Two New Historical Simulations

Three Dickinson students, Shayna Solomon, Patrick Schlee, and Edwin Padilla, working with Todd Bryant of Academic Technology, and Ed Webb, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies, have created two historical scenarios using the game “Civilization V” and the software “ModBuddy.” Todd Bryant passes along this report.

The first scenario is an updated and expanded version of a mod created by Todd Bryant in “Civilization IV” covering Europe and the Americas in 1492. The second scenario was developed from scratch and covers Europe and Africa beginning in 1876. To the greatest extent possible, each scenario accurately depicts the size of empires, geography, resources, diplomatic relations, military strength, scientific progress, and religion for the major civilizations of the time period. In addition to accurately recreating variables already within the game, the students used XML to change the underlying database of the game to create additional resources, military units, and social policies. Additional logic was also built using the coding language LUA to include the Atlantic slave trade in the 1492 mod and Rinderpest, the Berlin Conference, and malaria for the Africa/Europe 1876 mod.

1492: Aztecs: Playable civilizations include the Aztecs, the Quiche Maya, the Tarascans of Michoacan, the Incas, the Songhai, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands, Venice, and the Papal State.

1492: Aztecs: Playable civilizations include the Aztecs, the Quiche Maya, the Tarascans of Michoacan, the Incas, the Songhai, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands, Venice, and the Papal State.

A more detailed description of the 1492 mod as well as links to download can be found here, and for the Africa/Europe 1876 mod here. Students also wrote an extensive ReadMe file for each mod describing the research on which each mod was based. Each ReadMe file also explains decisions they made due to the limitations of the game and important historical factors that were unable to be included. Both are published and available online and as a ReadMe file within each download where the mods were published. The 1492 ReadMe file is available here, and the 1876 Africa/Europe mod is available here.

Two of the students, Shayna Solomon and Patrick Schlee, worked primarily as researchers on the project. Shayna focused on the Africa/Europe 1876 mod while Patrick worked on 1492. Although they spent most of their time conducting research and learning the variables used in the game, they also used the ModBuddy software to design the very extensive maps and modify some of the XML that held any changes to variables in the database.

Edwin Padilla was in charge of the technical aspects of both mods. This included learning the database structure underlying the game and how to write database queries in XML to make changes to variables in the database when the mod is loaded. He also learned a scripting language, LUA, which he used to introduce new logical elements to the game including the Atlantic slave trade, Rinderpest, and malaria.

The students in charge of research, Shayna Solomon and Patrick Schlee, gained a great deal of experience working with primary historical sources covering a very broad range of topics. They learned to analyze these documents for inaccuracy and historical bias as well as how these variables interacted in order to create as accurate a simulation as possible.

For Edwin Padilla, who was in charge of the technical aspects of both mods, he learned two new languages, LUA and XML. He also became familiar with the differences between writing code to create a program from scratch and using an API to modify someone else’s code. Finally, he worked with shareholders, including the other two students and Professor Webb, who were largely unfamiliar with the possibilities and limitations of coding via the API, to determine overall project goals and set priorities.

All three of these students can now point to a very public project in the rapidly evolving areas of games in education and the digital humanities. It allows them to showcase their individual skills while working as a member of a team.

Publication

The mods have been submitted to submrge.org (a University of Harrisburg website tracking the use of commercial games in education), CivFranatics.com (a web forum for the Civilization game series and mods) and Steam (mainstream game and mod distributor).

Direct Download Links:

Via CivFanatics:

Colonization of Africa – http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=538103

1492 – http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=13652882

Via Steam:

Colonization of Africa – http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=336750907

1492 – http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=379961933

This work was carried out in the summer of 2014, and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities Grant, administered by Dickinson’s Digital Humanities Advisory Committee.

Dickinson President’s Report

The annual report from Dickinson’s President Nancy A. Roseman and the senior staff is out, and I wanted to highlight the statements there on technology, scholarship, and learning, which nicely sum up the approaches being taken at Dickinson. President Roseman begins with her vision for the academic program, a statement which concludes with the following:

Lastly, we will seek new ways to leverage our work in the digital humanities, highlighting the value of technology to enhance, not replace, our high-touch, intensely collaborative approach to education.

