Author: Carrie Pirmann

Week 8 Recap: Reflecting on a Summer’s Work

DSSRF17 ended a week ago, and since then I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts about the summer (and our spring prep work), and cohesively reflect on the past eight weeks. It may sound cliche, but DSSRF has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a librarian. Courtney pointed this out early in the summer, but it bears repeating: one of the best parts of our program was getting to see the students work through the research process from beginning to end. As librarians, we so often see students for a one time research appointment, and we don’t know where the research goes after they walk out of our offices. In this case, we got to the point of seeing completed projects, which was truly gratifying. I’m also so heartened to know the students each have an idea of some way in which they can continue their research beyond the summer program, and that they don’t see this research as merely existing in a vacuum or as coming to an end as they might with a research paper in a semester long class.

Another great aspect of DSSRF has been the collaboration, which is a prominent theme in digital scholarship and digital humanities. I’m so pleased that we were able to bring that to fruition through this program: our students were great collaborators, in helping each other learn intricacies of different methods and platforms, and in making suggestions for how projects could be improved upon. The value of collaboration really showed itself in our visit to Gettysburg, as they were able to collaborate not only with each other, but also with students in another digital scholarship program and build on the idea of creating a community of practice. I know from talking to students both at Bucknell and Gettysburg that they enjoyed that experience, and I hope that can serve as a groundwork for future collaborations between our schools and reaching other institutions.

Speaking of collaboration, DSSRF was truly a collaborative effort between Library and IT staff. It would not have been possible without the generous help and expertise of so many of our colleagues in Research Services, Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship, and from other areas of the organization. It is remarkable that the vision we had for this program when we first started talking about it in January could come to fruition so quickly, and that is due in large part to the support we received from our Library and IT colleagues. And I could not have asked for a better co-facilitator for DSSRF than Courtney!

Finally, our students: we could not have asked for a better cohort – thank you Justin, Rennie, Tyler, and Minglu for a great summer!! Whether they knew it or not, they were our guinea pigs in DSSRF, and I’m so glad they decided to pursue this program. They embraced flexibility and a willingness to learn at every turn, and taught us so much about their research topics. They are energetic, inquisitive, driven young scholars who have proven that undergraduates can conduct meaningful, rigorous, independent research. And also, that you can have fun while doing research! My sense is that this was a transformative experience for our students, and something that we can build upon as we look for more ways to engage students in research.

The DSSRF17 cohort on their last day! L-R: Carrie Pirmann, Justin Guzman, Rennie Heza, Tyler Candelora, Minglu Xu, and Courtney Paddick.

Week 7 Recap: On the Road Again!

What’s summer without road trips? On Monday, we took #dssrf17 on the road again, this time visiting our digital scholarship peers at Gettysburg College. We were inspired to start the DSSRF program after seeing librarians and students from Gettysburg and Lafayette present at last year’s Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference, so this was a perfect opportunity to get to know Gettysburg’s students and facilitators better. And I’m a Gettysburg alum (class of 1999), so any opportunity to visit my alma mater is welcome!

Working on the first round of elevator speeches.

In the morning session, we did a workshop on elevator speeches, led by Courtney and Clint Baugess, Research & Instruction Librarian at Gettysburg. This was a chance for the students to get to know each other and become familiar with each others’ projects. We went through two rounds of elevator speeches: one round was crafted as if students were talking to a senior level administrator, and the second was crafted to an audience of each student’s choosing. The elevator speech practice would definitely come in handy for our students later in the week (more on that in a bit).

For the afternoon session, we did two rounds of peer evaluations and project workshopping. Students worked in groups – one senior fellow from Gettysburg, one junior fellow from Gettysburg, and one of our students. The #dssrf17 crew have all been working together so closely over the last seven weeks that it can be difficult to step back from the projects and give concrete, constructive feedback. Having fresh sets of eyes on their projects was enormously helpful to our students, and I know they all came away with good feedback and suggestions for improvements that they could make to their work. Hopefully they were able to offer constructive feedback to the Gettysburg students as well.

Presenting projects to Param Bedi.

On Thursday, our students had an opportunity to meet with Param Bedi, Vice President of Library and Information Technology, for informal project presentations and discussion. Param has been a staunch supporter of DSSRF since we first started talking about creating this program, and this was a chance for him to see all the work the students have been doing over the last seven weeks. I’m sure Courtney and I have said this before, but it bears repeating: we’ve constantly been impressed with the levels of passion and knowledge that each of our students possess about their research topics, and Param was equally impressed with their work.

Next week is the final week of #dssrf17, and the students are working on fine-tuning their project sites for our final presentation session on July 21. It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached this point – it seems like just yesterday we were gathering for our first sessions and planning out projects! We can’t wait to see what the students finished products look like, and to share them with the larger community!

Bucknell’s #dssrf17 and Gettyburg’s #dssf17 at #dsgcmeet17

Week 4 Recap: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (or, DSSRF Takes a Road Trip)

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!

