All posts by admin

Final portfolio revision and reflection

Recalling the experience of learning history and working with variety historical learning tools this semester, my thoughts regarding history learning and digital tools have been changed drastically. When I was taking world history and American history in high school, textbook was the main tool for me to learn history, as well as lectures and notes that I took in class. I was not interested in history because I usually get bored reading through hundreds of pages of texts.

However, my thoughts had been changed after I used text analysis tool in class this semester. Text Analysis, a method that gains information from unstructured text data, is one of the important things that I learned in this class that helps me doing historical reading. Text analysis can be used not only in historical content, but also other research area, emails, articles, and etc. In class, I learned how to use Voyant to do text analysis and it changed the way I used to learn history. Voyant extracts important information from the content, such as words that frequent used in the document, vocabulary density, average words per sentences. Therefore, I can use those information to determine the topic and draw hypothesis of the content. Another advantage of Voyant is that I can upload two or more documents so that I can make a comparison between these documents. In a word, text analysis really helps me save time and improve efficiency of reading.

         Another important tool I learned in this class is Data Maps and Data Visualization. I did not realize these tools can be used in historical learning until I took this class. When it comes to a historical question of certain place, using a data map is really helpful. For example, I built a map of U.S. Nonwhite Female Slave Population in 1850. I used different shade of blue to represent the number of population. Counties with relatively smaller population were colored in a lighter shade blue. On the contrary, U.S. counties with relatively larger population were colored in a darker shade blue. This data map not only offers a clear visualization of population in the united states, but also give an understanding of where nonwhite female slave population centralized. In addition, data map is also widely used with other historical research questions that relate to certain events, such as World War I and World War II. Data map is useful because it provides a geographical image of where it happened and how it spread to other areas over time.

         Flourish is one useful tool to build data visualization. it allows user to create different kind of visualizations, such as line, bar and pie charts, projection map, scatter, hierarchy, cards, Sankey diagram, line chart race, chord diagram, and etc. These data visualization makes data more clear for readers so that they can absorb information quickly. For Portfolio Activity 10, I created a bar chart based on free population and slave population of Connecticut in 1800. This map not only shows both population in different countries of Connecticut clearly, but also offers a visualized comparison between different countries. Based on this map, I decided to revise it in order to play different types of chart in Flourish. So I collected data from three time periods: 1800, 1810, and 1830 in order to see the change of slave population of Connecticut  along with different time period. Then, I collected data from three time periods: 1800, 1810, and 1830. I chose line chart as chart type because I think this type of chart shows the tendency of population in a direct way. In this revised chart, time was plotted on the x axis, and the change of population was plotted on the y axis. In addition, I had different colors represent different counties of Connecticut. From this chart, there was a distinct downswing of the population of most counties. One thing that caught my attention was that Tolland had 0 slave population in 1810, but it turned to 1 in 1830. In addition, I found a main difference between bar chart and line chart, it is easier to see the changes in more than one group and compare the data from several groups over time with a line chart. Last but not least, I think data visualization tool will be very useful since I am interested in starting a business in the future. Data visualization helps me identify future business trend from customer feedback, so that it creates more opportunities and boosts productivity. 

And here is a link to my revised chart: https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/1061326/

The WordPress I installed in class to post post assignment will also be useful in the future. I can also use it as my space to post my thoughts and ideas and create more fun stuff to share it with the world.

Another thing I learned from this course is to pay more attention to the resources. It is important to not only just read through the source itself, but also see who wrote it and when it was written. Annotations are also good tools that enables me to understand the sources better. I remember I made a mistake when I was doing to the Portfolio Activity 1: Research Process Journaling: to form a research question and locate primary sources that answer the question. I did not check the writer and data of my sources and it turned out to be a secondary resource. This experience reminds me that checking the reliability of the source and I will keep it in mind in the future.

 To conclude, the way I learn history and using digital tool has changed after I took this class. I really appreciate this course because I have gained historical research experience and learned a lot of new skills. Even though I don’t plan to do history in the future, Voyant, WordPress, Flourish, and other digital tools that I used in the class will still plays an important role in the future.

Portfolio Activity 10: Data Visualization (Construction)

I created a visualization in Flourish based on free population and slave populations of Connecticut in 1800. The two variables I was presenting are slave population and free population, and the chart type was chart bar (stacked). Each bar represents a county of Connecticut. And I chose pink to represent the free population, and blue represents the slave population. So that, it shows the two population clearly. Another reason that I used this type of chart is that it is also easy to compare the population between different counties.

The historical question my visualization answer is the free and slave population of Windham, Tolland, New London, New Haven, Middlesex, Litchfield, Hartford, Fairfield in 1800.

