Providing resources and trai­ning in the practices and tools of the digital humanities

Workshops (Friday)

Workshops will be held from 9:00am - 4:00pm on Friday, September 12 in Watson Library.

Complex Networks: An Introduction
Friday, September 12
Morning session: 9:00 - 12:00
Afternoon session: 1:00 - 4:00

Location: Watson 455 conference room

Morning: Introduction to Visualization Principles of Relational Structures by Isabel Meirelles
Afternoon: Introduction to Complex Network Analysis: Micro, Meso and Macro Perspectives by Michele Coscia

Isabel Meirelles, Northeastern University | Associate Professor, Information Design
Michele Coscia, Harvard University, Cambridge | Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for International Development


This workshop, for which no prior experience in visualization is necessary, is structured into two introductory parts: in the morning we will examine visualization principles as they relate to relational structures, and in the afternoon, we will cover the theoretical backbone of complex network analysis. The goal of this six-hour workshop is to provide a theoretical and practical foundation to using network methodologies for analyzing all sorts of data in the humanities.

The morning session will start with a brief historical overview of how relational structures have been used over time to represent information in diverse disciplines. Then we will examine several strategies available for visualizing network data vis-à-vis the perceptual and cognitive processes involved in each. We will finalize with a critical look at recent visualization practices that will involve a group exercise.

In the afternoon we will examine the theories and practices of network analysis at the micro, meso and macro levels. This will be an interactive session in which you will use the software “Cytoscape 3” to examine those metrics in a social network case study. Micro level analysis focuses on single nodes and edges, such as detecting the number of connections of nodes (the node degree) or the level of embeddedness in dense areas (clustering). In the social network example, this would translate into detecting the number of friends someone has or her membership in social circles. The meso level analysis focuses on groups, such as the detection of dense modules (community discovery) and of critical nodes. In our social example, we would be able to detect social circles and individuals in power positions. Finally, at the macro level, the focus is on the network structure as a whole, such as getting the degree distribution or the clustering coefficient, which would translate into testing the cognitive limits of social interactions and how people connect to each other.

Requirements: Please bring a laptop with Cytoscape 3 installed ( No previous knowledge required, this workshop was designed for beginners.

Workshop facilitators, Isabel Meirelles and Michele Coscia, are active researchers in visualization as well as complex network analysis. Meirelles is an Associate Professor of Information Design at Northeastern University and the author of “Design for Information” (Rockport, 2013). Coscia is a post-doc fellow at the Center for International Development, Harvard University in Cambridge, mainly working on mining complex networks, and on applying the extracted knowledge to international development and governance.

Web Data 101: Making the most of data on the web
Harvesting, scraping, cleaning, formatting
Friday, September 12
9:00 - 12:00

Location: Clark Instruction Center, Watson Library (3rd floor)

Instructor: Erik Radio, Metadata Librarian, University of Kansas Libraries


Web content provides a valuable source of data that can fuel research interests in the digital humanities. Fortunately, many content providers have made their data accessible for reuse through freely available means. This workshop will explore harvesting data through APIs from a variety of sources with a focus on understanding the basic syntaxes used across most systems. Several other tools for scraping less accessible content will also be covered. Finally, attention will be given to best practices for data cleaning and reformatting of harvested content. Participants will be able to apply skills learned during the workshop across different research areas in the humanities.

The workshop will also provide a basic introduction to using the command line. No prior experience is required.


Windows users should have Cygwin installed on their computer prior to the workshop, and the accompanying wget module. Installation instructions can be found here.

Mac/Linux users should ensure that wget is on their machines, and if not install it.

Assistance will be available prior to the workshop to help with installations.

A Practical Workshop on Using Social Network Analysis to Study Themes, Concepts and Connections In Textual Collections
Friday, September 12
1:00 - 2:30

Location: Clark Instruction Center, Watson Library (3rd floor)

Instructor: Jeff Rydberg-Cox, UMKC, Director of Classics and Ancient Studies


This workshop will focus on using methods of social network analysis to explore concepts and themes in collections of texts. I will very briefly describe a current research project to use techniques of social network analysis to understand ideas of happiness as they are expressed in Ancient Greek Tragedy. My project represents words describing concepts related to happiness as actors within a social network that connects characters both within and across the corpus of Greek tragedy. The short presentation about my work in Greek Tragedy will serve as a jumping off point for concrete conversations about ways that workshop participants can use apply these methods to texts in their field of research (I.e. other literary works, historical documents such as wills, contracts, linguistic data, etc.)

