Data-Mining Walden: Tools for Literary Analysis

Henry David Thoreau had a fraught relationship with technology. As we discussed in our presentation, it is difficult to tell whether he would be on board with our digital projects regarding his work. What we can say for sure is that the technology we have engaged with this semester have allowed us to read his book, Walden, as deliberatively and as reservedly as it was written. By apprehending his text in the digital dimension we achieved new and unique insights into the way Thoreau thought about place and how he crafted his thoughts into writing. 

Melissa, Sean, Cal, and Emma each took a chapter to mine in order to track the language of place and its developments throughout the text. This required the downloading and installation of some software with the help of Kirk Anne and Dr. Schacht. Brianne worked on answering the “so what?” question by analyzing the data collected by the other group members. We worked with the Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK) and spaCy,both of which allowed us to mine for certain words and types of words. However, eached proved to have their own limitations within each chapter. We found that spaCy was better equipped in Cal’s mining of “The Ponds” whereas NLTK was more helpful for Melissa, Sean, and Emma.

Zooming out, data mining a text such as
Walden did not come without challenges. Whether it was the virtual machine or the local server, Python proved to be a very demanding language, one with a steep learning curve which kept us guessing a lot of the time. Similarly, NLTK and spaCy had to be downloaded directly to our devices in order to accomplish the task at hand. It became pretty clear that while digital tools can often make reading easier learning the tools necessary to do so is all but simple. Still, when grappling with the limitations of all of our tools we seemed to be simultaneously addressing larger questions about the utility of technology, just as Thoreau does in

Nevertheless, the technology proved indispensable for our project because it helped us to expedite the mining/reading process. Python, the language we used to learn more about Walden, allowed us to operate on the text, while spaCy and NLTK provided a bank of resources that we could apply to the chapters we all chose. Each tool informed us on a general sense of place which we followed up with closer readings. We were able to clearly discern between the broadly spatial chapters (“The Village” and “House Warming”) and the specifically geographic ones (“The Ponds” and “Conclusion”). Whether he was talking about physical places or metaphorical spaces, as in headspace, Thoreau constantly framed his thinking through place specific language. This sort of “mapping” truly makes Thoreau into the “Surveyor of the Soul” that Huey Coleman claims him to be. His attention to the local and the distant, from Concord to Siberia, demonstrates both the interconnectedness that technology in the 19th century was making possible and the expansive reach of an inner geography, a soul whose territory outran the map.

Just as some of Thoreau’s themes exceed the scope of a geographic specific reading, so too did our task at hand exceed the capabilities of some of our tools. One thing our group really wanted to stress in our presentation is the importance of validating failure in digital projects. All of the setbacks, miscues, and limitations faced by engaging with Jupyter Notebook, Atom, Python, Anaconda, spaCy, NLTK, and beyond were equally as useful to thinking about the digital humanities as our successes with each of these tools. When we encountered errors in our work we were forced to ask why. This moment of self-reflection was critical for doing digital work because of the knowledge that stood to be gained by asking questions about the tools. Coming to this class with a variety of digital backgrounds, it was very important that we moved as a unit. Fortunately, the tools we used leant themselves well to collaboration and, ultimately, this project became about creating our own community space around Walden. 

From his comparative measures of White and Walden Ponds, to his rambles through Concord, to his building of a house in the woods, and his reflections on place inward and outward, Thoreau was constantly attuned to the language of place. We too were attuned too language, constantly seeking the instances of geography in his text by moving through it digitally. Just as Thoreau spatializes his world in Walden, so too do we attend to space by tracking its relative importance throughout the book. By using digital tools we were able to read Walden collectively, collaboratively, effectively, and deliberately.

Paradise (to be) Posted: Uploading a Text to the Readers’ Thoreau

By Claire Corbeaux, Elizabeth Gellman, Anthony Lyon, Hannah Nicchi, and Avery Padula

The objective of our final group project was to add a text by Henry David Thoreau to The Readers’ Thoreau, a site with which we have been working all semester. Once this text was chosen and uploaded, we were to add informative and interpretive comments to the site. When we began researching Thoreau texts to work with, we knew we wanted to choose a text that related to some of the course themes that we had been discussing. We also knew we didn’t want to choose a text that was very long because we wanted to be able to thoroughly analyze the one we picked in the time we had. We stumbled upon
Paradise (to be) Regained, a book review by Thoreau on J.A. Etzler’s
The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery. An Address to all intelligent Men. In two parts. Upon reading it, we decided that it was a good text to pick because it corresponded to many of the discussions we had in class throughout the semester about technology and humankind’s relationship with it.