I would also use column chart with this data because this type of chart also shows the data clearly.

here is a link to my flourish: https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/1044318/

Portfolio Activity 9: Received Data and Derived Data (Critique)

Tidy data refers to a method of a set of data that is in form of a data matrix. In class, we built a table of data based on George Washington’s List of Enslaved People 1799. We had names of people in the rows and different variables in columns, such as age, sex, marriage status: yes or no, spouse, children, number of children, trade, is able to labor: yes or no, enslaver: Dower or GW, “employed” location.

From my experience with building a tidy data, I think tidy data makes data easier to read for historian because it provides a table of data with clean sorted information rather pages of reading, so that increase efficiency of answering historical questions.

In addition, when I was looking at the primacy source of George Washington’s List of Enslaved People 1799, some handwriting was very hard for me to read because the document was old and I was not familiar with reading this type of handwriting. Luckily, there was a transcript version of the original data, it was way easier to read and helped me a lot to build the data table. If I only use the original source, I might get different results from other people. Therefore, I think the form of data received by others is very important because it changes the final result.

From the tidy data we built in class, I can ask questions like what is the average age of enslaved in 1799, or what is the percentage of male and female of enslaved people in 1799. As a result, I think tidy data enables me to ask question in a border perspective. Moreover, I think tidy data is very useful and helpful to study history, I will definitely use tidy data to extract information when I interact with contemporary data in the future.

Portfolio Activity 8: Data Maps (Construction)

The map I created represents the population of the United States Nonwhite female slavery in 1850. With this map, it allows me to see the population of different parts of the states easily base the shade of blue. For instance, there is higher number of nonwhite female slavery population with a darker blue. on the contrary, there is a lower number of Nonwhite female slavery population with a shallower blue.

Moreover, I can also click on a county on the map, there is more data about the population based on different ages. Taking Amherst as an example, there were even 26 nonwhite female slaves under 1 year old, 488 at the age of 1 to 4, 474 at the age of 5 to 9, which really surprised me.

In addition, I also found that there were population of Nonwhite female slavery in the northern parts of the country.

To conclude, a map enables data appears visually with a geographic space and helps the learning process of history.

Here is a link to my map: https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/964129/

Portfolio Activity 7: Narrative Maps (Construction)

I built a map of James Sterling’s life and the journey he took in order to accomplish fur trade in the U.S. during 1700-1800. First, I created a timeline of important events of James Sterling while I was reading the book. For example, in early 1700s, James Sterling’s birth Ireland; In 1750s, he served in Pennsylvania during French and Indian War. Then, I listed couple events after 1761, when he started to do fur trade business.

After I have listed the timeline, I chose StoryMapJS as a tool to build a map because I found easy to use. However, I could not search location by using the search bar in the website so I have to locate Detroit and other location by myself. In addition, I also uploaded pictures to make the map more interesting to read.

here is link of my map: https://uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/fab27e20ef14824fd82a6e3b75185fc4/james-sterling-fur-trade/index.html

Portfolio Activity 6: Geospatial work

In class, we explored the project The Spread of Slavery in the US by Lincoln Mullen, which is basically a map that shows the spread of U.S. Slavery during 1790-1860. I found that answering historical question by using geospatial visualization is really convenient, geospatial visualization and analysis is an easier way to deliver the message in a geographic space.

Taking an example of The Spread of Slavery in the US by Lincoln Mullen, this multi-dimensional map shows the population, location, and time of slavery in the U.S., it also used ten colors from shallow to dark to represent enslaved population. In addition, I can also click on the map to see a certain area with more details, such as the total enslaved population and free population of Knox, Kentucky. Therefore, I think geospatial visualization and analysis helps readers understand the process of slavery spread in different time and different places more easily than just reading text content.

Considering the pitfalls of geospatial visualization and analysis, using false maps and inaccurate navigation are two of them. Because the map is changing over the time period, so it is important to use the correct one in certain time period.

Portfolio Activity 5: Text Analysis (Construction)

I got 40 topics after I uploaded the American South: North American Slave Narratives to Topic Modeling Tool. Below is a picture of topics from 0 to 26. Among those 40 topics, I chose NO.12 as my topic: bond, water, scott, carver, dr, cotton, sugar, put, add, 1, peanut, make, cut, sweet, gin, seed, plant, corn, potatoes, and milk. Since most of the items are related to food, so I made a hypothesis that this topic is about trading goods. In addition, I also found that “cotton” and “sugar” were products of slavery and slave labor, so I also assume that the topic could be related to slavery goods.

After making the hypothesis, I clicked on the topic and I found there are 204 documents in this topic. I decided to select top 10 documents to put into Voyant because these documents have higher number of word that assigned to this topic. And then here is the data generated from Voyant.

