visualize it

Booker’s article used visuals to illustrate his arguments regarding the changes in land use in the San Francisco Bay. I think his attempts were partially successful. I should say at the outset that I am not really a visual learner and generally prefer to learn through text. That being said, I recognize the utility of visual tools and am well aware that many students are visual learners. Thus, it is pedagogically important to use appropriate visual tools.

Nonetheless, Booker’s article illustrates both the necessity of using visualizations well and just how difficult that can be. Several of his maps lacked keys and had a difficult to decipher graph at the bottom. I frequently come across poor graphics, even in well respected magazines. When it is done poorly, the utility of data visualization is undermined. Presenting complex data in visual form is difficult.

Can online and easily accesible data visualization tools help make this process easier? Maybe. I looked at visualizing.org and stat planet. I can imagine using both of them in undergraduate courses. Visuals like this one do a nice job of illustrating data that is relevant to what I teach.

I could imagine creating an assignment in which students created their own visual. I may include an option to create a visual in my planned women and politics digital project. In addition to visualizing.org, students could use something like stat planet to show the spatial dimension of data.

thematic research collections

I have to admit that I found this week’s reading uninspiring. The creation of Thematic Research Collections seems like a good idea, but Palmer’s take on their function was not very insightful. In fact, I have to quibble with Palmer’s definition and explanation of research. She writes:

Scholars are not only constructing environments where more people can do research more conveniently, they are also creating new research. Like other scholarship in the humanities, research takes place in the production of the resource, and research is advanced as a result of it.

What kind of research is the production of a resource? It certainly is valuable and has scholarly uses, but do we need to make a distinction between the gathering and curating of resources and the use of those resources to make a scholarly contribution or argument? At the least, Palmer does not consider this distinction and its potential importance.

In addition to reading Palmer, I browsed the Writing of Indigenous New England project on the Omeka site. It confirmed my sense that TRCs can be extremely valuable resources. That site has a substantial collection of writing and is organized both by collection and exhibit. Some sections could provide more context and the layout could be improved to make the site easier to navigate, but it has a nice variety of resources.

The Women Writer’s Project Collection also confirmed the utility of TRCs. I see that they are in the process of redesigning that collection, and it looks like the future collection will be easier to navigate. My favorite part of the collection was the lab section, which contained a number of interesting visualization tools, like this one.

cyberinfrastructure

For this week, I read Campbell, picked out an assignment from the DS 106 website that might be useful, and took very preliminary steps to setting up a wordpress environment for my future class.

Campbell has an interesting idea to require students to create their own cyberinfrastructure. Requiring this would address some of the problems we discussed last week in our discussion of the tension between templates and control. Although technology is ubiquitous very few of us possess the technical knowledge and ability to create or control an online environment. I don’t know that such a project should be required for all students, but I do think it would be a good thing to require for our new Digital Humanities minors!

In my future digital women and politics course, I am thinking of requiring students to create blogs and update them with reading reflections each week. This would get them used to wordpress and to creating online content so that the major digital course assignment would seem more manageable. The DS 106 website had a “find your voice” blog assignment that I would consider assigning at the beginning of my course. The assignment is:

The best blogs are ones that express a person’s personal voice: whether that be their sense of humor, wit, likes, dislikes that sort of thing. Find an example of a blog where the author’s voice shines through their posts and give a reason of why you like their posts. See if you can use this to inspire your posts during the semester.

This assignment could help students think about personalizing their blog and developing their own blog voice.