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2014 October



October 27, 2014

More Stories, Better Representation?

October 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

I decided to use the blog space this time to talk about the idea of representing people in academic or non-academic contexts. A contested term in itself, “tribal communities” are among the most under-represented and misrepresented groups of people in India. Till I was sixteen years myself, I had never heard of tribal communities in India; an American friend  who knows my work is with tribal communities reported to me how he met a person from India who argued with him about the non-existence of such communities in contemporary India; my cousin, who is fourteen, and curious about who I work with failed to really comprehend, “who are these people?” I am working with; and I failed miserably in explaining in a way that seemed fair who I work with. If underrepresentation is one matter at hand, misrepresentation is another major issue to deal with. Websites, wikipedia, museums, movies – and any form of popular media available seem to depict tribal communities in the most static, essentialized, and detached ways.

All these reasons, and more, have made me want to make more people aware of who the tribal communities are, and educate better that there is no single way of understanding this broad group of people. However, this is no easy task! The challenge stems from several factors:

Who are the tribals? Is forest-dependence the only way to understand these communities? Does dependence on forests make communities “backward?” Does not living in forests make the people not tribal? Why do tribal communities have such “weird” customs and ways of life? Why don’t tribal communities want to “develop?”

These are a few among several strands of challenging questions that would need to be examined and explained – and all at the constant risk of misrepresenting the tribal communities myself.

This brings me to the final (forseeable) challenge I see for myself: How do I, as a scholar, and as a person actively engaged and working with tribal communities make sure to not misrepresent tribal communities myself? How does one go about ensuring this? This will be the biggest challenge in the project I envision for CHI. However, while there is no simple way of going about this, my means will be through incorporating as many stories, and as many perspectives about tribal communities as possible. Tribal communities, like every other group of people can be understood in a variety of ways. Focussing on one particular aspect is not only reductionist, but will perpetuate the essentialized and static ways in which communities tend to be understood. It is therefore my goal to present as diverse, and as “real” a picture of tribal communities as I can. I intend to do this mainly through stories collected from field work, and news paper articles. As I think this through some more, I will surely find more avenues to better represent the triabl communities of India.

In the meanwhile, here is something to watch:



October 24, 2014

Uncovering Isolation in the Archive: Women Workers in Bicycle Factories

October 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

I have begun diving to a variety of sources for my project “Wheelwomen at Work,” in which I am digitizing women’s involvement in the bicycle industry from the 1880s to the 1910s. One of my most striking findings so far has come from factory inspection records. Starting in the 1880s, many states established departments in which state officials visited factories to document the working conditions and ensure the factories were meeting the relatively new safety requirements mandated by law. These visits  were part of larger efforts from Progressive reformers and labor activists of the period. They believed that they needed physical access to the factories to truly understand the working conditions, and they used these visits to collect extensive amounts of data on each factory. They documented demographic data on the workers as well as detailed information on their working conditions, wages, hours, and tasks. They believed that collecting, cataloging, and reporting this data was the foundation for all of their reform efforts.
These reports provide valuable information on workers’ lives, especially given that so many working-class historical actors can easily get lost in the archives. This is particularly true for women workers. Much of what we know about women’s factory work in the nineteenth and early twentieth century centers on factories in which women made up the majority of workers, such as garment factories. Inspection reports of bicycle factories, as well as factories which made bicycle parts and components like wheels and saddles, present a different view of women workers. Strikingly, many of the women working in these factories made up less than half of the workers as a whole. For example, in 1896 inspectors reported that the North American Rubber Company of New York employed 239 men and 92 women in their bicycle tire division. Often there were only a few women workers in small factories and workshops. In the 1898 report of the Lindsay Bicycle Company in Indiana, the inspector documented that the factory employed 25 male workers and only one female worker. Such accounts suggest a few interesting themes that warrant further investigation. First, the documents imply that women were engaging in many of their tasks along side men, and perhaps even completing the same tasks as men. I am interested in trying to uncover their specific tasks and how their responsibilities compared to male workers. Second, it suggests a sense of isolation; I imagine that the single female worker at the Lindsay Bicycle Company had a very different work experience compared to women working in factories surrounded by fellow women. I have yet to find evidence of formal labor organizing among women workers in bicycle factories, and perhaps this isolation was a factor. Both findings provide a glimpse of women’s factory work in this period that I plan to explore further in my project.
David Bennett


October 23, 2014

Visualizing Southern Television 2.0: Launched!

