Registration Open for Fall ’15 DH Practicum

Registration is now open for the Fall ’15 offering of the lab’s Digital Humanities Practicum (American Studies 850).  This course approaches digital humanities through practical experience in a lab setting and seminar-style reflection upon and discussion of that experience.

The lab develops tools and collaborative work processes that make it easier, cheaper, and faster for scholars, students, and cultural heritage organizations to “do” public-facing digital humanities projects.  A significant expression of this commitment is the continuing development and refinement of DH Press, an award-winning multi-purpose digital humanities toolkit built on the widely-used WordPress digital publishing platform.   Our commitment to developing new models for public engagement through digital humanities is currently being expressed in “Digital Loray”: an extended, community-based effort to use digital technologies to integrate local history into the experience of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the state’s history (the Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC).

Participants will work with Will Bosley, General Manager, and other staff of the DIL to contribute to ongoing DIL project work and to augment and expand published projects.  In addition to exploring and evaluating a range of digital humanities tools, they will learn to use DH Press to design and implement digital humanities projects and explore different ways of visualizing digital humanities data for academic and non-academic audiences.  They will gain valuable experience in developing effective work practices and hone project management and communication/presentation skills of particular relevance to interdisciplinary, collaborative, public-facing  digital humanities practice.

The seminar dimension of course, led by Robert Allen, James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Director of the DIL, will connect the practicum experience with issues and debates in the digital humanities more generally through reading and discussion.

Enrollment is limited and is by permission of the instructor.  This course welcomes participation from graduate degree-seeking students from across the UNC-CH community; staff and faculty; graduate students at Duke, NCSU, and NCCU (via inter-institutional registration); and independent scholars/humanities practitioners (enrollment through Friday Center for Continuing Education).  No previous training or experience in digital humanities is required beyond the level of computer literacy and competence expected of any graduate-level student in the humanities.  This course counts toward the UNC-CH graduate certificate in digital humanities.

The course will meet on Mondays 3:30-6:25 pm in the Digital Innovation Lab (431 Greenlaw). Participants should plan to spend at least one additional hour each week in the lab during business hours working on small-group projects.

Expressions of interest should be sent to Professor Robert Allen:


“Seeing Ourselves”: New DH Press Prototype

The challenge for first-year American Studies PHD student and DIL graduate associate Charlotte Fryar: build a prototype interface in DH Press for interacting with historical film footage that could be used online and on touchscreen tablets.  Oh, and can you do it in six weeks while you’re assisting for an undergraduate class, working on other lab projects, and taking a full load of classes?

The specs: display, index, and geo-tag identified individuals, places, and events from a film shot in 1942; locate them on interactive map (include contemporary street views); and create a space for streamed audio and transcripts of comments about and memories of the film and the people/places/events it depicts.

The answer: a resounding “yes, I can!”  Here is what she (working under the guidance of Michael Newton and with the latest version of DH Press) came up with.

The film chosen for this use-case is H. Lee Waters’s “Gastonia, 1942,” preserved and shared on YouTube by the Duke University Special Collections Library.  Charlotte used two brief scenes from the film as test content: a shift change at the mill, and workers and their families gathering at the neighborhood movie theater, the Carolina, where they would be able to “see themselves as others saw them” a few weeks later.

The prototype will be further developed this summer in conjunction with the DIL’s Digital Loray project and the Loray Mill’s planned history center.  “Seeing Ourselves” also grows out of discussions with UNC Folklore grad, Martin Johnson (Catholic University) about developing tools to reveal the remarkable work of the hundreds of local and itinerant filmmakers in the US and around the world.

Charlotte’s prototype also points to many other materials and use-cases that could take advantage of these features of DH Press: oral history, folklore, and ethnographic interviews;  home movies; and family history come to mind immediately–and to other settings in which DH Press can be deployed: historic sites, museums, K-12 learning units, college-level classes, online learning. 

“Seeing Ourselves” debuted as a part of Robert Allen’s presentation at the Arclight Symposium on the application of digital technologies to cinema and media history at Concordia University in Montreal the week of May 11th.

Congratulations, Charlotte!

