Tag Archives: Digital HUAC

Final presentations

We were happy to have the chance to see everyone’s presentations last week. Over the course of the semester we’ve all been working so intently on our own projects, it sometimes felt like we didn’t have enough opportunity to fully appreciate what everyone else has been working on.

Not surprisingly, all of the projects are awesome!

This has been an amazingly group of classmates, and we would like to thank you all for your support and input over the last few months. We’re excited to see where things go from here–not just for the projects, but for everyone individually as well.

Looking forward to Tuesday, you’re all rockstars!


Gossip Girl Team Digital HUAC

We’re live! The Digital GC: 2014-2015 Year-End Showcase

The Digital GC: 2014-2015 Year-End Showcase

Please join us on May 19th 2015 for a special event at the Graduate Center showcasing the innovative and diverse digital projects initiated during the 2014-2015 academic year! Presentations will be given by: the Digital Praxis Seminar, the GC Digital Fellows, Provost’s Digital Innovation Grantees, the New Media Lab, the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program, the Futures Initiative, and the GC Library.

Event Details:

The Digital GC: Year-End Showcase
Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 4:15 pm
The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street
Room 9205

The Digital Praxis Seminar: Final Project Launches

Digital Humanities Praxis is a two-course sequence that introduces students to the landscape of digital humanities tools and methods through readings, discussion, lectures, hands-on workshops, and culminates with students collaborating in groups over a single semester to build and launch working prototypes of Digital Humanities projects. The instructors for DH Praxis are Stephen Brier and Matthew Gold (Fall, 2014) and Amanda Hickman and Luke Waltzer (Spring, 2015).

Event hashtag: #digitalgc

Students in the Digital Humanities Praxis course at the CUNY Graduate Center will launch four new projects:

@DigitalHUAC: http://digitalhuac.com
Consolidating thousands of hard-to-find #HUAC testimonies into a single, searchable, interactive archive. http://digitalhuac.com

@CUNYCast: http://cunycast.net
Broadcast classes, conversation & controversy with online radio at @GC_CUNY. Shout it out http://cunycast.net #CUNYcast

@dhTANDEM: http://dhtandem.com
Simplify text & image data generation with @dhTANDEM, a unified #Djangoapp that combines #OCR, #NLTK, and #OpenCV.

@NYCFashionIndex: http://nycfashionindex.com
NYCFashionIndex scrapes fashion imagery from @instagram for tagging and analysis, building a real time social index of fashion. http://nycfashionindex.com/

Additional Presentations:

Following the Digital Praxis project presentations, the following programs will present their most recent projects and accomplishments:

The GC Digital Fellows

Provost’s Digital Innovation Grantees

The New Media Lab

The Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program

The Futures Initiative

The GC Library


A video of last year’s Digital GC Showcase can be found on the Videography Fellows Website.

Please visit the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives website to view all of the current and past Digital Initiatives at the Graduate Center, and please follow us on twitter.

This event is sponsored by the Graduate Center Provost’s Office and the GC Digital Fellows Program.


Open to the Public

Contact: Matthew Gold
Contact email: mgold@gc.cuny.edu
Public course blog: https://dhpraxis14.commons.gc.cuny.edu/
Course Hashtag: #dhpraxis14

DHUAC Update

This week, we’re polishing up our website and writing content for our presentation & paper. We are thinking about how to best showcase the work we have done and how to demonstrate the need for and usefulness of a full scale project. So we’re working on plans for next steps. In a way, thinking about the future helps us reflect on where we are and how we got here, which is useful as part of the praxis element of this project.
As part of this process, we’ve been asking around about HUAC testimonies–to see if we can figure out how many there are out there and where they might all be. Turns out, no one actually seems to know. The Wilson Center and John Jay Library said contact NYPL. NYPL has some stuff, but were not able to give us more than links to their holdings. LoC said contact NARA. NARA said, essentially, it is impossible to know, and in addition to whatever is published and in the world, they also have many boxes of closed executive hearings that are only barely indexed. What we do know is there is no one place where all the testimonies are, and certainly not online and not searchable. It’s sort of baffling that this is the case–one’s mind goes immediately to all of the other incomplete, sub-optimal, or dark archives containing important info that must be out there–though this certainly reinforces the value of our project.
Speaking of search, we’ve got a fancy new search interface. You can check it out and let us know what you think of it.  o_O