October 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

Today marks the official launching of Visualizing Southern Television 2.0, the second version of my project digitally mapping the footprint for television stations in the south between 1946 and 1965. Back in June, I began the process of deconstructing the mapping infrastructure of VST with three main goals: to improve the aesthetics of the mapping system, to introduce a visual representation for station signal range, and to visualize the estimated reach of each tower’s broadcasts, over time, in order to show which geographical areas were within the reach of any given broadcast signal. Read More



October 21, 2014

Say Digital Humanities One More Time…

October 21, 2014 | By | One Comment

Early Modernists have done impressive work in the digital humanities as of late. This exciting shift in methodology allows greater opportunity to complete original research as well introduce new pedagogical techniques into our classrooms. In the end, I view digital projects as tools; tools used for collaboration, teaching, and further research. This blog post will introduce a couple of recent early modern digital projects. But first, the old faithfuls…

Early English Books Online (EEBO), the go-to online database of early printed (and now) digitized texts, has been a necessary tool for me as a scholar; I’ve had access to it throughout my academic career and I cannot imagine researching without it. The Text Creation Partnership (TCP) transcribes these scanned texts and creates fully-searchable text files that improve readability and accessibility.

My search for Hamlet using EEBO.

Hamlet (2)


Another source I’ve used quite frequently is Open Source Shakespeare. This online concordance, created by Eric M. Johnson (as part of his M.A. thesis!) allows users to search for particular words throughout all of Shakespeare’s texts. I’ve used it when researching artistic terminology; the site allowed me to search for passages that included Renaissance synonyms for painted portraits. Incidentally, Mr. Johnson is now the Director of Digital Access at the Folger Shakespeare Library and he will be leading a workshop on “Using Data in Shakespeare Studies” at the Shakespeare Association of America conference this April (I’ll be there!).

My search for ‘painted’ using Open Source Shakespeare.
Open Source Shakespeare (2)

And now on to some more recent discoveries…

The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) taps into the popular DH interest of visualizing geographic space. The current version of the map was launched in 2013 by a group of scholars at the University of Victoria. The interactive map is sourced from the 1561 ‘Agas Map’. The website is user-friendly and the creators of the map certainly encourage scholars to make use of this tool, which of course could be used for a variety of research needs. Jenelle Jenstad and Kim McLean-Fiander will be presenting on the pedagogical possibilities for research-based learning at the SAA conference this April (I plan to attend this workshop as well as I am eager to learn more about this topic).

Each tile is easily clickable; the interactive points bring users to a list of documents containing that location.
Map of Early Modern London (2)


The Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps
The Folger Shakespeare Library has produced several interactive digital editions of Shakespeare’s plays. These editions can be downloaded by students via iTunes and used in place of paperback editions. Full audio performances accompany each edition and the interactive texts allow readers to take notes and collect passages. Expert commentary from scholars and actors allows for deeper engagement. While I’ve admired these editions from afar, I look forward to using a digital edition this summer, perhaps A Midsummer Night’s Dream, depending on my teaching assignment.



The English Broadside Ballad Achieve from the University of California, Santa Barbara allows users to research and explore early modern broadside ballads—essentially cheap street literature that can easily be set to music and enjoyed aurally. I’ve personally used this resource when I taught a class on the representation of visual art within literature. I taught the anonymous drama, Arden of Faversham and used the ballad I found on EBBA to discuss the two representations of Alice with my students. I appreciate the album and ballad sheet facsimiles (with the ability to zoom in) especially because my students and I discussed dramatic vs. visual representation. The recording added a new dimension to our discussion of different media. I highly recommend this site for teaching early modern literature; I think ballads can add interest to a variety of early modern topics.

My search for the Arden of Faversham ballad.
Arden Ballad (2)

I look forward to contributing to this exciting field of research; stayed tuned for my November post when I’ll introduce my specific interest in early modern digital scholarship.

Early English Books Online:
Open Source Shakespeare:
Shakespeare Association of America:
The Map of Early Modern London:
Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps:
Broadside Ballads:

Joseph Bradshaw


October 17, 2014

The Digital Bridge from History to Business

October 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

When undergraduates majoring in history tell people about their academic interests they are usually asked “What are you going to do with that?” or “Are you going into education or law?” This is alarming for two reasons. All employers claim that they want to hire people who can do things like write clearly, conduct research, work independently, and solve abstract problems. History majors should be able to find jobs wherever they want. Many undergraduates who major in history do in fact leverage these skills to find work, but it is overly optimistic to think that the market does not privilege technical knowledge. In a December 2012 New York Times article Professor Homni Bhabha declared that the humanities are now endangered in the developed and developing world. He stated that “In India for example the humanities are more or less dead, and professional schools and the study of business and technology are in the ascendant.” Digital methods can bridge the perceived gap between the scholarly and the technical.

Non-academics have good reason to suspect that historians are disconnected from reality. Since the 1980’s many scholars using post-colonial and post-structural theories have eschewed quantitative and scientific methods. Business, however, never made the cultural turn. Instead, as the aforementioned article indicates, the demand for specialized technical knowledge has increased, hence the perception that the History students might lack skills that the market values.

The incorporation of digital methods in the undergraduate class room can ensure that students have much of the technical knowledge that is in demand without compromising the broader skills that the study of history develops. Today data mining is a research method and web design is form of intellectual output, there is no reason History as a discipline should not embrace this reality.

