Beta-Testing Feedback

I sent out a survey to five people and then also included my family who had originally seen the project to get more formalized feedback. For my beta-test, I asked the following questions: What are the critiques of the overall format of the website; What do you think about the following features (Timeline, Glossary, Map Overlays); Does the project fulfill the goals that it sets out to achieve; What information about Davidson would you like/need to know to make the site more interesting.  The website that is discussed below can be accessed by clicking here.

Style

In terms of the first question regarding the overall layout of the the website,  I thought that perhaps there were too many dots and that people would not want to spend time looking through all the memories. The timeline, I hoped, might simplify this process if a user wanted to look at a specific decade. The comments that I recieved were positive about the layout and many enjoyed looking at the map. One person found the main flaw that I find with Neatline maps, which is the ability to zoom the map beyond the scope of the project, and another commented that the zoom button should be larger. One user liked the fact that the project automatically zooms in when you press a button, however, I do not like this feature and need to fix it. Another respondent had an issue with technology that prevented the satelitte image–the background of the base map–from loading. Other technological issues included a user who thought that the dots were hard to click on and see on one computer, but using the website on another computer fixed the problem.  In terms of the website layout, one respondent suggested providing a route to find the main page again after entering the map, however, I believe this issue can be more easily solved if the users just press the back button on their browser. Another user reasonably suggested that I provide more a ‘user’s guide’ on the main page to help people navigate the page.

The specific features–the timeline, glossary, and map overlays–received mixed feedback. For the timeline, many respondents thought it was not easy to use, and some were misunderstood the question and, instead of looking at the timeline on the map, went back to the Neatline site and looked at the timeline page that was incomplete. In order to solve this issue, I have removed the extra page on the website. One respondent who had seen the project previously said, “I think that the layout is a bit more navigable with the dragging timeline.” Another user thought it was odd that the Neatline timeline extended far into the future and the past (I agree) and suggested sarcastically that maybe I should include future memories as well. Still another thought (as I do) that the aesthetic of the timeline is visually unappealing because it is too wide and overwhelms the map. Unfortunately, this cannot be fixed. Although the glossary page was not meant to be accessed through the Neatline page, some users, instead of finding words that hyperlinked to the page, went and looked at the glossary in order to respond to my question.  Others could not find the glossary at all either from hyperlinked entries or on website. The glossary pages came form the Davidson archive, and included pictures and other quotes about the places. One user liked the picture aspect of the glossary, which makes me think I should add pictures to the main exhibit. Most appreciate the map overlays as a “cool addition,” but I do not think that most found it to be helpful in terms of thinking about the history of campus. One negative response thought that the overlay maps were, “Not very interesting, the old ones are kind of ugly lookig, the google map is the nicest.” One user though that the overlays are not an intuitive feature and he said, “Map overlays were really pretty cool, and helped me better relate the stories I was reading to the geography in which they took place- that being said, I wouldn’t have found it if you hand’t told me what to click.” For the same user that had  previously faced technological issues, the overlays maps were “blurred and not helpful.”

Content

In terms of content, given the responses of the respondents, I think that my original suspicion that there are too many dots is true. Many people get tired of looking through the memories and, thus, give recommendations for entries that already exist. For example, one respondent replied that he would have enjoyed longer entries about activities that occurred in specific buildings that might not take place there anymore, which is the entire point of most entries. However, I believe that his response may have been because this particular respondent moves in the science circles of Davidson that are not as prominent on the map.  Many people said they would have liked to see more modern memories although others expressed their appreciation in the historical aspect of the project. For example, a history major that reviewed the project said, “I really like the idea of being able to hear voices from on campus over the course of many years. Its a good reminder that this is a dynamic and changing place.”

Other content related feedback regarded whether the project is interesting and what information would make it more informative. In terms of the whether the project was interesting, I got feedback that ranged from responses that the project was “moderately interesting” to users who just wanted to know “Where have people made out in the last century?” One user wanted to know the source of the memory, which is something that I could include in the ‘About’ section or in a ‘User Guide.’

Conclusion

From the responses that I got, I think that I need some way to limit the user and also guide them on how to use the site. Also, because not many people were that invested in exploring the site, maybe I need to think of some way to make the site more engaging, such as including pictures with every entry, providing more maps, or entering more modern memories.

