GIS Data, Social Justice and the Bill “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017″

My original intent of this blog was to write about the professional issues–training, project development, data and project management, thoughtful critical analysis on the digital humanities, etc. as they pertain to academic librarianship. I feel compelled to expand that scope to include political issues. Below is an announcement that appeared on the Humanist list January 31st that I believe is worth sharing.

Dear Geographers,

We are writing to bring your attention to the US HR 482 and SB 103, which are an attack on the collection, storage, and distribution of geospatial information, antiracism work, and affordable housing (see below). The text of the bill <>, “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017,” will nullify HUD’s 2015 “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” report to “have no force or effect,” and does so by eliminating the data to support social change.

In other words, the bill stands at odds with the pursuit of knowledge about human geography, including census data. The bill would prohibit a significant amount of the work we do on race, racism, and fair housing in the US, as well as GIS research more broadly, all of which thwart work towards social justice. A key section reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.

We encourage feedback, wisdom, and action among our respective lists, AAG specialty groups, other collectives and collegial relationships, and the AAG leadership. We ask you to share word about this bill with colleagues in other disciplines and on social media, using the hashtags #datarefuge and #datarescue when doing so to connect this issue to larger issues of public data and public data collection erasure, obfuscation, and elimination. We also encourage US citizens to reach out to your congressional representatives or to organize from afar in solidarity to stop this bill. Full links to the Senate and House bills are below.

Thanks to Euan Hague for bringing this to the CRIT-GEOG list’s attention, and for Reed Underwood’s response.

Onward together,
Jack Gieseking, Trinity College
Emily Mitchell-Eaton, USCS
Hector Agredano, CUNY Graduate Center
Elizabeth R. Johnson, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Naomi Adiv, Portland State University
Ryan Burns, University of Calgary

Jen Jack Gieseking
Assistant Professor of Public Humanities
American Studies Program, Trinity College
300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT  06106

The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory: new Digital Humanities section

Beginning in the 2016 volume, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory has a new section on the digital humanities. Written by Anthony Mandal:

"The digital humanities continue to grow within the academy, moving from earlier concentrations on tools development towards more sustained conceptual encounters with our increasingly digital culture. A number of recent publications have introduced the key terms of reference for digital humanistic practice to those unacquainted or uninitiated with current developments in the field. Nevertheless, the longstanding paucity of engagement with theory in the digital humanities has been critiqued as constructing a field that is fundamentally instrumental and un-self-reflexive. This chapter considers seven publications from 2015 that go some way to addressing this lacuna in their demonstration of digital humanities scholarship as not only open to, but capable of, persuasive and nuanced explorations of theory. This manifests itself in various ways: presenting the digital humanities as an inter- or transdisciplinary practice that reconfigures and replenishes the broader traditions of studia humanitatis; in the form of a new ‘digital rhetoric’ that brings production and usage ever closer; or as part of an emergent ecology of ‘knowledge machines’ that draw on the ‘mathematization’ of information. The chapter also considers works that analyse the role of digital media in wider culture, particularly through the affordances and constraints of the social media platforms of Web 2.0."

CONFERENCE: Digital Infrastructure for Named Entities Data

Digital Infrastructure for Named Entities Data
Leipzig, Alexander von Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities, January
11-13, 2017

The Leipzig Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities and Pelagios Commons,
within the Global Philology Project and with the support of the BMBF, are
offering a conference to make the point about existing infrastructures and
needs in the field of Named Entities Data.

We use “Named Entities” in a larger sense than usual, not just in terms of
simple “proper names”, but as real expressions of cultural/cognitive
patterns in the representation of geospatial and social information as they
appear in premodern sources. The discussion will include spatial
descriptions as community knowledge, graphic representations of the world,
prosopographies, social networks, movements of people across time and
space, classification and relations of toponyms and personal names. We will
focus on several language domains, including Ancient Greek and Latin,
Arabic, Chinese, Syriac and Hebrew.

Our aim is to make the point about what has been done in this field and to
discuss common issues and opportunities of developing an infrastructure
that is shared across historical languages.


