An update from Isabel Morris and Becca Napolitano.
Once per semester, the Center for Digital Humanities invites proposals from members of the Princeton faculty, Princeton post-doctoral fellows, and Princeton graduate students for Seed Grants to support individual or collaborative research projects.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
The Blue Mountain bibliographic editing team has recently finished revising metadata for the French modernist magazine SIC (1916-1919), one of the 34 avant-garde periodicals in the Blue Mountain Project digital archive. This process has revealed the dynamic and fluid life of periodicals, the developments of modernist art and literature, and a slight tension between generating the ideal of “neutral” data and our scholarly urge to interpret. We are creating this metadata to provide information that is machine-actionable; that is, we are writing code to allow a computer program to harvest information about SIC and render it in a usable form. For example, if a researcher wants to track the price of the magazine over time, a few lines of computer script will read our metadata, harvest the data, and the researcher can use visualization software to render this information in a graph. If Blue Mountain is to provide a spring of clean data, the encoded metadata serves as the wellspring.
When I tell people I’m writing my dissertation on 20th century amateur minstrel shows in the United States, I am typically met with one of two reactions: shock that these performances occurred with such frequency (and well into the 1960s at that), or confusion about what a minstrel show actually is (many people have never heard of minstrelsy at all). When I tell them I attended an instance of staged minstrelsy in Tunbridge, Vermont last March (2015), utter bewilderment ensues.
This year, Blue Mountain is going to flood the library.
The question wasn’t exactly new. I had heard ones like it before, in emails and at conferences: When did scholars start using letters to indicate rhyme schemes?
This is an exciting time for the folks working on Mapping Expatriate Paris. Thanks to the efforts of Carl Adair and Ellie Green, we recently completed the first major phase of our project, taking down a complete diplomatic transcription of all the card faces in the Sylvia Beach lending library card catalog. This has been no small task. In total there are 568 names in the catalog many with multiple cards to their name. Taking recto verso into account, this amounts to 2,329 images in our indexed image directory. Among the challenges of a diplomatic transcription are the many irregularities and eccentricities in Sylvia Beach’s notation, not to mention the sometimes more straightforward difficulties of deciphering her hand. We are still working out which scripts are definitively her own, but most of the cards do seem to have been made by Beach herself, or most likely, in some cases by her young assistant Françoise Bernheim. It is a testament to Carl and Ellie’s perseverance and professionalism that we were able to complete this project phase over the summer of 2015, just as we had planned.