Here is the map I made from my data on the Letters sent from soldiers.
I took a sample of letters from 1917 and 1918 and noticed most were from training camps in the states so I focused on that aspect.

My second map shows soldiers from the same sample serving overseas.
I focused on France as twelve of the letters specified either a city in France or an undisclosed location.
There was on letter that came from Santo Domingo, but the latitude and longitude I retrieved online keeps putting the dot in the ocean. I left it on, but did not focus on it when deciding on a map.

My story map looks at letters sent by soldiers who were currently at training camps in the States

Sparse timeline of WWI

Maps are not easy, even with the help of Lincoln Mullen. Merely finding appropriate maps for my data was a challenge! When I did finally find a usable map of the United States for my first datamap, it took me awhile to figure out how to extract the already georeferenced map from David Rumsey’s Collection. I opted for using Lincoln Mullen’s guide on using Mapwarper and did it myself. I think it was better this way, even though I did realize how to extract it after my Mapwarper struggles (kept crashing on me!). I learned a lot more about geospacing than I ever could from grabbing a ready to go map. It required a lot of close examination when I was working on my second map of France. However, the original map of France was pitched as things got…wonky and literally sideways.

Getting my data sets into CartoDB made me realize how unclean the data I made last week was. I used multiple sheets, but had not grabbed all the important information into one database. Additionally, I failed to separate the different data for each map. I have a lot of blank maps on my account, but after many trials and errors, I was finally understanding Lincoln’s steps. In the future, I would like to clean the map up with different data. My pup-up info currently shows all the information in separate fields like my “clean” data has it. I would like to instead show Date, Name, and Location under one heading.

Creating the story map was a little harder for me in just visualizing what to do. I wanted to stick with using the letters throughout all the activities. This led to what I believe to be a very boring storymap. Letter and letter after letter. I at least tried to “spice it up” with the opening slide showing students of Illinois College practicing digging trenches on campus as part of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC).
As unappealing as my story is, at least to me, it did allow me to get an understanding of what that tool is capable of and everything that can be done with it. With some more time and research, I could see it being used in my project to map the life of one of the soldiers (before, during, and after the war).

Lastly, to have a little more fun with images and text, I did an assortment of World War I history for my timeline. This was a lot of fun! I was confused on how this would all turn out in the end from the spreadsheet, but I sure do love technology! It was nice and easy to bring this timeline together, I just grabbed facts from my senior thesis on the SATC; which is why it all leads to that before BAM. War over. This may be a preferable option for me in telling a soldier’s life story. I don’t like the jumping aimlessly (for my data) around a map so much.

I’d like to start by saying wow, data is hard. There is so much to think about when it comes to creating and managing a data set. I have so much to think about for the future of my project. What kind of information will I provide in a data set? What will I deem irrelevant? Should I deem any data I can think of irrelevant? I don’t think I should. Dan Cohen mentions in “Eliminating the Power Cord” how we can never anticipate exactly how someone will use our product or data. I may find the exact page or word count of each letter meaningless, but already having that data prepared could be very useful to a researcher. If I can imagine it, I will include it. At least for now.

I created a Google Spreadsheet that can be viewed here.

Originally, I misread our goal for the activity this week. I created my own data linked above from 41 out of 117 possible letters. I created a tab with identifier information that would include the file name on my computer for ease of finding. I used this to reference back to from the main set of data in the first sheet. This data has the first and last name of the writer of the letter separated as well as the date it was written and the receiver of the letter. I made sure to separate variables into their own fields as advised by Hadley Wickham. I also used the ID structure to separate some data as seen when she discusses the weekly top hits chart. I found a lot of this article hard to wrap my head around, especially once she started talking about plyr and R. All the code confused me and I had no idea what I was looking at.

I thought the talk about concatenating data by Groot was interesting. I loved the idea of being able to take from my rows and combining the data to equal a name or date (or in the case of his examples, a street name). I did find myself wondering why go through the trouble of separating the data if only to concatenate it all in the spreadsheet. However, I see now that is not for the original data set, but instead for pull from the data set. I feel silly having had that misconception now, but live and learn.