Venue: Bibliotheca Albertina Conference Hall, Beethovenstrasse 6, 04107

January 11

Research area 1: “Representing Named Entities”

9:30-10:00: Welcome and opening remarks: Chiara Palladino (Universität
Leipzig and Bari)

10:00-10:30: Mark Depauw (University of Leuven), Trismegistos and the
complexities of Named Entities of the Ancient World

10:30-11:00: Sergio Brillante (Università di Bari and Reims), Reading a
Greek Periplous: between lexicon, toponymy and space representation

11:00-11:15: coffee break

11:15-11:45: Ryan Horne (University of North Carolina), People, Places,
and Time: Representing Entities In the Big Ancient Mediterranean Project

11:45-12:15: Yanne Broux (University of Leuven), TM Networks: visualizing
relations in Trismegistos

12:15-12:45: Chet Van Duzer (University of Mississippi), Why do we have
no classical mappaemundi? Some thoughts by way of mosaics

12:45-14:15: Lunch

14:15-14:45: Kurt Franz (Universität Tübingen), Obsessed with Names?
Hodology and Topology, Vision and Factualism in Arabic Geographies

14:45-15:15: Alexandr Podossinov (Russian Academy of Sciences – Institute
of World History), Sprachliche Repräsentation des geographischen Raums in
der Antike

15:15-15:45: Guenther Goerz and Martin Thiering (Universität
Nürnberg-Erlangen), Spatial Cognition in Historical Geographic Texts and
Maps: Methodologies and Theories

15:45-16:00: coffee break

16:00-16:30: Veronica Bucciantini (Università di Firenze), FGrHist V:
Editorial and Conceptual problems of a geographical Project

16:30-17:00: Thomas Carlson (Vanderbilt University), Named Concepts
Between Reality and Imagination:’s Approaches to Historical
Places and Persons

January 12

Research area 2 : “Classifying and linking Named Entities”

9:30-10:00: Opening remarks: Maxim Romanov (Universität Leipzig)

10:00-10:30: Maurizio Lana (Università del Piemonte Orientale), The narrow
and the wide gate: why we must enter both. or: why to blend automatic
parsing and annotation with ontology-based annotation

10:30-11:00: Vincent Razanajao (Université de Liège), Egyptian places and
place names in a digital world: a framework for modelling and analysing an
ancient space

11:00-11:15: coffee break

11:15-11:45: Francesco Mambrini and Wolfgang Schmidle (iDAI Berlin), Persons
and Places in the iDAI.publications

11:45-12:15: Stuart Dunn (King’s College London), Inscriptions engraved on
the soil: Digital approaches to place in Cyprus

12:15-12:45: Lukas Müller (Universität Erlangen), Prosopography and its
Problems in the Digital Edition of the Inscriptions of Metropolis in Ionia

12:45-14:15: Lunch

14:15-14:45: Neven Jovanovic and Alex Simrell (University of Zagreb), Digital
commenting on place names in early modern Latin texts

14:45-15:15: Valeria Vitale (ICS London), Named entities for cross
cultural places: languages, boundaries, identities. The case of CALCS and
the Arabic place-names of classical sites

15:15-15:45: Masoumeh Seydi Gheranghiyeh (Universität Leipzig), TBA

15:45-16:00: coffee break

16:00-16:30: Dagmar Schäfer (Max Planck Institut, Berlin), Local Gazetters
and named entities recognition. Grand corpuses of Classical Chinese

16:30-17:00: Johan Åhlfeldt (Lund University), The Digital Atlas of the
Roman Empire (working title)

January 13

Research area 3: “Towards a cross-disciplinary infrastructure for Named
Entities in historical languages”

9:30-10:00: Keynote: Gregory Crane (Universität Leipzig / Tufts University)

10:00-10:30: Sinai Rusinek (Van Leer University), Kima: Places in a

10:30-11:00: Elton Barker (Open University), Investigating place:
annotation, links, transformation

11:00-11:30: coffee break

11:30-12:00: Hilde De Weerdt (University of Leiden), Named Entity
Recognition for Classical Chinese: Issues and Prospects

12:00-12:30: Brady Kiesling (Laskaridis Foundation), ToposText: Toward an
Ecosystem of Free-Range Big Data in the Classics

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-17:00: Round table and report (with coffee)

Attendance is free and very much welcome.

