Welcome to the diPH project blog. These updates will chronicle our progress creating the beta version of diPH (pronounced “diff”), and eventually, our work towards the release of diPH 1.0.
Built on the WordPress platform and its plugin-based architecture, diPH is a flexible, repurposable, fully extensible digital public humanities toolkit designed for non-technical users. diPH can be used to build web-based community projects that facilitate interactive exploration and discovery and story-telling.
diPH is intended as a versatile tool for managing and visualizing humanities data — archival records, historic photographs, maps, interviews and oral histories, field notes, newspapers and books, poetry, and so forth. The core of diPH will be a geo-spatial plugin that allows users to layer historical maps over contemporary satellite images and move seamlessly between those layers. Humanities data can then be layered (or “pinned”) to the map to help visualize spatial connections. Patterns in the pins – similar and disparate clusters of content – might suggest geographic patterns based on the data. For instance, diPH can be used to visualize segregated spaces (see our Charlotte 1911 project).
diPH is ideal for making sense of large, comprehensive data sets such as city directories or census data. Though diPH is not a parsing tool for data harvesting, large amounts of data can be “dumped” into diPH’s underlying MySQL database with minor modification. Once the data are in diPH, a range of visualizations will be possible, including non-spatial visualizations such as network graphs, timelines, and hierarchical tree structures. Thus, diPH is a tool for visualizing everyday life. As we take on test projects, we’ll be able to push the boundaries of what is possible with diPH, thereby expanding its uses and utility for others.
The diPH Prototype
We first started working with Joe Hope of RENCI on a diPH prototype in the late fall of 2011. In fairly short order, we were able to mimic the major features of Main Street, Carolina (a digital history toolkit for cultural heritage organizations which was the inspiration for our toolkit), including:
- Layering historic maps from the Carolina Digital Library and Archives over contemporary satellite imagery, coupled with the ability to toggle between the two and change the transparency of the historical overlays
- Pinning markers to the map with city directory data (see our P3 project for more on our efforts to automatically harvest data from directories)
- The ability to filter data by different categories and tags
Once we were convinced WordPress was a viable option for the diPH platform, we began working on a fully-elaborated demonstration project in earnest.
We selected the Hayti Urban Renewal Project as our first full-fledged demonstration project using our diPH prototype. We had first begun work on this project in a graduate seminar in the Fall 2011 semester, using the already-digitized urban renewal records from the Durham Public Library’s North Carolina Collection. Developed in collaboration with Preservation Durham, this project models how other communities can document and recover neighborhoods lost to urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to diPH’s base functionality, this project features:
- Multi-media content, including photographs, PDFs, and videos
- User-generated content featuring student research on several of the properties
- Enhanced search and filter capabilities to allow for a more enriching exploration of the project
We have also begun a pilot project with the Southern Oral History Program to map the “Long Women’s Movement” in the South. Unlike previous digitization efforts, we are working on a project that not only delivers digital content (audio and transcripts) but also spatializes the people, places, and ideas of the movement. Doing this will enable users to search across oral histories in a way not possible with traditional oral history delivery systems, all the while experiencing a more streamlined interaction with the oral history collection. Read more about this project.
Joe Hope of RENCI is leading our diPH development team, which includes Bryan Gaston and Chien-Yi Hou of the Digital Innovation Lab. Pam Lach is the project manager.
We have already begun coding the core plugin of diPH beta, with a target completion date of December 31, 2012. In addition to a range of critical features and functionalities, the beta version will also include user-friendly administrative interfaces for easy content creation and management.
We are hoping to start testing the beta software in the Spring 2013 semester.
Stay tuned for our progress on diPH beta!