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USF Workshop Agenda

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 6 years, 1 month ago

Practice and Theory of 'Distant Reading'

An Introductory Workshop on Digital Humanities Methods

University of San Francisco. 1 March 2016,9am-12pm, Cowell Hall 214.

Workshop leader: Alan Liu

1. Introduction to Workshop  |  2. Demonstrations of Methods & Tools  |  3. Hands-on Practicums |  4. Discussion

     (Participant Self-Introductions)

1. Introduction to Workshop

  • Goals
    • Introduction to principal methods and tools of the digital humanities (DH).
    • Discussion of methodological, social, and philosophical implications of the methods and tools.
    • A metaphor for the new digital humanistic methods (including not just "distant reading" but also new kinds of close reading): "data observatory" 


  • Level of Workshop
    • The workshop is designed for humanities scholars and students who do not have specialized technical expertise or programming knowledge, but who are familiar with using computers and the Internet for accessing digital resources.
    • The workshop focuses on tools that--though chosen because they are influential, powerful, flexible, and/or extensible--have a level of use suited to beginners.  (The tools are some combination of lightweight, standalone, online, downloadable, or free.  They can be used either through a graphical user interface [GUI] or, if they are command-line tools, can be used following step-by-step recipes allowing beginners to produce interesting results.)
    • Not covered in this workshop are more advanced, customized, and specialized DH methods and workflows that require setting up a "development environment" on one's computer, usually operated at the command-line level.  Such a development environment often includes a combination of the following:
      • Python (a programming language/environment used in diverse research disciplines, with many extensible "packages" or "libraries" for a variety of text-processing, statistical, and other purposes).
      • R (programming language and software environment for "statistical computing and graphics")
      • Git and Github (version control and repository system for managing project revisions and sharing, collaborating on, or branching from projects).


  • Specific Focus of This Workshop: Use of Digital Methods for Analysis and Interpretation in the Humanities
    • Map of the digital humanities (dh_map-v3.pptx)
    • "Distant reading" in the digital humanities (phrase invented by Franco Moretti; see his Graphs, Maps, Trees).
    • Principal distant-reading methods covered in workshop:
      • Text analysis
      • Topic modeling
      • Social network analysis
      • [not included: GIS mapping]


  • Plan for Workshop
    • Demos and conceptual explanation arrow-right Hands-on Workshopping  arrow-right Discussion


2. Demonstration of Methods and Tools
    (with explanation of underlying concepts)

Goal A -- Observe General Patterns in Large Collection of Texts


Goal B -- Zoom In or Out on Collections of Texts With Easy to Use "Text Analysis" Tools

Introduction: What is Text Analysis?
A good orientation on beginning and advanced text analysis is Ted Underwood, "Where to Start with Text Mining?" (2012).



Goal C -- Topic Model Collections of Texts

Introduction: What is Topic Modeling?

Recommended reading for humanities scholars: Ted Underwood, "Topic Modeling Made Just Simple Enough" (2012). (See additional readings on topic modeling below.)



Additional Readings on Topic Modeling



Goal D -- Social Network Analyze Texts

Introduction: What is Social Network Analysis?

See readings on social network analysis below.


Social Network Analysis Tools



Additional Readings on Social Network Analysis




3. Hands-on Practicums 

Working individually or in teams, workshop participants will try their hand at one or more tools. The goal of the practicum is not mastery or even necessarily competence with a tool. It is to learn enough about the tool's concepts and applications to enable participants to imagine what projects could be designed if they had more time and practice.


Workstation desktop

  • General Instructions:
    • Choose one or more of the above tools (consulting guides and tutorials as needed). Especially recommended are the following tools: Antconc (text analysis), Mallet (topic modeling), and Gephi (social network analysis).
    • For working materials, choose something from the sample text sets (in plain text format) among the demo corpora in Alan Liu's DH Toychest: http://bit.ly/dhtoychest_democorpora. (Or import/create your own text sets.)
    • As the output for the practicum, participants are to capture a "souvenir," e.g., a screenshot or printout, and upload it to the workshop's "souvenirs" folder.  See Instructions for Leaving a Practicum Souvenir.
      (For the purposes of the workshop, even failed attempts can produce an interesting souvenir.)  Try for an interesting souvenir, meaning one that might open up further research questions and call for additional methods of analysis. 



  • Utility Tools (pre-installed on workstations):
    • Standard Microsoft Office programs
    • Windows Notebook program (for plain-text file editing)
    • Zip and unzip functions (compression and decompression) -- standard on the workstations
    • Jing (for screen capture) (useful to capture "souvenirs" for the workshop practicum):
      •  Workstations for this workshop also have the Jing program installed for more adept screen capture (available through the Jing shortcut in the DH Workshops folder on the desktop). The program allows you to select portions of your screen for screen capture, annotate the capture in a few ways, and save the captures. (This is the free version of the more powerful SnagIt product from the same company. You have to set up a free account on Jing.) Here's an example of Jing capturing part of a screen:
        This is especially useful for making "souvenirs" for the workshop.




4. Discussion

Alan Liu will lead a discussion based on workshop participants' "souvenirs" from the practicum.  The goal is to move from low-level issues to such large questions as: how do digital humanities methods signal changes in the humanities and in our ideas about the human world?














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