            From the cloud, I selected Top 85 words that appears most frequently in the documents and I was surprised that most words has nothing to do with food, such as ‘time’ (appears 1578 times), ‘man’ (appears 1373 times), ‘mr’ (appears 1548 times), ‘said’ (appears 1467).However, these words seemed meaningless because it had nothing to do with my hypothesis, so I looked into words that has relatively less appearance but might relate to my hypothesis, such as ‘work’, ‘negro’, ‘white’, ‘school’, ‘money’, ‘life’ . Then, I selected some of these words and Voyant generated into a chart below.

From the chart, I didn’t find anything interesting except that the line ‘white’ and ‘negro’ rise and drop together. Then, I also looked into other parts of Voyant.

To conclude, by analyzing data from these documents, I realized that my topic is not about trading goods neither slave produced goods. My topic is about the life of slavery, for example, what they went through as a slave? What was the social environment at that times?

Portfolio Activity 4: Text Analysis: What is it good for?

Text analysis refers to extract information and facts from parsing texts, such as an article, an email, a note, a news, and etc. It is commonly used in various areas, including history, business, production, so on and so for. There are two mains steps in order to do text analysis. The first step is basically to get access to text. Then, the second step is to preprocess the text, which means deleting unnecessary information, such as advertisements, annotations, and navigation bar. Therefore, the true and useful information will be extracted.

In this big data era, the scale and complexity of data has increased drastically. It is no doubt that text analysis plays an important role in this society.

As a historian, there are many benefits by doing text analysis. First of all, text analysis helps classifying the text by different features, such as keyword, years published, and authors. On the contrary, text analysis can also classify text into same categories if those text has same features. Information retrieval is another benefit, it allows historians to search for certain information they need among countless documents in computer systems. As a result, when historians are trying to find certain text, it saves a lot of time for them because they don’t have to spend a lot of time reading unrelated text.

Carefully perceiving and experiencing the world of text analysis allows the text itself to enter the text. Text analysis, is a way to rediscover the writer’s feelings and thoughts from the text. It helps historians understand the original content of the text and the author’s thoughts and emotions. The purpose of all text analysis is to overcome the past culture of the text, the strangeness and distance between the history and the historians, and to assimilate the meaning of the text; the historians ignores the limited understanding when interpreting the text. Text analysis also allows historians to construct the individual spiritual world in cultural identity, enriches the individual spiritual world in cultural criticism, and enhances the cultural literacy construction level in aesthetics.

Portfolio Activity 3: Website Review

The Geography of Slavery in Virginia

The resources used in this website are sound and reliable, for instance, there are picture of the actual news and a text version of the news in order to be read more easily under the Explore Advertisement. The purpose of this website is to show captured slaves and servants in 18th and 19th century in Virginia. I think the overall website addresses this purpose well.

However, this news part has a timeline limitation because it does not include any ads since 1810s. Furthermore, the news part is also lack of comprehensiveness. For instance, there are slavery ads from September to December of 1736, but no ads from January to August. In addition, the typesetting is not very proper and personal profile part is still under construction. However, this website has its advantage. All resources are well-organized and easy to find. Each category is labeled clearly for users to navigate their resources. In addition, it allows users to search for slavery by name, sex, age, and skills.

Freedom On the Move

The home page looks very appealing and attractive for users. The purpose of this website is to show the movement of enslaved people and their lives. An abundant resources base is an important feature of this website, and all 22234 advertisements is easy to access once the users search it by four categories, which is advertisement, runaway, slaver, and runaway event. However, I was confused of where to find actual content when I first look through the website, then I realized I need to sign in order to get access to advertisement. Another drawback is that some picture of advertisement is hard for users to read because the original content looks destroyed. This website is made for everyone, especially scholars, students, and citizen historians, and I think it satisfy their needs.

Portfolio Activity 2: Create Two Items with Complete Metadata

I created one text item based on the resource I used for portfolio 1. When I was creating the item for it, I got confused filing the Dublin Core. I don’t really know the different between types and format of the resource, neither nor the relation part. However, the website http://dublincore.org/documents/dces/ helped me a lot to understand the definition and what I should write under each category. The second item I created was which was a Thomas Jefferson’s portrait, the process of creating this item went smoother. Especially after I found there is metadata provided by the original website. And lastly, I read the text and add annotations, I also used the highlight tool to mark some texts.

Item 1: http://shuyizhang.com/omeka/items/show/1

Item 2: http://shuyizhang.com/omeka/items/show/2

Exhibit: http://shuyizhang.com/omeka/exhibits/show/thomas-jefferson-s-attitude-to/from-thomas-jefferson-to-briss