Thoreau finds Etzler’s book problematic because of Etzler’s ideas that technology can allow humans do develop a paradise wherein they do not need to labor in order to live in “all imaginable refinements of luxury” (Etzler 19). Thoreau’s skepticism of Etzler’s plans for technological improvement to revolutionize the world is evident throughout “Paradise (to be) Regained”. His distrust of certain elements of technology, as well as his distrust of its ability to improve human quality of life, is also reflected in
Walden, wherein Thoreau criticizes civilization for focusing on improving technology at the expense of the spiritual, personal advancement of all of humankind. For example, he writes in his “Economy” chapter of
Walden, “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate” (73). This represents the same brand of skepticism Thoreau harbored in his analysis of Etzler’s book, found in “Paradise (to be) Regained”.

After settling on this text, we searched for a plain text version of “Paradise (to be) Regained” to upload to The Readers’ Thoreau. We were able to find one on The Anarchist Library website. We then imported the text into Atom, an open-source text and source-code editor. Working in Atom allowed us to “clean up” the text, which involved removing “curly” quotation marks and replacing them with “straight” quotation marks and comma. This practice was made easier by using the find and replace function. We also removed all formatting and styling from the Anarchist Library version. Claire and Lizzie visited Dr. Schacht in his office hours to work on cleaning the text, and Claire wrote the Greek characters Thoreau includes in “Paradise (to be) Regained” in HTML. Another way we cleaned up the text with Atom was by formatting the block quotes in Thoreau’s review correctly, using the span tag and “blockquote-in-para” to format them.

The addition of the Greek characters and the use of the “blockquote-in-para” represented challenges that our group had to overcome. Claire had to crosscheck many different sources from the internet in order to uncover which codes could create which Greek letters. Additionally, the Anarchist Library digital text featured Greek characters with unusual accents added on certain Greek letters. However, research showed to Claire that these accents must have been a mistake, as there were no existing codes for several of the combinations of Greek letter and accent that the Anarchist Library featured. Another such challenge that occurred while we were trying to clean the text was that of the “blockquote-in-para.” Using this class within the span tag proved a challenge because it had to be formatted in a very particular way to ensure that a new paragraph was or was not created by the blockquote. As was explained to Claire by Dr. Schacht, if the blockquote was not to form a new paragraph, no space was added between the preceding text and the span tag.

There were a few other challenges our group faced while working on this project. For example, we were unable to upload the text to The Reader’s Thoreau at first because we were not allowed access. This  problem was solved when Dr. Schacht allowed Claire authorial access to upload the text to the site. Prior to this change, Claire had uploaded the text in the proper and agreed upon paragraph increments as blog posts such that we had a template to follow when it came time to actually upload our text as pages. Another problem we encountered was that once the text was uploaded, we experienced a brief moment where we were unable to post comments to the text. However, Claire was able to solve this by inspecting the sidebar menu latent within the WordPress page adding editor and realizing that there was an option under the “Discussion” tab that could be selected or deselected to allow or disallow commenting. Also, while uploading the text and turning it from blog posts into actual pages, the order of the pages became jumbled; however, this crisis was solved when Claire figured out that the order of the pages of text on a site could be altered simply by clicking and dragging.

Once the text was cleaned up using Atom, we set about comparing it to the scholarly text. Lizzie found the Milne Library text of “Paradise (to be) Regained,” which was in
The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, edited by Wendell Glick. We compared the physical text to the digital text we had found, seeing if there were any differences or discrepancies. Lizzie, Avery, and Hannah all read through both texts to look for differences. We found very few: on the first page of the physical text, there was a footnote that Glick added to the title “Paradise (to be) Regained,” which read “The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery. An Address to all intelligent Men. In two parts. By J.A. Etzler. Part First. Second English Edition. Pp. 55. London, 1842” (19). The other difference we found was that in the Milne library version, the word “alas” was followed by a comma, while in the Anarchist Library version, it was followed by an exclamation point.

