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ORBIS is nearly two years old, and the ongoing update to the site has me once again in conversation with a cartographers, geographers, designers, and digital humanists. A new response I get, when describing the growing feature list of ORBIS v2, is some variation of "What do people use this for?" The fact that ORBIS still generates decent traffic* seems even more remarkable than its appearance in gaming forums, college essays and high school courses. The ultimate answer to the question is that most people play with it, running routes and contrasting the results with their own experience or intuition of travel in the regions where they run their routes. But, as has been noted in earlier essays about the project, ORBIS was built for the purpose of displaying dynamic distance cartograms, and the Google Maps interface was just an affordance that came along from developing that functionality. And so one of my major goals in updating ORBIS is to dramatically improve the cartogram functionality, as well as provide mechanisms to improve the use and understanding of what is a very abstract concept. This is as much a design challenge as a coding challenge, especially when it comes to properly distorting the routes that make up the network along with the sites.

Ada Lovelace Day 2013

October 15th marks Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. As I read through posts commemorating the day, it got me reflecting on my own experience. It's not just that I admire Ada Lovelace and the women that followed after her. It's that I quite literally wouldn't be here without them.

Keep reading about the woman most repsonsible for my career.


The Digital Humanities on Ada Lovelace Day

Today, October 15, is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the contributions of women in computing (and in other science and technology fields); a time to remember the nineteenth-century's fascinating and brilliant "first computer programmer" Ada Gordon Lovelace; and an excellent opportunity to praise and encourage the Adas of our day. I'm especially lucky and proud to be able to count a great number of computing women as colleagues, friends, and role models in my field.

Melissa Terras, a DH colleage at University College London, has just contributed a must-read contribution to this year's Ada Lovelace Day celebrations: "Father Busa’s Female Punch Card Operatives," an account of some of the women (with never-before-published historical photos) who contributed to the efforts of the founding father of humanities computing, Fr. Roberto Busa. If you have limited time to celebrate the day, please stop reading me and go read Melissa's essay.

A House Divided

In this week’s post, I want to address a question that I have been asked quite often since coming to Stanford University Libraries, and one that made its way into a comment of Michael Widner’s recent blog post of the DH reading group's discussion of Matt Jocker’s  new book, Macroanalysis: “I’m intrigued by the division within linguistics that Hettel describes; if there were a link to a blog post or something like that explaining it, I’d be interested in following up and learning more.” I searched online to see if someone had already written such a post and came up empty, so to help anyone out there who might want to understand these differences I have drawn a basic portrait of computational language analysis on my blog ( Feel free to check it out if you're interested in a reductionist view of two basic divisions within the field of linguistics.

My Alt-Ac Life

I just wrote a piece on my blog about the kind of digital humanities work I do at Stanford. Given the interest in alternative academic careers, I find it useful to share stories about the sort of work I'm doing, challenges I work on, and the collaborations I engage with in my career. My interest in alternative academic careers stemmed from my interest in digital humanities, hence the reason for this. I won't repost everything here, but head over to the blog if you're interested.