Closing Time

Blogged by Alison Hedley Reg

I hope this blog gives readers a sense of the CDH community’s diverse DH projects and interests. A few voices are missing from the conversation here; like most DH scholars, our key researchers, directors, and mentors at the Centre lead very full academic and para-academic lives! I want to wrap up our Day of DH by mentioning two CDH members who have not directly contributed to the blog but are integral to the Centre’s existence: Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, who co-directs the CDH with Dennis Denisoff and Jason Boyd (and who happens to supervise my PhD dissertation); and Reg Beatty, who is the CDH project manager (which means he does a little or a lot of every kind of work that a DH centre can require!). Reg is pictured above. I had him pause for a moment this morning while he was scanning pages of The Evergreen, one of the late-Victorian “little magazines” that The Yellow Nineties Online features (The Evergreen was heavily influenced by the late 19th c Celtic Renaissance and it is aesthetically staggering: I strongly recommend perusing the Internet Archive digitization if you’ve never seen it).

Virtually all of the Day of DH blog posts I’ve read highlight that DH work is mostly social in its processes, and that this can be a challenge but also, very often, a joy. My own posts have reflected how productive collaboration has been for my work in DH: Lorraine and Reg are both important mentors in such work. Reg is the mastermind of the CDH day-to-day happenings, and he is graciously showing the student fellows and I how they operate (everything from the Twitter account activity to the CDH and Y90s site CMS updates to proformas for Y90s biography images). Lorraine and I have co-presented at two conferences in the past month, and her insights have catalyzed more than one “a hah!” moment for me as we’ve worked to articulate the theory and the politics behind our practices in building the Yellow Nineties Personography. Reg and the CDH co-directors have contributed much intellectual labour and creativity to the Centre, and many student fellows, research assistants, and classrooms of undergrads have benefitted from their efforts—not to mention all the folks who use The Yellow Nineties Online, the ChessBard, the Children’s Literature Archive, and all the other resources developed by CDH members and affiliates.

That’s about it for our Day of in the life of the CDH. It’s time for me to lock up the studio and, in true Torontonian fashion, pick up roti for dinner.

A DH Profusion: Projects, Praxis, and a Social History of Toronto

Blogged by Jason BoydTextingWilde

On this year’s Day of DH, I’ve got many DH-related things jostling together in my head: the CDH’s upcoming annual meeting of the Advisory Board (next week), where the Centre’s Annual Report is reviewed and we solicit feedback from the Board about future goals; a meeting (tomorrow) with an out of town DH-colleague interested in learning more about the foundation and development of the Centre in order to better strategize about how a similar unit could be created at his institution; my workshops on “Issues in the Digital Humanities” at DHSI@Congress in Ottawa; my attendance at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria at the beginning of June; and planning for the Ryerson-based day of “Digital Pedagogy and the Student Experience” Summer Institute in August (submit a presentation proposal!). However, there are two research-related things that I’m spending some time thinking (and writing about) today.

Both these projects involve social editing and social editions. These are ideas I have been thinking about for some time in relation to a number of projects I am involved with, but the two projects that I am thinking about today are the Texting Wilde Project (TWP) and Toronto of Old/Toronto of Now: A Locative Social Edition (TOON).

The TWP’s goal is to develop computer assisted methodologies for the analysis of large corpora of life writing texts. It is currently developing a sample corpus of early biographical texts relating to Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) (coincidentally, on this date in 1897, Wilde was released from prison after having served 2 years of hard labour), marked up in a customization of the Text Encoding Initiative’s P5 Guidelines to facilitate exegetical analysis. This work is fairly far along, and the next milestone for the TWP is developing an online editing environment that can facilitate both analysis of and collaborative work on the corpus, adding to the sample corpus as well as populating the TWP Chronology and Personography. One of the biggest questions I’m trying to answer at the moment is the degree to which it is possible and desirable to ‘hide’ the TEI markup behind a more ‘user-friendly’ editing interface, such as the one developed by the Transcribe Bentham Project for the transcription of the manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham. Because a substantive portion of the TWP TEI markup is analytical—requiring an interpretative judgement of the meaning of a text (for example, whether a particular biographic anecdote is offered firsthand or secondhand and whether a source is provided)—rather than descriptive (explicitly designating structural and semantic textual features, which I acknowledge also involves interpretation), means that in many cases, the markup does not simply involve looking at a digitized page and determining that a segment of text is set as a paragraph or a title, etc., but instead, for example declaring that the “he” in a given paragraph is person X (by putting in tags that point to that person’s entry in the Personography).