Realizing my mistake with the assignment after hours going through my own data and working on transcriptions, I attempted to find data repositories that I could use focusing on WWI. I did a Google search and found what I thought were very promising sites. Unfortunately, I could not figure out a way to extract the data I had found so that was a dead end. I looked at IPUMS-USA for their 1850 to present records. I was excited to see that they had WWI Veteran records. Usable data! And I can extract it? Perfect! I selected the WWI records and focused my samples on the 1910-1930 census. I was discouraged once I was brought to the log-in screen and saw that I needed to request an account. I feared I would have to wait hours or days for that request. Imagine my relief when I discovered it was actually a registration, not a request per-say. Then the waiting. I was told I would receive an email when my data was ready to extract. Roadblock. I was not sure how long that would be so I went on another fruitless search for usable data repositories. Reusable data is hard to find. Luckily, my data was ready in approximately five minutes.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to use or even access it. I followed the guide given by IPUMS, but that lead me no-where. The guide uses language discussing command files and I had no idea what to do with that. Do I need to download a separate program to view the data? I think so. I tried looking up a tutorial on uploading a .dat file into Excel and found this simple guide. Which led me to have these results:

excel fail

Very interesting data it gave me on WWI Veterans. Okay, I did something wrong. What is that? I’m currently trying to figure that out. Next I explore trying to download Strata (one of the programs referenced in the IPUMS guide. I should be able to figure something out, right?



Okay, I gave it another go! I found a 14 day trial for SPSS that took an hour to download (not exaggerating unfortunately) and was itself a confusing process. Once I restarted my computer like it asked I could not find the program, only a statistics analyzer. I tried opening the files from IPUMS anyway, but no luck. Hoping to ease some frustration I looked through what some others did and saw a trend of using data from National Historical GIS. I gave that a go, hoping I could also have some form of success. The first data set I downloaded seemed far too small column-wise to get any real practice in; it only have 5-7. I created a new extract and had more than enough to work with! I was not able to work with data related to my project, but I got as close as I could. I used census information from Chicago for 1920.

There were not many fields I needed to separate, really none at all. I thought about separating the area name, but that somehow did not seem appropriate. There were some columns I completely deleted as those fields were completely blank for the set of data I was working with. Although, thinking back now, perhaps I should have inserted NULL for each entry to indicate that an entry could appear there. Looks like I created a silence in my “tidy” data.

I created a separate sheet for the nationality information and age information. I found the way the data was originally organized for nationality counts overwhelming and hard to read. I decided to show all the nationalities in one column so someone can see across a row how many of each nationality was counted total or for each tract #. I also put male and female information next to each other by tract #. I thought it was foolish to have the male and female completely separated in the original.
For the age information, I did not change much. I noticed that the headers changed pattern. At first it went over 21 and then under 21 for each main heading (example: Male_over21, Male_under21, Female_over21, Female_under21). After the initial four, it separate the information by over 21 and under 21. I put all main headings next to each other for comparison. However, I feel as though this was not sufficient. I think there is a much tidier way to clean this section of the data. Since each column has over 21 and under 21 in common, it may have been wise to make that the two columns or rows. However, how would I include the identifier information for reference?

Data is still very much a difficulty for me.

View my Excell spreadsheets: Clio Tidy Data Assignment

I realized I forgot to attach a link to my new Omeka site.
For any details on why there is a new one, please see the “Omeka” page above.

Also, if there is a way to add your own thumbnail to items, that would be great because my exhibit is PDFs and looks…rather boring.
I may need to change their format from PDF to JPEG or PNG.
Now I know!

Connecting to the Homefront

Phillip Hinman (16)
highschool student living in Jacksonville, IL

“My grandfather is the most interesting man I know who I have never met.”

Growing up, Phillip was fascinated by stories of his grandfather, Arthur Hinman, who fought in World War I. When he was a young boy, his grandmother would always share stories about him and how brave he was. As he grew older, he began to ask more questions about his grandfather and the war. The more he learned, the more he loved him. Now sixteen years old, Phillip spends his days in classes and practices with his soccer team after school. When he is home, he likes to spend his spare time working on his collection of stories about his grandpa Arthur.

Phillip is looking to find information on his grandfather and get an idea of what he was thinking during the war.

David Brooks (21)
undergraduate senior, history major

“I’m almost there!”