Provost and Dean of the College Neil Weissman expands on this as follows:

Finally, technology. Despite all the talk of “disruption” and the threat of displacement of residential education epitomized by MOOCs, computing makes the liberal arts taught through direct student-faculty contact more, not less, germane. Rather than being replaced, liberal learning is enriched by technology as a tool. Each year, select Dickinson faculty in the Willoughby Institute for Teaching with Technology explore approaches to pedagogy ranging from the use of tablet computers in the classroom to new models of commentary on Greek and Latin texts. Supported by a $700,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation, faculty are investigating digital approaches to the humanities. Another Mellon award has made possible a Central Pennsylvania Consortium faculty project on “blended learning” through the use of technology.

Students and faculty at Dickinson are fortunate to have strong administrative support for digital initiatives. Watch this space for details about some exciting faculty-driven and student-faculty collaborative projects, and news from the recently completed Digital Boot Camp.

DH Boot Camp Poster Session January 29, 2015

Here is the merry band of Dickinson students who came back to campus a week early to participate in the second annual Digital Boot Camp.

2015 DH Boot Camp participants met in the Waidner-Spahr Library at Dickinson the week of January 12, 2015

2015 DH Boot Camp participants met in the Waidner-Spahr Library at Dickinson the week of January 12, 2015

Led by Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Patrick Belk, the eleven students completed online tutorials at home the week of January 5, and convened on campus for further instruction and to work on their own projects. Other instructors included Michael D’Aprix, Daniel Plehkov, Leah Orr, and Don Sailer. Topics included ArcGIS, Drupal, XML, and discussions of metadata and other DH principles (full schedule here). Most of the projects they are working on represent collaborations with faculty, departments, or student organizations on campus.

Make sure to stop by the digital poster session, at which the students will show off what they have accomplished in this intense period of work and discovery.

What: Digital Boot Camp Poster Session

When: Thursday January 29 12:00-1:15 p.m.

Where: HUB Social Hall East

Here is a list of the students and their projects linked here (still works in progress):

Masculinity in Advertising
Victoria DeLaney
Sophomore
English, Spanish

Mapping Sustainability at Dickinson College
Jackie Goodwin
Sophomore
Environmental Studies, Sociology

Cultural Mapping: A Documentation of Yarmouth Maine
Wesley Lickus
Sophomore
Environmental Science

The Peddler
Nick Bailey
Junior
International Business, Management

Maryland Folklore Project
Andrew McGowan
Junior
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

EDDC Archive: Digital Library for the English Department
Harris Risell
Junior
English

Renaissance Music Database
Maurice Royce
Junior
Computer Science, Mathematics

Student Curation at the Trout
Anna Leistikow
Senior
International Studies

Education Reform
Melissa Pesantes
Senior
Italian Studies, Anthropology

Mapping the Aeneid
Katherine Purington
Senior
Classical Studies

Exploring the Invisible Universe
Olivia Wilkins
Senior
Chemistry, Mathematics

The Digital Boot Camp @ Dickinson was made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It was supported by members of the Digital Humanities Advisory Committee (or DHAC), and Archives & Special Collections, Waidner-Spahr Library. The students, instructors, and organizers taking part in this year’s boot camp would like to thank the following people: Dan Confer, Ryan Burke, Jim Ciarrocca, Chuck Steel, Maureen Dermott, Meredith Brozik, Tricia Contino, Dottie Warner, and Malinda Triller Doran.

Lincoln’s Writings: Multimedia Edition

The Multi-Media Edition of Lincoln’s Writings at the House Divided Project offers 150 of Abraham Lincoln’s most teachable documents organized around five major themes and designed provide key alignments with the Common Core State Standards.

