Introducing Serendip-o-matic

Serendip-o-matic I’m proud to introduce the online search tool Serendip-o-matic. From July 28-August 3, I worked with a fabulous group digital humanists to produce this tool from scratch as part of the One Week | One Tool project.

Serendip-o-matic connects your sources to digital materials located in libraries, museums, and archives around the world. By first examining your research interests, and then identifying related content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Europeana, Trove Australia, and Flickr Commons, Serendip-o-matic’s serendipity engine helps you discover photographs, documents, maps and other primary sources.

Whether you begin with text from an article, a Wikipedia page, or a full Zotero collection, Serendip-o-matic’s special algorithm extracts key terms and returns a surprising reflection of your interests. Because the tool is designed mostly for inspiration, search results aren’t meant to be exhaustive, but rather suggestive, pointing you to materials you might not have discovered. At the very least, the magical input-output process helps you step back and look at your work from a new perspective.

Action Shot from One Week | One Tool

The group brainstorming tool ideas. Photo by Mia Ridge.

At some point, I will blog about the experience, but that will have to wait a little because the project has coincided with activity related to the news that I have received an NEH award to create an Archive of Early Middle English.… Read more…

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Why we need more Digital Humanities (one of the reasons, anyway)

This semester I encountered an interesting scenario in an undergraduate student essay. The student had counted the number of occurrences of a couple of words in a poem and concluded that, because the counts for word 1 and for word 2 were close, two concepts the words expressed were thematically related in the poem.

What the student got wrong:

  • The student failed to get the counts right because she did a simple word search that did not account for morphological/spelling variants (this was a Middle English text) or close synonyms.
  • Assuming that two concepts are related thematically because the words that express them occur in near equal numbers in a text is a logical fallacy.

What the student got right:

  • The student tried to apply a quantitative method to understand the text in a new way.

Of course, there is nothing specifically “DH” about what the student did, other than using a browser’s search function. Before the days when this was possible, the technique would have been called “philology”, and that too is a good thing.  Regardless of whether or not the student’s inspiration was facilitated by the availability of a digital tool, I was really delighted to see a student using a methodology which is very unfamiliar to most literature students these days—even in a very limited way.… Read more…

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DH SoCal Research Slam Deadline Today

April 15th is the deadline for proposals for the first ever DH SoCal Research Slam.

Location: California State University, Northridge
Date: May 4, 2013
Deadline for Proposals: April 15, 2013

DH SoCal is a network dedicated to building community and collaboration amongst digital humanists in Southern California. On May 4, 2013 we are holding our first research slam at California State University, Northridge. This one-day event will be designed to showcase Digital Humanities work and work in progress by, and to create opportunities for interaction between digital humanists from around the region.

We invite proposals for poster presentations, short talks, and issue-based discussion panels in any area of the Digital Humanities. To propose a topic, please fill out the submission form by April 15, 2013.… Read more…

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Some Thoughts on Combining Close and Distant Reading, Markup and Algorithms

I’m a little under the weather, so this post might not be as coherent as I’d like, but I want to get it up before I get overwhelmed by the what is likely to be a very busy few days.

Over the weekend, I decided that an interesting exercise for my students reading the Alliterative Morte Arthure would be to have them compare two very different approaches to the poem, Kateryna Alexandra Rudnytzky’s article on Arthur’s battle with the giant of Mont Saint Michel, and Patricia DeMarco’s “An Arthur for the Ricardian Age”. The one examines the poem in terms of the transformation of its source material and connections with literary analogues; the other focuses on the poem’s engagement with military history. Both approaches add depth to our understanding of the text and its place in the medieval literary and cultural world, yet they are based on exactly the sorts of observations that students cannot make because they have not had the opportunity to read widely. Students are forced to read a few texts, those for which there is time during a single semester, in a virtual vacuum. Naturally, that’s why we have professors–to assign secondary literature and to draw students’ attention to this type of knowledge in class.… Read more…

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