DH Press goes Global

DH Press, the UNC Digital Innovation Lab’s flagship Digital Humanities platform, has just been updated to facilitate the translation of all end-user text into new languages. The new language-agnostic version of DH Press (complete since version 2.6.7) is now available on the DIL’s GitHub page.

In summary, the work of translation has been facilitated by removing end-user text from code files and quarantining it in script files. The result of translating DH Press into a new language will be a new plugin that operates entirely in that target language for the end user.

Translation is thus a fairly straightforward process for someone with a knowledge of HTML, English, and the target language. Details about this process are given in the DH Press Project Administrator manual.

An example of a DH Press translation into Scottish Gaelic, with a very small sample database, is available for demonstration purposes on this website.

NOTE: The DH Press Dashboard, used for creating and configuring Projects, has not yet been modified to support translation. Also, due to the limitations of WordPress, special characters (encoded in UTF-8), such as accented vowels, cannot yet be used for the names of Motes and Legends.

DH Press 2.5 Award Nomination

2014 was a very busy year in the Digital Innovation Lab, not least where DH Press, our flagship Digital Humanities platform, is concerned. During the year it went from essentially a GIS map viewer to a full-fledged data visualization system that displays galleries of images, timelines, facet browsers, tree graphs, and more. We also added YouTube videos to the content types supported by DH Press (which can be synchronized with time-stamped transcripts).

We launched several new DH projects using the DH Press platform, upgraded some old data sets to use the new features, and began the creation of new, ambitious projects targeting the evolving capabilities of our tools (see set of Digital Innovation Lab projects on this webpage).

DH Press has been acknowledged for its contributions to scholarly endeavors with a nomination for the annual 2014 Digital Humanities Awards competition.

If you would like to reward us for the hard work we’ve invested to create an open-source Digital Humanities platform that anyone can download and use free of charge to power their research and exhibits, please vote for us on this webpage!

DH Press 2.6 Now Available

DH Press, the Digital Humanities platform built as a plugin for WordPress, continues to evolve in the UNC Digital Innovation Lab under software developer Michael Newton.

The changes in 2.6 are improvements and enhancements to the existing visualizations and data types, and simplifications to the operation of the platform. For example, the map visualization has been completely rewritten to make it easier and more powerful to use. Namely:

  • Base maps are now built into DH Press (no need to import a map file).
  • Overlap maps have been simplified and fully support Tiling Map Server standards.
  • Maps support the clustering of markers (you can turn clustering on or off for each map). See the image below for an example.
  • Markers can be shown on map views as points, lines or polygons.


DH Press has been made more compatible with arbitrary WordPress themes by taking over the generation of webpages when a Project is viewed (DH Press no longer creates a frame within a post page). This also means that visualizations always occupy the full browser window.

Other enhancements include:

  • Deleting a Project automatically deletes all associated Markers.
  • Deleting a Project automatically deletes all associated Legends (WordPress taxonomies).

The code for version 2.6 can now be downloaded from GitHub at this link.

The use of 2.6 is documented in the Administrator’s Manual at this link.

Announcing the Launch of How Do You Say It?

How Do You Say It?, one of two DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship projects for 2014, is now live and available to the public. The project, directed by Lucia Binotti in Romance Languages, is one of two faculty projects supported in 2014 by the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship Program, under the auspices of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative.

How Do You Say It? is an interdisciplinary and community service oriented proof of concept project that exploits the Digital Innovation Lab’s DH Press to layer, map and visualize information about the Spanish language varieties used to address Latin@ audiences in the prevention of intimate partner violence. The project’s long-­term goal is to assess if the choice of different varieties of Spanish more specifically targeted to a regional sub-­group of the larger Latin@ population increases the success/effectiveness of textual literature (brochures, signs, advertisements) as well as direct oral interaction (from support services, doctors, social workers, etc.) in preventing and educating about domestic violence.

