Digital Humanities Projects

Songs of the Victorians:

Summary: I designed and developed “Songs of the Victorians”  to meld the archive and the scholarly article. It examines both high- and low-brow Victorian settings of contemporaneous poetry by integrating scores, audio files, and scholarly analytical commentary in an interactive environment to help the user understand both the literary and musical elements of the argument. As an archive, it provides audio files of each song and archival quality scans of first editing printings of each score. For every song, the user can listen to the audio while each measure of the score is highlighted in time with the music, as the archive page for Caroline Norton’s “Juanita” demonstrates. Most importantly, the project functions as a scholarly article in which each song includes an analysis of the song’s interpretation of the text. When the commentary discusses a particular measure, the users can click on an icon of a speaker, which will show them the relevant section of the audio file and highlight the score so they can hear for themselves the effect the commentary describes, as in the analysis page for Michael William Balfe’s “Come into the Garden Maud”.  “Songs of the Victorians” includes Caroline Norton’s “Juanita,” Sir Arthur Sullivan’s setting of “The Lost Chord,” and two settings of Tennyson’s Maud: a parlor song by Michael William Balfe and an art song by Sir Arthur Somervell. The site furthers scholarship for bibliographers, musicologists, Victorianists, and cultural studies scholars alike. More generally, this new framework that enables critics to describe musical arguments to non-musicians will facilitate this interdisciplinary approach of bringing music and literature together. It also preserves the musical and cultural afterlives of well-known poems, as many of these scores have either disintegrated and been lost to time or are only available in select libraries. “Songs of the Victorians” empowers users from both within and without the academy to access these works that held such importance to the Victorians. I developed it with the generous support of a Scholars’ Lab Fellowship.

Technologies Used: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, PyQuery, Mako, Google App Engine, MEI, TEI

GitHub Code Repository:  https://github.com/jswafford/songs-of-the-victorians/

Augmented Notes:

Summary: After the success of “Songs of the Victorians,” I used its framework to produce “Augmented Notes”, a generalized, public humanities tool to let scholars develop their own websites like mine, as a publishing framework and as a pedagogical tool. “Augmented Notes” eliminates the need for users to understand programming by creating archive pages, like those from “Songs of the Victorians,” which users can tweak and design. It is simple to use, as the site only requires audio files and images of the score to produce an archive page. After the audio and image files are uploaded, users are taken to a page where they click and drag to draw boxes around each measure (they can also edit the sizes and order of these boxes), indicating what portion of the score should be highlighted when that measure plays. Users can also optionally upload an MEI file–the TEI-based scholarly standard XML markup for music–of the score if they wish to record the position for each highlighting box via that method.

Users then set the time at which the highlighting box changes position through a “time editing” page. The site brings together the measure and time information, saving them in a JSON file, which enables each measure of the song to be highlighted in time with the music. Users then click “Download zip” to download a zip file with the html, css, and javascript files necessary for a complete archive page, which they can then style themselves. Augmented Notes” also has a sandbox  through which users who would like to experiment with the technology but do not themselves have the requisite files can make their own website. “Augmented Notes” is already being used by scholars, both to generate archives (such as the “Romantic Era Lyrics” project from the University of South Carolina) and to generate interactive scores for use in music classrooms. Since this tool produces websites with integrated audio and score, it empowers users to preserve cultural archives, whether their materials include classical music, unpublished manuscripts, popular music, or folk music and traditional tunes from around the globe. I developed and designed “Augmented Notes” with the support of a Scholars’ Lab Fellowship.

Technologies Used: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, PyQuery, Mako, Google App Engine, MEI, TEI

GitHub Code Repository: https://github.com/jswafford/Augmented-Notes

“Prism”:

Summary: “Prism”  is a tool for collaborative interpretation of texts, developed by the Praxis Program at the Scholars’ Lab. Users highlight a text in different colors, with each color corresponding to a category (for example, blue could be “realism,” yellow “modernism”), and, after highlighting, they would see a visualization that aggregates all highlights for that text in the system: in the “font-size” visualization, for example, words are larger if they are marked as part of a category with greater frequency, and smaller if they appear less often. This visualization aesthetically provokes users to new ways of understanding literature: for instance, users who have highlighted the opening of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man have commented that the visualizations helped them see points of intersection between “modernism” and “realism”, which forced them to rethink their understanding of modernism as a whole. “Prism” also intervenes in trends in crowdsourcing, as it makes use of the crowd’s imagination and analytical abilities rather than merely invoking their ability to perform repetitive tasks and transcribe text. I was the lead developer for the 2011-2012 Praxis cohort, and our system had pre-set texts and categories: the next Praxis cohort added the option to upload your own texts and to choose your own categories. The highlighting code and font-size visualizing code, which I wrote, remains mostly unaltered.

Technologies Used: Ruby, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, CoffeeScript, jQuery, HTML, CSS, ERB, Jasmine, RSpec, D3.js

GitHub Code Repository: https://github.com/scholarslab/prism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s