PA 9 Responses and My Decisions

For the Participants

With the limited time that I had between wrestling and traveling this weekend, I presented two example (not complete) exhibits (one in Neatline and one in Google Maps Engine) to students to figure out which  type is better and/or which parts from each one I should keep or eliminate. First, I asked the participants to choose which one they preferred visually based on appearance and ease of understanding. I chose this as my highest priority question because the visual of the map is the first impression that the viewer will receive. Second, I had them decide which one had a better interactive feature. Both require the viewer to click to see the different maps for the types of students; in Neatline, the viewer clicks through waypoints, and in Google Maps Engine, the viewer clicks to toggle layers on and off.  The result is essentially the same, but I chose this feature as another high priority question because it is the sole way of ‘traveling’ through the exhibit. Third, I had them compare the text features of each exhibit; Neatline presents descriptions for each way point in a single text area while Google Maps Engine presents descriptions, not for each layer, but for each marker, line, polygon, etc… of the layer. Fourth, I had them comment on color; Neatline is more limited with color than Google Maps Engine, so it basically came down to whether more color was better or didn’t make a difference. From these comments, I could determine which platform I should continue to build on and even what I should add to each one. However, I still had the participants comment on what could enhance each exhibit rather than only compare the two. I asked what could be taken away or added to the descriptions, what they would like to see (if possible) regarding paths, buildings, or even another layer ( for example: a combination layer that takes all the student variables together), etc…Lastly, I asked what they felt was missing based on their own knowledge of maps.

Neatline vs. Google Maps Engine

From the feedback, the biggest, significant differences between these two platforms are presentation of color, descriptions, and layers. On color, most of my participants preferred Google Maps Engine because each layer could contain different colors whereas, in Neatline, each layer can have a different color than another layer, but the color in each layer can only be one. The variation in color proved to be helpful in showing information in a single layer rather as well as layer to layer. What I mean by that is: in Google Maps Engine, I can make the academic buildings in every layer red, the athletic buildings blue, and the living buildings yellow. This helps viewers see the different types of places a certain student goes to AND which type of places are eliminated or added as they switch to other layers.

On descriptions, some liked Google Maps Engine, but more liked Neatline because the description is all in one place for each waypoint. I thought that more would prefer Google because they could click a building/path to see a specific description instead of reading a long description on Neatline. However, more passive interaction seemed to be what people were comfortable with. In defense of Google Maps Engine, clicking through each building for a description is more informative since it gives the title and highlights the location of each building (this would be more effective for someone who is unfamiliar with the campus). It comes down to amount of clicking vs. amount of information.

On the presentation of layers, Google Maps Engine prevailed. The feedback showed that toggling layers on and off was more effective at showing differences between the types of students than moving from waypoint to waypoint. Also, the viewer has control of seeing combinations of variables by toggling. For example, they can see all of layers at once or they can toggle underclassman student non-athlete, in a PCO and toggle upperclassman student athlete, not in a PCO. With Neatline, I would have to make specific waypoints in order to give the viewer that ability. From the feedback, it isn’t as black and white as saying one is better than the other; the combination of features is what makes one more effective. So, for the presentation of layers, I noticed that color and clicking were still playing a role into how the participants made their choices even though I separated color and layers into different questions.

As for what could be added or taken away from each exhibit, I feel that I may have primed the participants by having them compare the exhibits first. I received more feedback for Neatline referring to the addition of features; the participants wanted to see more paths and more color. For Google Maps Engine, some of the participants wanted more of an initial summary of the project before they started viewing but didn’t say much about adding buildings or paths.

My Decisions

I am going to pursue the completion of the exhibit in Google Maps Engine. It is better at presenting an argument largely because of the color variation, toggling of layers, and clicking of individual buildings in a layer. I need to figure out a way to have a brief description of my project since Google Maps Engine doesn’t have descriptions unless they are assigned to a marker, line, polygon, etc… Instead of each layer being a different color as it what in Neatline, I am going to have each type of building be a different color. So, academic buildings will be one color in all layers, and athletic buildings will be another color in all layers. This will also require me to have a legend, which I need to figure out as well (could go in the initial summary). The description of each variable will be broken into the buildings and paths in each layer. The viewer will learn about the type of student as they click through the map; this will require the viewer to actually click to see information, but I feel that it will be more effective because the viewer will see the highlighted building with the text attached to it. I won’t have to make extra layers that combine variables since the viewer has control of toggling certain layers on and off. My only worry is that the viewer will have to interact with the map on the same screen in which I edit it; in that case, I will have to direct the viewer which buttons not to press.