Week 3 Recap: Data is Everywhere, and Everything is Data

I’ve spent the past week mulling over the concept of data visualization — honing in more on the first word, data. What exactly is data, anyway? What do we consider to be data in the context of digital scholarship? I don’t want to go deeply into the rabbit hole here, but as I’ve delved more into the world of digital scholarship, it’s become evident that so much of what we do is based on some form of data — be that numerical data, textual data, geospatial data, audiovisual data, etc. So even though this week was data visualization week, data viz is actually a common theme throughout our program. Last week we experimented with Voyant as a means of visualizing textual data, and in Week 4 we’ll be looking at timelines, maps, and networks — all of which require data in one form or another. Data really is everywhere in digital scholarship! And with that, here’s how Week 3 unfolded.

On Monday, Jill Hallam-Miller and Ben Hoover joined us for a session on data literacy. Before we took a deep dive into learning how to make our own data visualizations, it was important to think about what makes a visualization good, bad, or somewhere in between. We drew our on visualizations based off a dataset of first year students’ hometowns, deconstructed a number of visualizations, came up with our own criteria for evaluating visualizations, and talked about data cleaning. I’m confident that our students will be looking at any data visualizations they encounter in the future with a critical eye!

On Tuesday, we were joined by our colleague Ken Flerlage, for the first of a two-part workshop on Tableau. Among the many data visualization tools currently available, Tableau sits at the juncture of tools that are robust in terms of what they can do both presentation wise and analysis wise. Although there are a lot of intricacies in figuring out exactly how to visualize a dataset, the underlying premise of Tableau is that you create a worksheet for each graph, and then put them all together into a dashboard, which can be stylized with text and images. Our students picked up the process pretty quickly, and Thursday we tested our newfound skills by working with a dataset from the #MakeoverMonday project. Each week, the facilitators of #MakeoverMonday post a link to a chart and its data, and invite anyone to redesign the chart. This week’s dataset was from the Tate Collection; you can check out our students’ vizzes here: Minglu; Rennie; Justin.

We ended our week with a bit of fun and took a walk over to the College of Engineering to visit the Maker-E, Bucknell’s electronics maker space. The space has a lot of tools for designing and working with electronics components, 3D printers, a vinyl sticker cutter, and more. We spent most of our time playing with the littleBits, which are sort of like electronic Legos. There are LED lights, speakers, a mini keyboard, and many other parts that you can connect together to make little gadgets. Tyler even figured out how to connect his phone to the littleBits speakers so he could play music (and the tiny speakers sounded pretty good!).

It’s hard to believe we’re already heading into Week 4 of the program, aka the halfway point. The students are deep into their research and continue to make great progress! We’ve got another full week lined up, including a trip to Bryn Mawr College to meet up with other students who are in programs similar to ours.

Recapping Week 1

After months of planning and anticipation, DSSRF 2017 got off to a great start this past week. Our four fellows are full of energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. One of the things that’s interesting about our cohort is that Tyler and Justin have some background in digital scholarship and digital humanities, while Rennie and Minglu are completely new to the field. Yet they’ve all already shown a willingness to engage in deep discussions with each other about their project ideas, making suggestions about different methods and tools that could be useful. One of my favorite examples of this came when Rennie was explaining his project idea, which involves analyzing player performance and overall team performance in the NHL during the 2016-17 season. He intends to use statistics and data visualization techniques in his project, but Justin also suggested the possibility of analyzing footage from games using video annotation software as another means of gathering data. These kinds of interactions happened many times over the course of the week, and the students have modeled honest, thoughtful feedback with each other.

Week 1 was a bit of a whirlwind in terms of content, and we challenged the students to think deeply about the advantages, challenges, and values of digital scholarship. We watched Miriam Posner’s excellent video, “How Did They Make That?”, which helped us gain a better understanding of how we move from a research question to applying digital tools and methods to answer that research question. And while we haven’t started our in-depth training with various tools yet, we asked students to find a tool (one we won’t be learning) that might apply to their research area and demonstrate it for the group.

  • Tyler showed us Lexos, a powerful tool for text cleaning and basic text analysis.
  • Rennie demoed RAWGraphs, an online suite of data visualization tools.
  • Minglu compared StoryMap JS and ESRI StoryMaps, both which allow for a combination of mapping and other elements.
  • Justin introduced us to ELAN, a multimedia annotation tool.

Finally, inspired by a reading of the Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0, we gave our students 45 minutes on their own to write (as a group) their own digital scholarship manifesto. Their only prompt was these two questions: What are your goals for the summer as a cohort? How will you support one another in these goals? You can read what they wrote on the main page of this website. I don’t want to speak for Courtney, but I was deeply impressed with the thoughtfulness of their message, their commitment to supporting each other, and their openness to learning throughout the process. I think we can all learn something from their closing statement:

“We will fail. We will reject that failure carries negative connotations. We will succeed. We will disagree, and we will become stronger as a group because of this. We will gain knowledge in areas in which we have never before dabbled. Life is richest when we become good at many things, and there is no doubt our lives will be enriched through this program.”

And now we move on to Week 2, when we dive into the world of text analysis and TEI!

The DSSRF 2017 Cohort: Tyler Candelora ’19, Rennie Heza ’18, Minglu Xu ’20, and Justin Guzman ’19, with librarians Courtney Paddick and Carrie Pirmann. Photo courtesy of Ben Hoover.