So, in some cases, it may not be easy to translate a tag set into a button on an editing toolbar that can be clicked after highlighting the relevant segment of text as with the Transcribe Bentham editor. Additionally, there are some who strongly believe that if one is going to use TEI as an editor, one must work directly with TEI (I remember this issue being hotly debated at a scholarly vs social editing conference hosted by Peter Robinson at the University of Saskatchewan a couple of years ago). To do this of course requires a level of proficiency that can only be developed by sustained training and application, so to go this route would be to raise the bar on participation in the editing of the TWP, and make it less of a (or a more narrow) social editing project. So what I’m really trying to determine as I think about the design of the editing environment for the TWP is whether there is a happy middle point, a hybrid or a multifaceted interface and collaborative editorial process that could facilitated a range of different levels of expertise with TEI (including non-expertise). Ultimately, what this design will model is the type of scholarly activities and community that I would like to see develop around early Wilde biography studies and more broadly, around the study of large collections of life-writing texts.

The second project I am thinking about today is Toronto of Old/Toronto of Now: A Locative Social Edition. This is a project I started working on last year as part of my Special Topics in Digital Media: “The Social Edition” course in the Masters of Digital Media program at Ryerson. In the course I and my students developed proposals and prototypes of projects using RULA Maps, a geolocative app for situated mobile learning being developed by Ryerson University Library and Archives (RULA) in collaboration with Ryerson faculty (e.g. ARCH App, for Vincent Hui of Architectural Science) and community organizations (e.g., Discover St. Clair, for the Wychwood Barns Community Association). My project (which I collaborated on with student Madelon Crothers) was to take Henry Scadding’s social history Toronto of Old (1873) and edit it for the RULA Maps app, allowing people to not only read Scadding’s text about Toronto locations while at the locations Scadding is writing about, but also add their own stories, images, sounds, and so on, about the locations. With the launch of RULA’s Digital Media Experience (DME) Lab (housed in Ryerson’s stunning new Student Learning Centre – a building I’ve nicknamed ‘The Crystalline Entity’), I’ve been discussing with its personnel about ways in which to move the project forward. In many ways Scadding’s text is ideal for this project, not least because he speaks about many places relatively close to the Ryerson campus (Scadding’s house still stands in Trinity Square, very close to Ryerson), but because he talks about nearby areas of the city that are currently undergoing massive change (the Regent Park social housing redevelopment; the redevelopment of areas like Corktown Commons spurred by the 2015 Summer Pan Am Games) and whose previous community histories may be lost if not recorded. The social edition would not only respond to Ryerson’s “city-building” goal, enabling engagement with local communities, but would also enable the public to become involved in scholarly activity (editing, archiving, researching), and bring scholarly work to the public. So I’m looking forward to exploring how RULA Maps can be developed to help scholars, students, and community members critically and creative engage about the urban space that they inhabit by using a locative edition of Scadding’s text as a launching pad.

Remediation and The Yellow Book: “Print it as it stands—beautifully”

Blogged by Karl PetschkeYellowCover

Hello! I’m an RA at Ryerson University’s Centre for Digital Humanities. Most of my work revolves around The Yellow Nineties Online, an open-access catalogue of the avante-garde magazine The Yellow Book (and other contemporary publications). These periodicals provide a unique look into the lives of an influential group of artists and writers that assembled in London near the end of the century. Most of my work involves coding documents to ensure the online catalogue is easily searchable and remains true to the source material. This means that my interactions with The Yellow Book are normally scattered across a range of devices, interfaces, and file formats (mostly xml, html, and pdf). Working with these complex, multi-layered documents, one can’t help but develop a renewed sensitivity to the movements of remediation that are so essential to digital publishing. Even as DH researchers it’s all too easy to lose track of just how much of our time is spent translating and transplanting – remediation is the water we swim in! But these processes are front and center at The Yellow Nineties Online, where it’s all about living up to the innovative publishing spirit of the 1890s. Once a handsome hardcover to be taken in hand, The Yellow Book I work with today is a nebulous collection of data sets that dart from server to server and billow in the cloud.

At the close of Henry James’ “The Death of the Lion,” which opens the first volume of The Yellow Book, the protagonist is entreated to publish an unfinished manuscript, to “Print it as it stands—beautifully.”

How better to articulate the challenge—at once so daunting and so exhilarating—that faces contemporary digital publishers?

