Undergraduate Research at the Vis Center

Nearing the End…

I don’t necessarily have a lot left to complete to finish my portion of the project—it is essentially already done. However, we have had an issue with the server, so the only work I have left would be to redo our data so that it goes with the new server. I am mainly waiting to find out what tweaks I need to make in response to the server crashing a couple weeks ago. It is a strange feeling knowing that I probably have a lot of work to do, but not knowing what that work is…yet.

In the meantime, while I wait for what I am sure will be plenty of work, I have continued to work on the XML for the Wycliffe Bible and research on the background of that. It is very interesting stuff and I often have to limit how in depth I research the historical side of its background (I could go on for days researching it) and remind myself that I am here to work with the document and not necessarily to find out more about it.

I have also begun to assemble the images for the other manuscripts the Vis Center has in a localized place for easy access. I will be continuing to work for the Vis Center in the fall, so some of the stuff I have been doing recently are more long term than simply finishing out this project.

I have a feeling the last couple days of the program will be really hectic with last minute changes to photo formats. Hopefully not, but I am bracing myself for the worst. That kind of business is exciting though. Especially when you can really see the end.

Food for Thought

I’m beginning to feel the end of our project. While there is still much to be done in the future for the App, our list of things to be done before August 2nd is becoming shorter by the day.

I have finished assembling all of the data on the Chad Gospels and have begun to work on the Wycliffe Bible. I thought it would be a little easier because the Wycliffe Bible is in English. However, what I have realized is that it is in Old English… which is not the same as regular English, in case you were wondering. It honestly might as well be Latin!

In finishing up the Chad Gospels, I had an encounter with technology that brought about an epiphany of some kind in regards to my problem solving tendencies verses those of the people I work with.

We have been trying to process the 3D images of the Gospel book using a script that would go through and reduce the size of the 3D images. It took 4 days looking at it on and off for us to finally get it to run correctly. I really struggled in this because in my mind, the most efficient way to solve this problem would have been for me to process the images by hand. Sure, it would not have been the most thrilling thing for me to do, but I have never been afraid of a little grunt work. This would have probably taken a few hours as opposed to the 4 days it took for us to get the script to work. However, the intent of this whole project is for us to create a system that will be easy to do with other manuscripts. The point was not for us to finish this project in the fastest way we could, but rather to finish this project with the intent of enabling the next person who works on this project to do better than we did. (This could be a metaphor for many things in our society today, but I won’t go into that.)

However, in this, I realized that I am very result driven which influences how I solve problems. I think a large component of why I am like this is because I am also a really hard worker. I don’t say that to sound self-righteous. I truly believe that someone can work hard and not be a good worker… and someone can be a good worker and not work hard. I think I am result driven because I know that if I work hard, I can usually complete a task. It kills me when things are not finished or not done correctly. I have often been called a perfectionist, and I think that is a fairly accurate describer of me. However, I think I am missing something in my pursuit of perfection. I think there is something to be said about enjoying the process of working towards a goal as opposed to simply enjoying reaching the goal.

This certainly isn’t a new concept and I think a lot of people practice it already. I have just been thinking through this recently in my own life and work. It has proved to be some great food for thought.

Half Way-Week 4

We have almost reached the halfway point with our summer research program. I feel like I am getting to know my teammates better–we all went out for lunch at Canes last Wednesday and had some great “work bonding.” I am doing my best to expose Jean-Carlo, Krystel, Karlo and Eric to our fine dining here in Kentucky (i.e. Raising Canes and Orange Leaf).

In regards to my project, I have finally finished the XML for the Chad Gospels, which is culmination of 5 months of work. Last week, I came to the realization that a 3rd XML to note all of the variations between the Latin text and NIV translation of the Bible would not be the best way to display and organize the information. After consulting with Julie, John and Becky, we decided that the information would be better displayed in notes written into the existing XMLs. These notes follow TEI XML standards and contain explanations of the variations in the text.

One of the main reasons we did this is because often in the text, the scribe messes up verses. Every time he did this, he put a slash to distinguish the misplaced text. We wanted to make sure that this was clearly displayed to whomever is using the app because it can be difficult to understand at first. I, admittedly, had to spend some time with the manuscript before I understood what was happening.

Example of a page in the manuscript that has these mistakes. Each are noted with a slash.

I have finished the first part of my project. I am not exactly sure what I will be doing next, but it is a little exciting to not know what I will be doing to complete this project. We have several ideas of what my next move will be–writing XML for another manuscript or working with technology that can highlight passages in the image–and each seems interesting in their own way!

I will be gone next week, but I am excited to come back and continue into whatever new venture we deem best for the overall project!

Week 3

Let me start off by saying that this has not been my week with technology. Considering that I am a History/Classics major, most of the time this is fine. However, it almost did me in this week.


Things I have learned this week:

1. Watching is not learning.

2. Over communication is never a bad thing.

3. I should NEVER re-size images from small to large. Ever.


This week I made my first major mistake in the project. I am a little embarrassed to admit what I did only because it shows my ineptitude in Computer Science. However, the whole debacle proved to me that this is a group effort, that I am indeed a History Major and not a Computer Science Major, and that I do not take notes out of habit, but out of necessity.

Here is what happened. In the process of name and processing all of the files and images for the server, I re-sized close to 20,000 images incorrectly. That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I re-sized 20,000 images correctly. It’s been a week, let me tell you.

