Book Review

A Deeper Look at Big Data

 

In Big Data Viktor Mayer-Schnonberger a professor of internet governance and regulation at Oxford University and Kenneth Cukier, the data editor of The Economist have teamed up to introduce and explain to us how large scale information gathering is going to transform the world as we know it. As technology improves, the data that it collects is growing in quantity and the way that that data is being used is starting to change the way we do so many different things, insist the authors. A major transformation is beginning and we need to be aware of it!

This book illustrates clearly the changes that have already taken place with the inception of big data as well as the possibilities that abound in relation to it’s future analysis. Examples are given of many of the websites that we use today that are collecting our data, from what items we buy, what links we click on, to what our thoughts are and who our friends are. The authors state that how these sites use this information may be harmless or welcomed, like suggesting other products that we might be interested in, sending us coupons based on our interests or helping us find our way when we get lost. But they are also raising some big concerns about our privacy. Which brings to mind Tim Harford’s (2014) article “Big Data: Are we making a big mistake?”. He stresses that big data is a “vague term” and to rely on mass data too much is in his opinion a mistake because with that amount of data errors will happen but it will be hard for us to even realize it. Schnonberger and Cukier (2013) do agree that it is messy, however, they believe that “Ultimately, big data may require us to change, to become more comfortable with disorder and uncertainty” (p-48). This book talks about our need to move away from our search for causality, if we know that something is happening we don’t need to know why. This is a hard concept to sell, humans love to question the why. Just try to tell a two year old anything. His response will most likely be–Why? Just because, isn’t going to cut it.

Schnonberger and Cukier seem to glaze over the privacy concerns for an even more ominous danger brought by the correlation of data which is that of probability assessment, where algorithms will predict the likelihood of future events such as health problems or crimes thus leading to a dictatorship style of enforcement. They warn of the end to free will and harken to images from the movie Minority Report where people are arrested for crimes they haven’t yet committed. As dramatic as that is, I have a little more faith in humanity than that.

But this book does make you take a deeper look into the capabilities of all this amassed data and it opens your eyes to how what you think may be useless information, is not. We are all leaving a trail of data crumbs behind that anyone can follow and pick up. I believe that we do need to be aware of what data is being used and how it is being used and this book is a good one to get us thinking a bit more critically about that.

References:

 

Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2013). Big data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28 2014. <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/21a6e7d8-b479-11e3-a09a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ziUgQIoH>.

Reading Response #5

The power of ideas

Brainstorming and getting feedback from our peers is a great way to hone our ideas and turn them into something. Learning from other’s works who have similar ideas is also a great way to improve our knowledge base and get a better foot hold on our own ideas progression, but in this ever abundant world of easily accessible information sometimes lines get crossed and ideas get stolen.The power of sharing ideas in order to create something better versus the theft of ideas to take credit for something that already exists are the topics for discussion between these two articles.

In the interview of Clay Shirky he talks of the power of collaboration and how it is changing with the new advancements in technology. He discusses the 3D printing forum called Thingiverse, where people can share their project ideas and different people can work to make these projects better. It creates a division of labour so that an idea can come into fruition with the help of people of different abilities or strengths. Shirky also expresses the importance of learning from your failures. He states “It’s very often the case that what people set out to do as Plan A turns out to be effective and important, not because it works, but because it shows them what doesn’t work”. We get Wikipedia and Twitter from such mistakes. He is definitely very enthusiastic about sharing ideas for the good of progress, but he does not get into the problems that arise when shared ideas are stolen and credit is given elsewhere.

This problem is discussed by Hollis Phelps in his article “Zizek, Plagiarism and the Lowering of Expectations”, when his academic idol, Zizek, falls from grace as an accused plagiarist. Phelps, though disappointed in Zizek, expresses a dissatisfaction with the egocentric world of scholarship. He basically thinks that scholars need to get off their high-horse and remember that they too are “mere mortals”. Phelps suggests that even though Zizek should have cited his source, had he done so he would have caught criticism for relying too heavily on them anyway. Phelps argues that “ “real” scholarship places a value on uniqueness and novelty, which requires a careful balance when it comes to citation practices.”