Once this step was completed, Claire gained authorial access from Dr. Schacht to upload the text to The Reader’s Thoreau. We used the cleaned up version we completed in Atom, and added the footnote from the Milne Library version of the text, as it seemed important information to include. She was able to delete the blog post placeholders and add pages to the Paradise (to be) Regained site in the same paragraph distribution, except instead of individual posts, each page had the desired amount of paragraphs. We were then all able to add comments to the text on the Readers’ Thoreau website, which we each did at least two of. This was an interesting process because we were able to show how our previous knowledge of Thoreau’s beliefs and texts connected with our reading of “Paradise (to be) Regained.” Anthony, in particular, applied himself to the commenting process and sought to make explicit connections between “Paradise (to be) Regained and
Walden in his commenting.

Overall, this project was a great learning experience that really summed up everything we have learned in Dr. Schacht’s class. We were able to learn, not only about the technology we interacted with, but about Thoreau, and ourselves, as well. We experienced firsthand the power and the limitations of the technological tools we worked with. For example, while Atom was extremely useful to us while we were cleaning our text, particularly, through the find and replace function, it is not without its limitations. Most notably, working in Atom meant we couldn’t work collaboratively, so one person had to do much of the cleaning. Additionally, that person had to also know what they were doing, since, while working in Atom, there is no way to tell what it will look like in the Readers’ Thoreau, despite the help that the Markdown preview toggle option provides. We also learned about the power of WordPress and experienced this power first hand when granted authorial access. Claire was able to add pages, change their order, and dictate whether or not comments were allowed. Of course, WordPress also has its limitations, as it is not always very clear or obvious with its layout or formatting. It is for this reason that it is easy to make mistakes and not realize or be confused as to where certain functions or operations, such as the comment option, reside.

Lastly, we learned about Thoreau and cemented our perceptions of him, perceptions that many of us first formed while reading
Walden. Where
Walden saw Thoreau express his deep awe and partial distrust of certain aspects of technology, “Paradise (To Be) Regained” truly demonstrates Thoreau’s understanding of technology, but also his promotion of nature and the human spirit over technology. Indeed, in his essay, Thoreau condemns Etzler for trying to usher in a paradise on Earth through technology when humankind is itself so imperfect. Rather than control nature, Thoreau encourages humanity to understand nature and themselves in a more holistic, spiritual manner. Additionally, Thoreau analyzing humankind’s relationship with technology made us consider our own relationship to the technology of our day, whether we control it or if it controls us, whether it makes our lives paradisiacal or hellish, conversations we have been having consistently throughout the semester. Finally, we realized that Thoreau, despite living almost 200 years ago, was not so unlike us. Indeed, Thoreau wrote critical essays reviewing the works of others, just as many of us have done this past semester in some of our classes. And, just like us, Thoreau lived in a changing world that presented its inhabitants with a great deal of uncertainty, yet, like Thoreau, we must remember to live deliberately.


Project: Encoding Thoreau

By: Emilio Garcia, Cindy Castillo, Nicole Logrieco, Mallory DelSignore, and Anonymous

Our Project, Encoding Thoreau aimed at inquiring deeper into TEI, the markup language most commonly used for scholarly digital editing. Briefly covered in class, our group heavily focused in understanding TEI more thoroughly as well as using it to encode two of Thoreau’s journal entries using TEI. The purpose of our project was to not only transcribe the text into TEI, but to add more dimension to the text itself. By identifying locations, we were able to make a map, and through the tags, add more detail into our files about Thoreau’s journal entries. Together, we produced a journal entry in TEI code in an effort to not only better understand many aspects of TEI, but also Thoreau and his life.