PA 9 – Beta testing responses

As I described in one of my previous blog posts I sent a questionnaire out to 10 participants. I received feedback from six over the weekend which I believe is enough to record my results.

Overall there were positive responses to my questions on functionality. Every button worked and every picture loaded, but I found a variety of critiques on the ease of use of my project. For the participants I sat down with I found myself explaining what to do a lot of times. One suggestion, that could go under style was to have each feature loaded in the sidebar as a waypoint, that way no one would accidentally skip over some features (which many participants admitted did happen).

In terms of the authors intent, the participants suggested that I place a blurb at the beginning of the neatline exhibit explaining the intent. While a few participants read through my introduction and literature review on the other exhibit pages, others admitted that those were a little long to read for a website. Many that I sat down with understood the intent once I explained how to work the neatline exhibit, but finding a way to limit my need for explanation would be helpful. I have instructions at the bottom of the exhibit but, again,one participant suggested for them to go at the top. While this is an excellent suggestion, I am not quite sure how to do this.

The questions that received the most feedback were the ones surrounding style. One suggestion was to include a variety of the images I have collected throughout my project. Because I have these already digitized, the participants argued that it would make the text seem a lot shorter if there are images to accompany it. While I do not agree that it will make the text shorter, adding pictures will add context and another visually appealing aspect. The trick now is to figure out how to add images without it getting to cluttered. I had a lot of feedback about the timeline feature. While I thought it was extremely cool that the participant was forced to scroll through time and various maps would pop up, one participant found this confusing, one was not sure when the chapters switched, and one admitted that she could not figure out how to use this feature. One participant suggested having each chapter available on the sidebar or make them visible on the actual timeline itself. While I was against putting them on the sidebar at first, the participant had a convincing argument. They said that although I want my text to be read in sequential order, one of the most powerful parts of my project is comparing maps from time periods that are very far apart.

The most useful feedback I received about the storytelling part of my project goes alongside functionality. For two participants it was their first instinct to click on the chapter title instead of introduction first. While I said in the instructions to select introduction to begin the story, two participants said that instinct will probably win over my instructions. With that they argued that my story would flow very well if I had the introduction be a part of the chapter title. I believe I want the introduction to be a separate step, but I think labeling each feature with numbers could direct the audience towards the linear story. One thing I don’t particularly like about that idea is that its interesting to click random features because many developments happened at the same time, and it allows for more interactivity. In all, the thing I will take from the suggestions about storytelling is that people will click on the chapter title first, and to make that an opening picture or statement about that chapter.

Many participants liked the interactivity of the project. One problem people ran into was the project looks different on different sized computer screens. For example, the project is very visually pleasing and easy to navigate on a school desktop computer, but a personal laptop was harder to see and click through buttons. I am not sure how to fix this besides explicitly saying that in the instructions. One participant did use her iphone with it which proved to be a huge disaster. Overall, all participants enjoyed clicking through the features, but mentioned that scrolling through the timeline was tedious. When I thought scrolling through years in seconds would not be tedious, I did not see the extra work it took participants who could not figure it out.

Lastly, I received interesting feedback on the purpose of my project. 8 5 informants said it added to their understanding of Davidson’s history and 1 said it added to their understanding of Davidson’s landscape history. This response was troubling to me. My purpose for my project was to examine social and landscape changes and how they are related, but I believe the environmental aspect was lost in the website. I think one way to fix this would be to explicitly state when I am talking about social changes, and when I am talking about landscape changes. Almost every introduction mentioned only social changes so I could rewrite that section to explicitly discuss social changes instead of presenting it as an overarching introduction to each chapter.

