Data Fair September 26-29!

Connecticut College is a member of ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. It hosts 16 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields. We have written about this amazing resource on the blog, in Andrew Lopez’s post The JSTOR of Data Archives.

We invite you and your students to join us for the ICPSR  Data Fair being held next week, which “aims to introduce, engage, and help the data community manage through the ongoing Data (R)Evolution.” We will be broadcasting Data Fair events in the Davis Lab all this week. You will find the schedule below, and on the ICPSR website.

ICPSR Data Fair Poster

Visualization Wall Update

Left-to-right: Ray Coti ’16, Virginia Gresham ’17, Joey Mercado ’16, Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology students presented their “Visual Institutional Hierarchy” project during Fall Weekend, sponsored by the Ammerman Center and CCSRE

Fall 2015 was the first full semester since the Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall was installed in the Technology Commons of Shain Library. We saw new and innovative uses of the wall by professors and students in a range of departments.

Here are just some of the ways courses made use of the wall this past fall:

  • AHI/THE297—Professor Sabrina Notarfrancisco’s Costume History students met at the wall many times throughout the semester, displaying their individual visual research wirelessly from their DELI iPads.
  • BIO110—Professor Martha Grossel’s Accelerated Cell Biology students met on Mondays for their course and used the wall to simultaneously and wirelessly display the results of group work from their laptops. Up to five laptops or mobile devices can be displayed at the same time.
  • Women’s Rowing teams—Coach Eva Kovach’s team members used the wall to review team practice footage with a telecaster iPad app. The app allowed Kovach to play footage in slow-motion and mark it up, so that students could better see how their form could be improved.
  • AT222a—The Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology’s Visiting Mellon Fellow Caroline Park’s Experimental Music class made use of the visualization wall’s sound system and connected with guest artists via Skype.
  • Architectural Studies—Visiting Professor Emily Morash held an architectural Lego event and information fair at the wall to attract students to the Architectural Studies program. Current students in the program shared their Study Away experiences on the wall during the event.

During Fall Weekend, three students of the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology also presented the latest iteration of a project they began on the visualization wall last spring semester for Professor Steve Luber’s History of Arts and Technology course. For one of the class’s three-week lab modules, students made use of the wall’s technological capabilities—in this case, its touch-enabled interactive display—and designed projects focused on the theme of social media. One group used Unity software to create the prototype for an interactive visual hierarchy that would make professional relationships and job duties of administrative staff at Connecticut College more transparent. Since then, Ray Coti ’16, Virginia Gresham ’17, and Joey Mercado ’16 received a grant from CCSRE to develop the project further, with a new interface and an updated database. Users can touch and drag the pictures of administrators to see who reports to them and what their responsibilities include. Eventually, the group hopes to add more layers of data, including committee membership and other staff involvement.

If you are interested in taking advantage of the wall’s ability to display multiple devices (computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, media players, cable TV, etc.) simultaneously, its touch-enabled interactive screen or 4k resolution, please contact Lyndsay Bratton for more information and scheduling.

Digital Storytelling Tools: TimelineJS

Following up on an October Teaching with Technology workshop and a recent post on StoryMapJS, today I will introduce TimelineJS–another product of Northwestern University’s Knight Lab. This tool allows users to plot narrative content along an interactive timeline, with text, images, maps, video, and audio files embedded in a slideshow above. Users can click through the slides chronologically or scroll through the timeline to jump to specific dates/events. Like StoryMapJS, TimelineJS requires no coding skills, but users must work in a Google Spreadsheet template. See the documentation pages for more information about the template’s columns.

Le Monde TimelineJS
“Chronologie : une si longue campagne présidentielle”, Le Monde (February 21, 2012)

Note that the supported media types are all URLs and embed codes. If a user wishes to include an image from their hard drive, they must first publish it to the web somewhere, such as a social media site or photo-sharing platform. There are some potential issues with TimelineJS’s functionality in a Humanities-based project, such as the inability to indicate approximate dates and years. You do not have to enter months and days, but you must determine a year for every entry on your timeline, and the spreadsheet cannot indicate “circa” or approximate ranges on the resulting timeline. If projects are based on personal data, it is important to note that you must publish your Google Spreadsheet to the web in order to create your TimelineJS. The data will likely be visible only to people who know the link, and there are advanced options for privacy control for users with JSON skills.

Like all Knight Lab creations, TimelineJS is geared toward people working in the media; however, its narrative and multimedia format would be a great alternative presentation tool for many student projects in which PowerPoint may have been utilized in the past. Timelines can also be embedded into websites to add a new dimension to a web-based project. See the example from a Tumblr site below.