This seems to be the crux of the problem, balance. Keeping egos in check and being honest with what you know. Sharing ideas is how we learn, there is nothing wrong with that. Wisdom is built upon the backs of others and sometimes it is hard to remember if your ideas are your own, especially these days with so much information constantly bombarding us. Some could argue if there even is such a thing as an original thought, but to directly steal from a known source certainly does not help the progress of ideas.

 

“The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky.” McKinsey & Company. March 2014. <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/The_disruptive_power_of_collaboration_An_interview_with_Clay_Shirky?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1403>.


Phelps, Hollis. “Žižek, Plagiarism and the Lowering of Expectations.” Inside Higher Education. July 17 2014.Web. <https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/17/%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-plagiarism-and-lowering-expectations-essay>.

Literary Review

Drones: Coming soon to a neighborhood near you!

 

The commercial use of drones in our domestic airspace is on the brink of becoming a reality. There are many new applications for these unmanned aircrafts that just might change the world. Innovative as this new technology is, it is causing some public uproar about privacy concerns. Many experts have weighed in on the discussion about the possible benefits of this new device versus our privacy rights and the threats posed against them.

In Mildred V. Jones’ article “Drones the sky’s the limit–or is it?” (2014), she talks of how drones have evolved from a military tool into a commercial one which shows great potential for progress in many different fields. For example, she mentions that farmers have shown interest in using drones to improve the management of crops and counting cattle. Environmentalists can use drones to track wildlife. Companies such as Domino’s Pizza, Amazon and Federal Express are experimenting with drones for new delivery techniques. Delivering vaccines to remote locations is an interest for some in the medical field. Drones are also being looked at for transportation uses like mapping unpaved roads or understanding traffic patterns and evaluating road conditions. Jones states that the labor market will add 100,000 jobs in manufacturing alone  thanks to the addition of domestic drones. This will, in effect, influence our education system that is already preparing students for this new job market. She gives an example of the University of Nevada receiving a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Army to build drones that can detect gas leaks, radiation and other toxins and concludes, “The possibilities seem endless for drone technology and have given the cliche “the sky’s the limit” a new meaning in today’s technological world”, (p. 31).

Many other applications for drones have been mentioned in Theresa M. Payton and Theodore Claypoole’s book “Privacy in the age of big data” (2014), such as rescues, tracking fugitives, searching for missing persons, dropping aid to stranded victims as well as limiting poaching, thus supporting the idea that the possibilities are endless. Exciting as all of these applications are, Payton and Claypoole also stress the importance of protecting one’s privacy. They state that “The tool is not the problem, and it’s not going away.” (p. 119) They believe that we must lend a hand in protecting our own privacy by becoming knowledgeable about the new technology, what it is capable of and the tradeoffs that may be asked of us. “Some of those tradeoffs-privacy for convenience-could be softened by our own behavior or be reduced by legislation if we fight for it” they claim (p. xiv). In essence, they want to start a discussion on what drones could be used for both good and bad and how they should be regulated in order to maintain our safety and privacy.

This conversation is echoed in Rachel L. Finn and David Wright’s article “Unmanned aircraft systems: Surveillance, ethics and privacy in civil applications” (2012) They express that “Growth in this area has recently increased exponentially, particularly because of developments in lightweight construction materials, microelectronics, signal processing equipment and GPS navigation.” (p. 184) These unmanned aircraft systems, UASs as they are calling them, will have different capabilities in the civil sector based on their size. Although they will have many positive applications they can also be deployed for surveillance purposes such as policing and border patrol which give rise to civil liberty concerns. Finn and Wright argue that when used for surveillance the “usual suspects” , (the poor, people of color,and anti government protestors) are often targeted. They state that “despite the benefits to policing and border surveillance, the use of UAS technology raises safety, ethical and privacy concerns alongside this disproportionate targeting of already marginalised populations.” (p. 188) They talk of how law enforcement around the world are using these devices and how different agencies are seeking to assure people that they will not be spied on. The police are arguing that there is no difference between UASs and street cameras that have been in use for many years now. The problem with this is that there are few existing regulations in place, conceed Finn and Wright, stating that “Part of the difficulty in drawing up regulatory parameters for the use of UASs is that UAVs span an entire spectrum between model aircraft and manned aerial vehicles such as planes and helicopters” (p. 191). They cite the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens against unreasonable searches, observing that some of the privacy concerns could be covered by it if they are being used in public domains like the street cameras mentioned before; “However, [they believe] UAS surveillance that is covert, that uses attachments such as thermal imaging or that is used to monitor private spaces would require additional oversight mechanisms, such as search warrants or RIPA approval in order to be lawfully deployed” (p. 193).

