be said, especially in a bilingual context (“numérique” and variants seem to rise earlier, for instance). As I said near the beginning, my plan for today was to spend much more time playing with the titles from SSHRC-funded projects, but maybe it will have to wait until DayOfDH 2015…

Comments are closed.