Note: If you would like to bring your own data to work with or discuss during the workshop, please feel free to do so. If you have your own data that you would like to work with or discuss, feel free to bring it along. If there are enough interested participants, we MAY schedule an extended workshopping session after the first 90 minutes to work with or discuss your data, depending on interest. Please let us know (in the comments section of the registration form) if you would be interested in participating in such a session.

Exploring the 3D Scholarly Toolkit: A Web Application for Publishing and Richly Annotating 3D Environments Online
Friday, September 12
2:30 - 4:00

Location: Clark Instruction Center, Watson Library (3rd floor)

Instructor: James Coltrain, Faculty Fellow, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Nebraska


Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to work with an early version of the 3D Scholarly Toolkit (S3DT), being developed by Professor James Coltrain at the University of Nebraska’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. This web application allows for the easy viewing and exploration of historical 3D virtual environments, directly in a web browser, and also allows creators and visitors to annotate the scene, as well as to import documents, maps, images, and other forms of data into a single online space.

The session will begin with a brief review of workflows and applications for producing and capturing 3D content useful to the humanities, and then move on to showcasing the current features of S3DT. Participants will experiment adding metadata and linking multimedia primary sources to 3D objects in a test version of S3DT, as well as leaving their own notes in the scene in space and time. The session will finish with a discussion so that feedback from participants can be incorporated in the application’s final version.

No 3D experience is required, but if any participants have 3D content they would like to test in the application, they can send an email to to make arrangements before the session. All participants are encouraged to bring their wifi connected laptops.

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Lauren Kersey - Less is More: The Pursuit of Gestalts in Minimalism and Knowledge Discovery... Lauren Kersey, Saint Louis University Less is More: The Pursuit of Gestalts in Minimalism and Knowledge Discovery in Databases Graduate Paper, Digital Humanities Forum 2014: Nodes & Networks in the Humanities. University of Kansas September 13, 2014 -- As cultural marketplaces become increasingly saturated and fragmented, new forms emerge to compress, sort, and efficiently deliver messages. Minimalism, from the visual arts, and Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD), from the computer sciences, developed in tandem in response to this common pressure. This paper links these two movements from their origins to the present day to show how KDD appropriates principles and design elements from minimalism for competing purposes. Minimalism developed in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. These works countered what they saw as consumerist impulses fueled by subjective forms of self-expression. Donald Judd’s arrays of freestanding boxes typify this movement. They reduce expression to essential conditions: the expressive object’s internal relationships involving basic materials, proportions, and the arrangement of simple geometric figures like lines and planes along with the object’s interactions with external elements like light and viewers’ positions within surrounding space. Around the same time computer scientists invented integrated circuit-chips and microprocessors that facilitated networks of personal computers. This Web accelerated the output and the fragmentation of human expression to such a degree that traditional centers of control struggled to monitor and regulate increasingly niche sub-communities. Thus, marketing firms became early investors in KDD: the process of discovering and displaying useful knowledge from large volumes of data. Since then, humanists have adapted KDD to condense literary corpuses into essential patterns and models. Specifically, KDD applies frequency thresholds to identify a corpus’s essential lexical materials. Analysts then identify the unique proportions of these materials by comparing one corpus to another through classification or clustering algorithms. Finally, the interpretive stage represents these essential materials and proportions as simple geometric shapes. Like minimalist art, KDD aims to be literal and holistic. Consider either Donald Judd’s boxes or a multidimensional, cube-shaped graph that reduces novels to data points. Its purpose is not to express the creator’s internal psychology or an external reality beyond the factual existence of the basic conditions for that aesthetic object itself. Both projects are holistic in that they suppress detail to pursue what Robert Morris called the gestalt: objects that “offer maximum resistance to perceptual separation” which force viewers to see the whole before or in synchrony with individual parts. In so doing, viewers account for individual relationships, later changes, and their own subjective roles in the object’s manifestation. Viewers who walk around Judd’s boxes are aware of their limited and shifting viewpoints because they have a preexisting image of the object in its abstract entirety. Analysts who condense literary history into gestalts are aware of their limited and shifting positions because they have a preexisting image of literary history in its abstract entirety. By surveying Franco Moretti, Matthew Jockers, and Google’s Ngram Viewer, this paper explores how KDD’s capitalist and anti-capitalist heritage influences these projects. In particular, it asks whether their visuals allow viewers to interact and experiment with the complicated networks that make up literature and culture or whether they disempower communities by presenting these conditions as empirical, constant, and impermeable.

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