House_Divided_Lincoln_Edition

In addition to transcripts there are audio recordings of readings by the wonderful Todd Wronski of Dickinson’s Theatre and Dance Department. My favorite feature is the inclusion at the beginning of a paragraph on the context of each document by Civil War historian and House Divided director Prof. Matthew Pinsker. Here, for example, is his lead-in to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Context: The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 culminated more than eighteen months of heated policy debates in Washington over how to prevent Confederates from using slavery to support their rebellion. Lincoln drafted his first version of the proclamation in mid-July 1862, following passage of the landmark Second Confiscation Act, though he did not make his executive order public until September 22, 1862, after the Union victory at Antietam. The January 1st proclamation then promised to free enslaved people in Confederate states (with some specific exceptions for certain –but not all– areas under Union occupation) and authorized the immediate enlistment of black men in the Union military. The proclamation did not destroy slavery everywhere, but it marked a critical turning point in the effort to free slaves. (By Matthew Pinsker)

Prof. Pinsker also offers a 12-minute close reading of the text of the document itself. And there is bibliography, and excerpts from other historians, writing about how they understand the document. Check out this excellent use of the web to richly annotate key historical documents!

 

Digital Humanities at MLA 2015 (Vancouver)

The digital humanities is well represented at this weekend’s 130th annual Modern Language Association Convention (Vancouver, BC; January 8-11). A simple keyword search of the 2015 Program displays 43 sessions that match the criteria “All text: digital humanities”; 6 sessions match “All text: DH,” and 32 sessions are listed under the program’s Subject heading:

General Literature–Electronic Technology (Teaching, Research, and Theory).

Because it reminded me of Chris’s thoughtful (and provoking) post on Desmond Schmidt’s article two days ago, I wanted to first bring attention, and share the link, to a session held yesterday: 204. Text Tools in the (Digital) Humanities (Friday, 9). Here’s a case being made by David Hoover for “plain text” alternatives to XML, which also focuses on inter-operability, and shares some of the concerns in Schmidt’s article that Chris discussed Thursday. Abstracts of all 3 papers for session 204 are posted at 204 Abstracts. The top-most abstract is Hoover’s paper, titled “The Promise of the Plain: Plain Text and Plain Tools in the Digital Humanities.”

I won’t even try to briefly touch on all 43 sessions, but another that caught my attention, and I wanted to share because it looked interesting, was this morning’s roundtable: 448. Disrupting the Digital Humanities (Saturday, 10). Last night while browsing the program, I paused at this one in particular, because I saw that participants included Sean Michael Morris (presiding) and Jessie Stommel (final speaker), who are co-directors of Hybrid Pedagogy, an online blog/ peer-reviewed journal that I follow. According to the program’s session description:

All too often, defining a discipline becomes more an exercise of exclusion than inclusion. This roundtable rethinks how we map disciplinary terrain by directly confronting the gatekeeping impulse of many academic disciplines. Participants investigate the edges and open the digital humanities more fully to its fringes and outliers.

For papers featured at this morning’s roundtable discussion, go here: DisruptingDH.

Sessions, abstracts, and (some) papers from DH-related events at this year’s MLA can be found through links in the Full Program. Relative to other methodologies and content areas, the digital humanities remains the annual mega-conference’s MVP (Most Visible Player)-as Pannapacker called it, “The Thing”-five years running. The 204 and 408 sessions give a good idea of the kinds of wide-ranging approaches being taken, moreover. DH at this year’s MLA–from textual analysis and close reading to LOL cats and critical queer theory–is thriving, and scholars in languages and literature are doing some pretty meaningful work across diverse areas of research.

Exporting and Sharing Digital Scholarly Editions

Desmond Schmidt’s recent article in the Journal of TEI about how to create a truly portable and interoperable digital scholarly editions came at an opportune time for me. DCC is entering into a relationship with Open Book Publishers in Cambridge to exchange our (Creative Commons licensed) content. They will publish some of our commentaries as books and eBooks, and we will publish some of their book commentaries as multimedia, web-based editions. But how to actually make the transference?

