General Feedback on Draft Scripts

I am about halfway through the draft scripts.  I’m pleased with our first attempt at this type of writing, but a few trends have become clear.

1. Read your writing aloud at least once and revise it before you record it.  Everyone’s prose is clunky the first and second draft and you will need to do several revisions.  Make at least one revision based on the sound of the prose spoken aloud (which will be the eventual form it takes).

2. Get more specific and detailed to give a sense of the human drama, individual agency, and contingency in our situations.  In some cases, discussion of the experience of a situation will make it more compelling — the setting, for example.  In other cases, knowing more about the individuals who are making the decisions and taking the actions within an organization is the key.  In some cases, the context is key.  I’ve said before, this should not read like a term paper that we deliver aloud.  This is an audio story — it’s a different type of writing and we are going to have to go over it a few times to get it right.

3. Keep your segments short and your audio varied.  Just about everyone is going to have to revise and edit to keep things moving.

4. Get your interviews done as soon as possible and get your transcripts done so you can fill those [interview here] gaps in your script.

5.  Also, data.  I want numbers.  How many people?  How many votes?  How did the people translate into votes? No generalizations — give me data!

5a. On the data: no election stands alone or can be interpreted on its own.  If we are making claims about a statewide election, we need to compare our race with other statewide races or previous/later races for the same office.  Was it a larger margin of victory?  Smaller?  Make sure you tell us.

Blog Post for March 23, 2017

We will have a script discussion, a tool demo, and a visit from Kurt Luther.

What are you listening to?  What did you learn from the scriptwriting process?  What is the relationship between the writing process for the script and the production process for the audio product?   What was the greatest challenge of writing the script.  300-400 words.  Post by Wednesday 11:59pm [rather than the usual Tuesday].

Final Project

By now, you should have your final project set.  By Thursday, submit a paragraph to me via Canvas in which you give a synopsis of the whole project, then a list of products and suggested criteria for evaluating them.  What will constitute a success?

1. What is the site (URL) you will create or revise to manage your professional identity? What are the key features you will create or revise?

2. What is the medium of your project?

3a. What are the intellectual goals?  (eg making a set of analog archival materials on X subject publicly available over the web by digitizing and curating them.)

3b. What are the aesthetic goals?  (eg Having a basic, clean, and easily navigable site with meaningful metadata about the archival materials and full-screen viewing.  Making the archival materials available in high enough resolution that they can be scrutinized for research, not just for reference.)

3c. What are the technical goals? (Using an out-of-the-box content management system (CMS), adapting some cascading style sheets (CSS) and hypertext markup language (HTML), and using Dublin Core metadata schema).


Style Sheet v. 1.0


Please let me know in the comments if you have questions or would like issues resolved, and I can add to this as necessary.


The tone should generally be professional and exploratory, not scholarly or pedantic. No jokes. You are making an argument and telling a story with a viewpoint, but you should maintain some basic neutrality and respectfulness — the neutrality of someone still trying to learn about a topic and explain it to an audience.

Make sure any voice you bring in is clear to the audience. Anyone who speaks in the podcast episode (interview or archival tape) should be identified.

Ambient voices or historical clips should be identified. Do not assume your audience will recognize a voice, even Barack Obama. You need to do a little bit of basic exposition and should assume your audience doesn’t know much coming in.

When you introduce audio from a scholar the first time, make sure to use their full name and institution. If they have a book on the topic, note that, as well. For example, “I asked LaDale Winling, a historian at Virginia Tech who wrote the book Building the Ivory Tower, about campus planning.” If their work is articles or they have a teaching expertise, you don’t need to mention that specifically. Subsequent times you should strongly consider a simple re-introduction, such as “Here’s Winling again,” if the quotations are not continuous.

Introduce a participant differently. Explain why they are in the story (now or in the past). Scholars/experts have an authority that is easy to grasp. The importance of someone we identify as a participant is less clear and you need to gear up the audience a bit more.

Generally, keep things moving faster than you would initially expect. More varied sound, less extended quotes.

Week 6 Wrap-Up

This was a busy week, with two very different uses of digital technology.

Jamie Donati’s work ultimately illustrates the ongoing transformation of traditional disciplines like archaeology, which expanded to survey archaeology and now employs remote sensing to help make sense of historical landscapes.  Donati didn’t mention, but even in pit archaeology researchers now often take 3-D scans of an excavation in lieu of a detailed artist’s drawing/sketch of features discovered in a pit.

Remote sensing and geophysics have a wide array of mainstream uses and historians are only just now learning about their uses in our research.

Our discussion with Samara Freemark drove the idea of digital technology enabling robust investigation and emphasized narrative.  For her, digital technology was less fetishized, less of a challenge, and seemed in many ways to fit into traditional practices of analog audio production (eg phrases like “good tape” from recorded interviews).  However, in our pre-interview she also asked about historians’ content management systems and how to keep track of all of the materials that historians amass on a large project like a book.  To that end, I think this essay by Ansley Erickson (who visited in the fall) could be helpful to any of us.

Samara also made mention of the Hero’s Journey, an idea explicated by Joseph Campbell, which is a useful one for thinking about narrative and putting individual agency at the center of a project.

