Week Beginning 2nd September 2013

This week marks the first anniversary of my starting as Digital Humanities Research Officer.  One year in.  It’s gone quite alarmingly fast, but I feel that I’ve achieved a substantial amount in this time, and I’m especially pleased with the redevelopment of the Historical Thesaurus and also the STELLA apps.  Anyway, enough reminiscing… what about the current week?  It’s been another busy week, with the start of it spent working a little more on the mock-ups of the interfaces for the SCOTS redevelopment.  I also had a spend a little time reworking my P&DR form, which I managed to get sent off to Jeremy on Monday.

On Tuesday I was involved in an all day meeting with the Burns project people, which was held in the delightful surroundings of the Glasgow Art Club, a venue I was previously entirely unfamiliar with.  The meeting was very interesting and it was really useful to hear about the long-term plans of the project and the massive amount of work that will be going into the Burns volumes that they will be working on.  There was also some discussion of website matters and also some discussion about the encoding of texts when transcribing manuscripts, which I was able to give some advice on.

For the rest of the week I really got stuck into the Mapping Metaphor project.  There are many facets of this project that I needed to delve into – not just the creation of mock-ups for the website, but also looking at the data and the visualisations, with the latter leading me into some pretty heavy going experimentation with the D3 Javascript library and SVG graphics generation, neither of which I had much previous experience with.

By the end of the week I had managed to take Ellen and Flora’s Access based sample database and create a suitable MySQL table from it.  This table joins quite nicely to the HT’s ‘category’ table by means of the ‘mmcat’ field, allowing scripts to pull out category headings and things like that.  By means of a PHP script I managed to generate a JSON file in the correct format to plug into the D3 ‘hierarchical edge bundling’ diagram that the team are keen to use.  Unfortunately with several thousand connections between categories the diagram is completely swamped and pretty much unusable.  However, I then developed a subsequent ‘aggregated’ diagram that shows links between the 26 main categories rather than the 400-plus categories.  This has given me a good diagram to play with and I have begun delving into the D3 code to add things like pop-ups when you click on a point on the diagram and different colours etc.

I have also created one interface mockup, which is heavily based on the JPEG mockup that Ellen sent me previously (only fully working in HTML5).  I feel like I’ve made very good progress with the data, the visualisation and the interface this week, although there is still a massive amount to do.  I’m not in a position yet to include URLs to the work I’m doing either, but hopefully I’ll be able to include these soon.