Along with purpose I added one question on my proposed map on the ideal Davidson. As I have already created this map I know I can add it easily, but I asked various participants what they thought and what they thought it would add. Overall 5 participants suggested that I leave the map out because it will not add to my overall purpose. 1 participant suggested that I put it in a different neatline exhibit. Because I want to spend my time making the best exhibit possible, I have decided to leave out this aspect of my exhibit. Hopefully this decision will not be a bad one.

In all, I received a variety of helpful suggestions which I plan to implement in the next few days.

Literature Review

Literature Review

The purpose of this project is to develop a digitized environmental history of Davidson College. This project expands on a senior environmental capstone project that combines aerial photography, remotely sensed data, historical maps, and oral histories to map environmental changes throughout Davidson College’s history. The previous project created a series of maps using ArcMap 10.1 united with a rich historical narrative and timeline to analyze Davidson College’s environment history. While the capstone is comprehensive, its presentation as a manuscript is not sufficient for presenting various maps, timelines, narratives, and images as a cohesive unit. By presenting the above material as a digital Neatline exhibit, this project allows for interactivity and inclusivity throughout the web. Many authors have demonstrated the importance of developing environmental histories, the significance of the college campus in an environmental history context, and the importance of mapping; however, only recently has digital mapping emerged as a reputable discipline. As times have progressed into a digital age, the ways in which authors address and present environmental history problems should continuously develop.

The discipline of environmental history is well recognized and accepted as an area of study. Noted environmentalists such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson promoted a moral and political agenda towards the environment, establishing a base for future environmental scholarship. More recently, Donald Hughes (2006) defined environmental history as “history that seeks understanding of human beings as they have lived, worked and thought in relationship to the rest of nature through the changes brought by time”(Hughes, 2006). Although the discipline has evolved to include “ecohistories”, “historical geographies” and “ethnographies of landscape”, environmental historians today agree that the environmental history of a place should be examined in conversation with anthropogenic developments.

Only recently have the college town and campus emerged as focuses for scholarship and, even more recently, as a focus for environmental history studies. The importance of the college campus as a significant entity emerged when Gaines (1991) described the college campus as a work of art. His book was one of the first to stray away from the valuations of merit and scholarship, and ranks colleges based on urban space, architectural quality, landscape, and overall appeal. Moreover, authors such as Gumprecht (2007) have examined the historical environmental and social importance of the college campus. Gumprecht (2007) highlighted the needed balance between aesthetics, academics, and development in a particular college’s history, and provided a useful case study that situated the college campus in an environmental history context. Gumprecht’s work highlights the importance of the physical campus as a symbol central to the identity of the college, town, and even state.

Environmental historians focus on various sub disciplines, including geography, when reconstructing historical narratives. In many cases historical geography and the theories of several dimensions of space, provide substance to environmental history narratives. Additionally, authors have adopted the idea of social space or constructed space as a way of critically understanding the surrounding physical environment. The idea of constructed space originated in Lefebvre’s (1991) work The production of space, where he presented different levels of space from abstract space, to natural space, to a more complex social space. Without getting lost in philosophical jargon, it is important to note the significance of Lefebvre’s argument. Social space as a social product gives subjectivity to geography. Lefebvre addressed the argument that space is natural and socially constructed, which highlighted the idea that maps are never completely objective. Lefebvre’s work also highlights the uniqueness of individual spaces, such as Davidson College, with histories that are formed by a combination of physical and social interactions.

Expanding on Lefebvre’s call for understanding socially constructed and physical spaces, existing literature demonstrates the importance of mapping as a form of scholarship. In two of his books chapters, Monmonier (1993) demonstrates the importance of cartographic symbols as a form of analysis. He argues that maps are a “scaled down version of reality”; therefore, various symbols and scales demonstrate different arguments of the cartographer. While Monmonier examines specific symbols and scale levels, his text demonstrates the overall subjectivity of mapping and the importance of the cartographer’s decision making in constructing a narrative. Monmonier demonstrates how maps can be used to create certain arguments of spaces, and are useful when examining human-environment interactions. Moretti (2005) applies the importance of mapping to literary history and argues that mapping literature allows for a different level of understanding about the text. For example, he discovers a circular pattern of geography when he maps out Mary Mitfords, Our Village, and suggests that “when you map out the book, everything changes” (37). Although Moretti’s (2005) arguments examine literature, his concepts can be applied to historical narratives. When one maps out the history of a place, the past may be seen in a different light.