We are starting by delivering Bret Mulligan’s commentary on Nepos’ Life of Hannibal. OBP needs it in a format they can use and set in InDesign and publish in EPUB. But how should the transfer happen? How can we actually share the open licensed scholarly content of DCC so it can actually be re-purposed and pe-published in different formats? Not easily, it turns out. Our commentaries are just html pages in Drupal, not XML based and TEI tagged documents, and thus, in the view of one early critic of the project, “not truly digital.” XML-TEI is intended as a universal standard for editing and tagging documents of all kinds, and not adopting that for our project was at the time a decision based on cost. Anyway, after various investigations on the OBP side it turned out the best way for us to get our commentaries is to OBP deliver the via . . . wait for it . . . Microsoft Word–with all the labor and possibilities for error that that involves.

Wouldn’t things be better if our texts were marked up in XML-TEI? No, according to Schmidt. He argues, in effect, that TEI is actually hindering the sharing of digital scholarly editions. The problem is the subjectivity of TEI tagging and the diversity of the tags themselves, which in Schmidt’s view makes true interoperability of scholarly editions in TEI a pipe dream. The solution he proposes, as I understand it, is to get all the tags and metadata out completely and into separate files, preserving the text as plain text (in multiple versions if we are dealing with revisions or variants). He is evidently developing an editing environment which ends up creating zipped files that completely separate the text itself, annotation data that points back to the text, and metadata. A few choice quotes:

Syd Bauman (2011), one of the original editors of TEI P5, has since observed that interoperability of TEI-encoded texts today—that is, the exchange of unmodified TEI files between different programs—is “impossible.” (9)

One obvious remedy to this problem is to remove the main source of non-interoperability, namely the embedded markup itself, from the text. By removing it, the part which contains all the significant interpretation can later be added or substituted at will. (21)

What remains when the markup is removed is a residue of plain text that is highly interoperable, which can be exchanged with other researchers, just as the files on Gutenberg.org are downloaded by the tens of thousands every day (Leibert 2008). However, if one suggests this to someone who regularly uses TEI-XML, the immediate objection is made that this will solve nothing, because even plain ASCII texts are still an interpretation of what the transcriber sees on the page (e.g. Sperberg-McQueen 1991, 35). This point, although valid to a degree, misses an important distinction. (22)

And it goes on in this interesting vein. I would love to hear from people who are wiser and more experienced than I am about Schmidt’s critique of embedded TEI annotation and his proposed solution. In the meantime, I need to go format some stuff in Microsoft Word.

Exploring User Interaction Options for the Carlisle Indian School Project

Krista Gray sends along this update on her work with the Carlisle Indian School Project, researching best practices and common approaches for crowdsourced transcription and user-submitted content.

This semester I’ve had the opportunity to work as a consultant on the Carlisle Indian School Project, focusing on developing features to support greater user interaction and participation on the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center website. As part of this process, I’ve researched how other institutions have implemented similar features, experimented with various possibilities on a test site, and begun to implement selected elements on the live site.

Initially, I focused on investigating two main avenues for increasing opportunities for user interaction on the site:

  • crowdsourced transcription of digitized documents, and
  • user-submitted contributions of stories, images, or documents in digital form

The research occurred in two main stages. I began by exploring similar projects at other institutions that supported either of these modes of user interaction and also investigated some of the pre-existing open-source tools for facilitating these functions. This preliminary research gave me a better understanding of the scope of various components, approaches, and issues involved in the process as well as the features of digital tools or systems currently available.

After gaining a general understanding of the various systems implemented at other institutions, I then conducted a more systematic comparative analysis of the different features and functions present (or absent) in these systems. In this, I moved beyond general impressions toward identifying best practices and common approaches found on other sites. This research brought forth both points of inspiration as well as a basic framework of significant elements to incorporate when implementing similar features on the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. In this stage, I analyzed eighteen sites supporting crowdsourced transcription, including the Smithsonian Transcription CenterDIYHistory from the University of Iowa, and What’s on the Menu? from the New York Public Library. I also examined eighteen sites supporting user-submitted content, including the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank from George Mason University and the University of New Orleans, Our Marathon from Northeastern University, and the First Days Project from the South Asian American Digital Archive.

