Academic Hardcores and Academic Farbs

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In the book Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz encounters Civil War re-enactors of varying levels of seriousness about their craft. They divide into two main categories: hardcores and farbs. The hardcores get into their roles as accurately as possible, even starving themselves so they look like haggard Confederate soldiers. They eat, drink, and breathe the Civil War. (One hardcore says, "I don't do drugs; I do the Civil War.")[1.  Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), 14.] By contrast, the farbs dabble in re-enactment but do not trouble with the exacting details of appearance and behavior that hardcores do. Hardcores, of course, disdain farbs and farby behavior. Horwitz gets involved in this dichotomy of re-enactor culture because he joins up with…
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Lessons from a Google Fusion Table Graph

Digital Humanities
Armed with new and improved service record data, last night I set out to create a new network graph in Gephi, to see whether just new data would help to mitigate some of last time's problems. To be frank, Gephi beat me. My graph is so small, and my screen is so small, and the zoom function in the graph window is so bad (at least, I couldn't figure it out) that I couldn't really see my graph in order to draw any conclusions. All my data imported correctly, though, so I knew there was hope. I turned instead to Google Fusion Tables, an experimental data visualization app from Google. Unfortunately, it appears that the data tables work completely differently from Gephi's, so I did have to do some reformatting.…
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DigiWriMo Halftime Report

Digital Humanities
Today is November 15, the halfway mark in DigiWriMo/AcWriMo. It's time to check in and see how my DigiWriMo goals are progressing. Here are the goals: 1. Write one officer bio every day for the first 17 days, taking off Sundays. I'm happy to report that I'm right on target. Today, I completed the last of my officer bios: Stephen Decatur.  2. Write one or two ship bios for the remaining days. (Take Thanksgiving Day and Sundays off.) Since I just completed the officer bios, tomorrow begins the ship bios. These are going to take more work because for most of them, there is no one authoritative source to consult.  3. Blog about the progress and challenges of the site at least twice during the month. Well, here's blog post…
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The Lessons of a Bad Network Graph

Digital Humanities
Spurred by our DH reading group at Northeastern, as well as my general tendency to jump into things before really knowing what I'm doing, I decided a few weeks ago to download Gephi and see what sort of rudimentary networks I could create. I'd been cataloging the service record of each of my Preble's Boys officers, setting up the chart so that I could see concurrent service. I started out just looking to see whether any of the Boys had actually served on the same ship as Edward Preble, but as I created the chart (the link here is to a more fleshed-out chart with more comprehensive data), some other patterns began to emerge. So I thought, let's plug this into Gephi and see what happens! I set up my network, fumbling…
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WriMos

Digital Humanities
I remember the first time I heard the word(?) NaNoWriMo. First I thought: What in the world does that word(?) mean? It sounds a bit like an alien planet. Once I found out what it was, I thought: You people are insane. Write a novel in a month? That's crazy. I still think NaNoWriMo is crazy. But it has spurred several other WriMos that seem a little more useful to my current life: DigiWriMo and AcWriMo. Both of these challenges begin in about a week on November 1. And I'm going to try to do them both. I feel pretty certain that I won't make it to 50,000 words, but you never know. The cool thing about AcWriMo and DigiWriMo is that they work in tandem. I intend to do…
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THATCamp New England Roundup

Digital Humanities
On Saturday, I went to THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) New England at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I've known of THATCamps for several years, but this was my first chance to actually attend one. I went to four sessions: Libraries, Archives, and Museums; Customizing Omeka; Doing Digital History with Non-Digital Sources (link to notes); and Network Analysis. This post isn't a comprehensive record of everything that went on, but rather just a few things that I found interesting or valuable about the experience. 1. The value of collaboration. In at least two of the sessions I went to, collaboration was explicitly discussed: between colleagues in the same discipline, colleagues in similar disciplines, colleagues in totally different disciplines (historians and computer scientists!), and even professors and grad students. The…
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Omeka Development Plan

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In their book Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig advocate that digital historians should have a well-defined plan for their websites before they start. So I thought I'd share my ideas about Preble's Boys here, and perhaps get some feedback from others about the plan.   First off, the inspiration. I was inspired to do this project by thinking about how naval officers of the nineteenth century acted, specifically to what extent they acted in concert with their official orders or whether they tended to be influenced by each other. One pressing question was this: How much did they really interact with each other?  I don't have the primary sources to do this sort of investigation at this point (tracking down…
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