As a whole, we had to decide what pathway we wanted our project to take. We initially rolled around with the idea of tracking changes through manuscripts, but eventually settled on taking two entries and encoding them into TEI using the software, Oxygen. After the long journey of finding our focus, it easily fell into place shortly after. We broke down the tasks into two teams: The Research Team and The TEI Team. To begin, one of us created a Google document and shared it with the team, as well as typed up our two chosen journal entries, January 30th and May 14th. Mallory and another group member marked up and color coded the text, using different colors to identify proper nouns, nouns, real, and artificial nouns. From there, Nicole took those nouns and properly tagged them. Emilio then used those tags in Oxygen to complete the actual encoding itself and tasked Cindy into looking over the files created to make sure everything looked in order as well as edit and format the groups blog post. As central as the process of encoding was to our project, there was also a great deal of research conducted in order to grasp a deeper understanding of the actual content we were looking and marking up so meticulously. For this mere reason, we were very much interested in researching on Thoreau and the locations he’d mention via his journal. In order to help our viewers conceptualize this even more definitively, one group member went a step further and put together a map of all the places mentioned in the journal entries we encoded using Google Maps.

As we take a step back now and reflect on the areas in which we felt we excelled and the areas in which we had the most difficulty, we all came to the mutual agreement that perhaps our first initial challenge stemmed from the utter fact that we did not fully grasp the task of our own project and just the TEI language overall. As we all identified ourselves as novice level regarding how comfortable we felt with TEI, having never worked with TEI or tasked with a similar project as the one proposed by this course, we were all a tad flustered in the beginning–probably more than just a “tad.” In fact, when we were first assigned to this project by Professor Schacht, we toyed with the idea of using fluid text, however, we eventually split ways with this approach as we could not locate enough versions of the journal entries that varied from the original one we had in order to complete that. As we internalized the reality that this approach was not exactly feasible, we went back to square one. From there though, we decided to regroup and focus on just picking out and identifying the nouns in the journal entries we had all agreed on so we could encode them. Although this was a step towards the right direction, we ran into the issue of marking up nouns that could not be encoded because we did not have enough knowledge of the TEI guidelines at the time.

Continue reading “Project: Encoding Thoreau”

Mapping Walden

Group Members: Clare Corbett, Jenna Doolan, Madyson Gillanders, Sophie Schapiro, and Tayler Thompson

The purpose of our project was to create a map to display the locations Thoreau mentions in Walden. We chose the places we felt were most essential to the text. Creating the map allowed us to put together images and names of the locations to visualize the places in Walden instead of just imagining them. The map also allows us to see where locations are in relation to each other. We are able to see where the locations he visited are in comparison to Walden Pond and compare this with the approximations of distance he gives in the text. Creating the map helped further our understanding of locations that were important to Thoreau and share this information with others.

Of course, we had to breakdown the creation of this map into different steps. To begin, we had to read both Walden and Selections from the Journal in their entirety to curate a list of places from both texts. We found that Thoreau mentioned quite a wide array of locations, which is somewhat surprising since most believed he lived in complete solitude. We divided up both texts to ensure each group member was doing equal amounts of work. Once assigned our sections, we each created a list of places that were included in the texts. After making individual lists, we combined our hand-picked places into one list. Afterwards, Dr. Schacht provided us with a list that was generated by the text-mining package, Spacy. This list included every place (and some just capitalized words) that was mentioned in Walden. This contained around 300 words; some of which we had missed, but we knew we had to narrow down the list. Our next step was to review the lists and delete every place that was not near Walden Pond and Thoreau’s cabin. Our next task was to put these places on a map. For places not already documented on Google Maps, we read their quotations in Walden and consulted sites like The Walden Woods Project to come up with a general location of each location with respect to Walden Pond. Next, we wrote descriptions on each place point on the map in regards to their significance in Walden, Thoreau’s life, and the world. Once we completed this step, we made sure to include a photo of each location to make our additions more detailed. Finally, we created comments in the margins of Walden where the places were found with a link to each point on the map and added a permalink for these comments to each description on the map. This was done so that while looking at the map, the direct quote in Walden could be accessed, and while reading through Walden the map could be accessed to give readers an image of where this place would be within Thoreau’s Walden. Although we worked as individuals for a majority of the time, we also worked as a group to check for consistency and detail.

