You are on page 1of 4

 

   

FINAL  PROJECTS  

MDST  3559  |  Dataesthetics  |  04/12/2010  

Contents  
Introduction  ....................................................................................................................................  1  
Goals  ...............................................................................................................................................  2  
Structure  .........................................................................................................................................  2  
Grading  Criteria  ..............................................................................................................................  3  
Due  Date  .........................................................................................................................................  3  
Milestones  ......................................................................................................................................  3  
Technical  Information  ....................................................................................................................  4  
 

Introduction  
Your  final  project  will  be  an  essay  in  “data  humanism”  focusing  on  a  specific  topic  relating  to  
the  Persian  epic,  The  Shahnameh,  and  emulating  the  practice  of  data  journalism  discussed  at  
the  beginning  of  the  course.  Your  essay  will  present  a  thesis  supported  by  a  series  of  embedded  
visualizations.  Crucially,  these  visualizations  will  link  to  data  sets  that  you  will  help  create.    
In  writing  and  building  your  essay,  you  will  use  your  knowledge  of  HTML,  CSS,  PHP,  and  SQL  to  
aggregate,  organize,  and  synthesize  your  content.  In  terms  of  form,  you  are  free  to  emulate  the  
conventions  of  data  journalism  or  else  innovate  using  the  ideas  discussed  in  the  course  about  
the  relationship  between  data  and  discourse.  In  terms  of  content,  you  will  focus  on  a  research  
topic  of  your  choice  concerning  the  Shahnameh  materials  we  have  at  our  disposal,  including  the  
Princeton  manuscript  images  and  the  Zimmern  translation  (bad  as  it  is),  as  well  as  other  sources  
you  may  find  on  the  web.  Your  final  product  will  be  evaluated  according  to  multiple  criteria,  as  
described  below.    
As  part  of  your  project,  you  will  keep  a  journal  on  the  course  blog  on  the  progress  of  your  work  
and  relating  topics  discussed  in  class  to  your  project.  Your  blog  should  be  used  to  help  you  
develop  the  final  argument  you  will  be  making  with  your  site.  You  are  expected  to  blog  at  least  
once  a  week.  This  activity  is  an  important  aspect  of  the  project—it  allows  you  to  be  assessed  on  
the  process  of  your  work  in  addition  to  the  final  product.  
As  explained  in  the  syllabus,  the  final  project  is  worth  a  quarter  of  your  final  grade  and  will  be  
due  on  the  last  day  class.      (Note  that  your  final  project  is  a  distinct  assignment  from  your  final  
essay,  even  though  the  two  assignments  are  linked  in  terms  of  content.    Information  about  your  
final  essay  will  be  provided  in  a  separate  document.)  

1  
 
     

Goals  
The  general  goal  of  this  project  is  to  give  you  an  opportunity  to  apply  both  the  ideas  and  
examples  we  have  explored  in  this  class  regarding  the  art  of  data  and  the  data  of  art.      Working  
within  the  specific  constraints  and  affordances  of  database-­‐driven  web  site  technology,  you  will  
be  introduced  to  a  practical  level  of  knowledge  about  such  concepts  as  visualization,  data,  and  
the  nature  of  scholarly  argument.  In  addition,  you  will  encounter  the  collaborative  dimension  of  
technology  work  and  learn  something  about  how  technology  encourages  drawing  on  social  
resources  in  ways  that  traditional  scholarship  does  not.  These  experiences  will  help  you  become  
acquainted  with  the  difficulties  and  challenges  of  realizing  your  ideas  in  practice.    In  your  final  
essays  (due  during  exam  week),  you  will  have  an  opportunity  to  reflect  on  your  experiences  in  
trying  to  realize  your  design  goals  in  the  medium.      
A  more  specific  goal  is  to  experiment  with  the  genre  of  data-­‐driven  scholarship,  employing  the  
ideas  of  Manovich,  Ramsey,  and  others  as  guides  to  helping  you  move  beyond  the  traditional  
essay.  Like  all  academic  essays,  yours  will  make  an  argument,  but  it  should  do  so  using  the  
rhetorical  affordances  of  the  medium  (HTML)  and  of  the  visualization  devices  we  have  
explored.  