The documents repository at a glance

The documents repository at a glance

The project site consists of three sets of data visualizations, including a map of U.S. agencies dedicated to combating interpersonal violence among Latin@ communities. The core of the site features a documents repository — visualized in a myriad of ways — of nearly 230 Spanish and English documents dedicated to interpersonal violence prevention and support for survivors. Site visitors can search for documents based on document type, language, type of violence discussed, and services provided. From this corpus, the project team conducted a preliminary linguistic analysis of a subset of documents to begin visualizing textual patterns. The corpus is also available as a plain text zip file for researchers to download and ingest into text mining tools, such as Voyant.

In the coming months and years, Dr. Binotti plans to grow this project in many new directions. She will continue building partnerships with various agencies, as well as extending the linguistic analysis by incorporating that research into her undergraduate teaching.

Explore the Project

Special thanks to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities for its support of Dr. Binotti’s Fall 2014 fellowship.

And stay tuned for an announcement of the launch of POPP, our other faculty fellowship project, in January 2015!

DH Press 2.5 Now Available

I am pleased to announce the release of DH Press version 2.5! It features many enhancements to the existing toolkit, plus six new visualizations.

New Visualizations

Since the release of version 2.0 in June, our developer, Michael Newton, has been hard at work adding many new ways of visualizing data. In additional to the original Cartesian map that has been at the core of DH Press since the beginning, the toolkit now features the following new visualizations, which we call “Entry Points.” Many of these new visualizations are similar to Palladio, created by the Stanford Design+Humanities Research Lab, which uses the same D3 JavaScript library (learn more). Each unique visualization created for a DH Press project is assigned its own unique URL, thereby enabling users to be directed to a specific view of the data.


Rocky-KnobThe Pinboard visualization functions similarly to the map view, but instead of using an underlying Cartesian map, project admins can pin content to a background image of their own choosing. We have found this to be an excellent workaround for using historical maps without having to georectify them – see these examples from Anne Whisnant’s Parks to the Side project: Linville Falls Pinboard, Rocky Knob Pinboard.

Instead of layering additional maps on top of the base background image, the Pinboard supports the use of SVG layering. Project admins can create and load SVG layers to DH Press to enhance the Pinboard — to annotate images, similar to Scalar’s image annotation functionality. In addition to using DH Press markers to pin objects to the Pinboard, SVGs function as a secondary layer of content, but one that is not tied to the actual data model of a given project. SVG layers can be used to provide additional visual prompts to users, or explain elements of the background image.

Enhanced Pinboard with Animation

It is also possible to add an animation to a Pinboard by tying the optional SVG layers to a media file. Site visitors can play the media file and see various SVG layers turn on/off in sync with the streaming media. This feature can be used to provide a guided tour through the Pinboard. For example, the SVG layers could be tied to a tutorial video filmed by the project team, and used as a way to explain aspects of the interactive visualization.

The animation functions similarly to the Transcript Widget. Elements of the SVG file are assigned to different chunks of the media file via a timestamped plain text transcript (the “animation script”). Currently only YouTube media files work. Note that users will only be able to see, and not hear, the file.


Users have been asking for a timeline view since DH Press was still just a prototype. With version 2.5, it is now possible to provide a temporal display of your data. Our timeline supports the visual display of date ranges (e.g. a decade or a century) and single days, both BCE and CE.

Moreover, the DH Press timeline supports what we call “fuzzy” or uncertain dates. Project admins can specify uncertainty in their data, and DH Press will display that uncertainty by fading out the fill color of the timeline entry (see this example).

Fuzzy dates are critical to making the timeline a useful visualization for humanists. Given our uncertainty about much of the past, it allows us to provide a sense of when things might have happened without misleading our users, in a capta-based approach to data visualization (Johanna Drucker, “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5, no. 1 (2011): link).

Facet Flow

A facet flow connecting type of object with materials used to create the object.Facet flows allow you to visualize the relationship between different attributes in your data. For example, this visualization from the How Do You Say It? project shows the relationship between the intended gender audience for a given document about interpersonal violence prevention (Attribute A), and the actual use of gendered grammar, or gendered pronouns determinative articles (Attribute B). The colored bands can be rearranged by clicking on the “alpha” or “size” links for either attribute. Attribute positions can be swapped by dragging the top down to the bottom and vice versa. Hovering over a colored band shows the percentage of relevant results in the data. Clicking on a colored band will bring up all relevant documents in the window below.