Conversations surrounding the physical and social construction of space have intrigued scholars, but these arguments were not accessible to the public until digital studies emerged as a reputable discipline. In her article, Fitzpatrick (2012) defines digital humanities as ““a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities, or, as is more true of my own work, ask traditional kinds of humanities-oriented questions about computing technologies.” Adopting Fitzpatrick’s first definition, this project attempts to transform a humanities study into an interactive digital exhibit. Expanding on Fitzpatrick call for the essentiality of digital studies, digital studies allow for public consumption of scholarly work.

Other authors address the importance of digitizing maps and argue that digital projects allow for public availability, and for varying levels of argument nonexistent in paper maps. In their book, Hypercities: thick mapping in the digital humanities, Presner et al (2014) develop the term “thick mapping” to describe the processes of “collecting, aggregating, and visualizing ever more layers of geographic or place specific data” (Presner et. al 17). Thick mapping, as Presner et al (2014) define it, can be easily achieved digitally. In his article, Long (2013) argues that digital maps such as google maps can return many elements to the map, including social, political, economic, climatological, biologic, and many other elements.” Although my project does not use google maps, Long highlights the general interactive nature of digital maps, which allows for a combination of spatial and non-spatial data. Additionally, Long (2013) addresses the importance of layers in digital maps as they allow for the “mashing up of non-spatial data on digital mapping interfaces in order to bring together multiple pieces of situated knowledge about and to get diverse perspectives on a particular space” (Long). By combining the arguments presented by Presner et al. (2012) and Long (2013), this project attempts to digitally combine spatial and non-spatial data of Davidson College’s rich environmental history.

The last requirement of this project is that it be interactive. In his interview with the Onion, Douglas Adams highlights the importance of interactivity of digital humanities and argues “putting in the extra element of interactivity should just add to the possibilities” of any text. Charles Cumming demonstrates the usefulness of interactivity in his digital novel, 21 steps (http://www.wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week1/). In this interactive story, the reader follows the characters on a geographical journey that combines spatial and non-spatial data that connects the reader to the story world.

Considering the importance of interactivity, this project employs the Neatline plugin for Omeka to create an interactive historical archive complete with a narrative, archived photos and ArcMap maps. Ramsey and Rockwell (2012) present the argument that digital tools and the act of digital construction are scholarship themselves, regardless of the thing that is being presented. In conversation with Ramsey and Rockwell (2012), it is important to select the correct tool when developing a digital project. Nowviskie demonstrates the usefulness of Neatline by arguing “It’s a geotemporal exhibit-builder that allows you to create beautiful, complex maps, image annotations, and narrative sequences from collections of documents and artifacts, and to connect your maps and narratives with timelines that are more-than-usually sensitive to ambiguity and nuance” (Nowviskie). As Nowviskie demonstrates, Neatline is capable of combining various forms of media into a unified exhibit – a requirement of my final project. David Mclure, one of the builders of Neatline, declares Neatline is intended for “scholars who want to use maps and timelines to tell stories and make arguments about their subject” (http://news.virginia.edu/content/neatline-helps-map-new-world-digital-humanities-scholarship). In the same article, Andrew Staffer values how “Neatline will allow [him] to layer historical maps”, and is impressed by the “power of Neatline as a framework for integrating spatial analysis into humanities scholarship.”. Considering these critiques and the requirements of my project, Neatline proved to be an appropriate tool for presentation.

Existing literature demonstrates the importance of constructing environmental histories, the usefulness of mapping as a means for presenting humanities research, and the need for digitizing projects using tools such as Neatline to create interactive and comprehensive exhibits. From Lefebvre’s theory of constructed space to Staffers comments on Neatline, this project adapts various previous frameworks to create a comprehensive environmental history of Davidson College.

 

References

Fitzpatrick, K. (2012). The humanities, done digitally. In M. K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the digital humanities (). Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Gaines, T. A. (1991). The campus as a work of art. New York: Praeger.

Gumprecht, B. (2007). The campus as a public space in the american college town. Journal of Historical Geography, 33(1), 72-103.

