Maryland State Visualisation


For our assignment for Digital Tools and Methodologies we were asked to combine a variety of visualisations techniques. By this we had to locate a data set and represent it with some form of a graph. Using the graph we would illustrate how the data can express an argument and discuss this with reference to how it may occur in a real life scenario.

To tackle this assignment, I spent time trying to locate an appropriate data set. Many data sets were not compatible with what I was trying to achieve. To display a data set in a form of a graph, an external program was needed. The program I chose was called Raw, which can be found at Another option I could of used was Gephi but I found Raw a lot more user friendly so decided to use this. The data set I discovered was found at I went through numerous data sets until I found one that was suitable. I decided to use the State of Maryland’s Number of Drug and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths by County of Incident from 2007-2013.


Map Of where Maryland is on USA Map.

This dataset shows how in different areas the death rate regarding alcohol related intoxication deaths can vary drastically depending which county it is. Below a circle packing chart can be seen for Maryland State which displays each county which is part of it in bubbles. Each bubble represents a county. The bigger the bubble the more deaths that occurred from drug and alcohol related in that county.


From observing the chart it is clearly evident that Baltimore City has encountered the most deaths from alcohol and drugs in recent years. In many situations, usually the state or county with the highest population would encounter this due to vast amount of people. However Baltimore City does not have the highest population, Montgomery does with just over 1 million people. From the chart there is a major difference between Montgomery and Baltimore.  From doing my own research to find a reason for each county that has a high death rate due to alcohol and drugs, I found an answer. As sad as it is, the counties that have a high black population are the county’s that are ending with such high death rates due to these causes. For example Baltimore City has 63.3% black population as of 2013. In comparison Montgomery only has 18%. I find this is a very upsetting result as brutal as it sounds, America still is far from equal equality compared to the majority of Europeans countries.

From going through each county and looking at the difference between black and white populations, black areas are scoring high above white areas. However there is a sense of hope with a couple of counties such as Charles and Somerset which have 43.1 and 42.8% blacks respectively. As you can see from the chart they score very low in terms of deaths. However these counties have relatively low populations unlike the major populations such as Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel. These cities all have a high population and a very high black community throughout.

Overall from researching each and every county, I have come to a conclusion for the main reason for high death rates due to drugs and alcohol in various counties. As stated above some counties are scoring high in this bracket because they have a high black community

To counter this issue, The US government need to give incentives with in regards to education, health and employment in parts where there are a high black community that suffers with drugs, alcohol and violence. In my opinion education would be the major key to minimize the amount of alcohol and drug related deaths. In past years, the white community has been far more advanced. This was clearly evident when slavery was legal in America. The whole situation needs to be handled as soon as possible. People in these areas are turning to alcohol and drugs to forget their problems they encounter in these areas of Maryland from unemployment etc.

America has a lot of social problems and a lot of work is needed to fix this issue.

Old Weather?

As part of Digital Tools and Methodologies , we were given the assignment of exploring and using Zooniverse to choose a project that interested us. First off we were prompted to make an account with Zooniverse. It was very straight forward process just asking for an email and password. On completing this task , it was then possible to view the wide range of projects that Zooniverse offer. I went through several projects before I stumbled across one that interested me.

The project that stood out to me from the start was Old weather. This project was made to help scientists recover Artic and worldwide weather observations made by United States ships since the mid-19th century by transcribing ships’s logs. The transcriptions help us to gain knowledge of past environmental conditions.


When you go onto the website you are brought to a homepage that explains the main aims of the project. Along the top of the page there is a menu bar. The option ‘ships’ is where the majority of interaction and crowd-sourcing is.  When you go forward to the ships tab you are brought to a page with a range of ship names from the late 1800s to mid 1900s. By clicking on ship, you are prompted three options annotate, transcribe and more info. The annotation option is very good, a document which gives details about a voyage the ships were on comes up. The user is then asked a various amount of questions based on the document. For example, I was asked are there any dates written on the page’, ‘are there any latitudes or longitudes observed at noon on the page’,  I found this very interesting as I was annotating various documents, I was learning about previous weather conditions from a range of different dates in different locations. Currently some ships on the project are not allowing transcription. This may be for various reason such as it is already completed or the admins have blocked this feature.

On every ship, Old weather have an information section which discusses every ship from where it was built to who bought it and the which organisation sailed it. In some ships the organisation who sailed it changed. For example USS Bear was originally bought by The US Navy before being transferred to The Revenue Cutter Service of the Treasury Department for service with Alaskan Patrol. The webpage also have a link to another page which gives a more detailed description of the ships history.