Tumblr site
Akira Toriyama’s World

Digital Storytelling Tools: StoryMapJS

I recently led a Teaching with Technology workshop to introduce faculty to free, online digital storytelling tools that can enhance presentations with maps, timelines, and and narrative data content. You can download my PowerPoint presentation via Slideshare, which includes information about data visualization, images from the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute that I attended this June, information about several tools for digital storytelling projects, and links to example projects. We focused on three tools–StoryMapJS, TimelineJS, and OdysseyJS–which I will introduce here in a series of three blog posts.

StoryMapJS is a product of Northwestern University’s Knight Lab–a joint initiative of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications. The Knight Lab designs open-source tools with journalists and news organizations in mind, but all of their products have enormous potential value for professors and students working in many disciplines.

KPBS Public Broadcasting StoryMapJS Projects
Explore Christo And Jeanne-Claude’s Works Of Art

Many mapping tools exist, but most lack the ability to incorporate narrative elements in a visual and complementary way. StoryMapJS does just that, and to aesthetically pleasing ends! Users can plot points on a map and link those locations with a narrative trajectory, incorporating images, text, and video to tell the story. In just ten minutes, I worked with a fellow classmate in my DHSI course to create the beginnings of a StoryMap based on her dissertation research. Check out some great finished examples here. The platform is easy to use, with no coding knowledge required! Later I will show you OdysseyJS, which takes beginners to the next level and introduces some coding elements.

A slightly more advanced option for StoryMapJS is Gigapixel, which affords the ability to use high-resolution images and historical maps in place of the standard map. Just for fun, here’s a Gigapixel example charting Arya’s Journey on Game of Thrones, using a “historical” map of Westeros.

Games of Thrones: Arya's Journey StoryMap
Game of Thrones: Arya’s Journey StoryMap

Karen Gonzalez Rice envisions making StoryMaps to introduce her students in Art History to the different units of her courses, mapping a trajectory of the course over time and space, with representative images of corresponding artistic styles. Reference Librarian Ashley Hanson would like to use StoryMapJS to present the history of yoga and the ways it spread from its origin throughout the world. Any student projects that have narrative and geographical components could make use of StoryMapJS as an alternative to PowerPoint presentations.

The JSTOR of Data Archives: ICPSR

Connecticut College is a member of ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. It hosts 16 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields. In this post, Anrdrew Lopez walks us through one scenario for using this rich resource.

Search Tip: Focus on Variables

Like other library databases, there are many options for searching the contents of ICPSR. This activity of searching for data in ICPSR takes places on the big purple tab. Because many of the studies in ICPSR are so large, however, they often contain hundreds of variables or more, it can be effective to focus a search on finding individual variables inside and across studies, rather than searching for the “perfect” study. 

Inside ICPSR, this involves using the Search/Compare Variables feature:

Purple Search Ribbon in ICPSR

Inside the variable search feature, use one or more keywords to search for variables across studies. I tried searching for “LGBT” and got 63 results. The variable highlighted below in the results list caught my interest, “LGBT organizations addressing the three most important issues facing LGBT communities of color.” 

List of Variables from Search

By clicking on the link to the variable, it opens in the context of the study of which it is a part.

Variable Result in Context

It is very easy to find other variables/questions that were asked in conjunction with the one I selected by looking at the column on the left. Other interesting questions are, “Homophobia is a problem within my racial or ethnic community (Q5A),” “Homophobia is a problem in my neighborhood,” “I feel connected with my local LGBT community,” and more. 

Working with Variables

I am interested in one of the variables on homophobia(Q5A), so I click the link at the top of the page to the study proper: “Social Justice Sexuality Project: 2010 National Survey, including Puerto Rico (ICPSR 34363).” On the study page, I can see this study contains 304 variables, and there is information about accessing the data, where I can see it has been prepared with options for built-in online analysis.

Dataset Options

These options mean the data for the study can be accessed on-screen without the use of any other statistical software, which is otherwise necessary for working with data in ICPSR. To take advantage of either option, and because we are going to be working with sensitive research data, you will need to create an ICPSR account and login.

Run a Crosstab/Frequency

To run a Simple Crosstab/Frequency I select the variables which initially interested me:

  • Row = Q5A: Homophobia is a problem within my racial or ethnic community
  • Column = RACECAT: Race categories
  • Control = GENDERID: Gender Identity
  • Run the table

This produces a series of data tables and charts, where I can see the results for the responses to the question about homophobia broken down according to the race and gender categories I selected. The chart below shows the response data for males:

Chart Showing Survey Results from Males

This chart shows the response data for females:

Chart Showing Survey Results from Females


ICPSR offers many more features for using and teaching with research data. For more information or if you have questions, contact Andrew Lopez, Research & Instruction Librarian.

Next week is data week!

Next week we are offering two data-related workshops: Working with Data Across the Curriculum and Intro to Data Visualization Tools. Whether you use data in your own research, ask students to use data, or are interested in exploring ways to easily incorporate quantitative exercises into your courses, please join us!

