Questions to Ask about Locations

Are you unsure about how to analyze the significance of locations in a story?  Try answering these questions:

  1. Are there many or few place names in the story?
  2. Are most of the locations real or fictional? Is there a pattern?
  3. Is the description of the area realistic or has it been fictionalized? Why?
  4. Does each location have a similar number of pages dedicated to it?
  5. What is discussed at each location? Is there a pattern to what is discussed where?
  6. Are there connections between a location and the theme of the story at that location?

Map Presentation Preparation


Each group is responsible for one of the sections below (“Background,” “Map Details,” “Map Team,” “Design”).  Be prepared to share your responses with the class.

  1. Background: What subject/theme unifies the items plotted on the map? Why is that theme/subject important? How is this map useful? What sort of research questions can you ask (come up with at least 2 examples)?
  2. Map Details: How many places/things are mapped? What kind of map does it have (historical maps, Google maps, or something else)? What information is included about each location? Why is that information important? Is the map animated (does it change over time)? Is there a legend/key? Where did the data/maps come from? Is it a scholarly project?
  3. Map Team: Who built this map, how big a team was it, and where is the site hosted? Who is the intended audience for this project (e.g. researchers, students, the general public)? What academic fields (e.g. English, History) can learn from this archive?  Check this list of academic fields to answer that final question.
  4. Design: How does a user interact with the map? Is it searchable? What colors and images does it include, and how do those colors/images reflect the theme/subject of the site? How was the site built (e.g. what technology does the site use)?

Five Important Qualities of a Digital Humanities Project

A good digital humanities project should incorporate the following:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Intuitive Navigation
  3. Collaborative Potential
  4. Expandability
  5. Clear Intent/Purpose

If a project includes all of these aspects, such as the Charles Booth Archive or the Rosetti Archive, then we can learn from them in hopes of creating our own. The scholarly nature of both archives adds to their legitimacy; in fact, thanks to each sites’ design, the presentation of information is transparent, and bibliographic notes are included.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 11.35.29 AM

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Digital Humanities allows scholars to ask new questions that would have been almost impossible prior to the proliferation of the internet. Collaboration throughout the world is much easier now, which increases the variety of viewpoints for a particular subject.

Another advancement that promotes new questions is the use of interactive maps which can be toggled on or off. This gives scholars a tool to investigate that would be either too difficult or too time consuming to recreate prior to digitalization.

These are just two of many innovations in thinking digital humanities has hoisted upon the world; it will be interesting to see how the discipline grows and changes with time.

What Makes a Good Digital Humanities Project?

1. Clear Objective/Topic

The purpose of the project should be clear, without users needing to dig deeper to find out why the site or project exists. Without a clear objective in mind, projects risk becoming too expansive, scattered, and/or diluted in their content and/or message, thereby limiting their relevance and usability.

Book Traces has a very clear purpose, stated directly on the home page. Due to this, it’s quite easy to see how the information on the site is unified.

2. User Friendly/Easy to Navigate

A good Digital Humanities project needs to be easy for users to navigate and use. An over-complicated design or interface makes the project less useful in the long run, since users need to be able to find what they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible in order for the project to have any merit for scholarly/research purposes.

3. Visually Appealing/Appropriate

A good Digital Humanities project should be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, without the design distracting or deviating from the purpose of the project. This keeps the project interesting and engaging, and, if done right, can help further immerse users in the information contained within.

Locating London is beautifully designed, with consistent color themes and imagery that, together, enhance the experience of scrolling through the black and white maps of London the site contains.

4. Scholarly

Digital Humanities projects should aim to be as scholarly as possible, providing relevant, consistent, accurate information that can be effectively used for research purposes.

The Charles Booth Online Archive is quite scholarly, allowing users to see the demographics of specific locations in Victorian London, as studied by Charles Booth, as well as search the specific records used to generate this data.

5. Collaborative

It’s quite useful for a Digital Humanities project to be collaborative. Some projects allow users from around the world to contribute, while others are simply open to be updated over time by the researchers involved, never quite being “finished.”

How do Digital Humanities Projects Allow Scholars to Ask New Questions?

Digital Humanities allows scholars to ask new questions by making connections between topics and types of data that were never before so easily comparable. For example, a GIS mapping project can provide comparative, multi-era overlays of the same area, showing differences over time in some specific category, and it is able to do this all in the same space, in an interactive way. Digital Humanities makes the easy effortless, the possible easy, the difficult possible, and, in some cases, the impossible a reality.