Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities

The Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities is a student-created and student-run conference. A group of undergraduates had attended other Digital Humanities conferences in the past, but felt as though those conferences did not give students enough time to discuss research projects, methods, and tools directly with one another. As a result, the Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities was created to give students the space to present research projects to one another and to encourage future collaboration between the participants. Participants have the chance to bring what they discussed at the conference back to their respective colleges in order to contribute to the growth of digital humanities.

This past November, I was selected to attend the inaugural conference along with one other Bowdoin student at Davidson College in North Carolina. The first session was titled “Speed Dating” and all the attendees had two minutes to share key findings from their research and explain the digital and computational tools used in their project. I was excited but also surprised to learn about the breadth of research possibilities across many different institutions (each college’s digital humanities program seems to be run somewhat differently, although there are certainly discernible overlaps). The range of projects included digitizing an ancient tomb, studying ethnography through digital sound, and creating an interactive timeline of the Earl of Essex. Since the field is still so new and is only going to continue to grow, attendees were able to build on the knowledge of other students by sharing diverse research projects that employed a wide range of digital and computational tools.

I was able to present the research that I had worked on with Professor Hall this summer as one of the six longer presentations. The project is titled, “What Could Joshua Chamberlain See at Gettysburg?” and explores the relationship between present and historical narratives using computational tools such as Gephi and arcGIS.

Later in the conference, Keynote Whitney Trettien gave a talk titled Off the Books: Digital Futures. She discussed her own path through the field of digital humanities, and it was extremely informative to see where our work in this field could lead after graduation. She also emphasized her desire to balance physical books and digital ones throughout her work.

The conference served as an ideal starting point to collaborate with other students and learn more about digital humanities that I could then apply at Bowdoin. At the end, there was a design thinking session titled “How might we re imagine the undergraduate humanities research model in the digital age?”, which encouraged everyone to think about what research could look like going forward. The attendees are still in communication with one another and I think there is a great possibility for future undergraduate collaborations in the digital humanities.

DCSI Event on Campus

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This week, there will be a Digital and Computational Studies Workshop.

Digital and Computational Studies Workshop

Tuesday, November 10th | 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Room 304 (North), VAC
Open to the Bowdoin Community
Sponsored by the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative

This Digital and Computational Studies Workshop is open to both students and faculty. Discover how social network analysis can answer questions in the social sciences, humanities, and sciences. The workshop will focus on the 2016 Election. Participants will learn about campaign finance networks and basic network analysis concepts. People can also work on their own network data.


Digital and Computational Toolbox: Gephi

Gephi is an interactive visualization platform. It forms network connections based on the relationship of data inputs. Gephi is open-source, which means that anyone can access it and users can also help improve the Gephi’s design and functionality. Gephi can generate data visualizations for different kinds of networks, graphs, and complex systems. Gephi enables you to create visual representations of data that could uncover hidden network connections. Users can then understand the intricacies and underlying trends in graphs. The two basic elements of Gephi visualizations are nodes (essentially a data point) and edges (connection between two or more nodes).

Gephi is already being used in DCS classes and projects at Bowdoin. This fall, students in Introduction to Digital and Computational Studies (INTD 1100) used Gephi to visualize Joshua Chamberlain’s correspondence network. The visualizations below represent Chamberlain’s overall correspondence during the Civil War. Students visited Bowdoin’s Special Collections and Archives to see the original Chamberlain letters and then created data visualizations in Gephi.

CivilWar2 CivilWar1

Further Reading: Visualizations and Historical Arguments by John Theibault.

Installation: #CarbonFeed by John Park & Jon Bellona


Reception: Monday, April 13 from 7 – 8 PM in Daggett Lounge

Installation on view at the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library from April 13 – May 13

Photo by John Park

#CarbonFeed is a new media project that challenges the perception that the online world is disconnected from physical reality. Artists John Park and Jon Bellona reveal the environmental consequences of online activity by visualizing carbon emissions triggered by tweeting, sonifying Twitter feeds and correlating tweets with data visualization.

#CarbonFeed encourages the Bowdoin community to participate in the instillation by tweeting #carbonfeed and #bowdoin from April 13 – May 13. Your tweets will trigger the installation to emit 0.02g/C02e.

Learn more about #CarbonFeed, John Park, and Jon Bellona.


Project supported by Lectures and Concerts and through contributions from DCSI, Visual Arts, Music, Art History, Environmental Studies, Physics, and Government.

Digital Image of the City: Smart City Recommendations for Portland, Maine

In the Digital Image of the City, taught by Jack Gieseking, students were tasked with identifying an issue in the City of Portland related to the topic of housing, infrastructure, or public space. They then conducted qualitative field research and learned the geographic information systems (GIS) open-source platform QGIS. As over half the world’s population now dwells in cities, revolutionary advances in technology such as big data have caused policymakers and activists alike to shift their focus toward a movement of smart urbanism. Smart urbanism includes interventions in urban issues through better uses of technology and data, from gentrification to pollution, access to public spaces to improved walkability. Students then created maps and conducted research to help them devise technological solutions to these issues.

On December 10th, 2014, the students of The Digital Image of the City shared their final smart city solutions for the City of Portland, Maine, which you can read below. Enjoy!

Announcing the Fall Hackathon!