David is a senior at Illinois State University currently working on his senior thesis over the involvement of students in the first World War. In a typical day, he attends his classes, works a couple hours on campus, and works on assignments and research when he is not attending organization meetings. His research primarily focused on students from Illinois State who entered a branch of service; however, he has recently found that this narrow focus will not provide him enough information for his paper. Lately, he has considered comparing students from different schools to try and find comparisons or differences.

David is looking to research students fighting in the War and compare to those from Illinois State University.

Bonnie Sharp (32)
history enthusiast, school bus driver

“I love my kids”

Bonnie starts her mornings early, picking her bus up at promptly 6am to begin picking up her first round, high school students. After all of the students are dropped off at the school, she sits in the bus lot reading a book until it is time to start rounding up the elementary school students. After, she heads home until it’s time to pick the students up again and spends time either reading or browsing the internet, depending on her mood. Bonnie has a broad interest in history, but finds the wars the most fascinating. When she has the chance to learn something new, she jumps on the opportunity.

Bonnie is looking to read about the lives of WWI soldiers.

This week, the articles we read reflected on the different ways to use the web to reach an audience. One of the most important aspects we all need to keep in mind while creating our sites is the kind of history we wish to accomplish. Are we creating a site to educate our visitors on a specific subject or topic? Or are we creating a site that encourages interaction and engagement with the site for either educational, research, or recreational purposes? This is the difference between digital history and digital public history. Public history itself is engaging with the public to present history in , hopefully, an interesting and beneficial way. I would argue that the Raid on Deerfield website is an example of digital history and digital public history. The site was designed in a way to tell the story in an interactive and engaging way. A visitor can choose to read about the raid from various perspectives and leave the site, or they can read all about the raid and closely examine objects and documents through interactive tools. If this website only offered the text story of the five involved cultures (and the list of explanations by various authors), this website would solely be a digital history project. On the other hand, if the website exhibited the documents and objects for the visitor without the details of the larger story, I would see the site as a digital public history site. While either can stand alone, I believe it is necessary to have both variables in order for an educational site like this one to be truly successful.
(To put things in perspective, I view Papers of the War Department as a digital public history site and Wikipedia as a digital history site)

Before deciding what kind of website you are going to create, though, it is more important to decide what kind of website your target audience will use. This is where the personas discussed by Shlomo Goltz come in. If you want to tell the history of a specific Civil War battle, are you going to create a digital history site or a digital public history site? It is important to figure out your desired target audience. If you are wishing to appeal to scholars only, then you are likely to be considering a digital history design. If you want to broadly educate those interested in the Civil War, you will need an interactive design that is engages the public with different tools; this will result in digital public history. I should point out, though, if you are focusing in on a specific topic and want to display sources or objects, I see it currently impossible to do it well if the website does not incorporate both (context is everything). In other words, digital history and digital public history must go hand-in-hand in order for the audience to get the most from your site.

The readings this week really had me thinking of the design and purpose of my website. I found the readings about engagement especially interesting because I originally saw my website as a tool for research. Mia Ridge asks in her article, “But is asking people to comment on a photo or exhibit without really caring about their response truly ‘engagement’, or just a cheap exercise in adding ‘interactivity’?” This really stuck with me because, at most, this is what I saw visitors able to do with the oral histories. However, that is not engaging at all. Visitors want to feel connected and included when they go to a website. The more instant gratification a visitor can feel, the more likely they are to enjoy something. I would like to include an option for the visitor to contribute to the website in some way. Radical trust is an area of concern, the comments in the piece by Tim Grove made that clear. Considering my options with user-generated content, I will not be providing the instant gratification I know the visitor would love. Instead, I will invite users to submit content that can then be approved and uploaded, giving them credit. The content they will be able to upload is partial or full transcriptions of audio. While I would love to allow all transcriptions to display immediately through a plug-in, there is a specific format to be followed that I cannot guarantee through user-created content.

I also found the personas very interesting. The farthest I had considered my audience is in general terms of student, professor, or hobbyist. The idea of creating a specific person with detailed needs is genius and incredibly frustrating since I don’t have the time or resources to interview 20 potential users and create accurate personas from that. It is at least a little comforting to know that there is no way I am the only one experiencing this frustration. At least we all know the questions we would ask for our individual sites and are able to create personas off of how we think our target audience would answer.