Final Project (and Video Presentation)

Group members: Melanie Xu and Shatian Wang

For the second half of this term, Shatian Wang and I have been working oon a project extrapolating upom my senior thesis examining queer women communities in contemporary urban China. From the ethnographic data at hand, we built a wordpress site comprising of visual representations of every narrator’s life framed through their migration (within and outside of China) patterns, educational and work paths as well as personal voices and experiences. For each interlocutor’s story, we have created a wordpress page accompanied by a arcGIS story map narrating their movements and desires. Above all, we created an “about” page as an introduction to who we are and what our project is about, at the end of which page introduces a story map containing all of our interviewees’ current location and information.

Our hope is to contextualize personal narratives in macro-level political, cultural, and economic changes and to archive important narratives often underrepresented in academic accounts. Our project can be found and explored here. We welcome any suggestions and comments. 

As a result of a series of unforeseen events, Melanie isn’t able to join the class on this upcoming Thursday–below is a video recording of our presentation. Thank you for watching this project unfold. We appreciate it.

Video presentation link

Project Update

Group members: Melanie Xu and Shatian Wang

So far, we’ve organized our data into a spreadsheet in order to auto-generate a general map as well as roadmaps for each person. We also created the webpage for the first person’s life narrative (with individual map attached).

Looking forward, we would need to put more thought into how individual map is designed as well as how we would like to integrate the storymap into our website as a whole. Above all, we will also need to prepare for the presentation in class on next Thursday.

Final Project Week #7 Updates

Group Members: Shatian Wang and Melanie Xu

We have processed our data and coded them into personal profiles of individuals, and compared and contrasted them for future use. At hand we have 11 interviewees’ profile and we are in the process of obtaining written consent from a few of them (others have agreed to public use of their material). But in the event of our inability to obtain such consent, we are prepared to only display the profiles of 8 interviewees who agreed to public presentation of their stories. In all, we have built our database of people, places, photos, and city histories/background.

Our original idea of tracing each individual’s migration pattern with an interactive and individualized map was met with some resistance as we could not find the map model that best suits our needs. So we’ve decided to use instead the storymap template on ArcGIS that would similarly present the stories in a less nuanced and complicated way.

Now that we have gathered all the content we will be presenting in our final project, we need to find a web framework that we can use to display the content in an interactive way. We decided to use the the Cascade template in ESRI’s StoryMaps. We will first use the online ArcGIS to create a map that depicts each woman’s migration path, and we will then import these maps to the Cascade template with the narratives.

We have completed the week 6 and 7 objectives in our project timeline, and following our timetable, what we need to get done in week 8 is to create a story map for at least one woman using arcGIS and the cascade template. After that we want to build a web page that tells the background of our project and links to the story maps of all the women.

Final Project Outline

Shatian Wang and I will be working on a project stemming from my senior thesis examining two queer women communities in contemporary urban China. At hand we have ethnographic data (in-depth, personal interviews) of twelve queer women across the class strata living in two major metropoles, Shanghai and Shenzhen, PRC.


At the moment, we conceptualize a website comprising of visual representations of every narrator’s life framed through their migration (within and outside of China) patterns, educational and work paths as well as personal voices and experiences. For each interlocutor’s story, we hope to contextualize their personal narrative through a historical lens by means of researching archives of local history of gender and sexuality, which will be done mainly through overviewing academic sources. We would like to utilize various GIS tools to help visualize and present our data (both contemporary ethnography and historical sources illustrated in academic literature) and we will store our data in a database format. The analysis of primary data is mostly accomplished as I have already transcribed and translated interviews needed for the project. The next concrete step we would need to take is to search through academic literature for history of each city/town that our interviewees have been in with special regards to gender and sexuality. As we mentioned before, our way of presentation will be an integration of mapping and personal narratives. In other words, we wish to present an interactive map through which personal narratives will be told and explored.
Our schedule for execution is as following–

Week 6       

  • Prepare personal narratives extrapolated from interviews
  • Research for city histories

Week 7   

  • Learn the GIS/web development tools we will be using to build our website

Week 8

  • Finish building the framework of our website

Week 9

  • Complete website with  personal stories and geographical markers for our project

Week 10

  • Presentation and final touch


To model our DH project, we have found inspiration from two different existing project presented as following, both of which will be beneficial in helping us formulate our own template for presentation.

Maps Project (in-class assignment)

My map project can be viewed here.


This map depicts early colleges’ history, specifically the location, established year, and religious affiliation of each college pre 1848. Each college is represented by a pointer on map as well as the text illustration by its side. Additionally, I have added another lay of map that showcases the railroad system in the U.S. in 1820s, in order to show the connectedness of each college with the rest of the country.

