DH Seminar – The Art Assignment

Hi Everyone,

Tomorrow in LIS9372 I will be leading a Seminar on the Art Assignment! I am so excited to share this fantastic Youtube channel with you all and to actually attempt an Art Assignment. My seminar won’t require you to do any extra readings (I know you’re all super busy this late in the semester), however, there are a few links that I would like you to check out if you get a chance.

The Art Assignment Website (click the image):

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 5.53.49 PM

The Art Assignment – Make a Thing (click the image):


My PowerPoint:


It would be great if you could all glance over these resources before Thursday’s class so you know what to expect for the seminar. I have also included all of the references used in my presentation below.

I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Coble, Z. (2012, December 19). Evaluating Digital Humanities Work: Guidelines for Librarians.
     Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-4/evaluating-digital-
Hensler, C. (2014). The Maker Movement and the Humanities: Giving Students A Larger Toolbox.
     Retrieved July 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-henseler/the-maker-
John Green Gives TED Talk on Internet Educational Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2015,
     from http://adweek.it/1OyihML
John Green’s Biography. (2015). Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/
PBS Digital. (2015). ABOUT. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://theartassignment.com/about
PBS Digital Studios. (2015). PBS Digital Studios. Retrieved from
Robertson, L. (n.d.). Interview: Sarah and John Green Talk About Their New Web Series “The Art
     Assignment.” Retrieved July 24, 2015, from https://tribecafilm.com/stories/interview-sarah-
Scanlon, E. (2011). Digital Future: Changes in Scholarship, Open Educaitonal Resources and the
     Inevitability of Interdisciplinarity. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 2(1-2), 177–184.

Article Critique: Have DH Scholars Ditched Qualitative Research?

As man and machine meld, are our research methods balanced enough to examine the consequences?

Where is the balance?: According to Porsdam Digital Humanities research requires “a better balance between the how and the what” (2013, Para.1). (Image from: https://www.brandman.edu/files/blog/man-vs-machine.jpg)

In the Article “Digital Humanities: On Finding the Proper Balance Between Qualitative and Quantitative Ways of Doing Research in the Humanities”, Helle Porsdam explores the lack of qualitative research in Digital Humanities (DH) Scholarship. Early in the Article Porsdam clearly identifies an imbalance in DH research,  stating that DH scholars “continue to be more interested in how we connect than in the substance and dialogue of that very connectedness” (2013, Para.1). I found this statement intriguing because Porsdam’s depiction of DH’s focus on the ‘how’ instead of the ‘substance and dialogue’ stood in contrast to the scholarship I had experienced throughout my own humanities education as a English language and literature student. Furthermore, when comparing Porsdam’s description of the predominant focus of DH scholarship to the readings and research we have explored throughout the past 10 weeks of LIS9372, I find myself agreeing with her argument.  Continue reading

Blog Response: “The Digital Is The Anti-Space”: Analyzing Ideas of Writing, Communicating, and Creating in a Digital Context

Communication has been radically altered by the digital, often in ways that are surprisingly complex. Due to this radical alteration, it has become crucially important for scholars, librarians, and general ICT users to understand how the digital space we so often inhabit transforms the way we write, create, and interact. These ideas are all explored in Adam Heidebrink-Bruno’s blog post “Claiming Ground in the Absence of Space: a #digped chat”. The blog post, created to provoke a discussion centered around how users interact with the “radically new environment” (Heidebrink-Bruno, 2014) the digital context provides, makes some intriguing assertions of its own.

Heidebrink-Bruno is an educator and Assistant Editor for Hybrid Pedagogy, you can check out his full CV on his website HERE. He publishes on a variety of subjects including teaching and learning technology, the impact of digital space on scholarship, and Digital Humanities more generally (you can check out his publications HERE). His experience and research interests allow him to provide a unique and refreshing commentary related to the user and how they conceive of, and interact with, digital space.

Heidebrink-Bruno begins the post by drawing parallels between an episode of the Sci-Fi television show Doctor Who and communication in the digital context. Admittedly, any article that references Doctor Who in such an astute manner immediately captures my attention. However, the analogy of interspecies communication and Heidebrink-Bruno’s statement that users navigate the digital context “[a]s 3-dimensional beings, [wandering] into and through a nebulous, digital landscape” (2014) paints an intriguing picture. The post goes on to explore how users imagine digital space, and how these conceptualizations often mislead our understandings of the forces that mediate digital communication. The post concludes with a series of questions readers should consider when thinking about the differences between the physical and digital world, and how we negotiate between the two.