I contributed to two ships by annotating the documents. The two ships were Bear 1915 and Eastwind 1946. I found the usability of aiding the website of either transcribing or annotating document very easy. I Believe it is suitable for the use by anyone with basic computer skills. As stated above I was prompted to answer several questions about the document and my answer would be an element of the document. For example the latitude of a certain date etc.

From studying the project, I have learned several different things from history of ships to the main purpose of the project of previous weather climates worldwide. Since global warming is one hundred percent true, I never thought previous weather could help us estimate future weather. This is vital for scientists. Crowd-sourcing has also taught me with the help of people from all around the world, every project can gain a lot of resources and exposure. I found this very useful. I am currently undertaking a project with four classmates for Cork LGBT. The use of crowd-sourcing is very important. The aim of the project is transcribing old documents from the history of Cork LGBT.Therfore crowd-sourcing is a priority. I have now seen how important crowd sourcing actually is and how it can reduce the workload on the admin.

Storify with a review?

Recently I had the task of doing an assignment for DH2001. The assignment was based about how the digital humanities impacts our minor subject, mine being geography.

For the purpose of the assignment, we had to use Storify. Storify is a social network service that lets the user create stories or timelines using social media such as TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Even though storify is primarily story based we used it for an essay. I will now give a critical review of  Storify .

From using this application, I found it both positive and negative in my opinion. First off it is a very easy program to operate . After a basic registration,I was brought to a screen where a draft explaining the basics of working with storify was displayed. It shows how to add social media, add links within stories, publishing, embedding, editing and updating. I found this very helpful and informative, it gave me a quick lesson on how every feature works.

The first feature I found very useful was sources. Sources allows people to gather information on the same page they are writing. Searches can be done from standard websites to social media sites such as Twitter. This makes researching a lot faster and efficient in theory. However when I was searching for information on my topic, the results were not accurate. If storify could fix this problem, it would be a great feature that would be used very frequently.

A second feature that I really liked was the whole publishing/editing side of Storify. Storify has a built in auto save mode. Every story is saved as a draft when you are writing. This made life so much easier, not having to worry about losing your work. When I finished and was ready to publish, all that was needed to do was click publish and it was then live for the world to see.



Another feature that had the potential to be great was embedding . Storify says on their website that “All Storify stories are embeddable, meaning you can also post them on places like your blog, Tumblr or any Web site where you can insert an embed code”. However I did not find this feature to be great as I couldn’t get it to work properly. It would appear in my blog, but look messy and incorrect.

I also really like the editing and updating feature. Even when I had published my story, it was still possible to change bits here and there. When I had my story  published , I noticed I had a few spelling mistakes to change so this let me acknowledge these mistakes. Another option that comes under the heading of updating is reordering elements. If you felt you wanted to move a paragraph within the story it was possible by simply dragging it to a desired location. One problem I found frustrating with elements was when I hit enter, a new element was created everytime. As I am a person who has used word a lot I found this very awkward to use. It is also possible to add new quotes within the story. For instance if there is a large reaction to your story on social media and the story you’re covering keeps unfolding, you can add new quotes or developments straight away.

Storify allows people directly credit peoples work. For example if I referenced someone in my story, that person gets a notification to let them know they are now part of my story. This is a great feature as it can make your story reach a wider audience. The person you referenced is more than likely going to share it with his/her friends, therefore resulting in more traffic coming your way, which is great!

Overall I would give Storify  a 7/10. The main reason behind this is because of the element feature where everytime you press enter a new element is created. I found this very annoying. It would have been fine if it was able to merge elements but unfortunately it wasn’t. However I did like the feature sources, instead of coming and going from your internet tab this made it a lot easier as the search bar is next to the story. Overall though, I think I would rather stick with Microsoft Word and then just post on my blog etc, as I know it is reliable from experience etc.

Impact of open access Mapping in Geography?

