Fun on the West Coast: DHSI and Congress 2013

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. The DHSI overlapped with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, so the university was filled with academics from all over Canada, including members of Ryerson University’s Centre for Digital Humanities.

DHSI provides “an ideal environment for discussing and learning about new computing technologies and how they are influencing teaching, research, dissemination, creation, and preservation in different disciplines, via a community-based approach.” This includes learning a new skill as part of an intensive course, listening to colloquium presentations on the exciting scholarly work of fellow attendees, and teaching each other in “unconference” sessions during lunch breaks.

I took the course on XSLT. XSLT is a programming language that can be used to transform one XML based document into another XML based document. This can mean taking a document or set of data written in TEI, EAD, METS, MODS, etc. and transforming it into XHTML for delivery over the web, or into KML for display on a map. In addition to converting XML formats, XSLT can run calculations, manipulate data, or even simply extract data for use in Excel spreadsheets or other forms of statistical analysis.

While this may seem complicated, in just five days, and with the help of the amazing instructors, Syd Bauman and Martin Holmes, I had several XSLT programs up and running. As one example, I used XSLT to convert the geographical data embedded in the text of a book into geocodes for a KML file that could then be added to a Google Map. This screen shot may not look like much, but it will hopefully save me and my research partner a lot of time when we further develop our project with the Canadian Writing and Research Collaboratory–Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada.

Screen shot of Google Map of Canada

If anyone has any questions about how they might use XSLT for their research, or about the DHSI, please send me a message and I would be happy to chat!

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