Joe Arcangelo Final Project



Digital Humanities (DH) is an ever-evolving field and cannot actually be defined according to some. However, throughout our course entitled “Digging into the Digital”, I was exposed to various DH methods and they have given me insight into just what the complex discipline encompasses.

In his article entitled “What is the Meaning of the Digital Humanities to the Humanities?” Alan Liu informed the reader that the Digital Humanities use methods to engage with research that vary significantly from traditional text-based research. He even ventured to assert that the two practices can indeed be categorized as two separate “tribes” as Claude Lévi- Strauss once claimed. Liu wrote “much of which affiliates with older humanities disciplines … are not the tribe of ‘new media studies,’ under the sway of the design, visual, and media arts; Continental theory; cultural criticism; and the avant-garde new” (Liu 409). With this being said, it was very interesting to explore a new DH tool using ArcGIS and mapping.

The method I used in an attempt to answer my research questions was GIS mapping. I picked the tool because I knew “ArcGIS” was a very flexible program. There are so many different ways one can display their selected data in an attempt to display patterns or correlations. The program allowed me to make heat maps to display the performer’s most visited cities, the population of each county of England and the average pay per city. The “layer” feature also helped me to compare two or more separate categories (eg. average pay against number of visits) and evaluate any possible connections. This data lead me to pose the questions such as “What factors influenced the travel of 1570-1590’s Early English Drama and the troupes touring England?” and “why did they travel to the venues they did?”

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ArcGIS offers Digital Humanists a way to represent their arguments and data in a way that had never been used before. I thought that mapping would be the best way for me to pose questions and attempt to answer them and I was correct. The mapping portion of our course and my final project helped me to see the data in a different way. As David J. Bodenhamer wrote, “The humanities and social sciences especially have advanced new lines of inquiry characterized by a different and more nuanced understanding of space, or, as David N. Livingstone has written, in ‘recent years there has been a remarkable “spatial turn” among students of society and culture” (Bodenhamer 15). This “spatial turn” does not have to leave the old methods behind, but it creates a new way to see the humanities, and perhaps the whole world.

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The project was frustrating at times and the data work took many hours, but as I learned the program it quickly became very satisfying. In an attempt to answer the question of “What factors influenced the travel of 1570-1590’s Early English Drama and the troupes touring England?” I examined multiple data points. At first I thought that the most visited cities would be the ones that payed their performers the most. I made a population “counts and amounts” map and a heat map to display the areas in which the most performances took place. After that, I found the average pay of each city and “layered’ the two sets of visualized data. The result was disappointing with too many cities acting as outliers. Further research questions I examined data for were “Did certain Troupes get paid more than others?” and “Did certain years pay more than others?” Once again, I averaged the pay for both individual troupes, and the years 1580-1590. I found that the Queen’s Men got payed the most on average, which did not surprise me because the Troupe’s star was highly-regarded Richard Tarlton. “Tarlton’s influence was profound–not only upon audiences who watched him perform but also upon members of early modern English society who never set foot in a theatre or only became aware of him after his death” (Jakacki). The yearly data showed that there was a steady uptrend from the first year the data was provided. It would be interesting to examine what factors influenced this increase. Was it a political factor? Was it due to a growing economy? Was the performance industry steadily growing in popularity? All of these types of questions are now being posed thanks to GIS mapping and new DH techniques not used in the past.

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Instead of looking at population or average pay of a given city and being disappointed in the results, I now think it is important to examine other, non-statistical factors. The city of Coventry seemed to produce the exact opposite of what I hypothesized each time. How could a city with a smaller population that did not pay as much bring in 81 separate performances? In attempt to answer this question, I accessed the Records of Early English Drama and their notes on the city of Coventry as a performance hub. REED stated “The city of Coventry was at the hub of several road networks across the country and a focal point for touring troupes for as long as evidence survives (medieval through mid-16th c. records are not extant)”. This finding represents something similar to what Syed Islam said about journeying. Islam wrote “The events we call travel can be said to be composed of movement between spatial locations: leaving one spatial marker and arriving at another.  The presumed departure and arrival, in the very process of their movement, paradoxically stages the threshold to be crossed, and enacts “the between” that divides and joins spatial locations” (Islam 5). This quote, and the example of Coventry are reminders that there are a myriad of factors that influenced the performance industry and their methods of travel at this time. We may have the data of departure and arrival, but in most cases what we do not have is the “in between”. As we investigate research questions it is important to keep in mind that we might not be able to answer any of the questions because we have limited data. Instead, we must suggest answers and think together in order to get closer to the solution.


Works Cited

Wikipedia – Queen’s Men. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <’s_Men>.

Bodenhamer, David J. The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship. Indiana U P, Bloomington & Indianapolis, IN., 2010. 14-30. Print.

Islam, Syed Manzurul. The Ethics of Travel: From Marco Polo to Kafka. Manchester: Manchester UP ;, 1996. Print.

Jakacki, Diane. “Biography.” The Tarlton Project. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. <>.

Liu, Alan. “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.” PMLA (2013): 409-23. Print.