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News about the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab

Tableau for Humanists Workshop held by SFU Library’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab and Research Commons

Mark Perry demonstrates Tableau
Published by Rebecca Dowson
On October 26, 2016 SFU Library’s Research Commons and Digital Humanities Innovation Lab held a half-day workshop on using Tableau data visualisation software for  humanities research. This second workshop in the Digital Skills Workshop series was hosted Michelle Levy of the English Department. It attracted graduate students and faculty from a wide range of disciplines including Communications, Business, Urban Studies, Philosophy, Archeology and SIAT, interested in exploring and creating different ways to visualize data beyond excel graphs.

The first half of the workshop included presentations by Colette Colligan and Michelle Levy, both Professors in the English Department, and Michael Joyce, the Digital Humanities developer at the DHIL. Dr. Colligan shared visualizations she created for Banned Books Week that highlighted banned or censored authors in a variety of historical contexts. Dr. Levy spoke about her work with Lord Byron’s poems, comparing his output of short versus long poems and printed versus unprinted poems across his career. Using Tableau to visualize these aspects, she was able to clearly and succinctly present her findings and demonstrate the potential for data visualization in humanities research. Michael Joyce presented on spreadsheet do’s and don’t’s for preparing data for visualization. He offered tips to ensure data is ready for Tableau, such as limiting one piece of data per cell and clearly labeling numerical formats in column headers.

In the second half of the workshop, Mark Perry, a former graduate student in the English Department, gave participants hands-on instruction on how to use the Tableau software by walking participants step-by-step through a few visualizations depicting changes in the Norton Anthology of English Literature over time. Following this, he gave participants a dataset on Canadian parliamentary elections and had them successfully creating their own visualizations by the end of the workshop.

This workshop was the second in a series of events hosted by the Research Commons and Digital Humanities Innovation Lab. For more information or to register for upcoming events, please visit our website.

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