As we close in on the final weeks, we’ve come to realize that what we may not be able to write a script that will do all that we want, search-wise. Fortunately, working with DocumentCloud as our database has allowed us to utilize their robust functionality, and we have used their tools to provide basic search and browse functions on our site. With these in place, we’re focused on polishing our front end, pitch, and documentation. We are also considering adding one more layer of fun…

We would like to position this project part as useful tool for historians, part as a template for replicable front-end to DocumentCloud, and as participatory digital scholarship.

To the participatory aspect, we’re considering creating and implementing a crowd sourcing platform to help with assigning the needed metadata to the individual testimonies.

One of the early and lasting story lines behind the project has been making publicly accessible a collection of materials with a shadowy past and curious relationship to public/private spaces, agendas, politics, and notions of guilt. At this stage, scholars would appreciate having the transcripts collected and rendered (simply) searchable; the scattered nature of the testimonies themselves is a major roadblock to HUAC studies that we’re trying to level out. But beyond that, incorporating crowd sourcing would resonate with the true spirit of the Digital HUAC project, which in a sense is the anti HUAC project, by relying on contributions from the public. To include a wide array of contributors in documenting and publicizing material whose origins lie in silencing or coercing folks seems powerful.

We’d love to hear input from you, our classmates, on this potential new addition to the project.


This week, team Digital HUAC worked on refining our project narrative. This work dovetails with both outreach and site content: we’ll use narrative material to pitch potential users and partners and beef up our site itself. Juliana developed a thorough “pitch kit” with relevant topics and questions, and in response we filled out sections such as: “Challenges with the Current State of HUAC Records,” and “Our Solution.” We feel that such an approach effectively communicates vital information to all parties. It also helps us think through issues concretely. Nothing forces you to articulate your project means and aims better than thinking about how strangers will interact with it all.

We also demoed a new MVP as a fallback plan. Given that we are gravitating towards fully leveraging Document Cloud’s search interface, we experimented with embedding the DC viewer and search mechanism in our site itself. This is less than ideal: for one thing, this only rendered string-search results that didn’t make use of the robust, standardized metadata that we took time to tag each transcript with. But it was helpful to think about recasting our MVP just in case, and we welcomed the chance to get under the hood of Document Cloud in more detail.

Digital HUAC Update

A short update today, as we continue to push forward on getting our search functional. We’re stalled out on a few specific questions that are, hopefully, the final barriers in putting it all together. We’ve reached out to the digital fellows and a few other people we hope can help us on these questions–

-What is the best way to connect to a REST API? Our code is currently configured using curl. Is that the best approach?

-What is the best way to structure our search in JSON—using a list (with indexed search results by location) or using an associative array of key-value pairs? We have created key-value metatags for our documents in DocumentCloud, but the resulting JSON search results only display the built-in metadata tags (e.g., title: “”, id: “”) and not our created metadata tags. Is that an issue on the DocumentCloud or on the coding side?

We’ve added a bunch more testimonies to our DocumentCloud group, and have started on entering the metadata for it. The writing and outreach process continue to move forward, along with some of the smaller aspects of UX and development.

Digital HUAC update

This week we are working on some large items:

Our number one goal this week has been to get our search functionality up and running. Daria has been a coding machine, working on this non-stop. We’re nearly there. Some of things Daria has been grappling with are connecting to the DocumentCloud API using a REST API call function and trying to figure out what is the best taxonomy to be read by both PHP and JSON. The existing tutorials and scripts either explain using PHP to connect to a MySQL database, or use Python to connect to the DocumentCloud API, however, Google Developers has a tutorial on using PHP to connect to the Google Books and Google News APIs, which has proven a useful tool in working the PHP to DocumentCloud API situation. For a peek behind the scenes, check out some of Daria’s code here.