  1. For this essay I will discuss the impact of open access Mapping Software in Geography. My minor subject is Geography so I will discuss how the digital humanities has an impact on it with regards to open access mapping software. In my opinion, I believe it is both positive and negative but primarily positive for the purpose of this essay. I will also discuss a wide range of Mapping software that is open source .There has been a large amount of GIS projects that have been published from digital humanists, . Human geographers have been spoilt in recent times by the amount of open source mapping that has become available.
    First off Open Access means the availability to everyone. Open access has been very helpful to researchers, institutions, nations and society as a whole. “The founder or copyright owner provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose”. This means anyone can use the software for their personal or educational reasons. By this a number of people around the world can be working on mapping a place, indirectly helping one another to map certain locations.
    First off, one of the most common types of data available is geographic data. With today’s location based applications and sensors. Maps are common visualizations that immediately help orient people to new data. Maps are needed in everyday life from locating a place to find out information and statistics about certain places. In the last twenty years there has been a big increase in developments in GIS technology. This has resulted in alot of competition and growing user demand which then resulted in a number of high-quality solutions.
    Since there is now a wide range of open source mapping software available on the web, geography has benefited from it greatly. In general almost every open source software has helped every discipline. The first software that I believe that has proven to make human geography easier is OpenStreetMap. This is widely used in relation to Digital Humanities, as part of First year digital humanities in UCC, this software is used for an assignment. The software allows users to edit and add to places throughout the word. For example last year, I updated my hometown Glanmire which is on the outskirts of Cork City. The software allows users to pinpoint places to make your map one hundred percent accurate. Since this software is open source, anyone can use this and no fee is required to partake in editing and adding to places around the world.
    Another software that is gaining alot of followers is TerraLib , “an open-source GIS library that enables quick development of custom-built applications for spatial data analysis”. This was created by a group of research and development institutions in Brazil. Their main aim for this is to help the development of GIS prototypes that include recent advances in GIScience. Another aim from this is to prove that open source can make a substantial contribution to the spatial information communtity. This is said to be done by providing a platform for innovation and collaborative development.
    A third software that has helped the geography community is Gqis. This tool is highly regarded within the geography community. It is a volunteer driven project. Like other softwares , its allows people to Create, edit, visualise, analyse and publish geospatial information. This tool will also be intoducing a mobile version to be run on iOS and Android in early in 2016. As a free open source mapping software it has a vast range of features within it ranging from SQL tables to Geospatial Data Abstraction libraries.
    A fourth software that has helped human geography is GRASS GIS or just commonly known as GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System). It is currenltly used in both commercial and academic places around the world. What makes this tool unique, it a founding member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO). The OSGEO was created to support open source mapping projects throughout the world. Like all mapping software there are many features. GRASS has over 350 modules to render maps and images on to monitors and paper. GRASS in recent times added 3D – Raster Analysis, which allows 3D import and export, 3D masks, 3D map algebra, 3D interpolation and 3D Visualization. All of these features allow human geographers to showcase their work more efficiently and professional.
    The final software that I will discuss in regards to digital humanities is GMT Mapping Tools. This is a bit different to the usual mapping software available. It is an open source collection of 80 command line tools that let people manipulate geographic and cartesian data sets. This tool also allows production of postscript illustrations that are from simple x–y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3D perspective views.
    With the wide amount of open source mapping software that is available, human geography has been impacted in a very positive way. Firstly , human geographers have a wide range of open source software to choose from. There is constantly more and more been developed. Secondly , there is no cost involved in obtaining the mapping software. In comparison to other software that require a large licence fee to avail of the service. Thirdly, A global community of human geographers can unite and collaborate to map various places around the world. Anybody can access the software and contribute to the software. From a students point of view Open source software is great, its cuts costs, provides a good platform for mapping and reaches a wide audience. The only problem that exists but doesn’t directly affect human geography, is that there is no full time employees,everything is voluntary . A problem with this is that if there is an issue with the software, there can be a delay before its functioning properly again.

On Photography

This blog post will be about “In Plato’s Cave” the first chapter of “On Photography” by Susan Sontag. I found this a very interesting piece to read as I am interested in photography also. Here is the link to the reading On Photography .

There are lots to say about photography from reading this extract. Sontag first starts off by saying that collecting photographs is similair to collecting the world. She contrasts the difference between photos versus movies and television. She says television programs and movies “light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store”.

Photographs are a method of capturing an experience and the camera is the means of allowing us gather this experience. Photos can also be said to be one hundred percent proof that an event occurred. “A picture may be distort but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist”.

As photography can be considered to be an art form, the majority  of photography is used as a social rite. This is very common in family life, camera just go with family life. I know for a fact my family have gone through numerous amounts of cameras since my siblings and I were born. There is a picture showcasing each of our ages as we grew up at home.  As Sontag said  “According to a sociological study done in France, most households have a camera, but a household with children is twice as likely to have at least one camera as a household in which there are no children”. So it proves that camera in family life is critical. Parents will take pictures of their children from birth up to graduation and weddings as these are important times in ones lives.

Photographs also allow people travel back in time for a brief moment by revisiting past events where they once might of felt euphoria. This being said , it almost like going back onto a holiday or a family event without actually being there again. This can be said to be a fake reality but everyone does it when we see a picture of a past event.

Sontag makes a good point about photography. She says “A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights—to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on”. This is a very true statement as lot of people use photography as a past time to gather as much images as possible.

Overall I found this article very interesting and it explained alot about photography that I didn’t know previously.