Facet Browser

BrowserThe facet browser allows users to explore the project by filtering on any number of attributes. Similar to many e-commerce websites (such as Amazon or Zappos), users can drill down into several attributes at the same time in order to find specific elements of the data (“faceted search”). Project admins may add as many attributes (motes) to this view as they like, though too many will hinder the user experience.

Tree View

The final visualization is the tree view, which displays 1 to N relationships within your data. The most common usage of this is for genealogical family trees, though the tree view can be used for any sort of parent-child relationship in your data (see this non-familial example). There are three different tree views available:

  • a Flat Tree
  • a Radial Tree, where each successive generation is placed at a further radius from the center root node
  • a Segmented Wheel, where each successive generation is a further ring-layer moving out from the center core

New Data Types

To support these new visualizations, we’ve added several new data types:

  • x,y coordinates for Pinboards (similar to latitude,longitude pairs)
  • pointer data for Tree Views
  • dates and date ranges for Timelines
  • YouTube data for the Transcript Widget (see below) and Pinboard Animations

Pointer data can also be used to create relationships between data points without using the Tree View. Project admin can specify a “primary key” in the project to mimic the functionality of a relational database. Setting a primary key tells DH Press to treat a particular attribute of your data (custom field) as the unique identifier, which can be used to connect data points.

N.B. these data types are customized exclusively for DH Press. They are not globally recognized data types (such as nominal, integer, and ratio data). They were created to aid project admins in creating and configuring their visualizations. Please consult our documentation for detailed specifications about how to set up your data.

Enhancements to Current Features

Transcript Widget

In addition to these new visualizations, Michael has added some important functionality to existing DH Press capabilities. Most importantly, he has enhanced the Audio/Transcript tool (now called the “Transcript Widget” in v. 2.5) to support streaming media from either SoundCloud or YouTube. Additionally, he has extended the tool to support a scrolling transcript without a streaming audio/video file. This can be used for manuscript transcription.

For users of older versions of DH Press, make sure to consult our 2.5 Documentation for small changes in the project configuration dashboard, particularly with respect to configuring the Transcript Widget. Users are strongly encouraged to follow the formatting specifications for transcripts in this documentation.

Data Export

We now have the capability to export data out of DH Press. Project admins can create a CSV file directly from their project dashboard. This is particularly useful in cases where many changes were made to the data after import. This enables project teams to update their data in DH Press without having to go back and make the same changes in their original data files. Instead, they can simply export the data after those changes have been made.

Start Using DH Press 2.5

DH Press 2.5 can be downloaded from our GitHub repository. Please consult Michael’s documentation about configuring data and projects for 2.5.

Note that once you migrate your project to 2.5, you will not be able to revert back to an older version of DH Press. We anticipate future releases to support backwards compatibility, but cannot at this time due to significant changes in the plugin’s architecture. For full details about migrating from 2.0 to 2.5, please consult our documentation.

Special thanks to Michael Newton, DH Press Lead Developer, for all of his hard work getting us to version 2.5. Additional thanks go out to the kind folks at OASIS, who have proven invaluable in the process, and to Anne MacNeil, one of our 2014 DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows, who assisted with field testing version 2.5, and whose project inspired many of our new visualizations.

DH Press and Palladio

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.


DH Press now Available for UNC WordPress Sites

A pre-release version of DH Press 2.5 is now available for all members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Any UNC faculty, staff, or student with an onyen can activate DH Press in any site. Simply log in to your dashboard, navigate to your plugins, and activate DH Press. Make sure to add the map library if you plan to create a map (base map library  |  NC historic map overlays). Check out our documentation here.

The latest version of DH Press includes many exciting new features, in addition to map and gallery visualizations, including:

  1. Pinboard view with animations
  2. Timeline
  3. One to N network graphing (family trees)
  4. Facet flows
  5. Enhancement of our audio/transcript tool to include YouTube media files

You can view a demo project created by DH Press Developer Michael Newton here.

Thanks to ITS and the Office of Arts and Sciences Information Services (OASIS) for their help in making DH Press available across campus.

Look for the official release of 2.5 later this Fall!