Juliana and Chris have been hitting Twitter hard, and our followers have doubled in the last week. Juliana created an NYC DH account and is exploring it as a place for potential groups and people who might be interested in our project. We continue to amass a list of historians and institutions that will be interested in Digital HUAC. All of this outreach is working toward our short-term goal of getting our project name out there, and also our long-term goal of finding an institution to partner with (which is one more step on the road to Digital HUAC world-domination).

Juliana and Chris have also begun to write up our overarching narrative (the theme: NO APOLOGIES!) as a way to create a story to pitch, but also looking toward the future beyond class. What direction to we want the project to go in, and how is the narrative helpful in this regard? Along these same lines, we’re simultaneously writing content for our site, since many of our current pages are just placeholders. We’re slowly but steadily working toward a functional, robust site.

We started with 5 testimonies, because that seemed like a manageable number when we had a lot of technological unknowns. Now that we’ve gotten over some of our biggest technology hurdles, we’re able to increase the size of our corpus with relative ease. I am adding new testimonies to our DocumentCloud group daily and the associated metadata will be added in the coming week as well. We don’t have an updated target number of testimonies, but would like to get as many in as possible. This process of adding testimonies will continue throughout the rest of the semester. The added testimonies will make search testing significantly more interesting, as well as showcasing more of what this project’s full potential is.

We’ve also been at work on some smaller items:

–Getting our contact form to send an email to us.
–Getting the browse functionality going, at least in very beta way. For now, this will just be an alphabetical list of names. Each name, when clicked upon, will provide a results page of all the documents that person is named in.
–We agreed upon a Creative Commons license and have added that to our site in place of the ©.
–We have a new week-by-week action plan that details what needs to get done to get us to a fully-functional MVP by May 19.

DigitalHUAC Project Update

We’re presenting this week, so we don’t want to give away too much in this post. In short, however, this week was taxing, productive, gratifying, and exciting—in that order.

After deciding strong encouragement to use Document Cloud (DC) as our database and corpus warehouse, we spent the last few weeks working out how our site would talk to the DC API. No easy thing. What language would be used? How would the syntax work? Wrappers? Formatters? JSON? Above all, what are the relationships between the project’s front- and back-ends, and how does each programming decision/requirement bear these out? This involved much due diligence and scaling of learning curves. No matter: our team is made up of furious warriors, eager to storm the scene. We eat learning curves for breakfast and then throw the dishes out the damn window.

After being advised to lean on PHP (or, as we call it on conference calls, “Playas Hatin’ Python”) for our scripting needs, Daria spent the week shifting her programming language focus. This meant tying together guides and help from a number of sources—our professors, online learning hubs, GC Digital Fellows, outside gurus—drafting code, and testing it out with the rest of the group weighing in and helping troubleshoot. Our main focus this week was on connecting the search form that Juliana and Sarah put together earlier with our DC documents. We needed to be able to run a simple search—at the very least, to have a search form lead to a URL that would display the action that had just been carried out. This, we are happy to report, we have done.

Going back to the point about how the front- and back-ends interact, we also thought this week about what our search results pages would look like. This is of course important from a user experience aspect in terms of display and site navigability: indeed, part of the mission of the project is to organize scattered materials and make transparent an episode from American History shrouded in misinformation and melodrama. But there are just as many meaningful development calls as there are design decisions, and the further we get into the project, the better sense we’re getting for how these two are inextricably linked. We’ll talk more about this on Tuesday, but it’s nice to be at a point where we can think holistically about development and design. In a sense, this is where we started the project; the difference is that now we’re zeroing in on functionality, whereas at the beginning, we thought in terms of concepts.

Also, we received our Reclaim Hosting server space from Tim Owens and are now live on digitalhuac.com. We have yet to install Git on this server, so we are left to update our site like geezers: GitHub > Local Download > Filezilla. We hope to fix this soon and step up our command line game.