More than a business model: crowd-sourcing and impact in the humanities.

For this blog post I will discuss More than a business model: crowd-sourcing and impact in the humanities by Stuart Dunn.

I found this a very interesting read throughout. I was intrigued by how crowd-sourcing has two separate meanings attached to it from business to academics. In business Jeff Howe outlined in his 2006 Wired article, The Rise of Crowdsourcing, he was drawing a conscious parallel with the concept of out-sourcing, moving essential tasks in the manufacturing and service industries from costly European and US labour markets to ones in the Far East, India etc. This is a huge aspect of economics where economies of scale comes into play. This makes everything cheaper to produce or mass produce even. Crowd- sourcing in business was all about making profit simply for a business where every person involved who made an impact was rewarded either money or some form of prestige.

As I stated above though, crowd-sourcing is alot different in an academic sense. It is down more to people collaborating and adding to ones work. That being said, the public must share an intellectual  interest on the topic. As Dunne stated “in the early days of so-called ‘citizen science’, this led to the spectacular successes of Galaxy Zoo, Old Weather, Ancient Lives etc.; which succeeded in martialling thousands to contribute in various ways, classifying, transcribing, and editing specialized academic content”. These examples all benefited as the public all had an input in each. Having a result on the three success examples, this made people aware of how more online digital resources can be enhanced and produced from a wide audience.

But Dunn suggested overall people still think of crowd sourcing in a buisness sense. Dunn used the transcription of historic handwriting into machine-readable text as an example for this. He said “We all recognize that interest out there in the wider world will drive people to these  projects, and make them desire to contribute, but the resulting distributed effort involved inevitably comes down to its value as a commodity”. This a very true statement which I agree with. Dunn also then explains that he believes a smaller group of individuals will be far more beneficial than a lager group “long tail model” working on something to get a result from.

Stuart Dunn then concludes his article with three ingredients for ensuring reciprocated impact of a humanities crowd-sourcing activity, all of which involve breaking with the idea of crowd-sourcing as a universal business model:

  1. Pick your battles
  2. Do not mistake large numbers for high impact.
  3. Put a mechanism in place for your contributors to talk to each other, as well as to you.

Overall I found this article very interesting as it shows the difference between business and academics of crowd-sourcing.

Critical Discourse In Digital Humaniities

This blog post will be a review of Critical Discourse by Fred Gibbs.

From reading Gibbs Article on Critical Discourse, I agree with  everything he says about DH. He states there is a lack of peer to peer criticism or critique amongst the Digital Humanities community. In my opinion though, I believe the reason behind this is down to abstract and unusual material coming from Digital Humanities. As a student in second year Digital Humanities I find some material like review on articles difficult to criticise as alot of answer is down to personal preferance or a matter of opinion.

Gibbs firstly gives us three points about Critical Discourse to help us familiarise ourselves with the idea.

  1. “Digital humanists have not created an effective critical discourse around their work”.
  2. “We need more theoretical and practical rubrics for evaluating digital humanities work”.
  3. “Digital humanities work requires a different kind of peer review to produce effective criticism”.

These points are very relevant to every students work. They need to be able to critique each others work effectively but with effective criticism. Not only fellow students giving constructive criticism to one another, this should be implemented to their own work from themselves. However a critical discourse has not been made for digital humanists to criticise each others’ work. Even though digital humanities can a very awkward area to critique from outside of the discipline. This is down too, outsiders are not aware of what is good and what is bad. As digital humanists we need to give these answers.

Gibbs gives us an explanation with what a critical discourse will give us overall: “On the whole, a critical discourse will provide crucial services for an interested audience: establish utility and value, question blemishes and flaws, and identifies sources, commonalities, and missed opportunities”. In my opinion this statement is almost making people look at things from another angle and point of view. Gibbs shows us this by saying paint slopped onto a canvas is actually worth thinking about”.

Another key thing that Gibbs says needs to happen, is that projects done in digital humanities need to be published publicly . This way everyone benefits as Digital Humanities can be critiqued by a wider audience.

Overall I find this idea a difficult one to put into practice as the person critiquing has to have an interest in that field of study anyway. However I agree with everything Fred Gibbs said in his article about Critical Discourse.

CABALLERO MENGIBAR, A. (2015). Critical discourse analysis in the study of representation, identity politics and power relations: a multi-method approach. Communication & Society 28(2), 39-55.

According to van Dijk (1998a) Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a field that is concerned with studying and analyzing written and spoken texts to reveal the discursive sources of power, dominance, inequality and bias. It examines how these discursive sources are maintained and reproduced within specific social, political and historical contexts. (Link)