The second fifty years of Carleton’s existence (1916-1966) is a very turbulent period. In 1919, dancing is permitted on campus for the first time and (coincidentally?) enrollment surges. In 1943, a World War rages and male enrollment plummets. We see “The Cave” and the radio station spring into existence, while the religious requirement fades into oblivion. We see Presidents change, and Friedrich von Schiller suspended by a helicopter during a football game.
Our group is interested in understanding the attitudes, opinions, and concerns of students during this turbulent period, by plotting the usage of various keywords in student publications (especially the Carletonian) against a timeline of important events.
A good model of the type of project we wish to create is perhaps an interactive graphic published by The New York Times that shows “Strikeouts per game” for various teams and for the “league average” on a timeline. Seeing the scatter plot line rise and fall over time tells an interesting story– for example, the number of strikeouts falls in 1969 when the pitching mound is lowered. The graph is interactive in that when a user mouses over a point, they see additional data about that point (the team, the year, and the strikeouts-per-game value).
In order to examine how students have responded to certain events or themes over the years, we will track the appearances of those items in the student newspaper The Carletonian. To operationalize what students were concerned with, we will select a handful of words relating to important events and ideas in the first half of the twentieth-century– for example, war, patriotism, communism, food, women, and dancing. In the Carleton College Digital Archives, one database consists of scans and fully searchable transcriptions of the Carletonian. Searches can be limited by date, making it particularly useful for examining the 1916-1966 period. The database also shows the number of documents that contain the search terms, and how many times the words are mentioned in each document. By searching year by year for a term, it should not be too difficult to record how many appearances a word makes each year. However, if the number of documents becomes unmanageable, we may need to find a more automatic system of recording the recurrence of a term.
Once we’ve collected our data–number of appearances for each word or word group, sorted by year–we will simply organize it into some kind of spreadsheet to create a type of timeline with it. We won’t have to do much transformation of our data. Instead, we will tell a story by presenting both the historical event information and the word-count data. Our analysis will consist of our describing how historical events influenced life on Carleton’s campus at that time, using changes in word frequency to support our argument.
Our project’s presentation will be closely tied to our argument. As previously mentioned, our data will be organized into some kind of timeline or line graph with a few different lines, each tracking word frequency over time for a different word or word group. With our timeline, or graph, we will have some visual marker denoting important events which can be clicked on or moused-over to show more information. We may choose specific quotes for each year to support our argument, which will then be shown when a user clicks on the point for the corresponding year. Our graph will, of course, have some sort of description accompanying it–this may take the form of an article describing our findings for each word or word bundle, telling a user about the impact of each event in words.
A rough timeline for this project looks like this:
- Oct 20th: Words/word groups and historical events being tracked should be chosen
- Oct 27th: Completed spreadsheet with word frequency by year
- Nov 3rd: Method of presentation chosen; graph/timeline without interactivity complete
- Nov 10th: Added historical events with brief explanations to timeline
- Nov 17th: Finished polished timeline, explanation of events and impact