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pebbles1

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December 3, 2016

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

December 3, 2016 | By | No Comments

One of the challenges I have when doing research is focusing my work and narrowing the topic. I do not think this is an unusual issue to have. However, it is one I have struggled with this past month. I think this is obvious from my last post.
When I first talked with Ethan about my possible topics for this project, we talked about narrowing it; however, we also discussed some other potential areas of research and I left our conversation with even more ideas than I had going into it. Ethan pointed out that one of the challenges in my project ideas is the relative paucity of research for me to lean on for my project, but there is so much potential in what I can do and there is much to explore.
This is part of the challenge. I keep finding myself being distracted by the openness of the topic: I understand and know the need to make sure my project is contained and focused, but I keep seeing all the open space beyond it. So, as I limit my topic to aspects of rhetorical sovereignty around Idle No More and Standing Rock, I see the issues of water, oil corporations, Native American studies, treaty law, government, tribal and community alliances, gender studies, as well as the linguistic and rhetorical structures and patterns that are present in these areas of study on the activist movements I am working with in my project.
One of the things I have been struggling with is thinking about what topic I want to explore after this project is completed. I want to set it up to make it easy for me to add on to it later. This, too, means I am aware of the open areas beyond the limited scope of this project as I see potential connections in my future studies. However, these decisions are difficult to make, as they are all interesting subjects that I want to delve into and explore. In the meantime, I continue to focus and try to not get distracted by the space all around me.
But, then again, …
SQUIRREL!!

swayampr

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December 2, 2016

Naughty Norris

December 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

While my project has changed, I am still trying to figure what the UI of my website will be. City plans tend to be static and insipid unless you are a city planner/architect/urban designer in which you start critiquing it. But I am getting ahead of myself. Currently as it stands my project will try and understand the connections between cities and infrastructural projects such as dams. My test site is the town of Norris in Tennessee built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Today, parts of Norris are on the National Register for Historical Places. In trying to bring out connections between cities and infrastructure, I think it is important to bring out human stories. I anticipate using photographs (from the Library of Congress FSA collection) to think about the urban form. One of underlying aspects of my project is to try and analyze Norris for what it is — a model company town that embodied a certain utopia.

So then what is the story? Simply put the story is to try and think about the relationships between cities and infrastructure through people’s lives.

Meet Norris!

Town Plan of Norris

 

The chief architect of the Norris idea was TVA Chairman Arthur Morgan. On paper, Earle Draper, was the town planner. The immediate purpose of the town was to house the workers building Norris Dam about four miles away on the Clinch River. The second subliminal goal might have been to show America that how cooperative living might work.

The houses in Norris were supposed to be built on a modest and tasteful scale, with an eye to community as much as comfort. In design, they were to balance the traditions of the Tennessee Valley (building materials of natural stone and native cedar, and a porch on every house) with modern conveniences. It is important to remember that at the time of its construction, the region around Norris was less than 10 percent electrified. Norris on the other hand was to be fully electric, with ceiling heat and refrigerators in every home.

Norris Town Center

Norris was also supposed to be a completely walkable town. Modelled around the garden city concept, the town would be surrounded by a buffer zone of protected, undeveloped forest that would keep the ugly outside world at bay. Thus the people of Norris would in theory be able to visit their neighbors, walk to school, the grocery store etc—all without getting into a car.

As I research though I am beginning to think about the user experience. Right now my idea is to create a website where users can use the city plan to navigate the lives of the people who lived in the town through clickable icons. In addition, longer essays would be cross linked. One of the ideas I am kicking around is to create a 3D model of the city plan that users could interact with on the website.

However, I am looking for new ideas, so any ideas would be most welcome!

 

 

 

 

nesbit17

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December 2, 2016

Workshopping: How to Model Variation

December 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

As a variationist sociolinguist, my research focuses on the way language varies and changes in communities of speakers and concentrates in particular on the interaction of social factors (such as a speaker’s gender, ethnicity, age, degree of integration into their community, etc) ModelingVariationand linguistic structures (such as sounds, grammatical forms, intonation features, words, etc). As such, when trying to visually represent and statistically model the effects of various variables, many a variationist has simply defaulted to a statistician, throwing in the towel and hanging our head in shame.

Thankfully, I think my field has found a savior and is finally able to walk out of the dark ages.  I attended a workshop at the latest conference I attended (NWAV 45) and learned how to model variation through the use of an interactive application built as a Shiny app with various statistical and graphical R packages (a programming language I am already quite familiar with).  The Language Variation Suite “allows one to handle imbalanced data, measure individual and group variation and rank variables according to their significance”.  The best thing about this suite is that it is easy to use and requiring minimal programming skills.  Much of the interface requires only a drag/drop process.

I am in the process of writing my second qualifying paper for my degree and have low-key been procrastinating because I have had no idea how to deal with the interaction of all the variables I care about.  This suite has come at the perfect time in my academic career and I can’t wait to try it out!

Autumn Beyer

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December 1, 2016

3D Modeling and Archaeology at MSU

December 1, 2016 | By | No Comments

This past summer at the Morton Village site, located in Central Illinois, the joint Michigan State University and Dickson Mounds Museum archaeological field school uncovered an artifact unique to the site. It is an zoomorphic sandstone block pipe, that we are interpreting as being similar to a bison! This artifact remains housed at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Havana, IL, but the co-directors, Drs. Jodie O’Gorman and Mike Conner, and myself were interested in creating a three dimensional model, both digital and printed. There are several reasons for this. First, because the artifact has delicate surface alterations including pigmentation and charred reside it cannot be handled without risk of damage. Second, because the object is housed in a different state, Michigan State University students would not be able to see the object themselves, and it could not be used in any public talks or classroom lectures. Having both a digital version as well as a printed model allows professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students to teach and learn about this object without the risk of damage that would be present with the original artifact.

Morton Village Sandstone Block Pipe

Morton Village Sandstone Block Pipe

How the models were created:

Using the resources available to anthropology and history students and faculty in LEADR, I was trained in photogrammetry and 3D modeling. As I am learning different techniques to create 3D models, I also used the NextEngine Scan Studio to create a second (not pictured) model. For the creation of the the final model, I focused solely on the photogrammetry images. After taking the photos, I imported the images into AgiSoft photoscan to create the model.  After aligning the photos, cleaning up the point dense cloud, erasing points that were picked up from the background of the photos, and aligning the points from the two rounds of photos, I had a complete model! This final version was uploaded to Sketchfab under LEADR’s account, but is being held private until final approval by the Illinois State Museum system. Hopefully we will be able to release the model to the publish soon!

Finally, I then took the digital model and printed it using the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ in LEADR. It took several tries and troubleshooting, but eventually I was able to print a high-quality version of the pipe!

3D Printed Morton Block Pipe

3D Printed Morton Block Pipe

If you would like to hear more about this project, feel free to come to the LOCUS talk (on modeling) today from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. in the MSU Main Library, 3W REAL Classroom where I will be giving a presentation!

If you are doing any 3D modeling in archaeology I would love to hear about it! What other ways are you using photogrammetry or laser scanning to create models?

Nikki Silva

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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.

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mahnkes1

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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

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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

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November 15, 2016

Navigating the visualization of language and identity in Norway

November 15, 2016 | By | 2 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

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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

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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.