DH Press and Palladio

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A guest blog post by Michael Newton, DH Press Software Developer

It may occur to those who have seen or used DH Press and Palladio that they have a number of features in common. For what purposes are each of these platforms best suited, at least in their current incarnations? What differentiates these platforms from one another?

DH Press is a WordPress plugin that the DIL has been working on since 2012. It was designed to enable scholars curating Digital Humanities projects to make the data items in those projects visible and accessible to users visiting a WordPress website via several possible graphical representations. Palladio is a browser-based information visualization platform (under development by the Humanities+Design Lab at Stanford University) that allows users to create visualizations of their humanities-oriented data via several possible graphical representations.

From the outset, then, a very fundamental distinction between the environments and users of these platforms is clear. Palladio is currently a stand-alone application that only exists in the browser of the person who uses it. That user must also have personal access to the data that will be utilized, configure the database and views, and so on. Any result will only reside on that user’s computer.

DH Press, on the other hand, is integrated into WordPress and thus allows the creator of a website to make his or her materials available to anyone on the internet. The website creator is responsible for configuring the database and views, taking the burden off of anyone wishing to view and access the data. Some of the configuration tasks in DH Press are more demanding than the equivalent tasks in Palladio, but the resulting views are usually richer.

Someone looking at the visual output of these platforms will see a number of commonalities: geographical maps, a faceted browser, and timelines, for example. Both tools utilize Leaflet and the D3 JavaScript library for the underlying data structures and aspects of the graphical representations.

Palladio has views that do not currently have any direct equivalents in DH Press – the Network Graph and the List views – and there are features that DH Press does not currently support, especially a consistent data filtering system, connected points, and relational databases.

There are a number of features in DH Press, however, that currently have no direct equivalent in Palladio. By configuring the relationship between data values and visual features, a Project Administrator can create Legend keys that allow values to be graphically represented on views as colors or icons. The resulting visualizations are nearly always more colorful and visually rich in DH Press.

DH Press recognizes that the facets of data objects cannot always be limited to a single fixed-vocabulary value from a flat list. It supports assigning multiple values for each facet, and for the arrangement of values into two-level hierarchies. DH Press also supports several data types needed to point to and utilize multimedia resources on the Internet: YouTube videos, SoundCloud audios, transcript files and webpage links.

One of the first applications of DH Press was to visualize the metadata describing oral history materials and to enable access to those materials in the form of playback widgets and bi-lingual textual transcripts. These features are being exquisitely deployed in several projects that enable users to quickly locate and utilize oral history according to location, thematic tags, time, and so on. We believe that these unique features offer great advantages for curated digital projects of this nature.

DH Press has several types of graphical representations that currently do not have any equivalents in Palladio, particularly the Pinboard, Tree and Facet Flow views. We are currently exploring how to improve our data architecture and “wire together” views to create a generalized data filtering system similar to that in Palladio (see a preview of some of these visualizations here).

While DH Press is fully open source — and thus allows users to modify it for their own purposes — the current and future status of the Palladio codebase is unclear. DH Press is well documented for modification and much of the visible screen text has been extracted in text files.

We designed DH Press to support a wide variety of common needs for those creating online curated Digital Humanities projects and are comfortable in WordPress – by far the more popular content management system on the web. DH Press is an open source plugin freely available on the Internet. We welcome you to power your Digital Humanities work with its many unique features, which are under constant development.