Progress Report: Cornelia Adair and Digital Storymaps

Initially, I was hesitant to use Omeka, because I felt out of my element in navigating the program and struggled to do basic tasks (e.g., creating a simple wepbage and putting it on my home site). But after playing around with it for the better part of two weeks, I’ve grown to appreciate how powerful the program is (especially in connection to project-related plugins, like Neatline). I’ve gotten more confident navigating my website and adding/categorizing items to my exhibit on Cornelia Adair. Currently, my homepage looks like this:

As you can probably infer, I have some major work to do–for one thing, I need to type out an introduction (re: the “about” section) that outlines Cornelia Adair’s biographical context and significance. Right now, my next big task is to get familiar with Neatline. Although I can link the items I’ve created in Omeka to records on Neatline, I’m struggling to pinpoint the Neatline records to specific locations on a map (I had thought it would be as easy as typing in locations on a search engine, but alas….). Given that the bulk of my project focuses on mapping out biographical information to tell a story about Adair’s connection to geographic spaces, I need to develop the map on Neatline or consider using a different plugin.

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Project Updates

In my project I am using timeline js in order to create two different timelines, one describing the events that occurred in the Peloponnesian War and the other showing the order in which Thucydides writes about the events of the war in his works.  In the second timeline I plan to add an analysis of the works of Thucydides. The trickiest part of the timeline is making the events work in a way that shows the difference between the actual events and the events described by Thucydides but in creating two timelines I think that this should be an easy enough problem to fix. I also plan on finding images and other pieces of media to go on the timeline in order to make it seem more user friendly.

Progress Report: Map of Black Politicians in the Natchez Region following the Civil War

For my project I have been working with Professor Behrend’s research on black politicians in the Natchez region after the Civil War. My final goal is to create a map, or at least the prototype for a map, detailing each person Professor Behrend has information on. With the map, I want to emphasize the change in the amount of black politicians in this region over time. Focusing on this increase highlights the grassroots democracy occurring during this time period, which is one of the main concepts in Professor Behrend’s book. I believe that a visualization of this concept (in this case, a map) would further underscore the point, particularly in a form that takes less time to consume and process than a book.

As it stands currently, Professor Behrend has his research on each politician stored in an online spreadsheet. Besides name and political office(s) held, the spreadsheet also includes biographical information such as birth year, county, occupation (besides political office), wealth, literacy status, slave status, and party affiliation.

Online spreadsheet storing Professor Behrend’s research.

If all works out, I plan to use Omeka with the plugin Neatline and SIMILE Timeline in order to create the map. I chose these programs because of their ability to both create a map and incorporate a timeline. The timeline is important, I believe, because I want to emphasize change in the political circumstance of this region over time.

Installing Neatline has been one of the technological problems I have encountered so far. I have Omeka installed and running on my computer, but Neatline has been more of a problem. Apparently Neatline can be difficult to work with, so in order to deal with this Kirk and I have discussed getting a version of Neatline to run on a campus computer and doing the work for the project there.

Screenshot of the page I encounter while trying to use Neatline.

Currently Kirk and I are also working to create a comma-separated value (CSV) file of the spreadsheet data. One of the main problems we have been running into with the spreadsheet format of the data is slight spelling inconsistencies and multiple values in one category. For instance, the spelling of “mulatto” differs slightly between people (due to the different spellings in the original records Professor Behrend was working off of). While a person could understand that it is two different spellings of the same word, a computer cannot without being told. Different spellings have made the data somewhat harder to sort out.

The other main formatting issue occurs when one category has multiple values. For instance, if a person held more than one political office, those two (or three, or four, etc.) are all under the category “Political Position.” The computer reads each category as one value, so if one person was a constable and another was a constable and a delegate, it would not recognize those two people as having had the same position. “Constable” and “Constable and delegate” are completely different values (not overlapping) to the computer. In order to solve these formatting issues, Kirk and I are creating a CSV file, where a comma indicates that what came before and what comes after the comma are completely separate values, even if they are in the same category. This will allow me to work with people who had multiple positions, was illiterate at one point but literate at another, or any other category that has multiple values. This CSV file will be uploaded to Omeka as a collection, which will then be used to create the map.

Example of a collection in Omeka.

In terms of the content itself, the major issue is sometimes there is not enough specific information. For instance, the location for each person is a county. This means that many people have the same location, so when I try to map them they are all in the same spot. Instead of looking like multiple points on the map, it simply looks like one point for each county. In order to combat this, what I have decided to do is place each person randomly throughout the county and have a disclaimer somewhere on the map which indicates that this, within county lines, the placement of markers is random. Another content problem is that sometimes we are missing values for certain categories. While most missing values are simply inconvenient—as we would like to be able to provide more information on each person—the one area that is it hindering is if there are no dates for political office. However, this only happens in a few cases so I think if the people without dates for political office are just on the map and not the timeline, the overall trend of an increasing amount of black politicians in the region will still be shown.

While I have run into a few problems so far—particularly on the technical, formatting, and content fronts—I believe they are all issues which can be overcome with help as I move farther along on this project.

Progress: Cold War Constructs and How They Relate to the Bond Films

I’ve finally decided on a platform – WordPress. The simplicity of the layout, the editing tools available, and the interface all prove to be most effective in displaying my project. We’ve used WordPress before, but I had never spent much time playing with certain features or other tools.

After deciding on the layout, I began getting to work. I changed up the theme, font size, font color, the header image, the site icon, and much more.

My project, which can be viewed here, aims to provide evidence that shows the connection between the James Bond films and the social/political constructs at the time of production. Out of all 24 (well, 27 if you include the films not produced by Eon Productions), I tailored down a list of six films that I will use in order to establish these connections, all of which is mentioned in the synopsis of my project, on the project’s website.

Some challenges i’ve had in my work so far is StoryMaps. I haven’t worked with StoryMaps before, so when I tried integrating a blank map onto my WordPress page just to see if ti would work, I found myself confused and I ultimately gave up. I’ll have to come back to StoryMaps seeing how it is an essential part of my project, but for the time being the challenges it’s given me have been too much to focus my time on.

This would just add to the list of changes I’ve had to make to my project since the thought first arose. I was originally going to try and compare all 24 James Bond films to their social counterparts in society, but doing so would have taken much more time than I have to work on the project. Since I had to scrap my original plan, I came up with a new idea. I decided to just choose six films instead of 24. And instead of focusing on the general cultural reactions the movies had, I decided to shift focus on the relationships between the films and the era of the Cold War/Space Race. This way, I will still be able to influence the reader to analyze the James Bond films, but I can do so using a more time-efficient method.

 

Another change that I’ve had to make to my project is shifting my focus. As I briefly mentioned, I shifted focus from a broad view of the cultural constructs to the way that the Bond films respond to larger problems created by the Cold War and Space Race. This was harder to do because it meant that my list of films decreased. There were only a certain amount of films produced within the ten-year span that I’m covering. Fortunately for me; however, I have already picked specific scenes that are going to help further my exploration.