Finn and Wright do not feel that current legislation or regulations adequately address the privacy problem, a sentiment that is reaffirmed in Robert Molko’s article “The drones are coming! Will the Fourth Amendment stop their threat to our privacy?” (2013). Molko claims that “ in the twenty-first century our privacy seems to have been eroded virtually to the point of nonexistence” (p. 1). He fears that if law enforcement are able to use drones then our privacy will be threatened even further. He questions whether the Fourth Amendment will be enough to protect our rights to privacy with technology moving so much faster than legislation. Because of the seriousness of these concerns he believes that the introduction of drones may be just what we need to bring privacy laws into the forefront but that “law enforcement’s use of drones will potentially create unresolved issues over the next ten years or longer, until the proper case reaches the Supreme Court” (1332). He suggests that “Until Congress acts, however, the Court should be able to continue protecting individual privacy from warrantless governmental drone surveillance by applying the reasonable expectation of privacy test, which will set the outer boundaries of permissible conduct under the Fourth Amendment” (1333).

Another credible agency that is watching out for our privacy rights is the ACLU. In their official report “Protecting privacy from aerial surveillance: Recommendations for government use of drone aircraft” (2011), by Jay Stanley and Catherine Crump, they maintain that “we need a system of rules to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing us a large step closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities” (p. 1). This report outlines protections that they feel will help secure our privacy in the future of domestic drones. The ACLU recommends usage restrictions, in that their use should be prohibited for mass surveillance. They suggest image retention restrictions, where images captured should not be retained or shared unless there is reasonable criminal intent. They believe the public should be given proper notice of when and what the drones will be used for. They also stress the importance of democratic control as well as auditing and effectiveness tracking. They state that “UAVs are potentially extremely powerful surveillance tools, and that power, like all government power, needs to be subject to checks and balances” (p. 15).

The Federal Aviation Administration has been assigned by Congress the difficult task of forming the regulations and policies on the safe integration and use of drones for public and private use in the U.S. The FAA established the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office in 2012 in order to create a plan that will establish operational and certification requirements for UAS. The FAA.Gov website discusses this process in the “Fact Sheet- Unmanned Aircraft Systems” webpage (2014). It describes six test sites that were chosen for research on UAS and how they hope to use the data retrieved to help in the creation of these future regulations. So far, however, the FAA is still in the data collection mode and has a September 30, 2015 deadline for setting up these new regulations.

What does the general public think about all of this? Well that is exactly what a research project being run by RTI international and The Institute for Homeland Security Solutions is seeking to find out. In their research brief “Unmanned aircraft and the human element: Public perceptions and first responder concerns” (2013) their research team did two studies to find out what the public’s perceptions and law enforcement concerns are. One study was a survey of police chiefs in Ohio where they were asked a series of questions about their level of awareness, and the potential applications and concerns about adopting UAS into their law enforcement operations. What it has found is that law enforcement officials are highly interested in using them, showing that 62% thought that the potential outweighed the barriers. The second study focused on the general public’s perceptions. Surveying over 2,000 people they found that 57% supported UAS use for any application. It concludes that a majority agree that the advantages of unmanned aircrafts outweigh the negatives.

All of these articles and studies play an integral part in raising a dialogue about this new technology we are about to confront in our own backyards.

 

Bibliography:

 

Eyerman, J., Letterman, C., Pitts, W., Holloway, J., Henkle, K., Schanzer, D., … Kaydos-Daniels, S. (2013, June). Unmanned aircraft and the human element: Public perceptions and first responder concerns [Scholarly project]. http://sites.duke.edu/ihss/files/2013/06/UAS-Research-Brief.pdf

 

Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). http://www.faa.gov/

 

Finn, R., & Wright, D. (2012). Unmanned aircraft systems: Surveillance, ethics and privacy in civil applications. Computer Law & Security Review, 28(2), 184-194.

