Monthly Archives: January 2015

Showcase of 2015 Boot Camp Projects

Photos from the Digital Projects Showcase (Jan. 29, 2015) in the HUB, Social Hall East (photos by Chris Francese). For Tony Moore’s article on this year’s DBC at Dickinson, click here.

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.


The mods have been submitted to (a University of Harrisburg website tracking the use of commercial games in education), (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 –

1492 –

Via Steam:

Colonization of Africa –

1492 –

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
English, Spanish

Mapping Sustainability at Dickinson College
Jackie Goodwin
Environmental Studies, Sociology

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

The Peddler
Nick Bailey
International Business, Management

Maryland Folklore Project
Andrew McGowan
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

EDDC Archive: Digital Library for the English Department
Harris Risell

Renaissance Music Database
Maurice Royce
Computer Science, Mathematics

Student Curation at the Trout
Anna Leistikow
International Studies

Education Reform
Melissa Pesantes
Italian Studies, Anthropology

Mapping the Aeneid
Katherine Purington
Classical Studies

Exploring the Invisible Universe
Olivia Wilkins
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.


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 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.