As we progressed through the creation of our map, we did run into some challenges along the way. As mentioned, our group received a list of every place that was mentioned in Walden. This list was very useful when picking out the majority of places that Thoreau did frequent and visit. However, the list generated over 300 places, the majority of which did not have much significance in the text, such as India, China, and the Finger Islands. It did take time as a group to comb through the list and eliminate places like these. After this was completed, we needed to eliminate a variety of locations that Thoreau may have went to, but described in little detail. The goal of our project was to take the viewer on a ‘Virtual Tour’ of Walden, and to provide photographs and descriptions for significant places throughout the text. If we were barely able to describe the places on the list, we decided that it would be best to not include them on our map. Additionally, with certain places that we did choose to include, there was no geographic location for them in Google’s database. An example of this is Walden Woods. Walden Woods does exist, as it surrounds Walden Pond, however, there was no marker predetermined for it on Google Maps. We had to draw a line around the outskirts of the woods, and this took time to figure out how to effectively do this. While there were aspects of this project that were relatively simple, we still faced roadblocks that we had to resolve as a team in order to move forward.

Since none of us have ever used Google Maps before, we were determined to figure out how it operates and what features it has. In the process of doing this project, we learned that we can make the map either public or private. We also learned how to embed visuals and descriptions, which was helpful when sharing important places that Thoreau discussed throughout Walden. Google Maps is a great learning tool to utilize and it makes it so that people who view our map can visualize how close in proximity some of the places Thoreau mentioned are. Another great feature of Google Maps is that it can easily be facilitated to make other maps, whether it be for educational or personal purposes. While connecting our map with the text, we also discovered that we could make the link shareable so that other people reading the text have access to the map.

After researching the places mentioned in Walden and Selections from the Journal, our group gained a deeper understanding of Henry David Thoreau. During his younger years, he was educated at Cambridge College, representing the fact that he was very intelligent. Before officially settling at Walden, Thoreau spent a significant amount of time exploring the area surrounding the pond. This led to his decision to find solitude in the woods. While most people might think that he stayed at Walden during the entire time he was secluded, he actually left his cabin and the area of Walden on multiple occasions. Thoreau mentioned places on land and bodies of water throughout the world that he visited and researched. His detailed descriptions of these places shows that he knew a great deal about the United States and other nations. Thoreau’s love for nature and travel translated into his extensive journals about his time at Walden. This information allows readers to gain a better understanding of Henry David Thoreau’s life.

Check out the map:

The Spring of ‘65: Walter Harding and William Kelley

Written by David Beyea, Elyse Manosh, Domenica Piccoli and Shelby Schmigel

Our final presentation’s purpose was to tell the story of how Walter Harding brought “the lost giant of American Literature to SUNY Geneseo in 1965.” This “lost giant,” the author William Melvin Kelley, was a professor here in the English department for a brief period that spring semester. To tell this story, we created an exhibit on the Walter Harding Omeka site to add to the ongoing documentation of Harding’s tenure at Geneseo.

Our first and foremost task was to sift through the archives of the Milne Library to gather all documents relevant to our topic. We would not have had access to these archives nor even known where to start without the help of Special Collections Librarian Liz Argentieri, so shout out to Liz! Once we had a good selection of articles relating to both Harding and Kelley, we took numerous hours to select the most relevant documents for our project (consisting of letters, articles, and photos). Then, we scanned them and shared them on a group Google Doc, organizing them into sections of Kelley before, during and after Geneseo. This was probably the most time consuming part of our final project as it was difficult to determine which documents would be relevant, and easy for us to get side-tracked in sifting through these interesting the quirks of past events. In uploading the archives we rummaged through, we found that the “color” upload feature was our friend. At first, we scanned many old newspaper articles and documents in black and white and found the picture was unclear and fuzzy. Something so simple and silly that was  challenging for us, we know, but having to go back and re-scan was time consuming.

Once we scanned our documents, we laid out an exhibit plan to split up the individual collections (pages) to our exhibit. Elyse and Domenica were responsible for introducing the exhibit as well as connecting Harding, Kelley and Thoreau. Dave was responsible for the page providing information on Kelley at Geneseo, all he accomplished, his involvement with the campus, etc. Lastly, Shelby was responsible for Kelley after Geneseo, his legacy and beyond; basically how Geneseo impacted Kelley’s life and what came out of it. After we divided up tasks of who was going to be responsible for what information, we then got started with Omeka.

Initially, Omeka was not an easy platform to use. We had a multitude of questions: Can we all work on this together? Can only one person upload something? Is only one person able to be an Omeka SuperAdmin? As none of us had extensive knowledge of what Omeka is and how it works prior to this class, it took us a bit of time to get that ball rolling. Most of our group met with Dr. Schacht at one point to have a lesson in navigating Omeka.  Omeka requires Dublin Core metadata to organize its files and items. As a group, we decided to assign one person to be responsible for all the Dublin Core to help with keeping it consistent.

