Data Deep Dive: Getting My Ducks in Order

screenshot of spreadsheet

It has been just over a month, so it is time for my next update! For those of you who want to read my introduction to this project you can read it here – “Data Craft: Exploring Projects in Embodied Data.” I spent February reacquainting myself with my dataset, as I hadn’t really interacted with it since I initially gathered it in fall 2019, and finalizing any changes I needed to make for this project.


One of the biggest changes to my dataset came from comparing my data to the only other study of color in the Bellum Civile (BC) I have been able to find (Tucker, 1970). While this article doesn’t include a full dataset, it does have a pretty detailed chart I was able to use as a point of comparison. 

a table showing where red, black, white, yellow, blue, purple, green, and gold appears in the text.
The distribution of color in the BC from Tucker 1970 (p 56).

Through using this chart I was able to verify each word in my dataset. The times Tucker had more instances of a color than I did I was able to use the article to determine what word I was missing, and from there decide whether or not it needed to be included in my dataset. The biggest addition was the noun “livor” and its verb “liveo.” Both can be translated as relating to bruises, “bruise” and “to bruise,” but I found they also have strong color connotations in their translation, “a bluish mark” and “to turn black and blue.” Additionally through working through Tucker’s data I decided a few of the words I had included aren’t actually color words. There are nouns I included that had color, for example “smaragdus” or “emerald,” but I decided that while it had color it was not functioning as a color word. I also decided that some of the words Tucker included weren’t strictly about color and decided to not add them. For example Tucker includes “igneus” (fiery,) which while can mean red to me is more about describing the brightness when comparing something to fire rather than the color of fire, similarly “aureus” (golden) to me isn’t describing something as yellow, but more comparing it to the metal. Sure that can include the color but is also the brightness and other qualities of the metal. 

Once I was fairly confident in the words in my dataset I decided to expand what I was logging about the words. While pure instances of color are interesting, I am also curious in how the colors are being used, so I went through the text to determine what object was being described by the color. Some of these were easier than others, but once I had that information I realized it was a little too granular to be useful to me. So I looked at those objects and started to categorize them into larger buckets. This certainly evolved as I worked on them, but ultimately ended up with seven categories: people, dye, gore, man-made objects, natural objects, natural phenomenon, and physical landscape.

I am not sure a dataset is ever complete, but at some point you have to decide it is good enough and it is time to move on to the next stage of your research. I could probably spend months gently tweaking, expanding, and refining my data, but if I did I would never move forward with my analysis. And in the interest of working publicly and transparently, I made an OSF repository for this project. I uploaded my dataset, as well as documentation for it, so that this data can be reused by other scholars. I am also uploading PDFs of these posts to the repository, and once I hit that stage I will add images of the design and final quilt. I’ve already changed the domain of this site once since this project started (welcome to, I’ve officially retired my old comics/illustration web portfolio so I was able to make the switch) and I know it is not realistic for me to commit to keeping this site going forever. Through the repository some of this work can live on longer. Maybe once the work is done I can find a different home for it, but for now OSF it is.

I recently rediscovered Giorgia Lupi’s data humanism manifesto and as I have been working in my dataset I’ve been thinking about how this project has some of the qualities Lupi described. It is certainly a small dataset, the final visualization will not be as “exact” as a computer generated chart, I think this project certainly fits into data possibilities and data drawing, and spending more time with my data was one of the initial aspects of this project I was drawn to. Lupi describes this movement, “We are ready to question the impersonality of a merely technical approach to data and to begin designing ways to connect numbers to what they really stand for: knowledge, behaviors, people” (Lupi, n.d.). I love this. This is the work I want to do. I want to encourage deeper relationships with data and make data stories personal, even if in this case my data isn’t literally about people. Jacqueline Wenimont is also talking about this sort of datawork through her weaving project, which she described as being a “data visceralization.” I think this is the strength of embodied data. The process of making data physical, or remaking it physical since data can be describing things that were originally physical, can foster new, and deeper, relationships to the narratives the data contains.


I will be presenting on this project at DH Unbound. I will be talking about my ideas around embodied data and how this experiment is going. If you will be attending come say hi! 

I’ve also started working on the design, and my fabrics arrived. It is so exciting to have something tangible, even if it is just a few doodles and a pile of linen. But it makes this whole project feel realer. 

Next Steps

  • Finalize the design of the quilt top and write about the process for “translating” data into quilt blocks
  • Start sewing (the fun part!)
  • Think more about the affordances of a quilt for a visualization and a pedagogical tool, maybe write something up for the next update. 

I know I said I would write something on gender and technology, but that is a much larger topic and theme throughout this project so I would like to hold off on that until a little later.  Possibly as part of my DH Unbound talk.


Lupi, Giorgia. (n.d.) Data Humanism. Giorgialupi. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

Tucker, R. (1970). The Colors of Lucan. The Classical Bulletin, 46(4), 56.

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