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2017 November

ellio252

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November 15, 2017

How to Visualize Changing Cultural Practices

November 15, 2017 | By | No Comments

Our project proposals are soon due, and I have been thinking about what I would like to show on my future website. In my previous blogs, I have focused a great deal on showing how the physical space that is Moscow has changed, considering the intersections of Soviet and post-Soviet. Today, I turn my attention toward Soviet socialism’s influences on labor migration policies in Russian today, which will serve as the main focus of my website.

During the Soviet period, migration solved the problem of labor shortages in Moscow. Since 1932, the internal passports and domicile registration regulated movement within the Soviet Union. In order to live in the capital, would-be residents needed to prove they had employment within the city to then procure a domicile registration. In 1932, the domicile registration curbed rural to urban migration spurred by collectivization, industrialization, and famine, but by the 1970s, Soviet academics argued that such registration prevented urban sprawl and poverty seen in capitalist countries.

Restricting migration to Moscow (and other large Soviet cities for that matter) created a conundrum. Economic planners continued to open factories in Moscow, which then spurred the need for additional housing, schools, and the construction workers who made it possible. Although technically barred from in-migration, many Soviet citizens eagerly left behind rural villages for the city. To facilitate the symbiosis of a rural exodus to cities short on laborers, economic planners and the Moscow Soviet (city council) issued a temporary domicile registration and a bed in a dormitory to these labor migrants. In the course of four to six years, such migrants became eligible for permanent residency.

The Soviet practice of issuing temporary domicile registration offered migrants a sense of security – the legal right to live in the city (even if only temporarily at first) and a place to live. Additionally, many dormitories offered cultural development programs that provided classes for improving work qualifications, excursions throughout Moscow and the Soviet Union, and participation in intramural sports. Migrants became incorporated into a community, while enterprise directors also viewed these policies favorably, arguing that migrant involvement decreased hooliganism and absenteeism.

In certain ways, temporary labor migration to Moscow is similar to its Soviet predecessor. Today, the Moscow City Council sets quotas of foreign workers by sectors of the economy. Companies can then hire these workers on a temporary basis. Migrants can temporarily register their presence in the city and often live in dormitories or hostels. Despite the bureaucratic similarities, today’s migrants are often left more vulnerable. Companies do not run the dormitories, and therefore, few, if any cultural development programs exist. A lack of shared Soviet citizenship has also left migrants from the former Soviet republics with fewer legal protections.

My next task is to determine how to illustrate these changes. During my summer research trip to Moscow, I took pictures of Soviet structures to illustrate how they function today. I have archival information on Soviet and post-Soviet labor recruitment practices, but I will spend the next weeks discovering means of visualizing this information.

Julia DeCook

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November 10, 2017

Ethics of digital data collection: The debate continues

November 10, 2017 | By | No Comments

The conversation around digital data collection and ethics behind it often default to rules/laws that exist in “face-to-face” data collection: if it’s in a public arena, then the rules are the same for observing people in physical public spaces. However, as many within the realm of digital data know, the idea of “public” can vary in the virtual sphere, and further, questions have been raised whether or not we as researchers have the right to use posts and other digital artifacts posted by users if they posted them without the intention of the posts being discovered and used without their consent by researchers. Basically, if someone knew that eventually their content would be used in research, would they have posted it at all? It’s the digital Hawthorne Effect.

This brings up a few issues with the approach of studying online communities, particularly on Reddit where they have the option to go private and the larger issue of there being Discord Servers, IRC channels, Slack channels, etc. where the members congregate. This then brings up the issue of gaining consent from every single member that frequents those closed access communities, and even on Facebook there are a number of closed groups that require membership to view their content. Although we can all agree that when something is closed it is no longer in the “public sphere” of the Internet, there’s one thing that I’ve grappled with in terms of looking for things using hashtags – if I happen to come across, say, an Instagram account because they used a hashtag once, can I then look at their account and use other posts by them if there are no hashtags on any of their other posts?

Basically – is visibility and “searchable”-ness (through hashtags) a facet of what constitutes “public” data, or is the mere fact that the account itself is public (i.e., not locked down and private) sufficient? If it doesn’t have a hashtag, does it exist in the public sphere?