With using Omeka, we learned a lot about what worked well and what did not. Some of the “powers” of using Omeka included uploading items without alteration. We did not have to worry  about files being too large to upload, as the uploaded items never gave us a “this item is too large” notification (as we were mostly dealing with small files in the kilobyte variety). Another power of Omeka is the many themes and templates to choose from in organizing and designed an exhibit. We assigned someone to view other exhibits on the Walter Harding website and used their experience to form a framework of how to structure our exhibit, thereby keeping the website as a whole thematically and structurally consistent. This helped to keep all our thoughts on the webpage in an organized and easy to follow manner.  Lastly, Dr. Schacht granting all of our group members access to become SuperAdmins on Omeka was honestly a godsend. This allowed us to all work on the exhibit at once (in a similar manner to a google docs would be).

With all these powers we came to learn, we observed some limitations to Omeka as well.  Omeka requires the use of metadata and Dublin Core, which was somewhat time consuming process for going through all the archives and documents we had gathered. It was relatively easy clerical work, but tedious all the same. In addition, we learned that Omeka is not necessarily a “safe place” for your work. With the granted access that many people have as SuperUsers or SuperAdmins, others can manipulate your page, and work can easily be deleted by mistakenly navigating or refreshing a page. We learned to put our work in separate platform before posting it on Omeka. Lastly, it took us quite some time to become comfortable, not sure that we still all are, with using Omeka. You have to make sure you click “Save Changes” frequently that way your hard work does not disappear (this happened to Elyse when typing up a very long paragraph! Thankfully she drafted it in Google Docs first!).

As for Thoreau, wow, did we learn a lot! First, the title of Kelley’s book,
A Different Drummer, was influenced and derived from a quote by Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” More generally, we also learned that one of the nation’s leading scholars on Thoreau was SUNY Geneseo’s very own Walter Harding. We knew this man’s name from the Harding lounge in Welles, but this project put that name to life. In the quest to pursue the understanding of Thoreau’s work and life, Harding reached out across the nation for fellow scholars who represented Thoreau’s ideas. Through Harding’s invitation, a friendship formed between the two scholars (Kelley and Harding himself) and enriched the student community in the spring of 1965 at SUNY Geneseo.

If you ever get a chance to, we recommend you all go check out the Special Collections documents on Harding and Kelley, as many of them relate to Thoreau in many ways. We are very thankful to have the opportunity to add to the ongoing celebration of Harding’s impact upon the study of Thoreau and upon the Geneseo Campus.

Timeline Project

Written by Jessica Drechsler, Kennedi Wittenrich, Micayah Ambriz, and Nicole Fyvie

As we started the timeline project, we determined that the purpose was to not only find events that happened during the time Thoreau was at Walden, but to look at events that happened before and after Walden. Some of the events that occurred early in Thoreau’s life, contributed to how he ended up at Walden. For example, in 1821, Thoreau’s uncle and father started up in the pencil-making business. This is an important event, as it helped Thoreau to afford to be able to go to Harvard. Then, without Thoreau meeting Emerson, he wouldn’t have been offered a piece of land on the shore of Walden Pond, which he used during his time at the pond. Also, without Thoreau being able to build a house on the pond, he wouldn’t have written his journals that ended up contributing to his book Walden. The events that were occurring around the world during this affected Thoreau’s life after he left Walden. For example, the Civil War was occurring after the time that Thoreau left Walden. Through this, Thoreau became involved in the abolition and spoke at different events regarding this topic. The purpose of this project was to include different times in  Thoreau’s life and events around the world, that contributed to Thoreau’s life overall.

Due to previous experiences with group projects, we decided to equally divide up the work in order to ensure that all members were contributing equally. This is very important when working as a group to ensure that one person isn’t simply doing nothing while everyone else does all the work. When creating the timeline we decided to create three parallel timelines that would detail different events that were important to the creation of Walden. The three timelines were titled “life”, “world”, and “walden” and they detailed different important events pertaining to those categories. Jessica was responsible for the life events of Thoreau that led up to his creation of Walden, Logan went through and added different important historical events during the time period, Nicole focused on Thoreau’s time during Walden, Kennedi focused on life after Walden, and lastly Micayah pulled information from Walden and the Selection of Journals about his time at Walden. By dividing up the work in such a precise manner it allowed us to work more productively and accurately. Instead of constantly asking “what is it I’m supposed to be doing?” we all knew what work was assigned of us and completed it.