 

Jones, M. V. (2014). Drones the sky’s the limit–or is it? Technology & Engineering Teacher, 74(1), 28-32.

 

Molko, R. (2013). The drones are coming! Will the Fourth Amendment stop their threat to our privacy? Brooklyn Law Review, 78(4), 1279-1333.

 

Payton, T., & Claypoole, T. (2014). Privacy in the age of big data: Recognizing threats, defending your rights, and protecting your family. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.


Stanley, J., & Crump, C. (2011, December). Protecting privacy from aerial surveillance:Recommendations for government use of drone aircraft. https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/protectingprivacyfromaerialsurveillance.pdf

Reading Response #4

Big, Scary Data-Oh My!

This week’s articles all ask questions about how safe we are with our personal data out wandering on the information highway.  We now showcase so much more of our lives online but do we even know what the effects of that sharing are? Do we have an inkling of an idea of how this information can hurt us, or are we just blissfully ignorant? Each of these articles impress upon ways that our information is being used without our consent.

In Tim Harford’s article “Big Data: Are we making a big mistake?”, he mentions Google’s success in tracking the spread of the flu via the collection of data and statistical patterns within that data such as key search terms and location of those searches. Google was able to predict the spread of the flu better than our own CDC. This shows how much power Google has over what we are doing with the internet. Will all this power corrupt?

Ian Bogost’s article “What is Evil to Google?” discusses this moral concept, however, Bogost feels that Google’s slogan “Do no Evil” is more about protecting the Google brand than protecting it’s users, us. He suggests that their meaning of evil has nothing to do with ethics but rather it is a pragmatic matter which could inhibit progress. “Dont be evil is the Silicon Valley version of be true to yourself.”  says Bogost who thinks that Google’s idea of good is “anything good for Google is good for society.” But how will all this exposure affect society?

This is a question posed by Kieron O’Hara in his article “Are we getting privacy the wrong way round?”.  He suggests that if we don’t reign in all of this easy access, society will suffer as a whole. There will be less accountability for actions, more profiling will take place, there will be less security, we will not know how our data is being used, and what we do on the internet could be used against us even ruining an adolescent’s future. He promotes the call for tools and protocol to support control of our personal data and believes that privacy is a public good.

This new age of big data has so many possibilities, both good and bad, and we are a part of this progress, so it is important to continue these conversations as this technology evolves if we want to have any say in how it will be used. Change of any kind can be scary and this could change the way the world works but big data doesn’t have to mean bad data!

Bogost, Ian. “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” The Atlantic. October 15 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/what-is-evil-to-google/280573/>.

Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28 2014. <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/21a6e7d8-b479-11e3-a09a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ziUgQIoH>.
O’Hara, Kieron. “Are we Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?” IEEE Internet Computing 17.4 (2013): 89-92.http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6547595.

Final Bibliography

Barbee, M. (2014). Uncharted territory: The FAA and the regulation of privacy via rulemaking for domestic drones. Administrative Law Review, 66.2, 463. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
This article looks into the decision of Congress to give the FAA the responsibility of forming the regulations and policies on the safe integration and use of drones for public and private use in the US. Is the FAA the proper agency to be in charge of protecting our privacy and will this new role interfere with their primary job of keeping our airspace safe?

Bohm, A. (2013, November 11). The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of State Legislation Passed This Year. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/year-drone-roundup-legislation-passed-year
I found this article on the ACLU’s website and I wanted to use it because it lists all of the different legislation on drones in the US. There is a very interesting chart that shows state by state what bills have been brought up and what has or hasn’t passed. Bohm analyzes the first drone bills to become law. Virginia’s was the first law of 2013 to be enacted, with a 2 year moratorium on law enforcement’s use of drones, so that they can consider the privacy implications and enact appropriate protections. I think that this article will be useful for comparing how each state will handle the privacy issues.

