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December 5, 2018

What does Digital Humanities mean to you?

December 5, 2018 | By | No Comments

A few days ago, in the office, my co-workers referred to me as the “DH person”. “The DH group” is also used to refer to the scholars on MSU campus who work with Digital Humanities. On the one hand, I am proud to be recognized as a “DH person.” On the other hand, I still sense the connotation of that description; there is a distinction between the “DH people” and the “non – DH people”. However, I would like to argue that “DH” should never be a tag that we use to make ourselves and our works look fancier, instead, DH is embedded in our academic activities in terms of studying, researching, teaching, etc. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make DH more accessible, promote DH by showing our co-workers, and the general public audience what they can do with DH. I believe the rise in popularity of DH will eventually benefit the development of huminites as a whole.

The “you” in the title of this blog does not only stand for our fellow graduate students, professors, but also for the general public regards their age and educational backgrounds. Within the field of humanities in the university setting, software makes the analysis process for quantitative research more efficient. More and more data are documented through digital forms, which makes them accessible to a larger audience. With the development of technology, digital learning and researching tools can be seen everywhere in our daily life. E-books and online learning systems provide students who live in remote areas access to acquire knowledge, which benefits not only the people in the school setting, but also everyone who has the desire for learning in various fields. Living in this digital age, we are no longer isolated by geographic distance.

DH is nothing scary. DH is about humanities scholars using digital tools to conduct research, to study and to teach in a more appealing way. DH is never the end goal, but a means. A means that assists humanities to step further, look deeper, and speak louder. Within the framework of CHI fellowship, I, as a German scholar focusing on cultural studies, can combine various forms of materials with the assistance of digital tools and present them to a wider audience. The project I am currently working on is presenting the stories of the German national football team players with immigration background. A map that shows the player’s heritage provides a direct visual assistant. Projects such as this could be a gateway for German language students to develop a better understanding of the multicultural situation in Germany. Currently the project is only available in English, however, more language options could be added at a later stage. Combining football and language teaching could also trigger the learner’s enthusiasm for using the language in a real-life setting, rather than simply finishing activities in a textbook. The project as such could strongly benefit language teaching and turn the learning process towards a more communicative way.

Although DH may not seem like a scary term for us, the “DH people”, it could still be intimidating for those who are not familiar with it. We should not be content with the “glory” DH brought us and forget the original intention that brought us to work with DH: presenting our research in a more comprehensive way; making our research more accessible to a larger audience; and overall, bringing humanities to the next era.

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November 12, 2018

Mapping the Hooligans

November 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 2013, ProFans published a public statement that pointed out the rise of the right-wing extremist activities in German football stadiums. The statement by ProFans, the largest football fan organization, appealed to the relevant parties to work together and to avoid the deterioration of the situation. After Merkel opened the borders to refugees in 2015, almost one million refugees left their home countries and arrived in Germany. The social change provided right-wing extremists an excuse to expand their organization. Accordingly, the number of violent activities inside the stadium planned by right-wing extremist rose dramatically.

Die Bundespolizei hinderte 42 Hooligans an der Ausreise

There are various types of fans in German soccer culture. Since the subgroups inside the fan population overlap with each other, sometimes it is hard for the public to distinguish between the different fan groups. Those who support their football club in an ultra-fanatical way are categorized as the ultras. In contrast, the hooligans are fans with extremely violent behaviors. Some fan groups may be influenced by political ideologies such as conservatism or socialism, or exhibit racist behaviors, ranging from avowed nationalism to anti-fascism. Recently, the fan group most frequently criticized in mass media is the right-wing extremist football fan who conducts violent crimes inside the stadium.

Journalists have documented cases of right-wing extremist football fans conducting crime since at least 2013. For example, Borussia Dortmund has long been the most attractive club for neo-Nazis in the state of North Rhine- Westphalia. Eastern Germany also has a noticeable scene. Faust des Ostens is a hooligan group connected to the Dynamo Dresden football club. Right-wing extremist speech and behavior appear not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the lower leagues. Six football fans celebrated Energie Cottbus’ promotion by marching through the city in Ku Klux Klan hoods. In 2017, SV Babelsberg fans got into a fight with Energies Cottbus fans because the EC fans baited them with Nazi chants, such as “Arbeit macht frei, Babelsberg null drei”.

