Friday, June 12, 2015

DS106 AB: A Light In The Darkness

For this week's DS106 Assignment Bank Project I decided to make a Word Cloud. The assignment was simple: using an online tool, such as Wordle, create a word cloud using text that invokes some kind of meaning or emotion. The idea is to use visualization through font, color, and orientation to convey the meaning and emotion of those words.

Growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania, I had many opportunities to visit many richly historical sites that contributed to the founding and upbringing of our nation, including Independence Hall, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg Battlefield. Although each of these sites provides a certain sense of awe, it's the battlefield in Gettysburg that stands out to me.

The thing about battlefields is they are essentially just fields. And in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania there isn't much else - either in 1863 or today. The town is quiet and quaint with a small population. Just over the Maryland border, it's not really near any major metropolitan areas. However, because of the events which took place there over a three day period in the summer of 1863, Gettysburg is a place that will not long be forgotten - not because of the actual events but rather the meaning behind those events. Simply put, because of the political and geographical contention that was happening in the United States at that time, two large opposing armies lined up across from each other spread across open fields and fought until thousands of lives were lost.

President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is his most famous speech because he encapsulated in just a few lines of text the real meaning and sacrifice of what transpired there. Those that visit Gettysburg Battlefield today are still just walking through open fields, but the sense of walking on hallowed ground is unmistakable.

The Word Cloud you see above is the text from the Gettysburg Address. I chose a font that looked historical and placed it against a black background as a way of signifying the past. The colors of the words grow increasingly lighter so as to eventually stand out against the dark background. Much like war is often a dark period, the good emerges from that darkness and shines toward the future. The majority of the words are vertical in orientation like soldiers standing on the battlefield willing to make the sacrifice necessary for the benefit of others. The horizontal words are those "which gave the last full measure of devotion." Altogether, the cloud is haunting but solemn:

" that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." - Abraham Lincoln - Gettysburg Address 1863

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