For further information please visit: http://www.dh.uni-leipz



Science & Math in the Humanities

On Wednesday, October 19, at The Catholic University of America, our new Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Aaron Dominguez, gave a talk titled “Science & Math in the Humanities” to the Department of Library and Information Science. Dean Dominguez was the Associate Dean for Research and Global Engagement and a Full Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nebraska — Lincoln (UNL). Dr. Dominguez, whose area of research is experimental high energy physics, has a strong history of research and grant activity.

What connections can we made in the liberal arts? Specifically, can we connect creative mathematical and physical thinking with creative thinking in the humanities? If so, what is to be gained by this? He provided two examples: text analysis and network analysis.

Dean Dominguez started from his background in particle physics and how he thinks as a physicist.



Dean Dominguez has worked at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland for many years. As physicists, they had to distinguish and separate the various types of particles in order to extract meaning from the noise.  He noted that this strategy/methodology is used in text analysis and other digital humanities areas.

How does this apply to digital humanities? Dean Dominguez used the humorous video, ‘Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories.’ to illustrate that stories and narratives have structure that can be quantified and graphed:

Professor Matthew Jockers has tried to do just that—see if there are hidden structures in large body of texts. Dean Dominguez has been friends with Jockers since they were colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dean Dominguez mentioned that most of what followed in his lecture is from Jocker’s work which can be found here:

Jocker’s blog:

Jocker’s book:

Access to R package (“Syuzhet”) for text analysis:

I highly recommend Jocker’s book for folks interested in learning text analysis (and R!). I use the book in my digital humanities course that I teach in the department of library and information science at CUA.

Opinion and sentiment analysis is a hard problem. You will need to go through a body of text and ‘tag’ each word as positive, negative, or neutral. Lexicons of positive and negative words have been developed over the years and a researcher interested in doing this type of analysis should seek them out as it would be a real time saver. Dean Dominguez uses the following example:


You can try this method with whole novels. Jockers used Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a test case:


The plot looks indistinguishable from the ‘noise’ so we use a low pass filter (similar method outlined from the CERN slides above):


Try a Discrete Cosine Transformation as a Low Pass (another way to do a Fourier transformation):


The plot begins to stand out from the noise.

Dean Dominguez asks: But What about Human Readers?:

  • How well does this simple approach correspond to real human readers interpretation sentiment?
  • In order to debug your computer code or understand your physics equipment, it must be calibrated. I.e. it must reproduce the known correct answer.
  • Pay students to read novels and score overall sentiment of each sentence is negative, neutral, positive.
  • Compare with computer-generated response.



“Proof of Principle is demonstrated,” says Dominguez:

  • “The fairly simple algorithm seems to capture the basic plot arc of the novel
  • Without filtering, it is lost in the high-frequency noise
  • Calibration signal exists (human coders)
  • Jockers has a 40,000 corpus of novels which he is running this on. Looking for archetypal plot arcs is doable
  • Similar technique could be used for related analysis on video and audio; suspense; threat”

How can we encourage such connections between scholars in the digital humanities?

While Dean Dominguez met Jockers personally from their work University of Nebraska, Lincoln, he noted that there are many such potential collaborations across disciplines.

The second example deals with network analysis. The question that needs to be asked: “How can we recognize existing and potential possible collaborations?” As a starting point, Dean Dominguez used the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to see what types of relationships existed between the departments, the scholars, and the administration.

The College has 18 departments in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Dominguez wanted to know:

  1. “What does our externally funded research portfolio and engagement look like?
  2. Can we gain with further interdisciplinary research activities?
  3. What role do the existing interdisciplinary research centers play?
  4. What do the current research collaborations look like in terms of departments and individual PIs?
  5. What potential collaborations seem to be missing?”

To answer these questions, he turned to network analysis using Gephi. After outlining the methodology (i.e. what are nodes, edges, closeness centrality, etc., see below)……………….



