Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

2016 November

Nikki Silva

By

November 29, 2016

Easy Doesn’t Mean Right

November 29, 2016 | By | No Comments

Is the easy way always the best way?

During the 1st semester of the fellowship, fellows are responsible for completing a series of tasks focused on certain topics such as project management, web mapping, and data visualization. As a returning fellow, I completed these tasks last year. Because of this, groups usually include at least one of the three returning fellows to help current fellows complete these mini-projects. I have found over the past semester that though this is beneficial, there are some times when the knowledge I have of an easy way to do something is a hinderance when showing others how to complete the tasks.

Read More

mahnkes1

By

November 23, 2016

Mapping the movement of community spaces

November 23, 2016 | By | No Comments

As evidenced through this month’s blog posts, the CHI cohort is putting together their initial plans for our main project. I had initially wanted to focus on how nostalgia imprints itself and is used on physical places as a means of sustaining culture; however, the initial approach had only considered the process of this dynamic between the Filipino-American community and their physical places, and not perhaps their degree of agency to do so within the public sphere. Compared to the Asian American and Pacific Islander places/spaces I’ve grown up witnessing as part of the public fabric of California, the difficulty of finding these presences in the Midwest points to the possibility of APIA culture moving from public to private spaces.

Fil-Am history prominently began in the Midwest in the early 1900s and has had opportunity to establish signs of their community. California and Hawaii were receiving the majority of Filipino laborers, but the Midwest, particularly states like Michigan and Illinois, received government-sponsored students (the pensionados) up until the 1930s. These student communities blossomed into immigrant communities, and to navigate racial and economic pressures, they created and took part in community organizations which emerged, scattered, and blended with other groups during the passing decades and changing waves of immigration (Posadas & Guyotte, 1990). By looking closer at past and present communal spaces in major cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor, my project intends to ask: (1) What forms of societal/behavioral regulation spur the removal or displacement of previously Filipino spaces? (2) What unique challenges make them particularly vulnerable and/or capable of asserting a more democratized space within the fabric of the public sphere?

Through the use of a digital map, the project will approach these questions by profiling some Filipino communal spaces (mostly commercialized, neighborhood, and community center spaces) in terms of causes for their emergence and influences to their growth in order to deduce what and how conflicting public narratives and pressures impact these spaces. The aim of this mapping project is not just to provide an exploration of the forms and nature of the Filipino public sphere, but to provide a spatial means of envisioning their displacement (or diminishment) from past and present locales. It also, alternatively, serves as a means of uncovering and rewriting Filipino spaces onto major maps; what was once invisible can then have a visible presence to establish a significant cultural lineage. Finally, the map can have the additional purpose of highlighting causal pressures for the removal or dispersal of Filipino spaces which can inform thought on urban governance, community organizing, and the growing fallacy of democratic publics.

References

Posadas, B.M. and Guyotte, R.L. (1990). “Unintentional Immigrants: Chicago’s Filipino Foreign Students Become Settlers, 1900-1941.” Journal of American Ethnic History 9(2): 26-48.

Jessica Yann

By

November 18, 2016

Timeline of Michigan Archaeology

November 18, 2016 | By | No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few weeks about my project for my CHI fellowship.  As I have mentioned before, I strongly believe in making archaeology accessible to a broad range of people. In my work with the State Archaeologist of Michigan, as well as with various school groups, I’ve noticed that there are several things most folks really want to see: a timeline of Michigan archaeology to help put things into perspective, and lots of artifacts.  You can view a basic version of the current available timeline on the State Archaeologist’s website.   However, this timeline is very basic and lacks any interactive features.  It also highlights very few artifacts. Read More

Erin Pevan

By

November 15, 2016

Navigating the visualization of language and identity in Norway

November 15, 2016 | By | No Comments

Since my last blog, I’ve ruminated upon the overall purpose of my CHI project; it first shall serve as the digital component to my Master’s thesis, and it second shall serve as that culmination of my background in history, information technology, and anthropology. But even more important, this project serves to digitally represent a somewhat abstract idea, that of the connections between language and identity, and to extend the examination of these relationships beyond text.

