One concept I found difficult for this week’s module “Getting Data,” was the “Get the Header” portion of the Webscraping assignment. Particularly the last step of the section where we had to call the “write_this()” function but replace the input variable with the header variable. I am still not sure if I did this right; however, after a lot of googling, asking some friends for help, and peaking at the “If you get stuck” section I think I figured it out.
Out of all of the assignments this week, I think the concepts presented in the Geocoding assignment would be most helpful for future research projects. Geocoding complements my interests in environmental history because allows me to manipulate mass amounts of geographic data. Mapping programs will be a helpful tool to visualize and think about hybridity, movement of people or goods, ecological exchange, and the environment as an actor, rather than a subject, of history.
After perusing the ICPSR website, I found a few intriguing datasets that might lead to a cool final project and be helpful down the road. While not exactly temporally related to my research interests, the study titled, “Characteristics and Movement of Felons in California Prisons, 1851-1964”, would be interesting to see the development of California’s prison system from its early statehood up to right before Ronald Reagan’s first term as governor. Since the study traces movement of incarcerated individuals it would be cool to potentially add a mapping component to visualize the physical development of California’s prison system and/or answer some spatial questions.
I am curious to compare where inmates came from to where they were imprisoned. I wonder if those who were imprisoned closer to their home, friends and/or family had a higher or lower recidivism rate than those who were imprisoned further from their home. Since the study also contains characteristics of the person surveyed, wonder if what effect distance might have had on inmates (ie. ability for family/friends to visit, desire for parole, escape attempts, etc). Other immediate question I had were, is there any relation to escape attempts based on one’s location? Are there more escape attempts when a prison is located in a populated area or an isolated area? In that sense, does the familiarity/unfamiliarity of an environment encourage or deter the inmates attempt to escape? What might one’s environment, movement, parole, and/or escape attempts tell us about inmate agency?
Other potential datasets from the ICPSR website were: Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime, 1948-1977 [Racine, Wisconsin]: Three Birth Cohorts in conjunction with Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime, 1948-1977 [Racine, Wisconsin]: City Ecological Data. These two datasets are more aligned temporally and thematically with my current research interests. Like the California study there is a potential to ask similar spatial and socio-cultural questions of the data. Yet, unlike the California study, the Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime study is longitudinal and focuses on one specific city rather than an entire state.
All in all, I understand the questions I pose for each dataset will require follow up research to draw any sort of conclusions. And I am not sure if either are suitable for our final project or what the specific strengths and weaknesses would be for either. But it is exciting to see what is out there, brainstorm potential projects, and begin the process!