After lives; or, the true history of Samuel Johnson in a digital archive

When the Princeton Prosody Archive received its original data from the HathiTrust Digital Library, this data included over three hundred entries attributed to Samuel Johnson. Such a high volume of entries (not to mention the peculiar breadth and range of topics covered in Johnson’s writing), posed a peculiar problem: How to organize these texts in a manner that acknowledges Johnson’s contribution to prosody, but which is also navigable, representative, and curated?

One hundred million million poems

The last time I wrote, I had just begun to learn how to program in Python, creating a simple programmed version of Raymond Queneau’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes for my Annex 3. This program, along with my Annexes 2 (S+7) and 4 (Queneau’s Un conte à votre façon) would be the most important part of my project, as the Oulipo had made its own digital versions of these texts at several key moments in its history. However, the Cent mille milliards de poèmes program was relatively simple compared to the programming skills I needed for the other projects, so I spent the month of January going through a more difficult introduction to Python.

Reconstructing Dunkirk's fortifications, and multiple networks of communication

Digital humanities is a remarkable method of identifying historical connections hidden in traditional, analogue historical analysis. As I wrote in November 2015, “Historians soon learn that not all that is present is easily visible.” Even relatively small networks, such as the Dunkirk urban intelligence network, profit immensely from digital humanities tools such as Cytoscape, Mindnode, and Palladio.

The algorithmic literature of Oulipo

The first of the digital annexes that I’m working on is the canonical Cent mille milliards de poèmes (A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems) by Oulipo co-founder, Raymond Queneau. The text is inspired by combinatorics in its basic functioning, but it was almost immediately digitized by Oulipo as well, using some of the first computers.

Bringing the Dunkirk urban intelligence network to life

The digital humanities landscape has changed substantially in the past year. Google Earth, the most user-friendly and widely available GIS-style platform, will cease operation at the end of 2015. Some of its services will be rolled into Google Maps. But the future for Google Earth’s technical drawing and polygon functions is unknown. Support for Gephi, the most widely used network analysis software in the humanities, has unofficially ceased; no new updates have been available since January 2013. Gephi does not operate well with Apple’s latest OSX El Capitain update, and no word has yet been forthcoming as to when such operability issues will be addressed. In the interim humanities and social science experts are increasingly shifting to Cytoscape. Originally designed with National Institute of General Medical Sciences funding to map genome, molecular, and biological pathways, Cytoscape now enjoys growing popularity in the digital humanities community. 

 

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