Projects



Amadis in Translation
Primary contacts: Stacey Triplette and Elisa Beshero-Bondar
Our long-range project is to document changes in structure and content from Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s 1508 Amadís de Gaula to the 1547 Sevilla printing of Montalvo’s Amadís over three centuries and ultimately across three languages (Spanish, French, and English) from the 1500s to the early 1800s. This is a digital study of the transformation of a romance over centuries and across languages, and also a study in translation theory and practice, investigating how translators change texts as well as preserve them in their translations. It is typical to fault translators for adaptations of texts without recognizing the complex interaction between preservation and transformation involved in translation. With this project we seek to study translation and adaptation as complementary activities in the reproduction and transference of texts, activities that yield significant perspective on linguistic and cultural interchange. The project launched in 2015 with a study of Robert Southey’s 1803 translation of Montalvo’s Amadís. We have applied the XML language of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) to test Southey’s claims and to investigate the kinds and extent of reductions he applied to the Montalvo text. We use the TEI to align Southey’s text with Montalvo’s and study the omissions, reductions, and semantic shifts applied in Southey’s translation process. Our TEI markup helps us to trace and extract, and analyze how much the text was altered in translation.

Codex Suprasliensis
Primary contact: David J. Birnbaum
The Codex Suprasliensis, a Cyrillic manuscript copied at the end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century, is the largest extant Old Church Slavonic manuscript from the Preslav literary school (first Bulgarian kingdom). It is one of the earliest testimonials to the reception of Orthodox Christianity among the Slavs. The manuscript contains twenty-four vitae of Christian saints for the month of March and twenty-three homilies for triodion cycle of the church year. In content it is a lectionary menaeum (or panegyric), combined with homilies from the movable Easter cycle, most of which were written by or are attributed to John Chrysostom. The Codex Suprasliensis has been listed in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register since 2007. This project is intended to unite digital images of all three parts of the Codex Suprasliensis, currently located in three different countries: the National Library in Warsaw, Poland; the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg; and the National and University Library in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In addition to reuniting the parts of the manuscript, the current project aims to develop an electronic version of the Codex Suprasliensis, together with critical apparatus, parallel Greek text, translation, vocabulary, grammatical analysis, and tools for searching. The Codex Suprasliensis project aims to make the manuscript, along with tools for its study, accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, curators, and specialists in informational technology, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript.


Linguistic Corpus Data Repository at the PSC
Primary contact: Na-Rae Han
With so much freely-available corpus data out there, conducting a corpus-based linguistic investigation has become ever more feasible. The problem, however, is the overhead of time and effort inevitably associated with pre-processing a corpus resource before proper linguistic inquiries can be made. This project aims to bring together many popular corpora to the PSC (Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center) platform, so that the data can be shared by Pitt linguistics community in various stages of processed-ness, along with handy “starter” code written in Python designed to quickly set researchers up.


Decomposing Bodies
Primary contacts: Alison Langmead and Josh Ellenbogen

Research Assistant, 2015-2016: Chelsea Gunn
Research Assistant, 2014-2015: Jen Donnelly
Research Assistant, 2014-2015: Nicole Coffineau
Research Assistant, 2013-2015: Aisling Quigley
Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2014-2015: Linda Lee
Undergraduate Technologist, 2014-2015: Daniel Goodstein
Research Assistant, 2013-2014: Alexandra Oliver

Late in the nineteenth century, Alphonse Bertillon, the French policeman, anthropologist and inventor, developed a system of criminal identification that sought to classify human beings on individual standardized cards, each containing a consistent set of biometric measurements and observations. He called this method “anthropometry,” and he conceived of this work as a key weapon in the fight against recidivism—an increasingly central criminological issue of the day.

This process, now known more familiarly as “Bertillonnage,” was essentially a system that disassembled the visual forms of the human body into small pieces so that the police could individuate, and thus identify, a single human body out of thousands, even millions. Each Bertillon card—one per human being—contained information about a series of eleven physical measurements taken from the body, along with photographs and a coded description of the visible attributes of the human form to create a summary, a hash, a digest, a decomposition of the human body into numbers, letters, codes and sparse images.

Although initially implemented at the Prefecture of Police in Paris, Bertillonnage spread to the United States in the late 1880s, when R.W. McClaughry, then the Warden of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet, introduced Bertillon’s Signaletic Instructions Including the Theory and Practice of Anthropometrical Identification to American prison administrators. The system then spread to a number of prisons in the U.S., including significantly, Leavenworth, the first Federal Penitentiary.

Before the age of digital machines, before the rampant quantization and normalization of the physical world were taken in stride, this practice of dissolving the body into numbers, still images and letters was novel, unknown. Decomposing Bodies seeks to defamiliarize this process of breaking down and defining what we see into quantized digests, by collecting, analyzing, digitizing and re-presenting the data created by the process of Bertillonnage, specifically as practiced in the United States. Consequently, the project also represents a thorough examination of the historical information management principles that lay behind Bertillon’s innovative approach to decomposing bodies into a series of numerical and visual components.