Earlier this month my advisor asked me to speak to a group of alumni and donors at the opening of MSU’s leader lab. I thought the invitees would like to know exactly the kinds of skills digital history developed and the value of those skills outside the academy. I told them about a project I worked on that adapted the online tools used in market research to collect information on how people remembered Mandela around the world in real-time as the public posted their thoughts to twitter. At the reception I began to think of the numerous other technical skills students at leader will develop and how those skills are important in a variety of fields. In addition to data mining and blogging students will build web sites, create digital archives, use mapping tools, manage digital projects, and network online.

While this post contrasted the turn to the digital against the last important movement in the discipline of history, digital methods are in no way opposed to critical theory of any kind. I am using literary theory to write essays for a website I am developing that introduces undergraduate students to Edward Said. I hope to make the site slick enough that undergrads can use it on those dreaded smart phones and tablets.

While this may not be the innovative marriage of critical theory and digital methods some of my colleagues in the CHI program, like Santos Ramos, are imagining far more creative ways to bring theory to the digital. As technology becomes increasing common in all classrooms scholars will be able to use it to connect their disciplines to the technical skills that are currently in demand in today’s market place.



October 15, 2014

Decoloniality & The Digital: Confronting Techno-Seduction in the Digital Humanities

October 15, 2014 | By | One Comment

Techno-seduction is a theoretical framework I’ve developed to better understand the ways in which scholars and activists come to be seduced by the false promises of technological determinism. In “Digital is Dead: Techno-Seduction at the Colonial Difference, From Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street,” I draw from the work of decolonial theorists to argue that the digital functions as a colonial identity construction that advances the logic of technological determinism and, thereby, technocratic capitalism. I look to recent social movements in order to examine their treatment of digital technologies, and I find that the sustainability of these social movements correlates quite convincingly with the methods by which they choose (not) to incorporate these technologies into their organizational frameworks.

The issue becomes concerned with velocity. In a capitalist framework, time is monetized to the extent that it nearly becomes synonymous with capital. And, especially considering the continued neoliberalization of university systems, we know academia lies not outside of this relationship, but wedged somewhere within it. The busier we stay—because time is money and a large part of our job as academics is to spend our time chasing money—the less we strategize our own tactics. The more we lift up aimless conceptions of “practice,” the deeper theory gets cast into the shadow of colonialism.

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Lisa Bright


October 10, 2014

Osteology and Digital Data

October 10, 2014 | By | One Comment

There has been a lot of talk in recently about having a digital presence in anthropology. Some portions of the field have adapted to new technology more readily than others. Connecting with social media and blogging is great, but how do we move our data collection, storage, and sharing into the 21st century?

Sharing data is a touchy subject for many scholars. This information is precious, formed after many months (more likely years) of hard work, set backs, and endless hours. Making that data broadly accessible to the greater anthropological community can be a scary notion. In the short term, that information is needed for future publications, and is integral to the scholar as a brand for employment. But what happens to the data when you’re done with it? Unfortunately, most of the time it languishes in dissertation appendixes, remains trapped in grey literature, or sits unused in outmoded private database formats. A few people, such as Dr. Killgrove, have made skeletal databases publicly available, but instances like this are rare.

Osteoware Inventory Screen

Osteoware Inventory – source

A major challenge physical anthropology encounters is the usability of collected data, after humans remains and objects are repatriated. How do we ensure that the data is usable once the item is no longer physically available? Another issue facing that data is a lack of standardization in collection methodology. Although many people base their methodology and forms off of Buikstra & Ubelaker’s “Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains”, or utilize the Osteoware data entry system, the way that osteological data is documented is practice, is far from standardized.

The historic skeletal collection I plan to work with for my dissertation is scheduled to be cremated in 2024. One challenge I’m faced with is how do I create the most useful database possible? Not only for my own personal research, but to be used by students and scholars at the institution it is being temporarily curated, as well as after the remains are cremated. I will be starting the database with the data collected on-site, with the hopes that the contextual information from those forms will add to later scholarly research.

I’ve been advocating for open data, so I have to admit that while the remains are curated at the University, some of the data will have to remain private. The cemetery was excavated in a CRM context, which means that the remains, and data belong to the client, in this case a County. However, at some point the data should be made available for collaborative research.   How we get to the point of larger scale collaborative date sharing, is something that will take a lot more discussion.



October 7, 2014

Digital Ethics

October 7, 2014 | By | One Comment

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the next phase of my digital scholarship.  Currently, I am working on revamping Imbiza (from 1.0 to 2.0) and helping test the beta-version of the KORA plugin.  But, as I’ve discussed previously on my personal blog, some people might be surprised to discover that South African football is not the focus of my own personal research, although it features prominently in my digital presence:  as, obviously, the focus of Imbiza, the subject of my blogs for Football Is Coming Home, and the specialty of my doctoral adviser, Peter Alegi.  But I’ve been seriously considering lately (maybe) slowly introducing my dissertation research (which I most commonly liken to a helpless child) into my digital presence and scholarship.

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