In these last few weeks, my project has been molded and shaped to fit this narrative that explores the connections between language and identity, and serves to answer questions regarding how language has become a marker for identity in Norway, and how these identities are expresses in forms of narrative, from literature to music lyrics to comics to art. This project aims to use forms of narrative to tell a narrative of language and identity, and what this means for the multicultural society of Norway – how, over time, the connections between political and cultural machinations have had a profound affect upon language in Norway, and how language has manifested as a marker for Norwegianness. In addition, I want to tell the story of how notions of homogeneity are challenged through language in Norway, and how identity in Norway is expressed in terms of the relationship of these different communities to the Norwegian language. This project aims to help reassert awareness of the importance of Norwegian language identities by providing a timeline of access to their literature and see, through examples of their literature, why language is a hugely important concept in identity formation. Some questions that have churned in my head include:

  • How is literature used to address and express issues of language identity in Norway?
  • How can a digital platform negotiate boundaries and barriers of language use and identity in ways another medium is perhaps limiting?
  • How can we use a digital map or timeline to show flexibility in language use boundaries in ways that acknowledge the complexities of creating boundaries of language use and identity? How are these complexities challenging assertions of homogeneity?
  • How can a digital platform be used to acknowledge perspectives and boundaries, such as those in a cultural, political, or colonial context, while still providing an answer to the question of how literature, through time, has contributed to a Norwegian national identity through language?

These types of musings become important for scholars to examine in the age where words become extremely powerful tools to express ideology, especially in the media, and in the case of national identity, expressive of what it means to be a part of that identity and whether or not your personhood reflects that ideology and identity.

The next step in this process of forming a digital project of a seemingly abstract idea is visualization. I must admit, my first step in this process was to create the tool, of which I felt I had a better handle, and adapt my story to the tool. However, in reviewing this process, I’ve now realized the importance of making your narrative the prime component of the project FIRST, and let the tools fall where they may. Tools for digital visualization are abundant in this day of open-source material; I believe that, given a good sense of creativity, storyboarding, and a lot of examination of the tools out there, you can create any perfect visualization to tell your narrative in a way that both conveys your argument clearly, while also generating a useful and exciting user experience design. If you create your visualization first, you run into the danger of limiting the bounds of your narrative, and what arguments you want to convey. Once I made it through this hurdle and really formed (for the most part) that narrative, I began that journey: how do you visualize the connections between language and identity in Norway?

In Wendy Hsu’s 4-part blog series On Digital Ethnography, available on the website Ethnography Matters, she explores the relationships between extending ethnographic research beyond text and into the digital world. A key component of this series is to consider the role and form of the digital medium as ethnographic knowledge itself. In particular, Part 4 considers the power of moving beyond print medium as a means for conveying ethnographic knowledge. In particular, she says

“If we open up the definition of ethnography beyond text and print, then we can start to envision a media enriched, performative, and collaborative space for ethnographers to convey what they have encountered, experienced, and postulated. Utilizing the affordances of digital media, ethnographic knowledge can be stored, expressed, and shared in ways beyond a single medium, direction, and user.” (Hsu, Ethnography Matters).

Again, it’s about keeping the narrative in focus, and molding those tools to best express your narrative to your end-users. In particular, she discusses the digital medium as a multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience, including not only video, audio, text, but also through space and time. The assertion of placing a project within a spatial or temporal context to construct stronger arguments and provide essential information is not new to academic scholarly work, but in the realm of digitization, we find a new power in our ability to tangibly visualize this spatial or temporal context for a better user experience.

My next step in this project is to further ponder the different tools and visualization platforms that will best convey my narrative of the relationships between language and identity in Norway. I foresee a temporal aspect to this project, so utilizing Timeline.js might prove useful. Is there a spatial component? Possibly, since much of Norway’s language history is also tied to terrain, historical territorial disputes, and positionality of different communities. An ethnographic archive of different examples of Norwegian narrative searchable through space and time? It’s time to dive into the repositories and find out.