Eyerman, J., Letterman, C., Pitts, W., Holloway, J., Henkle, K., Schanzer, D., … Kaydos-Daniels, S. (2013, June). Unmanned aircraft and the human element: Public perceptions and first responder concerns [Scholarly project]. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from http://sites.duke.edu/ihss/files/2013/06/UAS-Research-Brief.pdf
This is a research project run by RTI international and The Institute for Homeland Security Solutions that set out to understand how much people know about and support the use of unmanned aircrafts. They did two studies to find out what the public’s perceptions and law enforcement concerns are. The first study was of police chiefs in Ohio but the second study is what I’m most interested in. It is a public perception survey of the general population of the U.S. It found that 57% of the public supported UA’s use for any application. It shows approval for homeland security use at 67%, fighting crime at 63%, search and rescue at 88%, and commercial use at 61% approval. Of course it also surveyed people’s concerns and the results showed that Americans are concerned about being monitored privately and publicly at 67%, safety issues at 65% and gov’t regulations at 75%. It shows that people agree that the advantages outweigh the negatives which supports my opinion in this paper.

Federal Aviation Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.faa.gov/
This website talks about the current regulations of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). There is also a section on the UAS test sites and what their research plans are. The FAA explains their considerations in choosing the specific test sites and the privacy policy for these sites which will most likely have a great impact on what they finally decide when making the privacy regulations for commercial uses of the UAS. I may be able to use this site to reference different regulations.

Finn, R., & Wright, D. (2012). Unmanned aircraft systems: Surveillance, ethics and privacy in civil applications. Computer Law & Security Review, 28(2), 184-194. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
This article discusses Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) surveillance in civil applications and the impact on privacy and other civil liberties. It goes over all of the capabilities of UASs and applications both current and future as well as the privacy impacts and safety issues. The existing legal framework and 4th amendment are cited as well as EU and UK legislation. It concludes that the current regulations do not adequately address the privacy concerns.

Jones, M. V. (2014). Drones the sky’s the limit–or is it? Technology & Engineering Teacher, 74(1), 28-32. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
This article talks about the many different uses for drones. It mentions the positive effects they could have on the farming industry, environmentalists and delivery businesses. The positive effects on the labor market are also discussed, mentioning that the approval of drones for commercial use could add up to 100,000 jobs in the manufacturing industry alone. I can draw from this article the positive aspects of drone usage.

Molko, R. (2013). The drones are coming! Will the Fourth Amendment stop their threat to our privacy? Brooklyn Law Review, 78(4), 1279-1333. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
Will the US supreme court and the fourth amendment stop the impending threat to our privacy by drones and the use of drones by the police? This is the question raised by this article. The fourth amendment is discussed. US vs Jones is discussed. The reasonable expectation of privacy test is brought up. The author concludes that technology moves too fast for laws. This article adamantly states the opposition to drones. It showcases the opposing argument in my paper.

Payton, T., & Claypoole, T. (2014). Privacy in the age of big data: Recognizing threats, defending your rights, and protecting your family. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Payton expresses in this book the need to understand technologies. She goes over benefits and tradeoffs and what we need to know in order to protect our privacy. She wants to open up dialogues for community discussions on what the rules should be. Chapter seven talks specifically about drones. It mentions what drones are being used for in other countries, what people in the US are feeling about them, some positive uses, some possible negative uses, and some things we could do to protect ourselves. There is an interesting piece on wearing protective gear against drones in order to cope in a world where surveillance is all around us. This book seems to say that the good of technology outweighs the bad as long as we are knowledgeable about it and push for regulations on it.

Stanley, J., & Crump, C. (2011, December). Protecting privacy from aerial surveillance:Recommendations for government use of drone aircraft. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/protectingprivacyfromaerialsurveillance.pdf
The ACLU’s report outlines protections that they feel will help secure our privacy in the future of domestic drones. The report goes over types of drones, their possible capabilities, the current deployment status, and privacy issues. The 4th amendment is, of course, mentioned. Most notable is their list of recommendations for maintaining our privacy. They stress the importance of usage restrictions, as well as, image retention restrictions. They believe the public should be given proper notice of when and what the drones will be used for. They also talk of democratic control and auditing and effectiveness tracking. This information will be great to illustrate what can be done to protect our privacy.

