Project: Encoding Thoreau

By: Emilio Garcia, Sandra Ching, Cindy Castillo, Nicole Logrieco, Mallory DelSignore

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, Sandra 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 Sandra 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, Sandra 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”

A Day Without My Phone

Is it easier to live with technology or without technology? Technology unarguably reduces tediousness. It is much more efficient to use Google Maps than a paper map when you need to get to a specific location. Likewise, it is easier to search up a recipe online, rather than thumbing through a cookbook for it. Sure, technology makes life simpler, but is living really easier?

Last summer, I went one whole day without my phone. I could lie and say that I did this on purpose, but in reality, I actually lost my phone. I woke up to an IHome alarm clock that I dragged out of my basement. It was humbling to hit a physical snooze button, rather than tapping a home screen until my phone stops buzzing. I took my dog on a walk to the beach after I got out of bed. Usually, I would use walks with my dog as a prime opportunity to post on social media, but without my phone, I took in the moment. I ran errands. I stood in line and observed the people around me; what they were doing, what they were wearing. This was my first time in a while where I was able to take in my surroundings, and not bounce from app to app on my phone while I pick something up, or while I shop. I listened to the radio in my car, rather than my music on the AUX, and I learned that the radio actually isn’t that bad. To some, a day without their phone may be one of the worst things imaginable. I’m definitely addicted to my phone, but the day I spent without it was actually one of the most calming and peaceful days I’ve ever had.

I would say that life is easier with technology, it assists us and guides us in many different disciplines. However, I would argue that living is easier without being constantly glued to my phone. I can take in the world and see the things that I would often miss. I am able to learn more and do more in my personal life. It’ll probably be a while before I go another day without my phone, but I’m bound to lose it again in my lifetime. When the time comes, I think I actually might look forward to it.

The Reliance on Screens and How it Has Changed our Lives

This past class we talked about How we read: Close, Hyper, Machine we and how it is preventing us from reading to comprehend better due to the media holes. Media holes take away from our original intent of reading an article. After talking about this reading, it got me thinking about our attention spans, how we all have shorter attention spans, and how this could be due to the increase of technology.

While looking into this idea of a lack of attention span, I was talking to Jess, and she told me about a video she found about social media and how we have changed. After watching this video, I have learned that social media can be used in the wrong ways and can become a toxic part of our days. On average people spend 2-3 hours a day on social media, and 3.4 million people use social media every single day. Increase social media use increases the time we use alone and this, in turn, increases anxiety and depression. This is because we are constantly filling every second that we have alone with the time on our phones. This keeps you away from higher quality purposes. With being on our phones so much it is replacing our time we could be using to improve ourselves, and that’s time we can never get back.

The reason I am talking about this video is because our brains are constantly working, but it has become a reflex to open social media every time we open our phone and has become an innate go to when we are alone. I feel that this is also true when it comes to comprehension. Our attention spans have become much shorter because we can constantly scroll with a flick of the thumb or finger and we get something new on our screen. This has increased our idea of skimming while on a screen. You can constantly get distracted when doing homework on screens because of the number of things that are on your screen at once. It has become harder to closely read a text from beginning to end without our minds thinking about what we are thinking and then going to other sources to look into our thinking or to even “feel” and have the urge to go on social media. Our phones can also be a distraction while you are doing a task because your phone is like a cigarette. You become addicted to it and you always need a break at some point to “check” your phone. This is how we get to always going on social media and one task that should take 30 minutes turns into a few hours. Since the increase in technology, there has become a reliance on screens and social media, which can be toxic for people. You lose time on your phone when you could be having that time for yourself. If you delete social media off your phone for 30 days, you can do all the things you wanted to do but never had time for due to us using social media every free second, we have.