Reference:

Hsu, Wendy. 2013 Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions. http://ethnographymatters.net/blog/2013/12/09/ethnography-beyond-text-and-print-how-the-digital-can-transform-ethnographic-expressions/

 

nesbit17

By

November 11, 2016

Project Musings

November 11, 2016 | By | No Comments

As the semester rolls on and we are tasked with trying to visualize our CHI projects, I am feeling a little stressed and inspired, all at the same time! As I’ve said before, my project is going to center around the research I’ve been conducting in the Sociolinguistics Lab in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, here at MSU.  For this project, we have been conducting and recording interviews with college freshmen at LCC and MSU and subsequently training them to interview their friends and family members.  The purpose of building this corpus is to document language change in the Greater Lansing Area. There are two reasons for having people interview their friends and family: (1) to gain less accessible participants and (2) to get a better picture of the social networks and upbringing of the college students.  These last two factors have shown to have insurmountable effects on ones choice to participate in a sound change and I’m hoping to drive this home somehow with my CHI project.  Thus far we have interview data from over 50 speakers ranging in birth date from 1908 to 1995! My initial idea for my CHI project was to create a website through which we could (1) gather more data – via some sort of recording interface whereby native Lansingites can record themselves reading some of the data samples and answer some of our demographic questions and (2) update the larger community (linguistic or otherwise) about our research and findings.  I am still a little unclear of how I am going to make the components of this project work, BUT I am inspired by the group projects that we did in LEADR two weeks ago.  For that project, we created a website that had a map and integrated way points onto the map that were related by some theme.  I’m thinking I can use this exercise to better visualize (1) where the speakers in our sample were born and raised, but also (2) to display how language in the area has changed over time.  In essence, I’d have way points for each birth place of a speaker and then perhaps another set of way points documenting where they moved.  It would also be nice to use a visualization tool to display familial and friendship relations within our sample.  Not sure how all of this will work, but I am very excited to figure it out.  To be continued…

 

Jack Biggs

By

November 10, 2016

Subadult Skeletal Age Estimation

November 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

As it gets later and later into the semester, I’ve started trying to put together ideas for my CHI project.  While I’ve been thinking about what specifically I would like to do, there was one notion that kept popping up in my head: make accessible, usable, and relevant for other people, not just myself.  Sometimes as researchers, we get so buried in our niche fields and specialties that although we view our own research as interesting and significant, others obviously do not.  I feel that this is especially true in anthropology and archaeology given how technological advances of the past few decades have allowed us to create even more specialized areas of research.  Though these new methods can greatly add to our understanding of how populations of the past interacted and moved within, through, and around cultural and physical landscapes, we must be careful not to disenfranchise other researchers in the process.

As I discussed in my previous post, I study subadults’ social identities as well as skeletal growth and development within Late Classic Maya society.  To me, this is absolutely fascinating and necessary for understanding the ancient Maya.  To other bioarchaeologists, archaeologists, or even the general public, it is not, just in the way that other people put emphasis on their research as an essential tenet of their field.  In other words, not everyone places the same level of importance on specific aspects of research as you do.  The specialization of your methods and research should be approached very cautiously so as not to make you too generalized on the one hand, or too specialized on the other.  This is what I want to avoid while thinking about my CHI project.  If it’s too generalized, it will just become lost in the sea of similar online tools.  If too specific, then it has the potential to be relevant to a very small number of people and therefore useless to most archaeologists, bioarchaeologists, and students of human osteology my target audience.

Taking all of this into consideration, I’ve been thinking about how to effectively integrate my specific research into a much broader capacity for my CHI project that would be useful for people other than those who study ancient Maya childhood (of which there are very few).  However, since I do focus on skeletal growth and development I feel that I can use that knowledge and hopefully translate it into a tool that is useful and educational.  My most likely idea would be to create some sort of minimally interactive repository for estimating the age of subadult skeletal remains.