Villasenor, J. (2013). Observations from above: Unmanned aircraft systems and privacy. Harvard Journal Of Law & Public Policy, 36(2), 457-517. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
This article discusses the history of drones, their applications, and privacy concerns. It lists current regulations on privacy in relation to government use as well as use in the private sector, talks about the 4th and 1st amendments and the relationship between this new technology and the law. This article will help outline the privacy issues and current regulations.

Reading Response #3

Knowledge of the Future

Strengthening the progress of knowledge creation seems to be the point and goal of both Ayers and Ripley. In Ayers’ article “Does Digital Scholarship have a Future?” he is describing the new digital scholarship method and how it could be used to revolutionize learning, defining it as one that  “describes discipline based scholarship produced with digital tools and presented in digital form.” He is disappointed with the lack of innovation so far of scholars in this digital age, who are missing out on such a wide opportunity to create and use an entirely different resource for teaching and learning.  Ripley the author of “Knowledge Among Men” also believed in the importance of the progress of knowledge and said that “in the pursuit of knowledge no road should be left unexplored” and that “we must avoid becoming fixed in our ideas”. He was in favor of going back to the root of knowledge, and learning from the original objects. He thought that we have a need for objects and that we should not just learn from what others have written about them but touch them ourselves and discover our own answers. However, if he were alive today I think that he too would be pushing scholars to discover new avenues of thought and creation using new technological tools.

Ripley was the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and brought about changes there that marked his term as the “Golden Years”. The mission of the Smithsonian is “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”.  He understood the importance of innovation and wanted to work with “imaginative and pioneering foundations”  in order to keep people interested in learning. The Smithsonian is still pursuing innovative techniques in education. They have recently launched their X3D project which is digitizing objects from its collection with new 3D technology. Gunter Weuibel the Director of the Digitization Program Office at the Smithsonian states that only 1% of their collections are on display at the museums and this is an opportunity to bring the remaining 99% into the “virtual light”.

This project is very similar in theory to the work that Ayers is doing with the Digital Scholarship Lab here at the University of Richmond, as well as what Robert Darnton talked about in his interview about the  Digital Public Library . All of these projects are working with digital tools to produce an infrastructure as well as content for exploration in a new medium. Anyone with a computer can have access to these new information presentations and in the case of the Smithsonian, anyone with a 3D printer could in a sense actually hold the object in their hands for personal study. There are so many possibilities, scholars of today just have to be willing to take the risk and use their imaginations.

References:

Ayers, Edward. “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?” Educause Review Online. August 5 2013.Web. <http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/does-digital-scholarship-have-future>.

Judaken, Jonathan. “Robert Darnton, “On the Future of Libraries”.” New Books in Media & Communication. January 25 2014.<http://newbooksincommunications.com/2014/01/25/robert-darnton-on-the-future-of-libraries/>.

Ripley, S. Dillon. “Introduction.” Knowledge among Men.Simon and Schuster, 1966. 7-12.

“Smithsonian X 3D.” Smithsonian X 3D. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

http://3d.si.edu/

DSL Project

 Hidden Patterns of the Civil War

The DSL project on “Hidden Patterns of the Civil War” is actually a collection of different projects that are all interrelated and based on different aspects of the war. They are all visually uncovering patterns of the civil war, specifically in Virginia and the Richmond area, by putting together different maps, graphs and models which allow us to see the war and events surrounding it in a new light.

There are maps that illustrate emancipation patterns, marriage and migration patterns, election patterns and the Richmond slave market. There are graphs that analyse the newspaper throughout the war with topic modeling which uses statistical technologies to categorize texts and patterns within those texts. I find this to be especially interesting; that you can view the patterns of the topics that were dominating the news as well as advertisements.

As you can see from this chart that I pulled from “Mining the Dispatch” clothing and grocery ads were not very prevalent during that time.

Another project Proceedings of the Virginia Secession Convention you are able to find speeches of the debate and search for speeches by county, you can also see what was happening day by day during the convention.

Overall, this project’s scope is pretty amazing. I’m no Civil War buff however I can see how creating these tools and using them is a great step forward for online education.