EH Project Analysis
July 28, 2014 11:49 am
Leave your thoughts
There are currently twenty ongoing EH projects catalogued on our site. While some take on traditional research roles, others can be described as ‘outside-the-box’ in terms of both their methodology as well as the end product. I analyzed the collection of projects in terms of their subject nature, the types of environments addressed and the digital media used. In this blog post, I will discuss the results of this analysis and the subsequent visualization.
Prof. Posthumus and Prof. Sinclair suggested the following categories for categorizing the projects:
1. Creation & Innovation
2. Discovery & Interpretation
For the most part, projects clearly fell into a specific category. There were a handful of projects, however, that I felt were representative of two categories.
Following the initial categorization, I identified the types of environment that were addressed in each project. In the majority of cases, multiple environments were being explored and researched. Rather than being pre-established, the categories emerged as I went through the list of projects. While some categories overlap considerably, such as social and cultural, there are certain projects that are exclusive to one of the two types. I felt that it was better to have an extensive categorization for this part of the analysis, as it does a better job at differentiating amongst the projects. The framework I used for this step was the following:
3. Geologic time
By no means is this list representative of all aspects of environmental studies. Rather, it is the framework that best represents the EH project collection.
Finally, I tried to identify the type of digital media that projects employed, if any. Seeing as many projects are still in early stages of development, their descriptions were broad and the methodology was not always specified. For this reason, I chose to exclude this category from the visualization.
Below is the visualization I created using Raw Density. As a side note, this online tool is extremely user friendly and simple to use. I input the Excel spreadsheet/CSV and specified which category would be placed where. A variety of layouts and formats are available to experiment with. Once a satisfactory visualization is created, it can be downloaded as an image file or embedded online.
The left-hand column represents the project category. The right-hand column indicates the type of environment being studied. The projects themselves are at the centre of the visualization. The size of the black bar is scaled according to how many connections that category or project or environment has. Research and Discovery & Interpretation are the most represented categories. Creation & Innovation, although less prevalent, can still be identified in five of the twenty projects. Each column’s elements are ordered alphabetically, meaning there is no optimization to try to reduce crossing lines. However, when tracing the connections, it seems that there is no apparent relation between the type of project and the type of environment. Physical, social and biotic environments are the most common.
When comparing this visualization to those of the topic modeling results, a clear distinction is observed. The visualization above serves the purpose of simplifying the presentation of data. It does not readily add or offer another layer of interpretation or analysis. It simply condenses a lengthy spreadsheet (seen below) into a visual diagram, making information extraction and comprehension faster and easier. Meanwhile, the topic modeling visualizations lend themselves to new hypotheses and observations that would be much harder to reach without a visual representation of links and connections. In my opinion, both functions are equally useful and worthwhile in their own respects.
As previously mentioned, I excluded the digital media category from the visualization. But it is useful to quickly summarize some of the types of digital media being used since this illustrates the variety within the digital environmental humanities. Quite a few projects involve an online presence in the form of a website or blog, often with multimedia content (IK-Adapt, Forces et milieu, Thinking Extinction, Geoweb, Thinking with Water, Field_Notes). Other media forms being used include:
Text analysis (Planet and Narration)
Mobile application (A Mis-Guide to Himalayan Plants)
Video installation (Forces et milieux)
Media Lab (Center for Community-Engaged Health Research)
Certain project descriptions offered definitions and perspectives on the environmental humanities as an emerging discipline. Below is a selection:
“Unlike most humanities scholarship, [environmental humanities] explore the questions [who we think we are, how we relate to others, and how we live in the world] by crossing the lines demarcating human from animal, social from material, and objects and bodies from techno-ecological networks” – WLU Press
“Cross-disciplinary research that probes what it means to be human, animal, and technological in an ecological world- foster discussion that challenges and re-conceptualizes the humanities.” – WLU Press
“I prefer the designation Environmental Humanities to ecocriticism. I think this does two things: first, in the tradition that I think ecocriticism supports, it highlights the embeddedness of its critical perspective in a particular material context—a particular institutional context, which ecocriticism often seems to be less keen to talk about except in a lamenting kind of way”- Resilience in the Post-Colonial EH
“The name “humanities” is inadequate to the ethical sphere ecological criticism seeks to articulate. However it does name a structure of power, and a corresponding obligation for those of us who enjoy the comforts of that structure to advocate for those who do not.” – Resilience in the Postcolonial EH