Starting in 1999, generations of Davidson College students have gathered information about modernist little magazines and stored it on the Index in order to make it freely available to researchers. The data migrated across various platforms and is now housed here, on a WordPress site that complements other digital archives of little magazines, such as the Modernist Journals Project, the Blue Mountain Project, and the Modernist Magazines Project.
We began our project curious about how the run times of little magazines, which we call lifespans, were affected by factors such as the race and gender of their editors. By compiling metadata housed on the Index, which existed only as text in WordPress posts, and transferring it to a spreadsheet, we were able to create digital visualizations of the data in the form of interactive graphs and charts. After we analyzed our data, our regressions revealed that our results were not statistically significant. Nevertheless, the process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data offered valuable lessons about little magazines and digital humanities. Our project then shifted to what we hope will be a teaching tool for both undergraduate and professional scholars alike, combining traditional close reading with innovative methods informed by digital humanities.
We started by gathering the metadata using an Excel spreadsheet, and from there we used the digital data visualization tool, Florish, to create the interactive charts and graphs found on our website. In order to understand the data we collected, we ran a series of regressions, which evaluate the strength of a relationship between two variables. The regressions page contains an informative video describing the basic principles of regressions and how they can be applied to studies in the humanities. After realizing that what we could learn from our data visualizations was limited by our small sample size, we decided to turn to socio-historical analysis and close reading in order to examine more closely the factors that may have influenced individual magazine’s lifespans. The magazines we picked represented three different categories of lifespans: Fire!!, which had only one published issue, served as our shortest, The Colored American Magazine was our medium length, lasting nine years, and The Southwest Review our longest, which has been running for just over a hundred years. The socio-historical contexts were also considered when choosing which magazines we wanted to analyze, which can be read about on the case study page.
By combining statistical processes and digital design with traditional forms of humanities scholarship, our Lifespans Project provides a teaching tool that students and scholars can use to inform their own projects on little magazines.
Read our white paper to learn more about our preliminary research, methods, and roles in the project.