The moment John and I realized what I had done (which occurred at approximately 2:34 PM–I only know this because the moment was, personally, a very traumatic one), we began to work to re download the images from the servers and databases… and I started again.

Luckily, through the help of John and Zack, I have been able to correct my mistake in a fairly timely manner. I am very thankful for both of them and their patience with me. I have learned more than I ever thought I would need to know about computers this week, and will be very happy to return to my Latin dictionary and ancient manuscripts next week.

Who would have thought naming files would be so complicated? Certainly not I.

(I would also like to note that I wrote a Blog post for this week already about 30 minutes ago, but in the process of submitting it for review, WordPress deleted everything I had written. So I wrote it again. I think this sums up what my interactions with computers have been like this week.)

Research Question-Week 2

This week I began the final leg of the Latin to NIV Translation XML. This officially puts me past the half way point in the Chad Gospel XML. It is exciting to get to the point with this data where I feel like I have made a substantial dent in its preservation!

Just to give a brief overview of how I have gone about writing the XML, I began by going through each image of the Chad Gospels and writing down the Latin in each page. I then went through and noted every Chapter, verse, line break, and page break that occurred in the text. Then, in order to make the text easily searchable, I noted every time incorrect Latin was used, added correct Latin, and made sure that all abbreviations and words that were split by line and page breaks could be found (and searched) in their correct forms. What this boiled down to is a lot of details that had to be checked and double checked!

After I finished that, I began matching up the Latin from the Chad Gospels to the English translation of the Bible. This process was a little less detail oriented than the Latin XML, however, it has been flexing my “Latin muscles” a bit more.

One of my main struggles in all of this  has been to retain our vision for the Info Forest App  in those moments where it can be hard to get past some of the more monotonous aspects of my portion of the project. For example, when it is 3 in the afternoon and I have been writing XML for 7 hours and still have 1 hour to go, when I have been staring at the same line on the manuscript for 20 minutes and can still not figure out for the life of me what it says, or when there is an error in the XML and I have already spent so much time looking at it that I have begun to question the existence of numbers and letters that actually have meaning.

This week has been especially good for me in that Dr. Brent Seales and Julie Martinez have been working with us to identify our research question. I think this has been so beneficial because I personally equate the concept of a research question with the purpose of a mission statement. It is our guiding force as we push through the less exciting aspects of our work and gives us not only a sense of purpose in our work, but also a sense of its significance.

While still in the rough stages of its formation, I have begun to identify my research question. It will be a little less conventional than my fellow teammates’ due to the nature of my contribution to the project, however it is just as vital to what I am contributing to the app as it is to what they are contributing.

With that said, I hope to find a way to assemble the data from important manuscripts in a way that is accessible, correct, and logical. I see my role on the team as someone who is here to enable the success of my teammates by providing quality content that will work cohesively with the technology they are creating so that those who are scholars and those who are not will be able to enjoy and find meaning in the Info Forest project.

Catching the Vision–Week 1

This week began the summer program at the Vis Center. As a student who has been already working on aspects of this project since the end of February, it has been very exciting to have new students come on board and to further understand the vision of this project.

This week has already been full of collaboration with my new teammates. I think my favorite part has been watching everyone brainstorm and problem solve as we are all beginning to work through the Info Forrest and  3D Projection projects. I can literally see the wheels turning in their minds as they are talking with me about challenges that we will have to address as we move ahead on the project.

As I said earlier, I have been working on the Info Forrest project since the end of February. I have primarily been working on assembling the data that will go into the final app that my other teammates are building. Specifically, I have been going through the images we have of the Chad Gospels that were taken at the Lichfield Cathedral and converting the Latin text into XML. My vision and purpose with this has been to create data that is easy to search. For example, incorrect Latin is often used in the manuscript, so I wrote the XML in such a way that a person using the app would be able to search a word spelled correctly even if it is spelled wrong in the manuscript.

Recently, I have switched over to matching up the Latin Vulgate with the English translation of the Bible (NIV). Eventually, I want to create an XML file that not only matches the Latin Vulgate to the English, but also attempts to preserve some of the word order on the page. My goal in this is not to do it exactly, as Latin and English have different sentence structures, but to do it in a way that would allow those wishing to study the Latin, who may not be Latin experts, to be able to piece together the translations from an English translation that makes a little more visual sense than the straight up NIV XML version of the translation.

While getting to examine the images of the manuscript has been fascinating to me (I am a History and Classics major, afterall), I am so excited to be able to visualize our final goal for the Info Forrest project. It has given me new life and energy in writing the XML data for the project. It has been fascinating to hear from everyone what their contribution to the project will be and to see how it will all fit together. The fact that we are dreaming big with this project is so much fun for me (maybe because I am not directly responsible for coming up with the technology for these dreams!). I love when the phrase “I don’t know how we will do this, but it would be cool!” is said at our team meetings–it gives me the feeling that I am apart of something bigger than what I could ever accomplish on my own (and certainly bigger than my personal store of knowledge).

As the resident History/Classics Major, I have been learning so much about the technological side of this project. The knowledge of my peers never ceases to amaze me–and it is only the beginning I am sure! I am looking forward to the weeks to come and the new knowledge I will gain from being around my teammates.