Welcome to Day of Digital Humanities 2010!

Welcome to Day of DH 2010 and welcome to my blog about my experiences on this day! Please look around the blog and feel free to leave  some comments. Please notice that I also have a few pages which cover more information about the project I am working on and about myself.
Thanks for stopping by,
John Wall

List of People for Today

It might be worth mentioning who all I am interacting with today. Until I get permission from the people I am referencing to list their actual names, with the exception of people I have already, I will come up with some sort of descriptive name for them (i.e. CompSci Professor).

John Wall – Myself

Dr. Cormack – Professor from the Religious Studies Department at the College of Charleston and the professor that I am working with for this project.

Geology Professor – Is a professor from the Geology Department at the College of Charleston that is my professor for my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class and aiding Dr. Cormack and I in the use of GIS for this project.

German Professor – Is a research professor in Germany that originally designed the database for this project in SQL. He has been aiding us in technical matters.

CompSci Professor – Is a professor from the Computer Science Department at the College of Charleston that has been aiding us here, in Charleston, with work on our database which is in SQL.

Core of the Project

There are some components which are really key to this project and allow it to be seemingly replicated (with some degree of tinkering) to other locations. One of the goals of this project is to not only create a dataset which allows us to fulfill our own research goals, but to allow others to use this data in their own research or just for general interest. Initial research is conducted to locate sites (in our case was ecclesiastical sites of Medieval Iceland). These sites can then be ground-truthed meaning that someone actual goes to verify that the site is what it was claimed to be in the records. For example, Dr. Cormack visited the sites of Medieval Iceland churches (which have a modern church built on top of them) to make sure there were actual churches there and while at this location she took at Global Positioning System (GPS) point and a picture. A database can then be built allowing the entering, manipulating, querying, and storage of data. GIS is then used to represent this database visually. The use of GPS points allows for faster location of the sites in the GIS. Other sites, that were not visited, can be located on the GIS or via a high resolution atlas. Once all of these points are located in the GIS and data attached to these points from the database the GIS can be added to a website allowing someone to query the database and see a visual representation of their query (i.e. someone can query and see which churches contained paintings of St. Paul and where these churches were in the landscape).


I managed to spend roughly an hour and a half to two hours scanning thirty to forty images for the project from an Icelandic Atlas. I should note that I still have about another thirty to go before I am done scanning. Since scanning started to feel a bit tedious I decided to take a break.

Working at the scanner

The massive Iceland Atlas I have been scanning (Blackberry for scale)

Another view of Icelandic Atlas (Myself for scale)


Sometimes technology can be aggravating

Sometimes technology can be aggravating. This frustrated statement comes after a rather long battle (almost a month now) of fighting with SQL to display the Icelandic characters that were aparently typed in correctly to the database, yet now they are not displayed correctly. Currently the wrench in the gears is figuring out why this is the case. Two professors have been enlisted into effort along with myself. One of the people is the professor in Germany that originally created the database, but that was aparently almost ten years ago. Technology changes, not to mention what I may call a standard for doing something (MySQL for SQL programing in this case) might not be, or have been, the standard in Germany. Therefore a professor here at the College of Charleston has offered to look at the files, but he, like the professor in Germany, has his own research and students that he has to focus on as well. I wonder if other researchers have run into similar issues with technology?

Am I Working?

A thought just came to me as I started reading and commenting on more of the DH blogs. I am really enjoying reading some of these blogs because they are either thought provoking or very relevant to my own work. It’s like I am having more fun than work, but isn’t this work too? I mean, one of the main facets of research is to disseminate one’s findings right? Therefore, blogging and reading blogs is a part of research since thoughts are being transferred, shared, and commented upon. Just thought this was an interesting way to look at things.

A few more words

This was my first time participating with the Day of Digital Humanities project. I found it to be interesting. There also seemed to be a lot of work going on that I found interesting and complementing while reading blogs made by people I’d probably like to meet for coffee sometime (lots of people seemed to blog that they were drinking coffee). Hopefully I will be working on research next year that will allow me to participate in this project yet again. Maybe, one day, they will start up the Digital Humanities Blog site or something along those lines where people blog about their research for as long as they want — not just a day. I think that would be particularly interesting. You could see someone’s work grow, change, and evolve. A community might even form allowing people to research and help with one another.