Afternoon Coffee Break

afternooncoffeeBlogged by Alison Hedley

As it turns out, most of my CDH workday has been spent posting entries and Tweeting about Day of DH! I’m grateful for an immediate reason to interact with all my fellow CDH members, in person and in email, about their projects’ recent developments. I’m also grateful for the in-house company of student fellows Karl Petschke and Sarah Lane, who also spend nearly every Tuesday at the CDH. Our respective duties differ, but we share jokes (there is an electrical outlet on the ceiling of the CDH studio, and it continually amuses us to come up with possible uses for it. Perhaps it best serves us as an analogue… ). I appreciate their willingness to serve as sounding boards when I’m trying to think through a question (for example, about the efficacy of a particular network visualization) or when I want to share a small victory (such as the afternoon I found and successfully implemented a workaround to open Gephi 0.8.2) or when I want to nerd out about literary history (did you know that the author E. Nesbit lived with her husband, her husband’s mistress, AND their collective children for many years?). Thus while my fellow CDH fellows and I do not often directly collaborate on the tasks at hand, our research processes have an essential social dimension. I appreciate having the flexibility to work at home, in a cafe, or really anywhere—but the environment afforded by a collaborative research centre is invaluable.

The Lesbian and Gay Liberation Project Prosopography

Blogged by Sarah LaneLGLC

I’m a research assistant for the Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada (LGLC) project at the Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) at Ryerson University. The LGLC uses two annotated chronologies compiled by Donald McLeod that cover lesbian and gay liberation in Canada from 1964-1975 and from 1976-1981. Those key texts have been encoded in XML-TEI and are now being used for the creation of a prosopography and of a graph database in Neo4j. The prosopography is the part that I am working on.

A prosoprography is a collective biographical research tool that is used to study a defined group of individuals. For the LGLC project, this group consists of the people in McLeod’s two texts. Using the encoded versions, over the last six months I’ve extracted any and all biographical data about the people mentioned in the 1964-1975 chronology. I have gathered information (when available) on each person’s occupation, organization membership, sexual or gender identity, arrest history, and relationships. I’ve also recorded any connections they may have had to various periodicals and locations. All of this information has been compiled in a multi-tabbed spreadsheet.

A few months ago I finished extracting information from the first volume of Donald McLeod’s chronologies, and so, I have now turned my focus to secondary research to further expand and enrich the prosopography. On an average work day, like today, I methodically search each of the names in the prosopography and attempt to gather more basic biographical information about them (especially their date and place of birth, as well as their date and place of death, when possible). The prosopography continues to grow week by week and I can only imagine how extensive it will be in the future.

The research that I’m doing here at the CDH is only a portion of the work being done on the LGLC project. Other research assistants (Jessica Bonney, Raymon Sandhu, and Travis White) at the University of British Columbia are busy encoding the second volume of McLeod’s chronologies and using Neo4j to generate network visualizations. The whole project is overseen by Michelle Schwartz here at Ryerson and Constance Crompton at UBC.

Working on this project has been an immensely rewarding experience for me. It has allowed me to learn about amazing and inspiring people (many of which are Canadians) whom I otherwise may never have heard of. Reading about and researching their lives has at times made me laugh and has brought more than a few tears to my eyes. It has also given me a greater respect and appreciation for the LGBT community and their quest for liberation. Their fight was and is real and their names and actions need to be remembered.

Visualizing Early 20th c. Popular Culture with Google Maps

ComicMapBlogged by Alison Hedley for Paul Moore

Paul Moore is the Graduate Director for Ryerson’s Communication and Culture program, and he asked me to share some of his recent DH work on the CDH blog. He has been using Google Maps to develop two data visualizations for his research on early 20th century American journalism and film—two distinctive but intersecting fields.

The first map is of Sunday Comics syndicates, 1901 to 1905 (a small snippet pictured above). The second map is of local viewing of itinerant movie shows, 1903 to 1907; the initial link brings up Paul’s photoshopped presentation map image, and you can click through to the Google map itself.
Paul presented the two maps at a workshop at York University last week (wonderfully titled “Serendipity in Digital Research” and led by Deb Verhoeven of Deakin U Australia). Paul mentioned that he’s found the maps to be a great starting point for his investigation but that they leave him wanting more. Indeed, how many of us find this to be the case with data visualization? One question answered yields a dozen new questions!

The ChessBard: Collaborative Digital Poetry in Process

Blogged by Aaron TuckerChessBard

The ChessBard is moving ever forward! Since its completion last August, we’ve received various responses to the project that range from a class collection of games translated to Gary Barwin’s playful breaking of the machine, to Mike Knox’s reflection on etching chess, to a collaborative poem that Adam Selig wrote with his two sons. Thanks to the hard work of MA student Brandon Harripersaud, the ChessBard was also part of a salon organized by Ryerson’s Literatures of Modernity students in March 2015. Though the salon event page remains unfinished at this point, you can find an initial collection of pictures from the event, including a game between Jason Boyd and myself, here. It is these responses to the text that best exemplify the goals of the project: creative play amongst a variety of players.

