Exploring the Digital Humanities, American University in Cairo


cairo visa 2011 trip 2015


“Exploring the Digital Humanities” event

Exploring Space-Time Representation in the Digital Humanities Workshop
David Joseph Wrisley (AUB) @DJWrisley

American University in Cairo
30 September 2015

Download the event flyer here.

The workshop/presentation focuses on varieties of locative research and pedagogy.  It will introduce participants to some aspects of a sub-field in the digital humanities, known by many different names: geohumanities, spatial humanities, locative media-enabled/location-based research, thick/deep mapping.  It will have a presentation component and a hands-on component.

Topics that will be discussed in the overview of projects and hands-on session will include: the exploration of differential geographies, layered map visualizations, close and distant exploration of spatial data, community mapping, mapping as pedagogy and argument, the rhetoric(s) of visualization and the “contingency of looking” at data.

No previous knowledge is assumed.  The hands-on will go at the pace of the participants.  Participants should have a laptop, not a tablet.


To prepare:

Complete this survey.
Create an academy account at CartoDB (for students, faculty, researchers)
Check out the CartoDB map academy (time permitting)

Skills learned in hands-on:

  • -basic web mapping
    -JSON and CSV formats
    -inserting a link in html
    -simple SQL query to a geospatial database
    -bringing in custom map tiles
    -get geospatial data
    -using Google spreadsheet
    -calling data from one place to be used in another



Sample Projects (30 mins):

Basic questions: what is the data involved? how was it acquired? how is it visualized here? what are the tensions between content and tool?

Hypercities Egypt – an exploration of the spatial aspect of Cairene Twitter from 30 Jan-8 Mar 2011.

Visualizing Medieval Places – mapping the places mentioned in 4 centuries of medieval French, 250+ texts at present.  Specific finding.

Literary Geography of Christine de Pizan – mapping the places mentioned in a medieval woman author’s oeuvre (late 14th/early 15th c)

The Places of Rai’tu Ramallah – a student project on place and memory in the Palestinian novel by Mourid Barghouti @Randa_DH

Mapping Gothic France – exploring religious architecture and the seismic thesis.

Mapping Language Contact in Beirut – curation of written language data within the metropolitan area of Beirut, carried out by faculty, undergraduate and graduate students.

Digital Karnak Timemap and Google Earth – a spatio-temporal narrative and virtual reality exploration of the Karnak complex near Luxor.  KML file here.

Women in computing (timeline.js) – a time-focused media-rich timeline maker.  Tips

Cairo soundscape – a mashup of a soundscape map built on the fly 28-29 September.  (an example of Brussels)

Beirut publishes… – a planned historical map of Beirut publishing and book selling (Spring 2016)

Towards a Peer Review in the GeoHumanities – a community consultation to articulate concerns about what makes a good spatial project.

If you would like to find out more, I recommend the list maintained of Humanities GIS projects maintained by the GeoHumanities SIG of the Association of Digital Humanities Organizations.


COME JOIN US!    Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut and CFP


Questions and Discussion (10 minutes)

Possible Hands-On Exercises (80 minutes)

1  Some JSON data self collected this September.  Time as choropleth, time as torque.  (CartoDB, Json and CSV)

Save this file to your laptop (it is a json file located in my dropbox). Imagine the Dropbox visualization of the data.  Open CartoDB.  From dashboard, select “your datasets.”  Drag and drop the file to the box. Click “connect dataset.”  Look at the data view.  Look at the map view.  From the wizard (in map view) explore ways of visualizing facets of the data.  Save this file and notice the difference in format (CSV). Try some different views.  What views show meaningful aspects of the data? Notice that torque does not work.  Why do you think this is?

2  Animating Mapping Gothic France data (data scraped using Kimono as API)  (CartoDB, CSV and html)

Save this file (CSV).  Examine it in data view and map view.  Explore what kinds of meaningful visualizations you can make.  What aspect of the data is show in each of them? What can we say about data being incomplete?  Try to make a spatial animation according to date built and another according to date destroyed.  

In map view, select info window. Select click and choose the metadata you would like to show up in the info box.  Go back to map view and check your work.  In info window mode click on the </> for “change html”.  Insert the following line of html into the very end of the code, just before the last </div>:

<a href=”{{url}}” target=”_blank”>View original page</a>

Go back to map view to see what has happened.  Change the string “view original page” to your own words.  Check the map view again.

3  Filtering large data set to get at aspects of data (language contact data)  (CartoDB and SQL)

Save this file.  Examine it to see what it contains and how its features might be visualized.  In map view, using the wizard try to use color to indicate certain features.  Can you change the random colors proposed?

From map view, click on the SQL tab.  After SELECT * FROM mlcb, insert this query

WHERE general_context = ‘Advertising’

And click on apply query, go back to map view and check what happened.  Now try

WHERE scripts_used =’Arabic script’ AND languages_used_=’Arabic’

Did all examples of advertisements and Arabic script and writing show up on the map? If not, why not?