Subadult skeletal remains are much easier from which to obtain an age-at-death due to incredibly well-documented processes that the body undergoes during the first 18-20 years of life.  These mainly include the incredibly specific timing of teething events (down to a few-month window) and tracking growth plate fusion.

Dental eruption chart from "Human Osteology", Academic Press, 3 ed. (2011) - Tim D. White, Michael T. Black & Pieter A. Folkens

Dental eruption chart from “Human Osteology”, Academic Press, 3 ed. (2011) – Tim D. White, Michael T. Black & Pieter A. Folkens

In adults, it is much more difficult to estimate age-at-death since the body has stopped growing and you are then looking at degenerative changes over time which are affected by health, occupation, status, etc.  Although studies over estimating age are numerous, there is not a dedicated repository focusing on subadult remains.  I feel it would be beneficial to create some kind of age estimator where the user would indicate what levels or stages of growth and development an certain bone presents (that is being physically studied by the user) and the website would crank out an estimated age range based on the most updated or accepted age-estimation studies.  Ideally this would be most heavily geared towards students but also used by other researchers as a way to quickly estimate the age based on multiple bones which otherwise would cause them to wade through different publications.  My goal is for this to potentially be used as both a learning interactive experience and a tool for the user.

This might sound all well and dandy, but why is estimating age-at-death so important?  Estimating the age-at-death of skeletal remains is one of the first tasks when encountering these materials, be they modern or archaeological.  Understanding the age distribution of a past population is invaluable to how you interpret that population.  Different cultural, biological, and environmental factors, all of which affect one another, will determine what the age distributions are within that population.  For an archaeologist, this helps reconstruct who this population was and how they functioned and interacted.  For example, normal age distributions for the ancient Maya show high infant mortality rates, low death rates among young adults, but higher death rates among older adults.  Compare this to the plague pits of Europe during the Black Death – everyone was affected almost equally so the age distribution is more or less even.  Since we are able to more accurately determine the ages of subadults, researchers can ask age-specific questions and better understand what kind of stresses juveniles and infants are experiencing at what specific ages in their childhood. Overall, understanding the age distribution is essential to understanding the people themselves.

 

 

nelso663

By

November 6, 2016

ICTs and Indigenous Knowledges

November 6, 2016 | By | No Comments

This past Friday, we talked about licensing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m interested in information and communication technologies (ICTs) and traditional knowledges (TK), which are the product of the intricate relationships between indigenous peoples and the specific places in which they have lived or used to live for long periods of time. Questions of licensing that are specific to this class of knowledge – the question of who has the right to access, use, modify, distribute, profit from, or otherwise relate to some piece of TK – are warranted by the historically antagonistic relationship toward TK of modernization projects like residential school systems for indigenous children, or the removal of artifacts for sale, analysis, and display in museums or private collections.

I’d argue that at this point in time, ICTs and traditional knowledges relate in at least three ways:

  1. ICTs can be vehicles for the publication of TK artifacts, whether for journalistic or scholarly purposes. This is afforded by the internet and web content management systems (CMS) like the domain-specific Omeka or more generically WordPress and Drupal. See, for instance, the project “Dawnland Voices: Writings of Indigenous New England” (Omeka) or Indian County Today Media Network (Drupal).
  2. ICTs can be instruments for the organization of TK. Knowledge objects like place names, demonyms, and flora and fauna names have historically been a) subordinated to western names, and b) relegated to arcane corners of the Library of Congress (LOC) or Dewey Decimal subject headings (“Mythology, Other”). The Xwi7xwa subject headings developed by the Library of the University of British Columbia is a widely cited positive example of the organizational role of ICTs in TK. The modeling of Andean craftsmanship documented in Brownlow et al. (2015) is a good example of ontological organization of TK.
  3. ICTs as aides in the application of TK alongside (if not as integral than at least as supplementary to) professional knowledges, as in the domain of natural resource management. An example of this might be web resources documenting species names and associations between a species and an environment, habitat, or another species (as a reference, for instance, in administering and complying to Canada’s Species at Risk Act). Given the history of extracting TK, provisioning such a web resource would need to involve careful consideration of the problem of TK licensing; the problem of whether and how to provide for more sensitive items (e.g., information about the associations between a given species and uses such as medicinal; food and beverage; technology, arts and crafts; and social or religious rites).