A Scene from the Doctor Who episode “Flatline”, referred to in Heidebrink-Bruno’s Blog Post.

The observations presented in Heidebrink-Bruno’s post build on one another, ultimately creating a cohesive presentation of the potential challenges users face when entrenched in the digital context. However, it was the author’s finally observation that stood out most to me, Heidebrink-Bruno states: “digital phantoms – algorithms, bots, and self-modifying code – transgress our neat definitions of what constitutes reality” (2012). The statement forces the reader to understand the invisible forces acting on digital creations and publications. Be it scholarly writing, a blog post, or even a Youtube video, a work existing in a digital space does not stand unmediated or alone. Ultimately, these ‘digital phantoms’ become collaborators in a sense, contributing to the idea that all digital creations are communal in one way or another (Morris, 2012).

“digital phantoms – algorithms, bots, and self-modifying code – transgress our neat definitions of what constitutes reality” (Heidebrink-Bruno, 2012)

While this blog post presents facts and arguments meant to resonate with all digital users, I cannot help but to perceive it as particularly relevant to scholars, librarians, and students. When we think about how scholarly work has shifted in the wake of its migration to the digital realm, and its implication for important academic processes such as peer review (Cavanagh, 2012) and scholarly collaboration, it becomes clear how important Heidebrink-Bruno’s arguments are. Ultimately, “Claiming Ground in the Absence of Space: a #digped chat” provides an intelligently structured jumping-off point for a discussion that is essential to a variety of audiences and disciplines. The arguments presented push users and creators to understand their digital surroundings in unconventional ways and push beyond conventional ideas of space. Overall this post works to expand the reader’s ability to create and collaborate more effectively in a digital world that is, at times, difficult to navigate and even more difficult to quantify.

Cavanagh, S. (2012, December 19). Living in a Digital World: Rethinking Peer Review, Collaboration, and Open Access. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-4/living-in-a-digital-world-by-sheila-cavanagh/

Heidebrink-Bruno, A. (2014, November 5). Claiming Ground in the Absence of Space: a #digped chat. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/announcements/claiming-ground-absence-space-digped-chat/

Morris, S. M. (2012, October 8). Digital Writing Uprising: Third-order Thinking in the Digital Humanities. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/digital-writing-uprising-third-order-thinking-in-the-digital-humanities/

Tool Critique: Tableau Public – Creative and Interactive Data Visualization Software for Data Rookies and Professionals

 Tableau #1

The popularity of data visualization has surged in recent years, to the point where it is almost impossible not to stumble upon these images while surfing the web or reading through a textbook. I have always found the use of data visualization interesting, especially in an online context where many of these images allow for user interaction to enhance the data experience. However, as Mark Carl Rom astutely remarks, “while popular and scholarly publications widely use visualizations, the skills necessary for developing analytically powerful and a esthetically compelling graphics are not widely taught” (Rom, 2015). Taking Rom’s point into consideration, it is important that LIS professionals are aware of data visualization software that is accessible and user-friendly in order to help our patrons and clients enhance their own works through these sleek an interactive images. That is exactly why I have decided to review and critique Tableau Public this week.

Tableau Public provides free software (compatible with Windows and Mac) that allows users of all skill levels to create visually appealing and interactive data visualizations. Tableau Software was developed by three colleagues who met at Stanford University – including prominent co-founder Pat Harahan, who is also a founding member of Pixar Studios – with the goal of “making data more accessible for everyday people” (Tableau Software, 2015). The software has been endorsed by a collection of high profile clients, including Facebook and Audi AG. It offers a range of data visualization software for varying skillsets, However, I choose to review Tableau Public because of its price point and its purpose. As I mentioned before, Tableau public is FREE! This automatically makes the software more accessible for beginners and LIS professionals. Furthermore, Tableau public is built specifically to share visualizations online and features web publishing tools that are essential for making visualizations accessible to the creator’s audience.

I personally tested out Tableau public and will use this blog post to outline my experiences with the software. I have created a quick and easy tutorial section, aimed at providing the reader (that’s you!) with an overview of the basic features this software offers. I will also discuss some of my personal successes and difficulties with the software and reflect on its potential use by LIS professionals. I hope you all enjoy!