Structure  
Your  site  will  consist  of  the  following  basic  structure.    Note  that  metrics  are  included  in  italics  
where  explanation  is  needed.    Note  also  that  these  are  minimum  requirements.    
1. Topic—You  will  develop  a  thesis  statement  for  your  essay.  Regardless  of  how  you  organize  
your  argument  visually  and  textually,  you  need  to  let  the  reader  know  what  your  site-­‐essay  
is  about.    This  should  be  about  a  paragraph,  but  can  be  longer.  
2. Data—Your  site  will  connect  to  a  collaboratively  built  database  of  content  relating  to  the  
Shahnameh.  You  will  contribute  data  to  this  database  in  some  form,  either  as  rows  to  an  
existing  table  or  as  a  new  table.  The  nature  of  the  data  you  contribute  will  depend  on  your  
specific  project.  
3. Media—Your  essay  should  include  images  and  possibly  other  media  to  illustrate  your  
argument.  For  example,  you  may  want  to  crop  images  of  illustrations  in  the  Shahnameh  to  
make  a  point  about  the  iconography  of  these  works.  Again,  the  number  for  images  will  
depend  on  your  project.  Negatively,  the  value  of  your  site  will  be  reduced  if  your  essay  has  
no  images.  
4. Code—Your  site  will  consist  of  pages  written  in  HTML,  CSS,  PHP,  and  SQL.  In  addition  you  
may  use  jQuery  if  you  are  comfortable  doing  so.  You  must  create  at  least  one  PHP  page  that  
does  not  copy  directly  from  one  of  the  examples  used  in  class.  In  addition,  your  HTML  pages  
should  take  advantage  of  CSS  and  PHP  includes.  Extra  credit  will  be  given  to  those  who  use  
web  forms  to  create  interactive  visualizations.  
5. Visualizations—Your  essay  will  contain  visualizations  of  information  using  the  resources  we  
discussed  in  class,  including  hand-­‐made  image  graphs,  hypergraphs  with  GraphViz,  and  
embeddable  visualizations  with  ManyEyes,  Google,  and  other  sources.      Your  essay  should  
contain  at  least  three  visualizations  of  at  least  two  types.  
2  
 
     

6. Essay—Your  essay  will  be  the  interface  to  your  argument  and  to  supporting  data.  The  
perspective  of  the  essay  should  be  that  of  a  data  humanist,  not  a  Persianist.    That  is,  your  
thesis  should  be  about  how  the  data  you  have  assembled  can  be  interpreted,  and  about  
how  the  visualizations  themselves  may  function  to  shed  light  on  issues  of  possible  interest  
to  Persianists,  or  anyone  else  interested  in  the  Shahnameh.  The  final  product  may  be  
organized  as  a  linear  essay  or  as  a  non-­‐linear  arrangement  of  pages  and  exhibits.  Regardless  
of  form,  it  should  contain  at  least  1000  words  (independent  of  the  topic  paragraph)  and  be  
organically  connected  to  your  visualizations.  Essays  will  be  evaluated  for  their  quality  of  
form  and  content.  
7. Blog—As  described  earlier,  you  will  keep  a  diary  of  your  work.  You  will  use  this  blog  to  
develop  the  ideas  of  your  essay.  Given  this,  you  will  use  the  blog  to  reflect  on  both  your  
code  work  and  the  readings  and  topics  discussed  in  class.      Timely  posts  and  comments.  
8. Presentation—Time  allowing,  we  will  devote  the  last  day  of  class  to  presentations.  You  are  
expected  to  make  a  five-­‐minute  presentation  of  your  work.  

Grading  Criteria  
Your  final  grade  for  this  project  will  be  a  composite  of  several  criteria,  each  given  a  relative  
weight.    These  are  as  follows:      
1. Meeting  the  metrics  described  above  (25%).    Self-­‐explanatory.    
2. Quality  of  the  argument  (15%).    Does  the  argument  have  an  interesting  and  compelling  
thesis?    Is  it  supported  by  reason  and  evidence?  (Note:  Clearly,  given  the  time  frame  for  
completing  the  project,  your  essays  will  not  as  interesting  and  compelling  as  they  might.  
However,  it  is  important  to  keep  the  goal  of  your  essay  in  mind—what  is  it  trying  to  say?  
Prove?  Draw  attention  to?)  
3. Effectiveness  of  visualizations  (20%).  Do  the  visualizations  allow  the  reader  to  explore  
the  argument?  Are  they  appropriate  for  the  data  being  represented?  
4. Overall  coherence  of  site  (20%).  Do  all  of  the  elements  of  the  site—at  the  levels  of  form,  
content,  and  layout—contribute  to  the  site’s  overall  effect?  
5. Blogging  (10%).  As  described.  
6. Presentation  (10%).  As  described.    
Note  that  the  quality  of  your  code  is  not  important!  What  is  important  is  that  your  code  works  
and  your  site  meets  the  criteria  described  above.  

Due  Date  
Your  project  will  be  due  on  the  last  day  of  class,  Thursday,  May  5th.  

Milestones  
1. Project  definition       Week  of  April  12th  and  April  14th  
2. Data  extractions       Week  of  April  19th  and  21st        
3. Visualization  development     Week  of  April  26th  and  28th    
4. Essay  composition       Week  of  May  3rd  and  5th    

3  
 
     

Technical  Information  

Address  for  main  course   studio1.shanti.virginia.edu


server  (or  host)   AKA  “studio1”  

Web  addresses  for  your   http://studio1.shanti.virginia.edu/~yourid/PROJECT


projects  

File  directories  for  these  web   ~/public_html/PROJECT


addresses   Where  ~/  stands  for  your  home  directory.  

Addresses  for  the  MySQL   dbm2.itc.virginia.edu


host  

Web  address  for   http://dbm2.itc.virginia.edu/phpmyadmin


phpMyAdmin   Login  with  your  netid  (e.g.  rca2t)  and  the  password  you  created  
for  the  database.    

4