In the contemporary political context, how are political ideologies, in this case, specifically the right-wing extremist ideologies present here, used, and promoted among the football fans? On the one hand, football as a cultural product provides a platform for various types of audience to express their feelings. On the other hand, recognizing and analyzing the current situation could be beneficial in terms of deepening our understanding of the right-wing extremist movements in German society.

Working with the CHI fellowship allows me to present the Hooligan culture from a different point of view. With the help of the new technical mapping tools we’ve been using in the last couple of weeks, I could simply pinpoint the hooligan activities of various clubs on a customized map. Instead of depicting the hooligan activities through text, a well-designed map could present the reality in a more direct, and clear way. Since hooligan activities do not only accrue in the Bundesliga level, but also in the lower leagues, I would use different colors for each league. Through the geographical description, the reader can also see the differences between the five new federal states and the ten old states, which could lead to the next level analysis. Furthermore, within each league, certain teams have traditional rivals. Some may be in the same area, but in the opposite side of the city. The hooligan activities always rise to the next level when two rival teams play with each other. With the visual presentation, readers will have an easier time tracking down and understanding the complicated relationship between football clubs.

The German hooligan groups also share a connection with other hooligan groups throughout Europe, which could also be depicted through the map. Since the map could be easily inserted in a website, other cultural phenomena could also be listed to this website, such as the clothing culture of right-wing extremists, certain musical groups, etc. Websites, as one of the digital platforms, play a significant role in combining geographical, visual, textual information and linking research subjects. The ultimate goal of mapping the hooligan culture is to show the public that right-wing extremists have been using football as a tool for conducting violence, spreading fear, and promoting extremist ideologies. As the ProFans said, “the right-wing extremist is not part of our creative, diverse, colorful and loud fan culture in the stadium.” *

* „Die extreme Rechte ist nicht Teil der kreativen, vielfältigen, bunten und lauten Fankultur in unseren Stadien.“- ProFans

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October 16, 2018

Who am I? Nationality, identity, and digital tools

October 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 1922, Albert Einstein said, “Since the theory of relativity is accepted by the readers, nowadays, I am recognized as a ‘German scholar’ in Germany and the ‘Swiss Jew’ in Britain. However, if my theory is no longer popular or accepted, then I immediately turn into the ‘Swiss Jew’ for the Germans and the ‘German scholar’ for the British.”*

The quote above is Einstein’s answer to the question “who am I?”. One can simply answer this one of the most frequently mentioned philosophical questions with his name, occupation, nationality or other characteristics. Nationality is one of the distinctive characteristics that could potentially help people to identify themselves. However, under the effect of the globalization and other historical events, the migration of populations tends to play a significant role at this present stage. Under this background, identifying oneself simply with nationality becomes more complicated. Not only does the individual need to find out to which nationality (nationalities) do they belong, but their choice is also affected by the question, “what do other people think I am?”

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September 24, 2018

Titi Kou: The one who can’t think of a good title

September 24, 2018 | By | No Comments

Hallo! Titi here. My full name is Tianyi Kou and I am a second year PhD student in German Studies. Titi is my nickname that my family used to call me when I was younger and I really liked it. When I moved to Michigan, I just decided to go with it and so far it’s been working well. (laugh)

I was born and raised in Beijing, China, where I received my bachelor and M.A degrees in German Studies. During the second year of the M.A, I moved to Erfurt, Germany for a year as an exchange student. Aside from attending seminars, I spent most of the time traveling in Germany and in Europe. I rode a bike to a small town on the west side of Europe in the Netherlands and touched the North Sea. I also spent ten hours down in a mine, eating bratwurst and quarrying beautiful minerals. With an extroverted personality, I prefer to talk to local people and learn about their life and culture. Older people tend to have the best stories to share. They are the living history book!

MSU German department and its supportive attitude towards my research interest attracted me to move here and to start a new chapter of my life. Within the field of German Studies, I mainly focus on examining how soccer as a cultural phenomenon relates to German national identity. In order to present a clear picture of how Germany’s soccer competition system evolved to the present days, I intend to use digital tools to enhance the accessibility of the history and provide a more explicit overview.

In addition, I am also looking forward to getting to know more people from other fields and to observe how they conduct their research. So far I’ve been working with Dan, Zach, and Shewonda and they are great teammates! Each one of them has their specialties and they are all super charming in different ways.

Next thing that needs our full attention: WHAT SHOULD WE EAT FOR LUNCH next Friday? (All suggestions are welcomed.)