Passing on the Scissors and the Quill

Digital Humanities, NULab, Viral Texts
Faithful readers of this blog (all one of you) will notice that I haven't posted in almost a year. It's not that I've had nothing interesting to say, but rather that I've been too busy with those interesting things to write about them for the blog. Here's a brief rundown. In the summer of 2014, my family moved to Fairfax, VA, when my husband was hired by George Mason University. For the 2014-2015 school year, I commuted to Boston from Virginia almost every week so I could finish my coursework at Northeastern University. In August 2015, I passed my comprehensive exams and defended my dissertation proposal, officially becoming a PhD candidate. For the past year, I've been researching and writing my dissertation, as well as continuing to work on the Viral…
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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…
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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…)
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Frontier Editor: Orion Clemens (1825-1897)

NULab
Though he's often overshadowed by his younger brother Samuel, Orion Clemens had a colorful and varied career that included agriculture, journalism, and politics on the frontier of the United States. He was the eldest of seven children, though only he, Samuel, and their sister Pamela survived to adulthood. The Clemens family moved from Tennessee to Hannibal, Missouri, in 1839, where Orion worked in the general store. As a young man, he moved to St. Louis and began to study law.[1. Apparently the law education didn't "take"; Samuel Clemens wrote to his mother and sister in 1875, "If he were packed and crammed full of law, it would be worthless lumber to him, for his is such a capricious and ill-regulated mind that he would apply the principles of law with…
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Editor Vignette: Edward E. Cross

NULab
In my work on Viral Texts, I run across a host of interesting people, including editors whose lives are just as interesting as the stories they publish. To highlight some of these interesting people, I'm writing short posts about them as I research their papers. This first vignette is about the first editor of the first newspaper published in Arizona, before Arizona was even a state. I write about him today on the 150th anniversary of his death. Edward Ephraim Cross (1832-1863) Edward Cross began his newspaper career at the age of 15, at the Coos Democrat, a paper in his native Lancaster, New Hampshire. He moved to Cincinnati in 1850, where he continued to work as a printer, now at the Cincinnati Times.  Soon, Cross became a reporter for the Times, even becoming their Washington…
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Boston-Area Days of DH Wrap-up

Digital Humanities, NULab
[cross-posted to HASTAC.org] Now that it's been almost a month since the Boston-Area Days of DH, I figured I'd better write a wrap-up of the conference. It was my very great pleasure to help Prof. Ryan Cordell organize the conference, and along the way I learned a lot about DH and about scholarly work in general (and about scheduling and organization and making sure the coffee gets to the right place...). The Boston-Area Days of DH conference was sponsored by Northeastern University's NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. Originally, it was designed to coincide with the worldwide Day of DH, sponsored by CenterNet. It would do in a conference what Day of DH does online: highlight the work that Boston-area digital humanists are doing and start conversations based on that…
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Developing High- and Low-Tech Digital Competencies

Digital Humanities, NULab
Last week, Ben Schmidt gave a talk at Northeastern, part of which was about developing technical competency in digital methods. This semester, I’ve had the chance to develop my technical competency in working with data, mostly by jumping in with both feet and flailing around in all directions. The task I was given in the NULab has allowed me to play with several different digital methods. The base project was this: turn strings such as these 10138 sn86071378/1854-12-14/ed-1 sn85038518/1854-12-07/ed-1 8744 sn83030213/1842-12-08/ed-1 sn86053954/1842-12-14/ed-1 8099 sn84028820/1860-01-05/ed-1 sn88061076/1859-12-23/ed-2 7819 sn85026050/1860-12-06/ed-1 sn83035143/1860-12-06/ed-1 7792 sn86063325/1850-01-03/ed-1 sn89066057/1849-12-31/ed-1 into a usable representation of a pair of newspapers who share a printed text. This snippet is 5 lines of a document of over 2 million lines, so obviously doing the substitutions by hand was not really an option.…
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