Tutorial: A (Very) Basic Rundown of Tableau Public Software

Step 1: Register for a free account

This step is pretty easy and straightforward. The site asks for a minimal amount of personal information (with the option of adding personal website URLs and linking to social media accounts). This profile gives the user 10GB of storage for their “vizes” (the abbreviated form the tableau website uses to refer to data visualizations). The account also provides an option to make “vizes” private or public. I have provided a screenshot of the registration window below.

Tableau Public Registration

I should also note that Tableau Public does not make registering for an account was not an obvious first step. You are able to download and use the software without an account, however, in order to publish your work online you must have an account.

Step 2: Download or Create your data

In the Tableau Public training video (locate HERE) the narrator states that the user can import any file containing “comma separated values”; I used an excel file (.xlsx) that I downloaded from the City of Toronto Data Catalogue (original file can be found HERE). I have provided a picture of this spreadsheet below.

Excel Spreadsheet

I chose the Wellbeing Toronto – Safety Report because it provided a range of data that I could play around with in Tableau Public. You can easily create your own data sets in Excel (if you are unfamiliar with Excel, the tutorials on Lynda.com may be useful). When you have located or created your data, simply open it under the “connect to file”. Once you have opened your file you screen should look similar to the image below.

Tableau Public Sheet One

One thing I found frustrating about my imported data was that I had to rename all of my columns. My column headers were not imported successfully, which created a bit of extra work. However, I did find it helpful that under the hear for each row there is a dropdown menu that allows the user to define the type of data that is represented (whole numbers, geographic coordinates, etc.).

Step 3: Create Your Own “Vizes”

When you are happy with your data simply click the “Sheet One” tab in the lower left hand corner to begin constructing you “vize”. This is the step that I ultimately found a tad confusing at first. As much as the controls are easy and generally consist of dragging and dropping various data elements, where to place the data was confusing. I found the tutorial videos Tableau provides extremely helpful and essential for new users. These videos take you through the steps of creating and customizing your data visualization, along with the various features the software has to offer.

Step 4: Publish to the Web

There are multiple ways to save your “vize” both online and offline. However, saving it as a .jpg on your computer reduces its utility by eliminating its interactivity. To publish your “vize” online you simply select the “file” tab at the top of the page and click “Save to Tableau Public” (as shown in the picture below).

Tableau Public Web Publishing

This will then redirect the user to a webpage containing a URL link to your “vize”. This process was simple and quick to complete. However, embedding this visualization into WordPress is an issue (see Tableau’s note on compatibility HERE). Simply click the image below to access my interactive “vize”!

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 12.02.59 AM

Reflections: My Overall Impressions

What Can This Software Really Do?

Overall, I was impressed with the quality and variety of data visualizations I was able to create with this free and (relatively) simple software. Admittedly, I did not get the opportunity to explore the more advanced features Tableau Public has to offer (including interactive maps displaying regional data), but the basic features worked well and helped me create an interactive data visualization that would enhance a webpage or blog post. Web publishing was also straightforward, although I did encounter a few issues embedding my visualization into this blog post. The embedded link provided did not work properly in WordPress, which led me to explore alternate options. I tried coding the visualization in myself and then discovered that, unfortunately, Tableau is not compatible with WordPress.

Furthermore, although Tableau Public offers a great platform for users to interact with data, it lacks features that allow users to interact and collaborate with other users. In an article exploring the user-related statistics of Tableau Public Kristi Morton states: “Interestingly, while publishing visualizations is common, collaborations among users remain infrequent. Incentivizing and supporting collaborations thus remain critical challenges for these systems” (Morton et. al., 2014). Although Tableau Public promotes a strong sense of community amongst their users, they provided few that encouraged collaboration. There is relatively little opportunity for interaction beyond viewing or sharing another user’s “vize”.

Why Should LIS Professionals Care?

Despite some of the limitation I have discussed, I believe that Tableau Public can be a valuable tool for LIS professionals. First, the software provides a great teaching tool for public and academic librarians. Students in various disciplines can utilize this software to create a supplement to projects involving a variety of data, furthermore, Tableau has the potential to enhance a student’s understanding of the statistics they are viewing and working with, Similarly, business professional (such as real estate agents or small business owners) can benefit from the cost effective tool to present data to the public, colleagues, and stakeholders; therefore, public librarians could use seminars in Tableau Public as a great outreach opportunity.

