Purdom Lindblad Digital Dialogue | October 4, 2016

Finding Aids for the Unread: Design for the Visualization of Reading


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  3. Purdom conceived of this project - originally entitled "Airport Books," with a former colleague, Eric Rochester. It didn't have a literature review or a set of grounding questions, but invoked Stephen Ramsay's quote describing browsing from "The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books:" "I don’t know what I’m looking for, really. I just have a bundle of 'interests' and proclivities. I’m not really trying to find 'a path through culture.' I’m really just screwing around."
  4. Purdom also referenced three more quotations to frame her arguments: Lisa Spiro's piece "'This Is Why We Fight:' Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities," a call for us to band together as a community and state what we in digital humanities do for our work; the writing of Dylan Rodriguez, who describes African American Studies as a space of radical generosity, which "welcomes those who are interested in wrestling with the pressing questions of structural power and oppression," and Steven Johnson's "The Origins of Good Ideas," which discusses "the genius of the tinkerer" in relation to exploring the boundaries of possibility.
  5. To get us started, Purdom displayed a visualization on her website which utilizes D3.js to read from journal pages marked up with RDFa, scanned and exported to JSON-LD with a Jekyll plugin, and displays a resulting graph. This graph then asks DBpedia for additional information. The resulting graph displays relational 'influences' between authors' work.
  6. As an example, Purdom pointed out how the graph displays that she was influenced by articles by China Mieville and Bethany Nowviskie to read Jedediah Purdy's After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, which in turn influenced her to read four other pieces.
  7. With this distinction between personal references and influences versus DBpedia's data regarding authorial and reading connections, Purdom is able to pinpoint and visualize commonalities, differences, and "spaces of disagreement."