As we were working on this project we ran into a few challenges. Some challenges were harder than others but in the end, we were able to figure everything out. One of the challenges we ran into was that the Knight lab timeline website crashed a few times. We didn’t need it to work on the project but it was nice to have so we could see when the website crashed we had to figure out how to work on the project without using the website to see how our work was coming out. We did not find a solution to this problem but the website was restored the next day so we were able to use it in class. A second challenge we ran into was that we wanted to have a picture of the different versions of Walden and we couldn’t find any pictures on it. So what we did was went to the fluid text website and took screenshots of each version we talked about. But you can’t upload an image into the timeline excel sheet, you need an image address. What we did was we uploaded the screenshots into a blog post and posted it on our classes blog website. This gave each image a URL and we were then able to use it in our project. Another challenge we faced was that we wanted to organize this timeline into different sections and we didn’t want to have more than one timeline. What we found was that we could do this by putting a name in the group column all the way on the right of the excel sheet. The three names we used were Life, Book, and World to categorize what each point was represented too. The last challenge we faced was that at one point we couldn’t get the excel URL to work in the timeline website. We had to figure out why it wasn’t working and how to fix it. So we went through the whole excel sheet to see if everything was filled out correctly and there were no blank spaces. What we found was that the Dates column name was accidentally deleted and it won’t work unless that box was filled in. To make it work we just put in the title dates and the URL worked again on the timeline website.

While completing this Timeline Project on Walden, we learned many new things about Thoreau. We learned that he was inspired by Emerson to change his name from David Henry Thoreau to Henry David Thoreau. He went to Harvard, which at the time only cost $179 for both room and board and tuition. Even at such a low cost compared to today, he could barely afford to go. Luckily, his family owned a Pencil Business and they were able to scrape together enough money for him to attend Harvard. He went to jail for not paying the poll tax because it supported slavery and he didn’t agree with that. We learned that he built the house at Walden and later gave lectures based on the different chapters in Walden. Finally, in 1862, 10 years after the first publication of Walden was released and towards the end of his life, we learned that Thoreau changed the title from Walden or Life in the Woods to just Walden.

The main tool that we used in completing this project is TimelineJS. The website has you open a google sheet template in which you input the information and images for the timeline. The layout had you include dates, headline, text, the URL  of the image, image credit, and an image caption. Since Timeline JS used a google sheet to store the data, everyone in the group was able to work on it at the same time and it was more accessible than most websites. The website was also free to use and the order in which we found and included information didn’t matter since the website inputs the actual timeline based on the date of the event. Due to the nature of our topic, it was able to accommodate the use of more than one grouping on the timeline itself. In this way, we could group together the information into three separate lines on our timeline; life, book, and world. There were some limitations for this website, however, and one of these was that the website would occasionally crash. Also, if anything was inputted incorrectly or incompletely, the timeline wouldn’t accept it and an error file will appear. Also, only an URL can be used for images in the google sheets. Therefore, any images such as screenshots from websites had to be uploaded onto a separate website in order to put it into the timeline.



Generational Differences in Technology

A topic we have often discussed in class is generational differences in opinion on technology. One thing that often comes to mind when I think about this topic is how technology creates distractions for students today and whether or not we are more distracted and have lower attention spans in general because of technology. I’ve experienced both high school teachers and college professors telling students how technology is to blame for how easily distracted we can be. My opinion on this issue, however, is different from theirs. Continue reading “Generational Differences in Technology”

How Does Technology Make People Unsociable?

I want you to really examine those pictures. I stumbled across them on facebook, I know ironic because this post is about how we have been unsocialized by such social media and technological devices.

When looking through these photos, I really reflected on my own self. Do I do these things? Am I so occupied by my technological device that I don’t notice what is around me? Hmm.. in many ways I am. And, that to me, is scary to admit.

