The Digital Humanities Incubator is intended to help introduce University of Maryland faculty, staff, and graduate assistants to digital humanities methods and tools through a series of workshops, tutorials, and project consultations. The first phase of the Incubator concentrated on working with UMD Libraries faculty and staff exclusively. This second phase, entitled “Researching Ferguson,” is a broader campus-wide initiative which aims to provide leadership and training on event-based social media data and network analysis.

In October 2014, MITH began spearheading a series of meetings to develop research and teaching opportunities for the use of the Ferguson Twitter archive, which is a collection of tweets harvested by MITH’s Ed Summers using a command line program named twarc in August 2014 in the wake of the events in Ferguson, MO.  MITH’s early work with this collection was conducted in collaboration with the ARHU Center for Synergy, and in October and December 2014 MITH hosted two brainstorming sessions with various UMD faculty and students. MITH introduced the collection and solicited feedback regarding its possible value and use to the scholarly community.

The discussions that took place at both prior events allowed MITH to synthesize the input that was received, which was used to begin planning for several ongoing MITH Digital Humanities Incubator sessions ran throughout February 2015 as part of Black History Month, and continued throughout Spring 2015.  These workshops were part of the broader, university-wide effort to engage the #BlackLivesMatter movement at the University of Maryland.

Session 1: Previewing MITH’s Teach Ins for #BlackLivesMatter at #UMD

Tue, Jan 27, 2015
12:30 pm
1:30 pm

This first session is a reconvening of our Ferguson constituency, comprising faculty and students who attended one of the two first sessions in October and December at MITH, or who expressed interest separately. We will also be inviting others who might be interested to join us.

The discussions that took place at both prior events allowed us to synthesize your input and stated research interests in this topic, which we used to begin planning for several ongoing MITH Digital Humanities Incubator sessions that will occur throughout February 2015 as part of Black History Month, and possibly beyond.  These sessions will constitute MITH’s contribution to the University of Maryland teach-ins occurring throughout campus in Spring 2015.

In this first session on January 27th, MITH will begin by reviewing previous discussions and outcomes and then we will discuss our plans for the following future sessions, inviting further feedback from the group

Session II: Methods and Tools for Building Collections of Social Media

Thu, Feb 19, 2015
11:30 pm12:30 pm
MITH Conference Room, Hornbake Library 0301


Ed Summers (MITH) Porter Olsen (MITH) Laura Wrubel (GWU)

In this 90 minute workshop we will introduce and lead a hands on demonstration of tools for collecting data from Twitter, such as the Ferguson collection mentioned above. We will briefly discuss the types of considerations that go into deciding what tools or services to use. The majority of the time will be spent creating your own collections of data using one of four tools: TAGS, IFTTT, Social Feed Manager and twarc.

This is a hands on workshop, so please bring a laptop and ideas about the Twitter data you would like to collect. Also, if you are interested in using twarc, please install it prior to attending the workshop (installation details will be provided).

Space is limited so please RSVP at to reserve a spot and receive any pre-workshop preparation instructions.

Session III: Ethics, Rights, Data Management

Wed, Apr 29, 2015
12:00 pm1:30 pm
Library Media Services, Hornbake Library


Katie Shilton (iSchool), Ricky Punzalan (iSchool), Trevor Munoz(MITH)

This third workshop in the Digital Humanities Incubator 2014-2015 series will explore ethical concerns, public memory, and data management strategies for research with the Ferguson Twitter dataset.

A specific research question might be the impetus to collect social media data but, as soon as data collection begins, a variety of new challenges arise: what are the restrictions on how data might be used or published? who else can data be shared with? is the collected data a fair representation of the subject? what’s the best way to keep this data available and usable? These questions are especially vital when social media data is being used to study social justice issues.

In this workshop we’ll review basic research ethics for public datasets, and then discuss unsolved ethical challenges for the use of Twitter data. We will also discuss strategies for ensuring best-effort ethical approaches in this emerging research space. We’ll also consider Twitter datasets as materials for current and future archives—how is this medium redefining archival sources and notions of historical evidence? If we think of this data as part of a historical record does that change our evaluation of how the collection of data we have reflects actual public sentiments (its representativeness), and what biases might it reflect or contain in its construction. Who/what is being remembered, and who/what is being forgotten, when we study and preserve such data? And, finally, in order to facilitate active research now and maintain this data into the future we’ll cover basic strategies for managing and maintaining social media data collected as part of research.

Please RSVP at

Session IV: Basic Navigation and Analysis of Your Data

Thu, Mar 26, 2015
12:30 pm1:30 pm
Library Media Services, 0302J Hornbake Library North


Ed Summers (MITH) Josh Westgard (Libraries)

Now that you have collected your Twitter data, how do you use it to help answer your research questions? This workshop will help you do that by describing the anatomy of a Tweet, the mechanics of JSON data, and how to write a simple program to process the data. Learning how to dig into your Twitter dataset is an important step as you plan for some of the more advanced tools we will learn about in Session V. Participants in this workshop will come away with a better understanding of processing Twitter JSON data, and be able to programmatically explore the data with simple open source tools. This is a hands-on workshop, so in order to participate fully, please bring a personal laptop with you. You should also try to download and install Python and JQ (both are available free, see links below). We also recommend installing a text editor such as Sublime Text.


Session V: Advanced Analytical Techniques

Thu, Apr 9, 2015
2:40 pm1:30 pm


Cody Buntain (Computer Science) Nick Diakopoulos (Journalism) Jen Golbeck (Information Studies) Ben Shneiderman (Computer Science)

This conclusion to the “Researching Ferguson” teach-in series will focus on analytics for discovering insights from social media. Building on the previous sessions, we will demonstrate how temporal, network, sentiment, and geographic analyses on a subset of the Ferguson Twitter can aid understanding and enhance storytelling of a controversial event. These demonstrations will include hands-on exercises on categorizing tweets by location (from inside/outside Ferguson, MO) and sentiment (positive or negative language), visualizing the different groups of people taking part in the discussion, and detecting compelling moments in the data. This workshop will also introduce participants to tools and environments for performing such analysis independently and on other Twitter data sets, so participants should come prepared with a laptop. Workshop participants will gain skills in:

  • Network Analysis
  • Sentiment Analysis
  • Event Detection
  • Data Storytelling
  • Includes hands on demonstration of tools
  • Data Visualization with NodeXL

Please RSVP at

Aug 2014May 2015| Director: Ed Summers| Topics: , |