Comparing Digital Tools

Voyant, CartoDB, and Palladio are all digital tools to help the public humanists to create visualizations of the data they have collected.  Voyant helps users examine the usage of words throughout text-heavy documents.  CartoDB helps users map data on a geographic map and share the information presented on those points.  Palladio allows users to create network visualizations of data sets, and examine the complex relationships.  All three tools are incredibly helpful for the digital public humanists.  All three are fairly user-friendly, as well.

Each tool reveals something different about a given data set, depending on what the user wants to examine.  Some researchers may want to simply see a geographic map and the data points layered over it, therefore they would use CartoDB.  Other researchers may want to see the regularity of word usage, in order to examine trends in an overall document, therefore they would utilize Voyant.  Even more researchers may want to examine the networks and relationships between the data points given, not necessarily worrying about the geographic locations given maps, therefore they would use Palladio.  It would be possible to combine the different tools to create a hybrid of the data presented, such as a network visualization layered over a geographic map, both to see the locations and relationships given in the data set.  Voyant could help the user note the major topics covered, which then could be used as data sets for Polladio, which would help visualize the relationships between those topics and other data points.  Polladio could be used to visualize networks that could be also visualized on a geographic map.  The different tools can complement each other well, while revealing new points of view to analyze.  These three tools are incredibly valuable for a digital public humanist.

CartoDB Review

CartoDB is a digital mapping software that enables the user to insert data points onto a map.  It can be numerical or categorical data, just so long as it has locational data as well.  The mapping software allows users to easily import a database of information, from an online source, Excel, GoogleDoc, etc., in order to plot those data points onto the map.  The map that a user could receive might be as simple as a point map that simply shows where the data gets plotted on the map, or it could be as detailed as having a time lapse and density cluster shown at the same time.  The type of information shown depends on what exactly the user wants to see.

In our activity, we used data from the WPA’s Slave Narrative Collection.  It included data such as location of interview, interviewee, interviewer, gender, location of birth, location of enslavement, type of slave, etc.  We were able to import the data spreadsheet very quickly and painlessly, which then quickly created a map that had the data points layered over it.  You can choose which data you want represented from that database, and then change how it is represented, based on whether you want a point map, a cluster map, or a categorical map.  All of which are manipulatable depending on the information you are seeking to depict.  The maps are then easy to export and publish for other people to view.  The site is laid out in a straight-forward fashion, and it is mostly user friendly.  It is somewhat confusing on the different types of maps, but it then gets more user-friendly as you continue to use it more.  CartoDB also offers multiple tutorials and FAQ if you are struggling with it.

This map shows the density of interviews in a particular area.

This map shows the density of interviews in a particular area.