Digital Humanities: Experimenting with Palladio

Another day, another experiment with Digital Humanities Tools. We are currently playing with Palladio, a mapping tool, once again using The Cushman Collection data set from Indiana University. The Cushman Collection data set is a comma delimited file which contains data on photographs, when and where they were taken, descriptions of each photo, and plenty of other useful information. A fun fact that everyone should know is that Palladio, as an in browser application, does not have an online storage system. If you want to keep your progress, you have to save an offline copy for yourself then load it in again. And like with all documents, be sure to save frequently in case say, your internet connection is reset and you attempt to load something new and all your work is lost. I also ran into issues of the program using up almost all the processing on my computer whenever I attempted to manipulate the map, such as add new layers, change point color, or even zoom in. Even with these quips, I was still able to get some rather nice visualizations by playing around.

Palladio Map 2

A basic map looking at the data with the “streets” filer applied, which displays state and country borders, as well as city names if you zoom in far enough.

 When comparing Palladio to Google Fusion Tables, I would have to say that Palladio wins out aesthetically, but the sheer number of times it crashed my browser and had me re-input the information and settings over and over just to capture a few screenshots makes me sad for anyone trying to do actual research with the tool. Until it is more stable, I think that Palladio needs to pull back on its features for a little while. On the other hand, Google Fusion Tables let me zoom in, out, and move the map to my hearts content without batting an eye. The no hassle stability of the map generator it was using, alongside the online saved data made me much less frustrated than I was with Palladio.

Google Fusion Map

A map displaying the same information as the one above, less attractive, but also much easier to work with.

All in all, when working with these mapping programs, I find it interesting to think of what applications they can have in the field of digital humanities. As discussed in Zephyr Frank’s Spatial History as Scholarly Practice from Between Humanities and the Digital, these sorts of maps focusing on the spatial relationship between objects and events create a distinct kind of visual that is very useful in communicating important ideas to an audience.

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