The Aged in History Past–Classroom assignment using digital tools or technology

What did people in Enlightenment era think of aged people? In an era when progress, human perfectibility, development, and above all, reason prevailed, how do contemporaries understood aged people who decline into physical or mental “decay”?

  • Summary of Assignment:

This assignment is designed to help you learn how to conduct a history data research in order to answer some of the questions we’ve been asking this semester about the representation of the aged and cultural understanding of old age, especially thinking in terms of the cognition and the concept of “selfhood” in Enlightenment era. First, you’ll learn firsthand how to search for materials in early modern era and how to effectively find sources you need out of hundreds of thousands of documents. Then you’ll try out a text mining tool to (maybe) pick out an interesting pattern in those documents.

  • Goal:
  1. Learn how to search for primary source
    1. To search for primary texts (ECCO, EBBO, Mind as Metaphor)
    2. To come up with fitting keywords
  2. Try out digital tools that incorporates an analysis (Voyant)
  3. Think about what you discovered in the connection to the idea of cognition and selfhood and ultimately what it says about cultural understanding of old age.
  • Assignment:

First, read Ch 3. The New Science: Aging and Agency, Age and Identity in Eighteenth-Century England  by Helen Yallop and summarize key points she makes about the agency of the aged in Eighteenth-Century Britain and select 10 vocabulary that epitomizes eighteenth-century contemporaries’ understanding of the aged (ex. definition, metaphor, etc: “old and poor,” debilitated, “idiocy,” “storehouse” of wisdom, “dependency,” “gout,” etc. ) Also mark three early modern texts mentioned in the book you find interesting or think most significant while reading.

Second, utilize the primary search digital tools such as ECCO or EBBO. Search for three texts and type in the keywords you found. What are the result? Are you seeing any pattern? Also, if you’d like, type in some keywords in Mind as Metaphor database. What are some synonyms or overarching concepts that appear?

Third, pick out about 1000 words from primary text that includes some of the keywords and run it through Voyant. What do you see there? What do these pattern challenge/support/complicate what we’ve been discussing so far? Does it match what Yallop is saying?

Finally, post one or two critical question using padlet.


EBBO (Early English Books Online)

ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online)

Mind as a Metaphor





  • Things I learned + Things could be incorporated

Padlet & Voice Thread

Different (fun!) adaptations (ex. poetry, drawings, comics, films, writings, screenplay, script, etc.)–explanation for chosen medium.

Wikipedia analysis: using voyant

Using movie script/letters/literary works and analyzing it to voyant

Twine game

Chronology time

Why important question!

Project planning for my monster map and how it’s going…

My map project was sailing smooth, but just yesterday I ran into some problems. (Hopefully another meeting with ArcGIS specialist that I’m having tomorrow will troubleshoot these issues.)

So far, I’ve learned to use storymap and how to translate my offline map into an online version of ArcGIS. The process seems simple enough. I first have to decide which feature of the map would be incorporated into my base map. Storymap doesn’t allow you to make ANY changes after you import the exported data, so I have to be sure of what I’m presenting before I export it.

The first problem I’m having is that storymap only allows vector data to be transported. All of my analysis is done on desktop version and this cannot be shown online. The solution could be that I do analysis (such as minimal bounding and krigging) online after I get my exported base map but it seems impossible to do what I want. The aesthetic is just wrong. Because the heart of this project is at comparison/contrast between gender, I need different symbols or at least colors to show the contrast. But one map only allows one style.

So, I went to a different storymap style which lets you to have two different maps and compare those. Now then, a bigger problem. My desktop version map won’t be exported. I have all the points, lines, shapes, analysis there but these grouping of layers won’t be translated let alone be selected separately. The problem is that I have different attribute tables coming from multiple excel sheets not one.

If I find a way to select and filter out what I need from my map and divide & export this into multiple maps (ex. 1. male monster points vs female monster points, 2. male author lines vs female author lines, 3. male monster monstrosity krigging vs female monste monstrosity krigging, etc.), I think the storymap would look so….. good. I was very excited when I started tweaking with storymap since I found a perfect formatting and a narrative (developed out of my cartographer’s statement and will be turned into a conference paper-like essay) that fits so well!

