Project Arclight: a Digital Humanities Approach to Media Studies


A new open-access book came across my social media feed a couple of months ago, The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities. The book itself is a great resource for those looking to get started with digital humanities approaches to doing media studies. What I didn’t realize was that the book is a part of a larger project, which has produced a cool tool, the Arclight app.

The app (and larger project) was developed as a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Concordia University (Canada). From the website’s description of the tool:

The Arclight app will analyze over two million pages of public domain publications derived from two repositories: the Media History Digital Library (MHDL) and the Library of Congress Chronicling America National Newspaper Program. Whereas the MHDL’s search platform Lantern allows users to run keyword searches within the MHDL’s corpus, Arclight reads more broadly for how entities trend across the corpus in comparison to one other.

Basically, it’s Big Data meets Media History. What makes this particular project interesting is that it targets publications specifically related to media. They have a really great Getting Started guide, but if you have ever used Google N-Gram, then you can figure out how to use this tool as well, although it is a much more refined and useful tool.

What I particularly like about this project is that they are publishing academically useful complimentary materials, such as the book, but also through the section they have called Arguments. They are addressing using the tool for teaching, as well as what the tool shouldn’t be used for. They have also made the code available for reuse on GitHub.

How can you see using this tool in your teaching or research?

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