Working with Data Across the Curriculum
Monday, October 12, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Davis Classroom, Main Floor, Shain Library
The Connecticut College community has access to a treasure trove of data and the tools to use this data through our membership with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Use ICPSR data sets and tools to build an exercise in quantitative literacy into your course, no matter your departmental affiliation. The ICPSR database is a one-stop wonder of analysis-ready data collections spanning the social sciences. Take advantage of ready-made learning guides, exercise sets, and connect data directly with the associated scholarly literature. Download data files to be analyzed with SPSS or STATA, or use built-in online data analysis tools without downloading anything and without any specialized knowledge of statistical software. Participants will practice using the ICPSR database and explore opportunities for including it in your teaching. This is a brown bag lunch event, which means you should bring your own, but cupcakes and coffee will be served for dessert.

We do know there is a conflict with the Fall Open House Lunch. Feel free to come late or leave early as your schedule requires. If you are interested in learning more but are unable to attend, contact Andrew Lopez for more information.

Intro to Data Visualization Tools
Tuesday, October 13, 3-4pm
PC Classroom, Lower Level, Shain Library
Research and instruction are increasingly data-driven with the proliferation of both digitized research materials and the digital publication and presentation of research outcomes. Digital visualizations have become a valuable lens through which to make sense of that data. In this hands-on workshop, we will build dynamic story maps, timelines, and graphs, using several open-source tools that can enhance existing assignments and presentation formats in your courses. This workshop will be led by Lyndsay Bratton, Digital Scholarship & Visual Resources Librarian. 

Workshop Recap: Technology Fellows Curricular Innovations III

Data visualization from Circos, showing the global flow of people in 2005–10.
Data visualization from Circos, showing the global flow of people in 2005–10.

Anthony Graesch focused his presentation on his Introduction to Archaeology class which enrolls about 30-40 students. Assignments in this class position students as primary data collectors. Hands-on research experience provides students with an in-depth understanding of the research process in which archaeologists are involved (similar to Ann Marie Davis’s assignment in History). In this case, students collect data using hominid crania. The work is collaborative, further mimicking archaeological work in the real world, but scaffolded so the project is within reach for introductory students.

After students collect data in Excel, they are instructed to visualize the data using charts or graphs. Through visualizing the data, students look for patterns and use these patterns to defend their arguments. Using Excel as the tool for collecting and visualizing data has the added benefit of teaching students to use software that is heavily used in many companies and industries. Anthony made a point of explaining that he does not teach Excel, rather students must learn how to use the software on their own time using resources such as See examples of student work in Anthony’s presentation.

An additional tool he is exploring for future iterations of the assignment is Circos, a tool that allows for circular visualization of data (see image above). Circos can be used with any data set that describes relationships. If you’re interested, view examples of Circos using datasets related to science, genomics, political science, and business.

Next semester we will hear from the remaining Technology Fellows, Karen Gonzalez Rice (Art History) and Suzuko Knott (German Studies). Data Visualizations

This week I attended a Plotly data visualization workshop by PhD Candidate Matthew D. Lincoln from the Department of Art History at the University of Maryland. Plotly is a free web-based graphing tool for making data visualizations from small-to-moderate user-provided datasets. Groups can collaborate on projects directly through their Plotly accounts without having to send data back and forth through email. Datasets charted using Excel, MATLAB, Python, Tableau, and R can be easily graphed in Plotly and exported to several image formats, including pdf, png, eps, and jpg.

During the demo, users “forked and edited” Matt’s data table–data mined from the National Gallery of Art website’s HTML–to create their own visualizations. This histogram represents the number of works acquired in each genre of Dutch Baroque paintings by different NGA curators since the 1930s.
Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.58.12 AM
View of the Plotly workspace with Matt’s data table. The user chooses which variables correspond with which axis based on the values and type of plot one has chosen to visualize. The settings here were used to plot the bubble chart below.
Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.57.40 AM
A bubble chart visualizing the relative size of paintings acquired by different curators across the 20th century, plotted according to their creation date. This chart was plotted using the optional text column corresponding to artwork titles. When the user hovers over each bubble in the chart, the title of that painting appears. Plotly offers several theme options, seen in the left-hand column.

Visualizations of Humanities data allow us to quickly grasp a lot of bits of information that in the past might have taken a scholar years of toiling in archives and a whole article or book to document. In the bubble chart above, not only can we see when and for how long curators were acquiring works for the National Gallery of Art, but we also obtain an immediate impression of the relative size of each work, the range of dates each curator was interested in acquiring, as well as the rigidity or fluidity of their collecting preferences or opportunities. For example, the current curator Arthur K. Wheelock clearly has the most outliers in terms of size and range of creation dates represented among his acquisitions. This information then opens up many more questions for further research–questions the student or scholar might not have otherwise thought to ask–such as, what precisely accounts for these outliers in Wheelock’s collecting history? Changes in the art market? Personal preference? A desire to push boundaries? Shifting parameters in the field of Dutch Baroque art history?