So for now, I’ll have to troubleshoot this issue & if it turns out that I can’t in time for the presentation, I’ll have to find out whether the LEADR lap is equipped with ArcMap so that I can at least show what I initially planned to do and will be doing…


Link to my revised workplan

Memory Loss, Alzheimer, Blogging, and 3D Models

January this year, Wendy Mitchell’s Somebody I Used to Know was published. According to its introductory quotes, it is a “Brave, illuminating and inspiring, […] the first memoir ever written by someone living with dementia.” I’ve heard her talk on Guardian Book Podcast and followed her radio appearances. And her personal vivacity and dignity is amazing. she does sound a bit out of breath, stumbles, but shows yet no sign of language deficit at the moment. She and a “ghost writer” wrote this book together and as Wendy herself admits, she does not remember what is said in her memoir. It would be ironic if it weren’t so poignant that her cognitive decline has outweighed her endeavor to write a memoir.

But what is a memoir? Is it supposed to mean more to me than my audience? Why do one write a memoir?

As the book advertises itself, this is “the first memoir ever written” by someone living with dementia. There are memoirs written by a husband, a daughter, but never one him/herself. As a person specializing in age studies and early modern (“Long Eighteenth-Century” to be exact), I would hesitate to call this “the first” memoir and would definitely disagree if one calls this a first attempt of a person with age-related mental impairment. Diaries of early modern women demonstrate their frustration with declining health, enervated energy, dwindling opportunities of social activities, as well as memory loss.

Even before i was challenged by Wendy’s memoir, one theme that haunts these sources is the purpose of such writings (mostly women’s diaries). Women in early modern Britain was very specific. It was to give lesson, to prove useful to her posterity. It was saying “This is my life experiences. Learn from it” though usually in a much apologetic way that fit women of 18th-century.

But of course, to give lesson is not the only motive for such writing. Spending time formerly used to child rearing and housekeeping was one but what is most intriguing to me is the desire to just “record.” This desire to store memory arises when one realizes that she might lose it very soon. “Finding decays, especially in my memory, I think it not improper to leave this testimony under my hand of that kind Providence which has followed me all my days,” writes Sarah Savage, a devout Christian in early 18th Century living in Bristol.

Wendy Mitchell’s blog: “Which me am I today”

Wendy’s book is actually a second stage of her such memory-recording. She gained prominence in Alzheimer community through her blog. Titled “Which me am I today?” Wendy blogs her days. On her Home page, she says “I started this blog to allow me, in the first instance, to write all my thoughts before they’re lost.” She is using this technology to record “all” her thoughts before they’re lost. Though her blog reads “which me am I today,” she wants to remain one person, Wendy with two daughters and a beloved cat with all her thoughts.

This is not to blame her. She utilizes this new technology–which she says she never used ever before–“I have never ‘tweeted’, ‘blogged’ or ‘facebooked’ in my life but since I was diagnosed, everything else in my life has changed, so why not this”–in the same way early modern female writers utilized paper and pen.

But unlike a sheet of paper and a pen, technology has a distinct aura. An aura that is so discreet but also ingrained.  There is a promise–never fulfilled–that it will allow you to record “all.”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis in Black Mirror (2011)

cf. “San Junipero” in Black Mirror: Your whole memory is uploaded to a little USB-like external drive so entirely that you can live on after you “die.”

During past decade, we’ve seen a much appreciated development in 3D printing, 3D rebuilding, especially in the fields of ancient history. Now British Museum allows you to take a look at a piece of sculpture from 2 BC, a click on the web takes you to a 3D virtual tour of a colorful ancient Egyptian Monastery. The 3D digital access restored the color of the ancient times which basically means you can experience the color the ancient persons experienced. If you walk into the monastery, all you can see is faded blurred shapes with shaded colors. But awaits you are the reconstructed visualizations of that monastery. You can restore it just the way it was before and leave that record for futurity.

If we take one step away, or even add just one layer that constantly reminds us that this is an interpretation and not the truth-real-experience, I think we’ll be fine and thrive with this amazing contribution.