4  Notice that the tab “data library” in map view.  This is a library of open datasets you can call up and layer with any data you have.

5  Creating a digital story with a map (Odyssey with Markdown)

Go to Odyssey.  Choose a style of story.  In the sandbox, change the name and creator. Notice what happens as you customize.  Try changing the mapbase to http://mapwarper.net/maps/tile/10845/{z}/{x}/{y}.png

Markdown is a simple encoding schema that allows basic instructions about a text to be rendered (even easier than html).

Change the center to 33.898962, 35.471529 and then the L.marker to the the nearby coordinate of your choice. To insert a picture use this

![name of pic](http://www.webURL.com)

Make sure you use the URL of the picture itself, not of a page on which it is found.

You should also be able to insert a json file from CartoDB. For example, go back to either our MappingGothic or MLCB file in CartoDB.  In map view and the wizard, create a simple view. In the upper right hand corner click on “visualize” (and again on “create a map”) and then again on “publish”.  Copy the right most js link.   This can be inserted using the following lines:

cartodb_filter: “column=’VALUE'”
vizjson: “http://{user}.cartodb.com/api/v2/viz/{your-viz-key-here}/viz.json”

The hashtag # creates a section division.  What follows the hashtage will be the title of the slide, the text inset after the coordinates is the page text.  Try inserting another slide, new coordinates (get them from Google Maps) and a new pictureWhen finished, the story can be downloaded as an html file and then viewed in the browser C: or saved in public_html in your server space and viewed live.

6  Creating a timeline.js (Knightlab)


To read more:

I compiled a reading list after the Spatial Humanities workshop at the Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut 2015.

Some studies I referred to in the workshop:

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, Jeffrey Schnapp.  Digital_Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2014). Open access download here.

Guldi, Jo. “What is the Spatial Turn?”  Spatial Humanities: A Project of the Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship (U of Virginia). Web.

Kretzschmar, William. “GIS for Language and Literary Study,” Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Study (New York: MLA). Web.

Presner, Todd, David Shepard, Yoh KawanoHyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard UP, 2014). Print.

Travis, Charles BAbstract Machine: Humanities GIS (Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2015). Print.

Wrisley, David Joseph.  “The Spatial Humanities: an Agenda for Pre-Modern Research,” Porphyra 22 (Dec 2014): 96-107.  Web.


CFP Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut 2016

Call for Papers/Proposals for Mini-courses DHI-B 2016

Digital Humanities Institute – Beirut
Beirut, Lebanon
18-22 January 2016

Proposals are now being accepted for presentations at a half-day colloquium and for 2-hour/4-hour mini-courses.  Both the half-day colloquium and the mini-courses will take place during the 2nd Digital Humanities Institute Beirut at the American University of Beirut (18-22 January 2016).

The colloquium will be a public event, open to the local academic community. Mini-courses will only be open to participants in DHI-B and will be required for those seeking a certificate of participation.

  1.  Presentations: The colloquium is an opportunity to present digital research and projects in all stages of development for community feedback. Proposals for presentations should range from 250 to 400 words and include any relevant visuals. We are particularly interested in topics related to the Arab world (Arabic language and literature, Arab diasporic studies, Arab-American studies, mapping MENA, Arabic corpora), but any subject related to the wider Digital Humanities is welcome.  Submissions will be accepted from all levels of participants: students, instructional technology, librarians, alt-academics, staff, independent researchers and faculty.  Presenters should plan for speaking a maximum of 15 minutes with ample time for collective discussion.  Only presenters in attendance at the DHI-B will be allowed to present.  Proposals will be accepted for presentations in English, Arabic and French.
  2.  Mini-courses: In addition to the week-long workshop in which each participant is enrolled, there will be another opportunity to acquire digital humanities skills and knowledge.  The mini-courses will be in the form of one 4-hour session or two 2-hour sessions offered over two separate afternoons. These mini-courses should be thought of a crash course for total beginners and they should include some hands-on with focus on a specific digital humanities-related concept, skill or tool.  Ideas we have for this already include a quick introduction to mobile game development, WordPress for course development, an introduction to LaTeX, a fast introduction to stylometry, learning how to use an API.  Proposals for mini-courses should range from 500-750 words.  Please be specific in your proposal about what format you would like (2 or 4 hours), what kind of space you require and provide us with a preliminary course outline.  Proposals will be accepted for mini-course to offered in English, Arabic and French.

Please submit proposals by 1 November by 11:59pm (GMT+3) to dhibeirut@gmail.com.  The program committee of DHI-B will review the submission and notify authors by 15 November 2015.

For more information, contact David Wrisley dw04 (at) aub (dot) edu (dot) lb or dhibeirut@gmail.com.