Has technology made our world less sociable? These pictures certainly represent that don’t they. My own eyes have seen it. A first hand example is how my aunt hands her son an iPad when she needs him to be occupied or doesn’t want to be bothered. Maybe it is effective, but it is really sad to think about this divide that technology has instilled in us as a society, even as a family. I have noticed times when I am frustrated and yell at my mom to get off the phone. But… it has become our world. Is our world our phones? Our world is revolving around all the technological advances that have occurred.

Social media and technology has socialized our society into being unsociable.

How often have you gone to restaurants and seen people on their phones rather than holding a conversation with one another? Our lives are so dependent on and distracted by our handheld devices. Society being unsociable is represented not only in ourselves and our interactions but in children as well. It is increasingly becoming harder to teach children social skills because they are often just handed devices. The only way we learn how to be social is if we ARE social. And I mean social in general because social in person is very different than social online.  I grew up playing outside, not playing fortnite.

So class, I ask you to think…..and think hard

When is the last time you’ve appreciated the world and its surrounding without capturing a picture of it? When is the last time you spent more than 3 hours without looking at a handheld device? I say that because after a long period of time (and I know 3 hours is not even long) the first thing I do is check my phone. The first thing I do in the morning when I wake up is check my phone. It has become routine.

Are we more interested in our social media lives (our lives online) rather than in one another?

On the other hand although in many ways technology has brought us all together, it has undoubtedly pushed us apart. These pictures represent the divide that our technological devices has instilled in us as a society, as people who interact with each other.

Think about it, there was once a time where we would only communicate in person. When my parents were growing up they didn’t have cell phones to call their parents as to what time they would be home, but it was an expectation that when the street lights turned on for the night time, that was their cue to come home. The world was more outdoors, more involved. Now our lives seem to be less involved with the outdoors and more invovled in video games or our computer/phone screens.
I think if we reflect on our own selves and admit to the attachment that comes with having these incredibly smart technological devices and social media apps at our fingertips, you will appreciate more. You will acknowledge the impact instead of being blinded by it.

So yes, technology and social media all help us stayed connected, but they disconnect us in so many important ways that need to be acknowledged.

Abandoning Social Media

One weekend in April, I was trying to do homework at my desk, but I did not feel like I was accomplishing anything. The reason was not that I was tired or hungry, it was because I was continuously getting distracted by my phone. New Instagram photos and Facebook updates kept capturing my attention to the point where I could not put my phone down. At that moment, I felt like there was something wrong. Social media was consuming my life and interfering with my ability to do schoolwork. After coming to this realization, I checked the amount of time I was spending on my phone per day. The amount came to an average of five hours and thirty minutes per day. This statistic blew my mind and influenced me to make a change.

Continue reading “Abandoning Social Media”

Digital Humanities and Literacy

In class a couple weeks ago we started to have a discussion on TEI and XML. At the start of this conversation I had no idea what those acronyms stood for or what they meant. I came to learn that TEI stands for Text Encoding Initiative and XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. Even after learning what these acronyms stand for I still don’t really understand what they mean or why they are important. We started talking about how TEI and XML add a rigorous structure to data and they take the shape of a tree, like a hierarchy. I still don’t completely understand what this means, but I found a connection between this and my Literacy Education course I’m taking this semester. We discussed how our ebooks and books in general also take the structure of a tree. The title could be seen as the trunk because it’s the base of what you’ll read later on and then as you go up the tree things get smaller such as the paragraphs, sentences, words, and individual letters. We also have to take into account the punctuation, spacing, and all individual bits of data. While creating our ebooks it’s important to represent that data and be able to recognize it. I found a relation between this and my literacy course because on the first day of class the professor showed us a picture of a bunch of symbols and asked “What do you need to know in order to read this?”


Some of the answers that we came up with were what each symbol stands for, what sound is associated with each symbol, what the difference between one symbol and two of the same symbols together sound like, and you have to read left to right. There are five pillars of early literacy that are essential to learn in order to be successful in reading and writing. They are: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In my literacy course we focused on phonological awareness and phonics. Phonological awareness is the general appreciation of how language can be divided into its components. For example, we speak in sentences. Sentences can be broken down into words and words into syllables. Just like TEI and XML having its own bits of data that people have to recognize and understand to be successful, children have to recognize and understand the small bits of language in order to read and write.