Jody Miller (the co-creator) and I are also pleased to announce the ChessBard’s inclusion in the art exhibition portion of the annual international Electronic Literature Organization’s conference in Bergen, Norway in August of 2015. Very exciting!

I would close by adding that the ChessBard, both in translator and playable form, are built intentionally for response. I would love to have your voice on the site! If you are interested in playing a game or translating an old one and writing in response to it, so that it can be hosted on the site, please email me at I hope to hear from you!

CDH Fellows at DH@Guelph

Blogged by: Dennis Denisoff and Andrew O’Malley

Day of DHSI happens to fall on the first day of our 4-day Omeka class at U Guelph. Up at 6:00 to get to Guelph from Toronto for 8:30, and then introductions to DHSI-Guelph and to our specific workshop group. We’re looking forward to developing skills that we can apply to enhancing the Ryerson CDH’s Children’s Literature Archive, and its collection of 2,500+ books, toys, and other items already catalogued and prepped for exhibitions in Omeka.

We’re particularly keen to gain familiarity with some of the Omeka plugins, as well as the best links for enhancing exhibitions. As one of our DHSI mini-projects, we’ll look at possibilities for building an exhibit around the representation of indigenous people from the late-nineteenth century to the late-twentieth century. Ryerson librarians are keen to work with us in 3-D scanning some of the toys and pop-up books for this project. But what’s the best way of capturing this analysis? With dozens and dozens of relevant items – Seton, Mowat, Grey Owl, and others – how will we make our narrow selection? Should the tools’ capabilities have some say? Is that inevitable? Could Twine be used to allow users to choose the logic of their perusal, or is this too artificial to be sincere?

Hello and good morning from Toronto, Ontario, Canada!

morningcoffeeBlogged by Alison Hedley

I’m a student research fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Digital Humanities, and Tuesday happens to be my weekly CDH workday!

A bit about the CDH: the Centre emerged in the wake of The Yellow Nineties Online, an open access, peer-reviewed electronic resource for The Yellow Book and other avant-garde periodicals of late-nineteenth-century Britain. The lead investigators of the Y90s project, Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and Dennis Denisoff, founded a DH research centre with other Ryerson faculty and affiliates to nurture Ryerson’s growing DH community. Today, Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and Dennis Denisoff co-direct the centre with Jason Boyd; the CDH has over a dozen members and has supported many more undergrad and grad student RAs. The CDH’s Ryerson studio is a crucial hub for our DH community, though much of what we do happens off site—in other offices, in cafes, at home—as is probably the case for many DH folks.

Today I’ll blog about current projects and regular CDH tasks, taking lots of pictures of what I’m up to and sharing posts that other CDH members have written about their recent work. My own workday begins at 6:30, after I have made the day’s first cup of coffee. I take a moment to enjoy the first few sips on my front porch, marvelling at early summer sunlight, birdsong, and the morning glory vines that already threaten to take over the yard.

Then I bring my coffee inside, put on an Rdio playlist, and get to computering! I’m fortunate to be able to undertake some of my research at home, so I can forestall the morning commute to Ryerson, located in the heart of downtown Toronto, until after the first a.m. rush of cyclists. First tasks of the day: the CDH Twitter feed, emails, and browsing the Day of DH community of blogs. I’m blown away by the array of DDH participants; I’d be interested to see what the actual numbers are, if anyone knows them.

I’ve recently taken over the Centre’s Twitter activities. I had no interest in Twitter until my first Digital Humanities Summer Institute a few years ago; I quickly realized that I’d be missing out on a whole layer of academic and social engagement if I didn’t at least start eavesdropping on the DHSI Twitter feed. Twitter has become one of the top social media platforms for DH conversation, promotion, and info dissemination. For the CDH, Twitter allows us to promote the ideas of our community—CDH members, other DH research centres and projects—and participate in the broader knowledge exchange that happens so quickly and on such a large scale among tweeting. digital humanists. As someone fairly new to managing an institutional Twitter account (two, actually! @RUCDH and @Y90sOnline), my Twitter activity always feels akin to dipping my hand in the ocean and splashing a little water around as the waves roll past. I suppose this is a feature of idea exchange at the level of hyper-reading. There is always so much more out there.

After I promote Day of DH 2015 and our own DDH blog on Twitter, I put together the day’s task list: revise the Yellow Nineties Online list of xml IDs for contributors to the magazines featured on the website; revisit the practical and theoretical difficulties of our Yellow Nineties personography as I develop a prototype in TEI; and of course, participate in the Day of DH!