Week #4: Reflections on Databases

I tried executing the SQL statements on the phpMyAdmin page of my host, but keep getting an error message regarding my syntax. So presumably I didn’t successfully reproduce the database described by Stephen Ramsay. In thinking about the different ways of structuring data, I sense the following,


For flat data structures, especially spreadsheets which I am most informed of, the advantages that I can easily see is the convenience of this structure and the multiple platforms that this structure can be written/applied on, e.g. a makeshift spreadsheet can be written anywhere vis-à-vis relational databases which require strict ways of being written to be legible. The disadvantages of such a structure would be the unavailability for data to be searched once the columns and rows start to pile up. In addition, the relational databases showcase a great deal of flexibility and searchability. But the obvious downside would be the inaccessibility of its syntax/grammar/etc. For as much as Stephen Ramsay’s article is supposed to be an “intro”-level material, I find it hard to grasp in between the lines and especially in between the technical language and the purpose it serves.


Other issues to watch out for include, on an obvious note, the categories and groups that databases allow. For example, it seems quite conventional to group author, publisher, and information about books together as it makes the most sense for us. But in many cases, for non-conventional publishing and self-employed writers and researchers, such standards are hard to meet and therefore automatically disqualify their work. But beyond that, I am curious to see databases/other digital humanity tools to be utilized beyond a certain anthropocentric, Euro-American constraint that oozes whiteness and class privilege. I wonder where the entry point is or even what are the ways in which we can reimagine alternative epistemes.

This Science Which is Not One

Arguments over matters such as whether or not humanities students should learn how to code in and out of themselves are further alienating, demarcating, and delineating boundaries that did not exist in the first place. But in order to elucidate myself or emphasize my intelligibility in this post, I don’t think humanities students should (all) learn how to code, with the caveat that most times, humanities as a category (or even science as a category) is itself unstable and achieved (performed into existence) through discourses such as this one.

The kind of “code” that we speak about in this class is yet another way of analyzing and presenting data, which inherently is no different from coding method used in ethnographic or qualitative sociological research. Indeed, as Evan Donahue argues, “Programming languages math and algorithms are the discourses used by computer scientists to address their concerns just as psycho analysis ethnography and material culture are some of the discourses used to address the concerns of the humanities.” The overemphasis on the discipline of (or rather, capitalist industrial values in) science and technology has often misled us into believing that other forms of knowledge production are all somehow “less developed” and therefore lacking. What we don’t consider, however, is how the false division between humanities and science are often produced through these kinds of discourses and we choose not to see what falls through the cracks. My undergraduate mentor, who has not the least proficiency in “modern” technology, uses brilliant categories and languages to code and analyze her ethnographic interviews. How is this not part of digital or coding/coded humanity?
Beyond this, as a social science student by training, my experiences with coding in the most technical sense has not been an enjoyable one. The kind of strictness, rigidity, and hierarchies inherent in the thinking of computer codes constantly disturb, surprise, and provoke intriguing thoughts for me. Perhaps, I think, before we enter this debate of who should do what, we should reflect on the very nature and genealogy of coding as a language, rather than exempting it from political and cultural examination/scrutiny.


My codecademy profile.

Analyzing #Charlestonsyllabus as a DH Project

I am introducing the project of #Charlestonsyllabus, a communal reading and sharing project born out of the egregious events in Charleston, SC, that reflected the deep-seated anti-Blackness and racism in today’s America. As the name suggests, this is a reading list with a certain structure and political aim. But different from most other academic syllabus, this one is not put together by any one single-handedly. The project was first conceptualized by Dr. Chad Williams, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. Then, it became reality through the trending twitter tag, #Charlestonsyllabus, and the careful selection and gathering of materials by two AAIHS bloggers.


As we can see from the reading list, the aim of the project is to challenge racial inequalities, hierarchies, and oppression by transforming the terrain of thinking through social-justice oriented critical thoughts. More specifically, following Johanna Drucker’s framework of analysis, I further break down the project into three parts–

First, the assets/source of the project, that is, the raw data, is the existing pool of interdisciplinary literature, both scholarly and journalistic, on the matter of race, racism, and Blackness in the history and contemporary U.S, with a special focus on South Carolina.

Second, the  process or service is completed by a few scholars of African American Studies, librarians, as well as twitter users who suggested relevant readings from the pool of existing literature that would transform our social realities of racism and anti-Blackness.

Finally, the presentation/display provided on the AAIHS website is fairly simple in comparison to other DH projects, but highly functional and easy to access considering that ultimately, the aim of this project is to point people to different resources. What the service entails, as shown in the second screen capture above, is a list of reading broken down by themes and historical periods that has hyperlinks embedded within, pointing the reader to various purchasing, reading, and library sites. In addition, the service also includes a list of responses to the reading list at the very bottom as an interactive extension of the project.