The problem of providing and consuming rights to use, distribute, modify, and otherwise relate to TK is present in each of these configurations between ICTs and TK. Diving into data modeling this semester, with a class on enterprise database systems at the business college, I’m not surprised to find myself thinking about these topics as I continue to plan my project for this fellowship.

pebbles1

By

November 5, 2016

Looking forward

November 5, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello!
O’siyo!
こにちわ!
It is November and we are moving further into web design and interactive visuals in our cohort work. I am getting excited about planning my project. I know I want to do something with visuals, space/place, and water.
I am still holding onto the idea of working with the water systems in Flint. However, I am still looking at some other possible ideas of place and space with my colleague and classmate, Stephanie Mahnke. We both have strong interests in Asian and Asian American studies and are both members of Asian Pacific American Graduate Association (APAGA) and may do something related to that.
Likewise, the water rights issues surrounding Standing Rock and the movement behind No DAPL has emerged this semester. This is reflective of the issues I have been looking at for the past few years around Indigenous social movements and water rights issues.
 
Whichever way I go on this project, I will need to think about place and space as well as digital presence and presentation. Additionally, I believe rhetorical sovereignty is an essential part of this project. So, I should make sure this project is one that incorporates the voices of the community it represents.
In short, I must ask myself some questions to start working on this project:

  • How will the topic of my project be presented? What kind of digital space will be most useful in promoting the topic of the project?
  • What community will this digital presence represent? How will the community be reached and represented in this digital format?  How can the community interact with this online presence?
  • How can it be useful and informative for both the community it represents? What needs does it meet for the community?  How will it encourage community engagement?
  • How will the visualization of the data explore the issue in new and useful ways that will develop and clarify connections within the data? How will this format be more effective than any other format that could be used?
  • What kind of interactive design on the website will help create activism and unity within the community? What new understanding and development of the topic will this digitization be able to present to help the community?

No matter which community I end up supporting with this project, I know I want to promote activism and engagement. All three of these communities have strong links to my world and life. It is a difficult choice and one I must make soon.
Any feedback you want to give is very welcome!
Thank you!
Wado!
どうもありがと!

doyleras

By

November 4, 2016

Introducing John Doyle-Raso//Building a database of Lake Victoria’s environment and economy

November 4, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello all! I am a second-year doctoral student in the Department of History. I am especially interested in studying environmental history and histories of science and technology, focusing on water politics in Africa. I am interested in historicizing the water politics of Lake Victoria as part of the broader water politics of the Nile Basin. I plan for my dissertation to address the policy shift from swamp reclamation to wetland preservation in Uganda in the second half of the twentieth century. I will conduct archival and oral research in English, Kiswahili, and Lusoga. My supervisor is Dr. Laura Fair; the other members of my comprehensive examinations committee are Drs. Walter Hawthorne (to round out my major field in African History), Jamie Monson (for Environmental History), and Georgina Montgomery (History of Science).

I began my postsecondary studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, majoring in peace studies and sociology and minoring in biology (I have an abiding interest in ecology and evolutionary biology). Thanks to an Undergraduate Student Research Award, I was able to do four months of oral research about village-level water politics in Dodoma Region, Tanzania, at this time. After my bachelor’s degree, I completed the dual master’s degree program in world and international history at Columbia University and the London School of Economics. My thesis addressed the final years of colonialism in East Africa, 1953-63, in light of the completion of the Owen Falls Dam across the Victoria Nile in 1954.