The results on the next couple of photographs show relationships between departments. While some departments are linked ‘naturally,’ other departments are linked by way of another department. Are there opportunities available for collaboration between departments that are not directly linked but seem to have some commonalities?  img_4477img_4478

The photo below shows the relationships between faculty. Notice the circular set of separate dots in the center of the photograph: these denote humanities faculty members. The lone humanities scholar is not a cliche!


Dean Dominguez hopes to apply this network analysis to the departments and faculty at Catholic University to see what underlying relationships exist.

In summary, Dean Dominguez demonstrated with two specific examples of how creative thinking can take place between the sciences and the humanities and that hidden relationships can be discovered. CUA is the perfect place to do this given the liberal arts mandate of the University and the inherent interdisciplinariness of many of CUA’s programs.  Dean Dominguez noted that since we are a Catholic school, ‘there is an orthogonal dimension as well: we ask what the meaning of things is, what is true, what is the right way to do it to help people.’

40 people showed up for the colloquium which suggests an increasing interest in DH research at CUA.



 The redefinition of humanities scholarship has received major attention in higher education over the past few years. The advent of digital humanities has challenged many aspects of academic librarianship. With the acknowledgement that librarians must be a necessary part of this scholarly conversation, the challenges facing subject/liaison librarians, technical service librarians, and library administrators are many. Developing the knowledge base of digital tools, establishing best procedures and practices, understanding humanities scholarship, managing data through the research lifecycle, teaching literacies (information, data, visual) beyond the one-shot class, renegotiating the traditional librarian/faculty relationship as ‘service orientated,’ and the willingness of library and institutional administrators to allocate scarce resources to digital humanities projects while balancing the mission and priorities of their institutions are just some of the issues facing librarians as they reinvent themselves in the digital humanities sphere.


College & Undergraduate Libraries, a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor & Francis, invites proposals for articles to be published in the fall of 2017. The issue will be co-edited by Kevin Gunn ( of the Catholic University of America and Jason Paul ( of St. Olaf College.

The issue will deal with the digital humanities in a very broad sense, with a major focus on their implications for the roles of academic librarians and libraries as well as on librarianship in general. Possible article topics include, but are not limited to, the following themes, issues, challenges, and criticism:

  • Developing the project development mindset in librarians
  • Creating new positions and/or cross-training issues for librarians
  • Librarian as: point-of-service agent, an ongoing consultant, or as an embedded project librarian
  • Developing managerial and technological competencies in librarians
  • Administration support (or not) for DH endeavors in libraries
  • Teaching DH with faculty to students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty
  • Helping students working with data
  • Managing the DH products of the data life cycle
  • Issues surrounding humanities data collection development and management
  • Relationships of data curation and digital libraries in DH
  • Issues in curation, preservation, sustainability, and access of DH data, projects, and products
  • Linked data, open access, and libraries
  • Librarian and staff development for non-traditional roles
  • Teaching DH in academic libraries
  • Project collaboration efforts with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty
  • Data literacy for librarians
  • The lack of diversity of librarians and how it impacts DH development
  • Advocating and supporting DH across the institution
  • Developing institutional repositories for DH
  • Creating DH scholarship from the birth of digital objects
  • Consortial collaborations on DH projects
  • Establishing best practices for dh labs, networks, and services
  • Assessing, evaluating, and peer reviewing DH projects and librarians.

Articles may be theoretical or ideological discussions, case studies, best practices, research studies, and opinion pieces or position papers.

Proposals should consist of an abstract of up to 500 words and up to six keywords describing the article, together with complete author contact information. Articles should be in the range of 20 double-spaced pages in length. Please consult the following link that contains instructions for authors:

Please submit proposals to Kevin Gunn ( by August 17, 2016; please do not use Scholar One for submitting proposals. First drafts of accepted proposals will be due by February 1, 2017 with the issue being published in the fall of 2017. Feel free to contact the editors with any questions that you may have.

Kevin Gunn, Catholic University of America

Jason Paul, St. Olaf College