Hackathon November 2014 e-mail

Hackathon November 2014 e-mail


Our fall Hackathon will be held Wednesday, November 12th, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the third floor of the VAC! All Bowdoinites are welcome!


A hackathon is a space for programmers and designers, from novices to experts, to collaborate intensively on software projects. Come start or work on a project, learn a new coding language, visualize data, or how to protect your online privacy! The digital humanities and social science course students will be working on their projects, and local citizen hackers from Code4Maine (http://dash.code4maine.org/) will be in attendance as well. Faculty and students alike are invited. No prior experience is necessary.

ICPSR Data Fair 2014: Powering Sustainable Data Access

Drop in the week of October 6-9, 2014 for one or several webinars offered by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Topics include teaching with data, data management, data sharing, sensitive data, ICPSR datasets, and more. Stop by to view the one-hour webinar presentations of your choice! All webinars are being held in  H-L Library, Second Floor, Room 7.  For a full schedule and descriptions of the webinars, see ICPSR Data Fair 2014. 

Questions?  Contact Barbara Levergood.

Event: Matthew Booker’s Talk “Why Did Americans Stop Eating Locally?”

Why Did Americans Stop Eating Locally?Why Did Americans Stop Eating Locally?

  • 9/11/2014 | 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • Location: Sills Hall, Smith Auditorium
  • Event Type: Lecture

In his talk Matthew Booker will explore why urban Americans radically changed their diets in the twentieth century. Tracing the American diet from local oysters to long distance burgers, he will suggest ways we can learn from this history as we rethink today’s and tomorrow’s food.

Matthew Booker is an associate professor of History at North Carolina University, and a specialist in Environmental History and Western North American History.

For more information on this event, please see the website

DCSI Event: Jack Gieseking’s The People, Place, and Space Reader Book Launch

The People, Place, and Space Reader. 2014. Routledge.

The People, Place, and Space Reader. Edited by Jen Jack Gieseking, William Mangold, with Cindi Katz, Setha Low, and Susan Saegert. 2014. Routledge.

Join us for the first DCSI event of the fall!

Book launch: The People, Place, and Space Reader
Edited by our own Jen Jack Gieseking

Wednesday, September 10th
4:30 p.m., Mass Hall Faculty Room

A conversation between Jen Jack Gieseking, Digital and Computational Studies Initiative, & Matt Klingle, History and Environmental Studies

More about the book:
The People, Place, and Space brings together the writings of scholars from a variety of fields to make sense of the ways we shape and inhabit our world. The included texts help us to understand the relationships between people and place at all scales, and to consider the active roles individuals, groups, and social structures play in a range of environments. These readings highlight the ways in which space and place are produced through social, political, and economic practices, and take into account differences in perception, experience, and practice. The People, Place, and Space Reader includes both classic writings and contemporary research, connecting scholarship across disciplines, periods, and locations. Essays from the editors introduce the texts and outline key issues surrounding each topic. This companion website, peopleplacespace.org, provides additional reading lists covering a broad range of issues and open access versions of many of the essays. An essential resource for students of urban studies, geography, design, sociology, and anyone with an interest in the environment, this volume presents the most dynamic and critical understanding of space and place available.

Student Research from Data Driven Societies (Spring 2014)

In the spring of 2014, I (Jen Jack Gieseking) taught Data Driven Societies with Eric Gaze. A geographer and a mathematician, a social scientist and a natural scientist, working together with 35 students with very diverse backgrounds and interests sought to answer one question: what can data visualization reveal and obscure about the world’s increasing obsession with all things data?

Students selected a social justice hashtag of their choice that related to issues of identity, privacy, economics, politics, or the environment. Over a month, students scraped Twitter data on their hashtag. A hashtag is a term with a # in front of it that hyperlinks to all uses of the term that can range from #stopandfrisk and #smog to #gobears. As students read media and conducted research about the issue they had chosen to study, they also began to create graphs, maps, and network analyses from the Twitter data as well as a related dataset they had to find and bring to class. Students left the class with not only a basic understanding of software such as Excel, R, Social Explorer, CartoDB, and Gephi, but also a much more critical eye on the procurement, organization, and manipulation of data.

The outcomes were impressive and inspiring. Many of the students agreed to share their papers and/or presentations publicly, all of which are listed below or you can scroll through them at your leisure. Besides the work by students below, we share our course description as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did making them!

Links to student work:

Course description:

Big data and computational methods, such as changes in social media privacy laws and advances in mapping and network analysis, are changing financial markets, political campaigning, and higher education and becoming commonplace in our lives. Our daily existence is increasingly structured by code, from the algorithms that time our traffic lights to those that filter our search criteria and record our thoughts and ideas. In this course, we explore the possibilities, limitations, and implications of using digital and computational methods and analytics to study issues that affect our everyday lives from a social scientific approach. We pay special attention to the ways we collect, trust, analyze, portray, and use data, most especially the tools and meanings involved in data visualization and modeling.

This course tackles a number of cutting-edge issues and questions that confront society today: What sorts of questions can be asked and answered using digital and computational methods to rethink our relationships to data and what can data can show us about the world? How do we construct models to help us better understand social phenomena and associated data? What is data, and how do we know it’s reliable? How do these methods complement and sometimes challenge traditional methodologies in the social sciences? Students will leave the course with both substantive experience in digital and computational methods, Students will learn how to apply a critical lens for understanding and evaluating what computers can (and cannot) bring to the study of society.