Beyond teaching, LIS professionals can benefit from Tableau Public by creating interactive visualizations to enhance their own products. Because of the range of visualizations that can be created, this software may even help LIS professionals create a visually appealing and interesting supplement to their own presentations. For example. using the interactive mapping tool might be a great way to highlight demographic information that could be relevant to building a library or information organization’s budget.

Overall, I enjoyed using Tableau public and can see a variety of uses for it in my own future. I think it is important to understand that data visualization has surged in popularity because it enhances the user’s own understanding of the information they are presented with. Interactivity also allows the user to engage with this data, creating an opportunity to become fully immersed in information they may have previously glanced over. In a world where information overload is a frequent occurrence, software like Tableau Public really helps user’s make sense of it all.

Morton, K., Balazinska, M., Grossman, D., Kosara, R., & Mackinlay, J. (2014). “Public data and

visualizations: How are many eyes and tableau public used for collaborative analytics?”.

ACM SIGMOD Record, 43(2), 17-22. Retrieved June 1, 2015 doi:10.1145/2694413.2694417

Rom, M. C. (2015). “Numbers, pictures, and politics: Teaching research methods through data

Visualizations”. Journal of Political Science Education, 11(1), 11. Retrieved June 1, 2015 doi:


Tableau Software (2015) “We help people see and understand data”. Retrieved June 1, 2015,

from http://mission.tableau.com

The Librarian: Have we Really Changed?

watch it: The Librarian 1947 Vocational Guidance film

“Do you like people and do people like you?” It’s an interesting utterance, one that stuck with me throughout the viewing of “The Librarian 1947 Vocational Guidance Film”. The film is interesting from beginning to end, and it is easy to giggle at the formality of it all. It’s also easy to think that it’s sentiment is archaic, brush off the discourse and utter “we’ve come such a long way”.

In many ways Librarianship has progressed leaps and bounds; adapting to the technological upheaval that accompanied the introduction of the internet, not to mention the social and cultural upheaval the world has faced throughout wars, civil and human rights movements, and political/world power shifts. Librarianship is not the same it was back in 1947, but the statement “Do you like people and do people like you?” still sticks with me.

I wouldn’t go as far as to state that this vocational guide encapsulates the essence of librarianship. It is essentially a product of its time, depicting librarianship as feminine profession where the only males depicted are in leadership/administrative roles. It also de-emphasizes the need for a comprehensive college education (unless the librarian is entering a highly “specialized” area). These aspects have certainly changed over time as more women take on leadership roles and a masters degree is often required. However, the basic idea behind what motivates a librarian to achieve success in their career isn’t lost on current professionals. Librarians are still motivated by serving their patron’s needs and enhancing that patron’s understanding of the world. In short: librarians like people.

In her book The Nextgen Librarian’s Survival Guide (published in 2006) Rachel Singer Gordon asserts that librarians should “challenge existing perceptions of libraries and librarians, and show our continued relevance to various groups”. While it is important that we are not defined so entirely by the history of Librarianship that we remain unchanged, it is also valuable to reflect on the core aspects of librarianship. Interacting with patrons has always been a constant in the profession, and although that interaction has changed it is still very important.

There are professionals who may wholeheartedly disagree with my assertion, and that’s fine. I understand that there are librarians who have jobs in which their interaction with the public is minimal and they may not see an interest in people being essential to their career. However, even when a Librarian is not interacting directly with their patron their work is driven by the patron’s need to learn, understand, and function in a constantly changing world. In this way the question “do you like people?” becomes even more relevant and the answer a resounding yes. What information professionals do is necessarily driven by caring for the people in our community, organizations, schools ect. So while this vocational guide is dated and its use of terminology archaic it does present an interesting assertion about the profession of librarianship and makes us ask ourselves “In what ways have we stayed the same”.

Happy Tuesday!

Interesting Insight – “4 Ways Academic Libraries are Adapting for the Future”


Earlier this week the website Fast and Company posted an article written by Brad Lukanic entitled “4 Ways Academic Libraries are Adapting for the Future”. This article provides some great insight into the ways Academic Libraries in North America are adapting to the digital age. It is a must read for anyone thinking about working in an Academic Library as it highlights the major changes currently taking place in Academic institutions and how librarians are handling them. Check it out by clicking the link below!

Happy Saturday!

4 Ways Academic Libraries are Adapting for the Future