Week 4 marked the halfway point of our program, and fittingly we spent this week finishing up our review of tools. Monday we worked with timeline and mapping applications, including TimelineJS, StoryMapJS, and Timemapper. They all work on very similar infrastructure, although TimelineJS is more well-developed than the other two, and each platform allows for embedding of multimedia components, so a timeline or storymap can contain more than just images and text. We did a practice exercise with TimelineJS, and started building a timeline of James Merrill Linn’s life, including excerpts from his Civil War diaries that we worked with in our text encoding sessions. On Tuesday, Diane Jakacki joined us again for an overview of Google Fusion Tables, Palladio, and Gephi. These applications support a number of different forms of data visualization, including network graphs and maps. We looked at Micki Kaufman’s Quantifying Kissinger project as an example of some of the very sophisticated visualizations that can be created using Gephi. This was by far the most complex of the tools we’ve worked with all summer, and in the end we learned that no one should Gephi alone 😉
On Wednesday we convened to share some initial project components that the students had been working on. No spoilers, but I will say that everyone is making tremendous progress and that it’s so rewarding to see project ideas coming to life in various digital platforms. I’m very impressed with the students’ decisions about what tools they’ll be using, and their ability to make a case for why those particular tools are suited for each project. I suspect we’ll still be working through some final decisions about tools in the coming weeks, but for now, you can read more about their tool choices in our Week 4 reflections.
On Thursday, we took our much-anticipated trip to Bryn Mawr College for #dsmeet17. A small group of program facilitators of digital scholarship summer programs conceived of the idea of this meetup earlier this year, and it was a great opportunity for us all to get together and talk with folks from several institutions. In addition to the DSSRF cohort, students from programs at Lafayette, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, and Penn were in attendance, as were librarians and instructional technologists from each institution. A centerpiece of the day were the lightning talks; through these we were able to learn about a wide variety of digital scholarship projects that students are working on. A number of the projects discussed focused on themes of identity and cross-cultural contexts, and a few students mentioned their hope to translate their projects into their native languages. The range of project topics was far-reaching, and included: representations of disability in love reality television; Sami identity in Sweden; text encoding of documents related to William Penn’s contact with American Indians; stratification in Bogota, Colombia; and creating apps for the Microsoft HoloLens. Some of the projects were more developed than others; for example, the Lafayette students were just one week from completing their program, so they had mostly finished sites to showcase. Our students remarked that seeing finished (or nearly finished) projects gave them a better sense of the process and what they are working towards. Once again, I was impressed with their enthusiasm and passion for their research that came through in each of their lightning talks. Each student is working on a project that is deeply personal to them, and they were able to convey that to the audience in a short amount of time. The program facilitators also had an opportunity to meet and talk over lunch, and it was great to exchange ideas about how our programs are run and consider changes we might make in future years.
As we move into the second half of our program, it’s astonishing to realize how quickly time is going this summer. As Courtney said a couple of weeks ago, it has been extremely rewarding and gratifying to watch our students work through the research process, continually hone their ideas, and give feedback to each other on their projects. We’re excited to see what happens in the next four weeks, and how each student’s project turns out!