Map assignment

For your second map, you should feel free to develop any new derived data or visualization you want.  There are several calculations you could do.  You could create a “Margin of Victory” column by taking the Victor’s number of votes, subtracting the second candidate’s number of votes, then dividing by the total number of votes in the district. You could explore the “IF” function to do this and use a typical chloropleth visualization for it.

If you wanted to go one step further in the visualization, you could create a new column that concatenated the party of the victor (or its first letter) with the margin of victory, so you could say a district was R12 or D7, then assign a reddish or bluish color to that margin of victory.  When you visualize the map, (right click on the shapefile>>Properties>>Symbology, then there is a menu that comes up; I recommend you choose quantities, rather than the categories we used in the first visualization).  Other data to consider visualizing would be overall votes in a district, popularity (votes) for a third-party candidate.  These are just suggestions, not assignments — let your heart sing in the midst of the cartography.  You have many choices in the process of visualizing and you should reflect on each specific choice you make, whether it helps you communicate something more powerfully or with greater simplicity and less clutter.

Freemark Resources

Tomorrow we will be joined by Samara Freemark, one of the producers for In the Dark, and formerly of Radio Diaries.  Here are some examples of her work before In the Dark.

Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair

The Two Lives of Asa Carter

The Gospel Ranger

Samara has also asked about historians’ content management systems — when you have hundreds or thousands of documents on a project, how do you keep them straight and accessible?

Thursday, February 23rd

Tomorrow we will have two visitors via Skype.  The first is Jamie Donati, the archaeologist who does remote sensing.  We read two of his articles two weeks ago and will have him for the first hour.  The second is Samara Freemark, one of the producers of the In the Dark podcast.  She will join us 4-5pm.

Because of our guests, we will reschedule the Szarkowski discussion for another week (to be set in the 5 o’clock hour).

ADVICE: Don’t delay on your map visualizations.

Data Visualization

Mapping can be a form of data visualization.  Maps need not be used for navigation.  This is what the Congressional elections history project is — data visualization.  It has an argument embedded in the presentation, that Congress is a co-equal branch of the federal government and our use of presidential election data and maps must be matched by use of Congressional election data.  Even moreso, it has the idea at its base that Congressional political dynamics are different from presidential/national political forces.  Thus, a landslide win for Lyndon Johnson looks far more mixed at the Congressional level, and there are regional and local geographies at play in those election results.  At the top, the House results; at bottom, the electoral college results for 1964:



Continuing with this idea of data visualization, there is one major figure in thought on data visualization: Edward Tufte.  His work The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is THE classic text.   He has moved onto other matters, and Nathan Yau has succeeded Tufte as the leading exponent of data visualization.  Yau recently illustrated some problematic practices in data visualization on his site, Flowing Data.   This might be a site worth checking out more regularly to keep up on this discussion.

Tutorial for Mapping Assignment

Available here.

There is much more of a DIY culture to the computing realm and digital humanities than there is in history.

In history, faculty stress proper style for citations in a research paper and develop iterative exercises to have students follow the Chicago Manual, get feedback, and revise.   We never say “go figure it out.”  We say, “Submit your topic, I’ll give you feedback, you can use my comments in your rough draft, and then after more comments, you can write a polished draft.”

In the digital realm, it is common to hear a question met with “google it” as an answer.  There is a ton of documentation on any program you like and its many versions on the web, and many many sites like Stack Overflow to provide crowdsourced answers to questions — there is far less of the authoritative guiding and one-on-one feedback between faculty and student.  It is much more experimental and independent.  Thus, I expect you should be able to handle the mapping assignment with the above tutorial.  If you hit troublespots, google the issues, watch lynda videos, and consult your classmates.  If all that fails you, THEN come talk to me.

MORE: For the mapping assignment, you will export two maps into image files.  One, using the color palette that I delineate in the tutorial.  The second, you can add or calculate any additional data you like and then visualize it in a meaningful manner with your own color palette.

In the tutorial, you saw that I calculated “Margin,” the margin of victory for the winning candidate.  This could be something that you calculate.  You could choose the existing “Total Votes” category.  There are a wide range of possibilities.  But choose a different value or calculate a new data category, then map it using the Properties>>Symbology logic from the tutorial.  I will create a Canvas assignment for your submission.


067 – Emily

076 – Jenny

077 – Emma

081 – Julie

084 – Heather

085 – Drew

087 – Rebecca

095 – Eleanor

098 – Delia

102 – Mary

VISUALIZATION NOTE: A member of the Mapping Inequality team created a visualization poster of all the cities where we have spatial data.  You can view it here.

Data How-To

UPDATE 3: In several elections, a candidate is listed twice or more, under the banner of different political parties.  This happens frequently in New York; an independent, local or state party may nominate another party’s candidate at the Congressional level (though maintain separate slates at the local levels) .  In this case, add all the votes for the candidate together to determine the winner.  A source to help confirm your math is the House elections results reports here.

UPDATE 2: HERE is the election codebook with party numbers.

UPDATE: Screencast Tutorial available HERE in mov.  Seriously, watch this 9-minute video.

First, your data should have two sheets — “Raw” and “Formatted.”

Within the Raw are the following fields (columns):

Candidate: useful

Source: not useful

Year: somewhat useful

State ICPSR Code: useful with this link

Continue reading “Data How-To”