Ultimately, this project seeks to create new means of understanding the implications and possibilities inherent in this nineteenth-century process of treating human beings as numbers and letters, and how this approach to the visible world might relate to the dawn of computing.


Digital Media and Pedagogy
Primary contact: Matthew Lavin

The Digital Media and Pedagogy project is an effort to collect, curate, and disseminate resources on the production and teaching of digital media in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh. The website offers teaching materials for graduate and undergraduate teaching. Current areas of topical coverage include digital images, audio, video, and social media. More general subjects such as design and interactivity are also covered.


Digital Mitford
Primary contact: Elisa Beshero-Bondar

The Digital Mitford project is an international collaborative effort to produce an extensive digital archive. The project began a few years ago with a daunting challenge: to produce the first scholarly edition of the collected writings of Mary Russell Mitford, an exceptionally prolific 19th-century poet, dramatist, and innovator of local color prose fiction. She has already been celebrated in Digital Humanities circles by Franco Moretti, who dedicated a chapter on mapping to Mitford’s Our Village in his book, Graphs, Maps, and Trees. Given the volume of Mitford’s writings and especially of her literary correspondence, a traditional print edition in volumes seems unfeasible, too expensive to produce. A well-designed digital archive could do far more to extend Mitford’s reach among scholars and general readers of 19th-century literature. Given Mitford’s wide range of correspondents, our edition and coding work will contribute to social network analyses of 19th-century writers, artists, publishers, playwrights, theatre managers, and figures of importance in 19th-century Britain, America, and Europe. The editors plan to design network graphics as a means to navigate what will be a very complex and integrated site, to help readers navigate intersections between literary texts and letters. Our coding prepares us to visualize and analyze graphical networks of many kinds: social networks intersecting Mitford’s many correspondents with the literary characters and texts they discussed, and network graphs to chart revisions in a text’s publication history. In the visualizations we develop from that code, we hope to highlight intersections across the multiple genres through which Mitford earned literary celebrity, and through which she once uncomfortably rivalled her contemporary, Lord Byron.

The Digital Mitford’s international project team assembled in April 2013 with the formation of the Mary Russell Mitford Society (MRMS) at the 18th-and-19th-Century British Women Writers Conference in Albuquerque. In June 2013, the project team met at Pitt’s Greensburg campus to train the editors in TEI XML text encoding and to establish our editorial methods and coding guidelines. Digitizing and coding transcriptions of the prolific Mitford’s works and letters is well underway. The project is developing an extensive centralized site index holding detailed prosopography data on named persons, fictional characters, places, and events. We are developing an extensive working bibliography to identify Mitford’s published texts, as well as a database of the locations of her manuscripts. To follow our early progress on the project, please see our project blog at http://digitalmitford.wordpress.com , our coding guidelines at http://codebook.mitford.pitt.edu, and the main site: http://digitalmitford.org .


Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures 
Primary contact: Elisa Beshero-Bondar

Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures investigates the narratives of 18th-century European voyages to the Pacific together with early English literary responses and print publications that responded to newly available accounts of first contact with Pacific island cultures. Students and faculty working together in digital humanities courses at Greensburg and Oakland campuses have coded the texts in TEI to prepare them for web publication and for KML mapping and other graphical experiments with digital text analysis.  This is the ongoing research site associated with the Digital Humanities course at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, first taught in Fall 2011. Please see our “About” page for details on our long-range goals, the project’s range of applications in humanities computing, as well as its roots in courses at both Greensburg and Oakland campuses, associating DHRX members Elisa Beshero-Bondar, David Birnbaum, and Sayre Greenfield.

To see more: http://pacific.pitt.edu


Exploring Data Worlds at the Public Library
Primary contact: Amelia Acker
Data literacy is a critical aspect of citizenship in the 21st century and a key component of learning. Today’s young people will contribute to future conversations about the role of data in their communities and in society. To participate, they will need to understand how data is gathered, aggregated, processed, interpreted, and managed. A data literate citizen will have the skills, knowledge, and dispositions needed to understand data in their personal life as well as the contexts of data collections in the world in which they live. Exploring Data Worlds at the Public Library is a two-year exploratory research project (May 2016 – April 2018) led by Leanne Bowler and Amelia Acker. The project explores youth data literacy in the context of youth services at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, with the goal of building an understanding of the potential roles that youth librarians can play in supporting the data literacy competencies needed to fulfill those roles. The goals of the Exploring Data Worlds project are twofold: 1) to generate social science observations and data that increase our awareness of the unique data literacy needs of digital youth and put them on a pathway toward critical, civic participation in a data driven society, including careers in data sciences, and 2) to develop strategies for training youth librarians in order to provide them with the skills to empower young people as data subjects.