Hughes, J. D. (2006). What is environmental history?. Cambridge: Polity.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Oxford, OX, UK; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.

Long, Seth (2013) Digital maps and social data (http://technaverbascripta.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/digital-maps-and-social-data/)

Monmonier, M. S. (1993). Mapping it out : Expository cartography for the humanities and social sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Moretti, F. (2005). Graphs, maps, trees : Abstract models for a literary history. London; New York: Verso.

Nowviskie, Bethanie (2014) Neatline and visualization as interpretation(http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/question/how-can-we-better-use-data-andor-research-visualization-humanities/response/neatline-and-vi )

Presner, Todd Samuel,, Shepard, David,,Kawano, Yoh,,. (2014). HyperCities : Thick mapping in the digital humanities

RAMSAY, S., & ROCKWELL, G. (2012). Developing things: Notes toward an epistemology of building in the digital humanities. In M. K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the digital humanities (). Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Seal, Rob. (2012). Neatline Helps Map New World of Digital Humanities Scholarship. (http://news.virginia.edu/content/neatline-helps-map-new-world-digital-humanities-scholarship)

 

Final Project Plan

 

TO DO LIST

Week of November 10th

Create survey
Find resources for historical data
Explore formatting on Omeka

Week of November 17th

Send Survey
Gather corresponding resources
Finalize Formatting on Omeka

Week of November 24th

Troubleshooting Omeka
Investigate historical maps
Add layers of maps to Omeka

Week of December 1st

Combine data and maps
Publish all to Omeka
Add finishing touches to website

In my original proposal, I planned on creating an interactive platform where users could enter their own memories of the places at Davidson College. For this interface, the ideal tool would be an Andriod or iPhone app; however, I do no think that making a complex app is a feasible goal for my project. Instead, I am switching the design of project to be more research-based as opposed to user-dependent. For the first few weeks of my project, I will be collecting data on individual memories of places around Davidson campus by sending out a survey to all students and looking through the archives for old quotes or descriptions. Additionally, I will use this time to explore the design elements of Neatline to see what is the best way to present the information and whether a more interactive design is possible. Neatline specializes at presenting historical data so I have decided to capitalize on this capability, and include more historical maps of Davidson in my project and take advantage of this as a way to improve my geo-referencing skills. In general, I will need to build in more time for troubleshooting the problems that arise as I research and build the website.

Final Project Dates and Tasks: Anthony Elias

For my project, I will create an exhibit that will allow users to see and have a basic idea of the map of a certain type of Davidson College student. In a sense this will be think mapping; however, instead of having many layers of maps, the base map will remain the same while the specific routes, buildings, zoom, etc.. will change. Define the Person, See the Map. Users will see different maps based on whether the student is an athlete or non-athlete, their grade, and whether they are in a Patterson Court organization or not.

Determine different variables: COMPLETED

These are the different types of students that I will use for my project.
These are the different types of students that I will use for my project.

 

Gathering Data: 11/5 to 11/15

My plan is to present each participant with a campus map and have them draw their ideal mental map to the best of their ability. I will have questions ready to help them  jog their memory so that they don’t forget any important spaces that might seem so routine in their daily schedule that they don’t even consider it. I will need to ask more than 1 person per ‘variable set’ in order to avoid a map that is only specific to certain people instead of certain types of students.

Making the Exhibit

Part 1: 11/15 to 11/20

With my numerous campus maps with drawn mental maps on them, I will average each variable set to form a mental map that isn’t extremely general or specific. For example, the map of a sophomore/athlete/Patterson Court Organization student could include information from a wrestler in Kappa Sigma, a football player in Phi Delta Theta, and a field hockey player from Connor House.

Part 2: 11/20-11/30

Once I have the averages of the mental maps, I will use either Google Map Engine or Neatline (I’m leaning heavily towards Neatline) to create my project. I plan on using the default view for the base map and applying different colored routes and buildings for each variable set. Instead of toggling variables on and off, the user will click through the exhibit by the tabs on the right side. Accompanied with the different routes and colored buildings, I will include a description explaining why there are similarities in differences between certain maps, and potentially include a tour of each map using Google tour builder. The exhibit should be completed by 11/30.

