Blog

Named Entity Extraction: Productive Failure?

Digital Humanities, Naval History
This past week in my Humanities Data Analysis class, we looked at mapping as data. We explored ggplot2's map functions, as well as doing some work with ggmap's geocoding and other things. One thing that we just barely explored was automatically extracting place names through named entity recognition. It is possible to do named entity recognition in R, though people say it's probably not the best way. But in order to stay in R, I used a handy tutorial by the esteemed Lincoln Mullen, found here. I was interested in extracting place names from the data I've been cleaning up for use in a Bookworm, the text of the 6-volume document collection, Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, published in the 1920s by the…
Read More

On Newspapers and Being Human

Digital Humanities, NULab, Viral Texts
Last week, an opinion piece appeared in the New York Times, arguing that the advent of algorithmically derived human-readable content may be destroying our humanity, as the lines between technology and humanity blur. A particular target in this article is the advent of "robo-journalism," or the use of algorithms to write copy for the news.[ref]The article also decries other types of algorithmically derived texts, but the case for computer-generated creative fiction or poetry is fairly well argued by people such as Mark Sample, and is not an argument that I have anything new to add to.[/ref] The author cites a study that alleges that "90 percent of news could be algorithmically generated by the mid-2020s, much of it without human intervention." The obvious rebuttal to this statement is that algorithms are…
Read More

Wiggly Tales: A Random Tale Generator

Uncategorized
[This semester I'm taking Humanities Data Analysis with Professor Ben Schmidt. One of our tasks for this week was to build a random-walk generator using 3-grams. Here's my quick writeup of my generator cross-posted from our course blog.] We’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales around my house recently, so I wanted to see how well-spun of a tale I could create by walking randomly through a collection of fairy tales. I selected four fairy-tale collections from Project Gutenberg to test this idea on. Code is on GitHub. I selected these four collections: The Thousand and One Nights, Volume 1 The Blue Fairy Book (by Andrew Lang) Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault The addition of the Arabian Nights stories to Western European fairy tales…
Read More

Geography in the American Quasi-War with France

Uncategorized
After an AHA in which I heard a lot about how digital history needs to be about results as well as methodology, I decided to write up a post about the results I gained from mapping the Quasi-War. Special h/t to Cameron Blevins and Yoni Appelbaum for inspiring me to write about my research. I'm also using Yoni's hyperlink-style citations. For my seminar in Empires and Colonialism this past semester, I wrote about the United States' Quasi-War with France. The paper argues that the Quasi-War was one of the United States' first chances to engage with international law on a broad scale, and that the conflicting legal realities of an undeclared war helped to destabilize the French empire in the Caribbean to the breaking point. As part of that seminar paper, I mapped…
Read More

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Uncategorized
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, honoring a woman who is often credited with being the first computer programmer because of her work programming for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine in the 1840s. The day honors Ada and all women who are involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I am not a woman in a STEM field, not really. But I am celebrating Ada Lovelace Day today because I am the humanities scholar I am through the influence of a woman who did work in STEM---my mom. So I'd like to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2014 by honoring my mom. My mom was an elementary school teacher for the first part of her adult life. Once she had kids, she transitioned to writing elementary-school textbooks for a small press, a role…
Read More

Boston Maps Project After One Semester

Uncategorized
The major work on the Boston Maps Project for the semester is wrapping up this week. This semester, we ended up with 108 users (about 100 students) who contributed to 19 maps and over 400 annotations on our Omeka site. Review: The Process Throughout the semester, I attended an average of three full class periods for each of the five classes that participated heavily in the project. Some of these meetings were scheduled in advance; others were scheduled when I noticed a particular problem across a large number of students in the class. The initial instruction took two forms. In two classes, I explained the instructions about georectification in a separate class period from my instruction about annotations. In the others, I did all the instruction about both topics in…
Read More

Introducing the Boston Maps Project

Digital Humanities
This semester, Northeastern University's history department is branching out into new territory: we're beginning a large-scale digital project that is being implemented across several classes in the department. The goal of the project is to investigate urban and social change in the city of Boston using historical maps. We're very excited to be partnering with the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library for this project. This project was originally conceived as an offshoot of a group project from Prof. William Fowler's America and the Sea course last spring. The original plan was just to think about how the waterfront changed, but it has expanded significantly in response to feedback from faculty in the department. Our focus has become both the topography and the culture of Boston, and how…
Read More

McMullen Naval History Symposium Recap

Digital Humanities, Naval History
This weekend, I had the privilege of presenting a paper at the McMullen Naval History Symposium. It was my second time at the U.S. Naval Academy, and I have had a great time. Our Panel I organized a panel titled "Politics of the Sea in the Early Republic," in which the panelists looked at how the navy and maritime concerns influenced political discourse (and vice versa). Bill Leeman argued that Thomas Jefferson's approach to the navy in the Barbary Wars was more pragmatic than idealistic. The question of who could declare war--was it the president or the Congress?--was a live one in the early republic. What were the president's powers when a foreign country declared war first? These are the questions that Jefferson had to grapple with as he sent…
Read More

Reading List: Atlantic World

Naval History
At the moment, I'm in the process of determining my PhD exam fields for a degree in world history. The "world" part is important: it means that my exams and my dissertation will have a global focus. One of the requirements is a world-history-focused field. For my world history field, I've chosen to do Atlantic World, since that seems most relevant to a study of the American navy. I came up with my list based on this seminar website, as well as other books I've heard of, plus a few that my professor suggested. This semester I'll be doing a directed reading of about 1/3 of the books on my list, and the rest will be for me to read before exam time. I've often lamented that more graduate students…
Read More

Passing on the Scissors and the Quill: Editorial Tenure in Viral Texts

Digital Humanities, NULab
The newspaper business was highly variable in the nineteenth century (in different ways than it is in the 21st century). Changes in editorship, political affiliation, and even location were frequent. Editorial changes were particularly significant, since very few editors maintained exactly the same newspaper that they inherited from a predecessor. Editors came and went quite often, passing on the "scissors and the quill," in the words of the outgoing editor of the Polynesian, Edwin O. Hall. [caption id="attachment_426" align="alignnone" width="1545"] A Hoe press, of the type made famous by John McClanahan, editor of the Memphis Daily Appeal (Creative Commons licensed image from flickr user jwyg)[/caption] (more…)
Read More