I examined each set of sites across several dimensions, ranging from what system they were built with to the specific elements of the transcription or submission form. Best practices for both types of sites included establishing a clear entry point for those looking to contribute or transcribe (perhaps as a button on the homepage), and providing clear access to guidelines for submission (these were common in transcription projects, but more rare in contribution projects). For transcription sites, additional recommended best practices included organizing materials within contextual units and providing elements (such as status labels) to facilitate more efficient browsing and selection of material to transcribe, as well as displaying progress indicators within the project. For contribution sites, collecting the contributor’s name and email address, as well as obtaining consent to a terms and conditions statement were all common practices. Other common fields included title and description, with additional fields varying in accord with the aim of each project. Another significant aspect of this research, then, was to observe how the context of each project might have affected its implementation, and to consider how the specific focus, goals, and resources of the Carlisle Indian School project would shape the development of interactive features on the site.

Building on what I learned over the course of this research, in mid-October 2014 my focus shifted to experimenting and planning how similar interactive elements might be supported on the Carlisle Indian Digital Resource Center website. Given the complexity of implementing these features, both are still in the development process, and my primary focus for November and December 2014 has been on building and testing components to support user-submitted contributions of stories, images, or documents.

Drawing insight and inspiration from two of the Drupal sites I found in my research – the Smithsonian Transcription Center and the South Asian American Digital Archive’s First Days Project – I have developed contribution forms integrated with a defined staff workflow for reviewing, adding metadata, and finally publishing user-contributed stories, images, or documents to the site. Examining the submission form on the First Days Project led me to investigate how a form typically used on the administrative side of a Drupal site could be adapted to collect public submissions of content as well. The process of collecting and reviewing transcriptions on the Smithsonian Transcription Center similarly led me to investigate how various functions could be added to assist staff in moving content through different stages of a review process for the Carlisle Indian School site. An account creation and login process is also in development for contributors.

As I considered how to implement various components to support user-submitted contributions, I gained a better understanding of what might be possible on the project site as a whole. An additional byproduct of this work, then, has been the development of features to extend site functionality for researchers as well, to allow for better browsing and filtering of records on the resource center. The significance of progress indicators for transcription sites found in my research, too, has also made an impact, despite not being directly relevant to the current focus on user-submitted contributions. New pages are in development to provide visitors with statistics on the progress being made by project staff to describe and provide access to more and more content online. This work has also resulted in additional test pages that present options for new angles by which researchers can explore the characteristics of the files currently available.

Finally, while all major interactive features are still in development, we have been able to implement two simpler interactive elements to the live site — visitors can now submit corrections to descriptions of particular records and they may also provide general feedback on the site. Additional options and information have also been added to browse pages on the live site, with more, as described above, planned for 2015. Watch the “Recent News & Updates” section on the home page of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center for information about when new features will go live in the coming months.

Krista Gray graduated from Dickinson College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science (a double major in Math and History, she was awarded honors in History and admitted to Phi Beta Kappa). She worked as the Friends of the Library Intern at Dickinson during the 2011-2012 academic year. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 with a Master of Science in Information. In February 2015, she will begin her new job in the special collections division of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Recent Digital Projects at Dickinson

A 2013-2017 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation for faculty-driven digital projects is part of the longer-term flowering of digital projects at Dickinson, all of which involve students as scholars collaborating with faculty in some way. The History department has been particularly active in this realm since the 1980s (Dickinson Chronicles, House Divided, Dickinson History Project), and there are substantial projects in the Classical Studies department (Dickinson College Commentaries), the language departments (The Mixxer), and in the Sociology department and the College Archives (Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project). Here are some new and ongoing digital projects at Dickinson that the Digital Humanities Advisory Committee has been pleased to be able to support in recent months, thanks to the Mellon grant:

  • Mark Aldrich (Spanish and Portuguese): creating a digital edition of the 1984 work Andanzas de un mensajero fiero y pendenciero by poet and artist Rafael Pérez Estrada.
  • Patrick Belk (Mellon DH Postdoc): The Pulp Magazines Project, a full-text, searchable archive and database of British and American Fiction Magazines from the early twentieth century.
  • Chris Francese (Classical Studies): a digital version of T.D. Goodell’s School Grammar of Attic Greek; database of Vergilian vocabulary; multimedia edition of Vergil’s Aeneid.
  • Jim Gerencser (Archives), Susan Rose (Sociology), Malinda Triller Doran (Library): Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center: digitizing materials held at the U.S. National Archives; programming in Drupal to implement the various types of user interactivity.
  • Jacob Sider Jost (English): Eighteenth-Century Poets Connect, a Drupal database of patronage, authorship, and publication data from early 18th-century English literature (1710-1730)
  • Nicoletta Marini-Maio (Italian): gender/sexuality/italy (g/s/i), an online annual, peer-reviewed academic journal.
  • Crystal Moten (History): Visualizing Black Milwaukee, a platform to visualize (GIS mapping) the spatial dimensions of African American life in Milwaukee during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Matt Pinsker (History): House Divided: E-Book publication series; Videotaped panels / special exhibit for the “Understanding Lincoln” online course; video tour, virtual trip to President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home in Washington DC; multimedia edition of Lincoln’s writings.
  • Blake Wilson (Music): database of poetry incipits, poet, poetic forms, language, composer, music sources, literary sources, and bibliography and notes related to singing and song culture in Renaissance Florence.

An earlier post lists activities related to the grant over its first year. Thanks to all the faculty who are doing this exciting work, and to the Mellon Foundation for fostering it!

Mellon DH Fund supports ongoing Digitization Efforts of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project

Directed by Jim Gerencser, Dickinson College Archivist, Susan Rose, Professor of Sociology, and Malinda Triller Doran, Special Collections Librarian, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project is developing a comprehensive digital resource to catalog and preserve records of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (1879-1918). It brings together widely dispersed archival materials to aid research and study, and serves as a virtual home for an active CIIS community of memory and inquiry. Launched in 2013, this exciting, new project at Dickinson College is already making a positive impact upon the communities of scholars and family historians who do research on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and its many thousands of students.

DickinsonMagazine_Summer2014

With support from the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund last January, the project was able to hire two new undergraduate researchers, Katie Walters and Tessa Cicak, who spent two weeks at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. scanning materials from the student files series of CIIS records. Along with Caitlin Moriarty (Friends of the Library), they scanned 1560 student files during that time, comprising roughly 16,200 pages of text. Gerencser also spent several days at the National Archives, surveying the contents of other document series and scanning 5 boxes of student id cards. Back in Carlisle, undergraduate interns Michele Metcalf, Stephanie Read, and Frank Vitale continued to add processed, finalized student files to the online database, while correcting and updating student files that had been uploaded in summer 2013. Through the technology consultancy services of Don Sailer, also funded by the Mellon grant, new search features, an updated home page, and enhanced content entry standards were also added to the project’s website, along with a blog to provide regular updates on the project’s progress.

NARA_1401_02

As of that time, Gerencser and his team had scanned 3556 student files, of which 667 files were online, edited, and fully updated; 628 were online, with editing/ updating of descriptive content needed; and 288 were processed and ready to be put online. Of the 15 boxes of student card files in D.C., 5 had been fully scanned and processed, comprising roughly 1950 cards. Large sections of CIIS registers and record books were also transcribed, edited, and ready to be put online.

NARA_1327_b023_f1051_Page_6_Image_0001

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project was featured that month in an article for Indian Country Today, “Carlisle Indian Industrial School Files Go Digital,” and most recently was the subject of an ABC27 news story, “Digital records unearth Indian school history.”

For more information on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Project, you can contact Jim Gerencser by email here.