Last: 12/1-possible last deadline

At this point, my project should be winding down to being finished. Once I have completed my exhibit, I will take the remaining time to add any extra features or fine tune other parts. I can also have people use it before I present it to get their opinions. I believe that my argument will create an argument about how the campus is used by certain types of students. Furthermore, it will be exciting to see how much or how little of a change there is between maps of different types of students.

 

Omeka/Neatline Critique – PA 2

As I am starting my final project using Neatline and Omeka, I thought it would be an appropriate time to critique these tools.

In his article, Jeff McClurken asserts that Omeka is a tool that challenges students to think creatively by making them uncomfortable. As McClurken points out, Omeka is free, it has a large number of useful plugins that provide multiple functionalities, and the basic site is easy to use. Building a complicated site does take more effort and background research, but that taps into McClurkens argument that we learn from being uncomfortable.

One of the most unique aspects of Omeka/Neatline is that it allows you to create a map out of something that isn’t a typical map. By typical map I mean a territory map, as Seth Long refers to it. Long argues that digital mapping interfaces allow multiple finite selectionsto be layered onto one another. In his post he refers mostly to maps of places, but Omeka/Neatline brings digital mapping one step further and allows for maps of any digital picture. A Neatline map could be of a famous painting, a poster with only words, or a city. It allows for mapping to go beyond physical location and enter into the world of mental maps.

In addition to producing unconventional maps, Neatline embraces the term “thick mapping” and provides the opportunity to combine stories, locations, and images in one cohesive exhibit. Nowviskie addresses how Neatline calls for drawing rather than simply creating which gives a more artistic sense to the program. I would go even further and say that Neatline allows authors to discuss, teach, and argue. The thick mapping abilities of Neatline make the “second text” (as refered to by Dodge and Kitchin) just as obvious as the first. Dodge and Kitchin argue that digital cartographies possess second texts that are conscious and unconscious ideological messages that must be deciphered. Neatline allows an author to portray their messages without much deciphering. It provides an inter-textual and multimedia platform that gives an author free reign on presentation and argument.

As with all digital humanities tools, Omeka and Neatline are not perfect. One of the main criticisms I have for Neatline is there is no simple way to demonstrate uncertainty. Reschuel and Hurni point towards the importance of mapping uncertainties in fictional literature, and their concerns can and should be applied to historical mapping. When mapping histories, it is important to note that most of the data comes from oral accounts, history books, drawn maps, and aerial photographs. With each of these resources, one can never recreate history with 100% certainty. If Neatline had a way to demonstrate uncertainties of locations and date ranges the projects would be more accurate (ironically by demonstrating their inaccuracies).

Overall Neatline is a useful tool (with a learning curve) that allows for comprehensive digital mapping exhibits. I would recommend it for any “thick mapping” project.

 

PA 5 – Davidson College in the Medical World

http://shrouta.org/cms/neatline/show/medical-advances-at-davidson-college 

Today, Davidson College is well known for its liberal arts education that prepares students for a variety of future careers and graduate schools. Although Davidson’s “College” status prohibits graduate programs such as a medical school, Davidson College’s history is linked closely with the medical world. Using Omeka’s plugin for Neatline I have created a visual narrative depicting just a few of the important medical advances that have occurred in throughout Davidson College history. As Farman argues in his Chapter in Mobile Stories, stories do not have to be linear and cohesive. In fact, the discontinuity of Davidson College’s medical history is exactly what I intended to capture in this exhibit. In Bethany Nowviskie’s article, she describes Neatline as unstable – “extensible, never fixed or complete”. This idea is perfect for describing the Medical History of Davidson College. With small facts here and there, Neatline helps to piece together a more general view of the impacts Davidson College has had on the greater medical world.

By using Neatline I was able to overlay the points in my Medical History story on a 1915 planned map of Davidson College. This allows me to blur the line between the physical world and narrative world (as discussed in Ritchie’s Chapter 4 of Mobile Stories). Like Ritchie discusses, the technology of Neatline can make the story, in this case not the artifacts found in Davidson’s Archives but the story of Davidson influencing the medical world, appear more real. By overlaying my pins on a planned historical image I address Ritchie’s claims and attempt to create a narrative describing the historical moments that give Davidson College recognition in the medical world today.

1915campusmap