I plan for my doctoral research to extend my master’s research to address the transition from colonialism to independence in East Africa, to narrate people’s experiences with the changing politics of the lake aside from those of a narrow class of development experts, and to be the first book-length study of Nile water politics to foreground changes in East Africa. I will focus on the change in environmental policy from one of swamp reclamation to one of wetland preservation, bookended by the dates 1954-1986. This change was happening globally at the time, but had uniquely wide-ranging significance in East Africa due to the position of the region at the source of the Nile.


For my project for the CHI fellowship, 2016-17, I will build a database to document and visualize economic and environmental changes in the Lake Victoria basin. The database will both inform my analysis and serve as a way to access freely information that I have collected in Africa, Europe, and North America – a vital issue in African studies, wherein research participants and other local people often lack access to research findings.

I participated in the HILT 2016 digital humanities training prior to joining CHI this year. At HILT, I learned about an array of programs and tools for analyzing and representing data digitally; the CHI fellowship continues my exposure to these approaches. I am especially interested in programs such as CartoDB, Cytoscape, and Google Fusion Tables. Network analysis programs like Cytoscape would enable me to analyze the dynamics of overlapping networks, including: the relevant scientific communities; government, activist, and other political actors; and relationships between political and scientific leaders. Programs such as CartoDB and Google Fusion Tables would let me map these networks, and the resources about which they communicated. Environmental history is highly amenable to such approaches, given its focus on space across time.

I intend to focus on data regarding water as well as the energy and commodity industries in the Lake Victoria region in the late colonial and early postcolonial eras. I will pull this data from sources that I digitized from African, American, and European archives. This corpus contains disparate information on economic variables, such as the inputs and outputs of different industries, as well as environmental variables, like rainfall and lake level. Creating the database will help me better understand the historical context I will research for my dissertation, by structuring these sources of data spatially and temporally.

I will be able to add to this database as my research advances. For example, this summer, I visited a number of different government scientific offices in East Africa and learned that many continue to update environmental records dating to the colonial era (with some gaps). In particular, there are long-standing government programs for hydrometeorology and limnology – two disciplines with major economic and political implications in the Lake Victoria basin. The database and skills that I will develop in the CHI program would help me to ascertain what scholarship I can and cannot produce based on such sources.

In particular, my work in CHI will advance two of my primary goals for my scholarship. First, it will help me represent changes in water and land use in East Africa in an integrated manner. Land politics are central in the historiography of East Africa, and water politics were integral in shaping land usage, e.g. agriculture, forestry, mining, and wildlife conservation. Yet, the relationship between land and water in the Nile basin has received little attention, and so our understanding is incomplete.

My second goal is to produce knowledge about changes in environmental policy that occurred during the transition from colonialism to independence. Historians of development, environmental politics, and water in this context have focused on projects started by colonial governments and continued into independence. Most depict continuity, emphasizing the power of the twinned discourses of development and modernization. Thus far, historians have tended to argue that postcolonial governments continued the forceful drive for modernization begun under colonial rulers without significant changes occurring. Yet, the history of Lake Victoria affords opportunities to study historical change in this context. For instance, the collapse of the East African Community in 1971 ended a number of long-standing organizations aimed at integrating economic, political, scientific, and other activity in the region. Additionally, the policy shift from swamp reclamation to wetland preservation has reversed the valence of state objectives regarding a key link between land and water. By focusing on the shift from reclamation to preservation, I will challenge the prevailing depiction of development and modernization in Africa as extensions of the colonial state. A database of economic and environmental data over time would make it easier to analyze these changes.

 

Autumn Beyer

By

November 2, 2016

Capturing Campus Cuisine: Early Foodways at Michigan State University

November 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

I love food, and this year I am combining this love with both of my fellowship, Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) and Campus Archaeology Program, into a focused research project on the Early Period of MSU’s campus (1855-1870). Within the Campus Archaeology fellowship I am working with fellow Susan Kooiman on a meal reconstruction project. This involves using archival research along with the identification of archaeological food remains, both plant and animal materials, from MSU’s campus excavations. My CHI project will be creating the website that publicizes the meal reconstruction event to be held in the spring, as well as include background information about the project focusing on our research methods and reconstruction areas.

Read More