Digital research can become incredibly messy, not just because of the types of content that exist online that help to paint a picture of social and cultural life through multiple modalities, but also because of the questions of ethics that arise throughout these processes. Postill and Pink (2012) talk about “hashtag sociality” in their work discussing ethnographies in virtual environments, and that hashtags are not merely a part of online culture but serve as an organizing function for topics like a web forum does (Solis, 2011). This still complicates my earlier question in whether or not content from an account that has hashtags on some posts but not others are still “public”.

The Intenet as a public sphere has been a topic of discussion for decades now, but laws surrounding internet privacy and mobility still challenge the status of “public-ness” and “open-ness” that the Internet is typically known for. It is more complex, and because of its ever-changing nature, constantly being differentiated from traditional notions of public-ness.

Hashtags are now ubiquitous in online interactions, and may be complicating some of the questions of ethics surrounding what data is “open” and “public” and what is not. I wonder where these conversations surrounding digital data ethics will go, especially since now there are so many concerns about how so much of our lives have gone digital and the risk of privacy involved in using this data in research without the person’s knowledge (not necessarily consent, but maybe even consent). There are clear and defined expectations and rules for what is public and private (open versus closed group), but what is someone just posts something without granting it discoverable markers? Is it still public then? I don’t know if this adds an unnecessary complciation to the ethics debate, but it is one that I’ve been curious about throughout my own research.

Nicole Raslich

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November 9, 2017

Maps and Landscapes

November 9, 2017 | By | One Comment

Having completed a recent digital mapping exercise in CHI, maps and digitization has been a part of my daily thought process for several weeks now. As a kid, I always loved maps. I would stare at them and dream about all the places I wanted to go and the adventures I would have. An entire wall of my bedroom was a large map of the United States, by large I mean at least 6’ x 5’, from the Air Force. It was so fun to stand on my bed and read the names of cities all over the country and see where Air Force bases were located. As an adult, whenever I travel to a new country, a map is the first thing I order to take with me or buy when I land. I have a collection of atlases and maps from everywhere I have traveled, including historic maps of some foreign countries I have been too. My office walls are full of antique map and globes. I even enjoy maps from places that are not real.

For our mapping project, we did the land of Middle Earth and mapped the journey of Frodo and Bilbo, overlapping various points throughout the stories where they intersect. This lead to me thinking about other kinds of maps I use. Being an avid gamer, one of the most important features of any game, is the map. Any massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) requires the use of a map, that’s why it is so important to explore the realms and reveal the map on any game. Even on racing games, a map is essential. The evolution of landscapes, both digital and real are fascinating to look at through topography and cartography. If anyone has ever seen a map of Michigan from the 1600’s, you find it looks like a weird, triangular piece of earth, jutting into the lake.

map of michigan 1600's

Click here for more information about this map.

This looks nothing like the beautiful mitten we all know and love today (unless you’re from Wisconsin maybe).

xray of michigan and wisconsin

 

Click here to learn more about the real mitten state.

Our sense of self-identity is tied to maps and the landscapes we consider home. What do you say when someone asks, ‘Where are you from?’ What image does this question bring to mind? Now this brings me to something I am excited about. At BlizzCon recently, the new World of Warcraft expansion was announced, complete with trailers and new maps.

Much like our own cartography, the maps of our MMORPG’s change and evolve with new continents being discovered. This expansion shows to be no different (Expansion News). Those of us that have played WoW since it’s early beta days in 2003, know all too well the familiar terrains of Azeroth and are only too excited to explore the new lands opened with each expansion. As a player, you become familiar with the capital cities, the paths there and the various terrains and animals encountered in each. We know intimately the homeland of our chosen race and the home continent of our allegiance, be it Horde or Alliance, much as we know the familiar stomping grounds of our physical homelands. These digital landscapes change as much as our own physical ones through time. Compare Azeroth here at the origin of WoW, in the days of old when we could only travel via foot, flight path or boat.

map of azeroth

Here you see the map as it looks now, six expansions later.

draenor world map

As the game has evolved over time, new continents have been revealed along with new races on these inhabited lands, much like the coast of Michigan. This entire train of consciousness has been brought on because the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly approaching, and I hope to have time to flee back into my favorite digital and/or physical glades be they in the eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, the Upper Peninsula or somewhere new.

The landscapes we inhabit are our home. We become used to them as we travel the slopes and explore the depths of the worlds around us and sometimes fail to notice the small changes that take place until we are away for a significant time. Over the U.S. holiday, take the time to enjoy your homelands and their associated families, both digital and physical. Notice the landscape both beneath your fingers and feet and appreciate their beauty. Happy Thanksgiving!

For Azeroth!