Itinera
Primary contacts: Alison Langmead and Drew Armstrong
Research Associate and Data Quality Assurance, 2016-2017: Lily Brewer
Research Associate and Data Quality Assurance, 2014-2015: Jen Donnelly
Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2014-2015: Elaina Zachos
Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2014-2015: Meghan Hipple
Code Caver, Spring 2014: Jocelyn Monahan
Research Associate and Data Quality Assurance, 2013-2014: Alexandra Oliver
Undergraduate Research Assistant, Fall 2013: Karen Lue
Research Assistant, Summer 2013: Saskia Beranek
Research Assistant, Spring 2013: Rachel Miller

Travel played a pivotal role in the shaping of the intellectual and artistic culture of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. While the capital cities of Rome, Paris, and London had always served as major attractions for travelers, the increasing specialization and ease of mobility over the course of these centuries began to open remote areas such as Greece, Egypt, and the Near East to scholarly inquiry. Simultaneously, an interest in national landscapes and antiquities made other less highly-trafficked local regions the focus of new forms of tourism.

Visualizing, understanding and creating new knowledge about the changing patterns and objectives for these types of travel are the primary goals of Itinera. Designed to allow scholars and students to better comprehend the interconnected phenomena of travel, object collection and site documentation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Itinera will be a map-based, interactive, digital resource that overlays and juxtaposes these travelers’ movements alongside the objects of their study and their own creative output.

This digital environment has been proactively designed to collect and present historical data within a visual context of discovery capable of driving new research and generating new understandings. This system will not only represent the scholarly community’s pre-existing knowledge on the topic of cultural tourism during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it will also serve to create an innovative academic apparatus richly and transparently structured enough to allow new interpretations to find their ways into and among the assumptions that underlie that structure.

To view the original Itinera wireframes, click here.


Meter, Rhythm, and Rhyme: The Computationally Assisted Analysis of Formal Features in Russian Poetry
Primary Contact: David J. Birnbaum
This project, developed by Elise Thorsen and David J. Birnbaum, is dedicated to the design and deployment of computational tools to aid the analysis of formal features in Russian poetry. These tools involve the detection of stress in Russian texts presented in native orthography and the subsequent derivation of meter and rhyme patterns from stress and orthographic information. The output of those processes is an XML document that can provide the basis for visualizations of formal features (see, for example, the verse tables of the sample poems below). Beyond these reports, the informational mark-up of poetic texts is intended to enable the characterization of formal features in large digitized poetic corpora to support research in sub-fields including quantitative metrics, genre studies, and diachronic studies of stylistics and influence.


Rusian Genealogy
Primary contact: David J. Birnbaum
Genealogies have been constructed and used for hundreds of years to help families understand their ancestry and more recently to help scholars understand the relationships between medieval people and families. The Rusian genealogical database offers an update on this traditional discipline. The research underlying this database is new and is built on the primary sources in Old East Slavic, Latin, Greek, and Old Norse, as well as a thorough reading and understanding of the modern secondary literature. That information is then accessed through an XML database that allows the user to search through the variety of information presented here, including parentage, regnal dates, place of rule, and other data points. The end result is the most accurate genealogy of Rus′ yet developed, presented in an accessible and intuitive way for use by scholars, students, and others.


Sustaining MedArt
Primary contacts: Alison Langmead and Aisling Quigley

Sustaining MedArt investigates both the human-centered and technological (“socio-technical”) factors that impact the long-term preservation of digital humanities projects. Surprisingly little is known about how digital projects persist over time, or about project renewal and regeneration strategies that have been developed in the field. Even less is known about how scholars might responsibly retire a project, allowing for a graceful degradation or even the intentional removal of the project from academic circulation. For this project, we will conduct in-depth, original case-study research into a long-standing digital humanities project, “Images of Medieval Art and Architecture” (http://www.medart.pitt.edu). Begun in 1995, this website has long served a global community of scholars and has become a de facto reference standard for finding study images of 8th-14th century French and English architecture.

The present study seeks to understand the conditions of creation and persistence for this “time capsule” of a website, as well as the current functional expectations brought by its user community, in order to determine how human factors might best be combined with technical factors to inform a long-term preservation strategy for MedArt.


The Writing Studies Tree
Primary contact: Benjamin Miller
Project leads: Benjamin Miller, Amanda Licastro, Jill Belli

The Writing Studies Tree (WST) is an online, crowdsourced academic genealogy for Composition, Rhetoric, and related fields, mapping relations of mentorship, collaboration, education, and employment among people and institutions. Combining a fixed data structure with open editing privileges, the WST aims to document and democratize our knowledge of the relationships among scholars and institutions. It does so by rendering such relationships as data that can then be visualized and interacted with across several scales: one person or institution, a family tree, a full or filterable network.

As part of its architecture, the WST includes free text spaces where users can contribute biographical sketches, anecdotes, references to websites and other sources of further material, and any other data not already accommodated by the WST’s more formal expectations. In this way, we hope to be as inclusive as possible of whatever users value and wish to share, and to make such material more discoverable by providing paths through the archive along “family” lines.

We believe that writing studies is a particularly interesting test case for studying academic genealogies because of the myriad contexts in which writing is taught: in addition to the usual professorial influences, scholars in our field receive training from (and as) administrators of writing programs and writing centers, as well as editors of scholarly journals. Many of these mentoring roles are not documented in the most common modes of scholarly self-presentation, such as the curriculum vitae, professional profile, educational transcript, or citation trail. This makes writing studies both a challenging and rewarding network to build and visualize.