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September 16, 2014

CHI Fellowship Introduction: J. M. Bradshaw

September 16, 2014 | By | No Comments

I study the history of greater Western Sahara, an area that stretches from southern Morocco to the upper reaches of the Senegal river. The project I plan to develop with Matrix through my CHI fellowship will take a broad look at the African Islamic World as it appears in Anglophone media. I will present the relationship between the Anglophone world and Islamic Africa. I will also explore the different ways Anglophone art, and literature have exoticized Islamic Africa. The intellectual framework for my project comes from a long standing fascination I have had with the idea of Islamic Africa’s early involvement in the Atlantic world.

This interest began when I was an undergraduate at the College of Charleston when my advisor and mentor Assan Sarr showed me runaway slave advertisements that featured Muslim names. I hope to showcase some of the work Sylviane Diouf and Ralph Austen have already contributed on this topic. However, the part of the project that I am most excited about is an analysis of 19th century travel literature that told stories of shipwrecked sailors enslaved in the lands of Islam. This literature appeals to me in for two reasons. First I think a cautious and studious reader could glean bits of usable ethnographic information from these accounts. Secondly I am interested in them because they are in a way a kind of slave narrative. They offer not only accounts of individuals, but insight into the discourse of race, abolitionism, and human rights at the time they were written.


What will this project look like? I would like to use MSU’s Overcoming Apartheid site as a model. My project will have the Overcoming Apartheid site’s mix of visual components and essays.  I will also write and design for undergraduate students interested in Africa and the Islam. Like many things in academia these deliverables are subject to change, but I think talking about my digital project gives some insight into my academic interests.



September 12, 2014

CHI Fellowship Introduction: Lisa Bright

September 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

I’m excited to be returning to MSU, and working with digital humanities. I completed my B.S. in Anthropology at MSU in 2007, and went straight into the M.A. program at California, State University Chico. At Chico, I focused on forensic anthropology, and my thesis involved the use of remote recording equipment and geographic information systems to monitor and track scavenger impact to pig carcasses. After graduating I worked as an osteologist on the excavation and on-site analysis of a historic paupers cemetery in Northern California. I then went on to work as a lecturer for the CSU, Chico anthropology department, as well as teach an online anthropology course for a community college.

I’m back at MSU to study mortuary archaeology. Specifically, I will be analyzing the pathological conditions found at the paupers cemetery I worked on, and compare them to a more urban paupers cemetery from a similar time period. My goal while working as a CHI fellow is to create a digital database/archive for the collection, starting with the data collected on-site. I feel that this is especially important because all of the skeletal remains are being cremated for repatriation at the end of the study period, in approximately ten years. By incorporating digital technology from the beginning of the research, I hope to create a more productive environment for scholars to use the information now, and after the remains are cremated.

Brian Geyer


September 11, 2014

CHI Fellowship Introductions: Brian Geyer

September 11, 2014 | By | One Comment

Hi everyone! If you don’t remember me from last year, my name is (still) Brian Geyer and I’m now a 3rd year anthropology graduate student here at Michigan State University. My research – which I apparently neglected to discuss last year – involves the intersection of land tenure issues and conservation policies near the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and how local communities respond to these issues and policies in ways that affect their systems of inequality.

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September 11, 2014

Ngiyabuya! (I Am Returning!)

September 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

I’m very excited (much more excited than the gentleman to the left!) to be returning to CHI for the 2014-2015 academic year.  I learned so much last year, both in terms of technical ability and conceptually in terms of the importance of digital cultural preservation, and I am really honored to get the chance to further expand that knowledge and get to collaborate with a whole new group of fellows.  Returning to the program also allows me the chance to continue developing my project.

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David Bennett


June 13, 2014

Visualizing Southern Television 2.0: Expanding Television’s Reach

June 13, 2014 | By | No Comments

Television is a geographically complex technology, as its signals ignore state and national boundaries and the physical location of a station’s tower is not as important, historically, as the distance traveled by its signal at any given point in time.  While Visualizing Southern Television (VST) 1.0 offers a visual map of television stations’ tower locations, such a map is a limited representation of whether broadcasts would have been received by viewers.

Over the course of the summer, I will be working on VST 2.0, the goal of which is to visualize the estimated reach of each tower’s broadcasts, over time, in order to show which geographical areas were within the reach of each broadcast signal. In order to achieve this, the first upgrade I will have to make is to substitute the Geo Mashup mapping interface of VST 1.0 (see Figure 1 below) with JavaScript (see Figure 2).

As shown above in Figure 2, the new interface will visually display the approximate distance each signal was being transmitted at any point in time, with each upgrade to a new antenna recorded on a separate sub-post. (Note: the above mock-up displays visual capability without regard to data—in other words, Figure 2 is intended to show visual capability of software, not accurate station data.)

VST 2.0 will also project through time as well.  Right now VST 1.0 shows all of the television stations as they were on air in 1965.  VST 2.0 will be more dynamic, showing the map through various points between 1942 and 1965.  This second upgrade will involve the addition of a time-restricted Slider bar (see Figure 3 below and source), which will link the map display to a timeline, allowing the user to move the slider and watch as stations begin operations and signals increase range. Overall, these changes will ultimately result in a far more robust and informative mapping interface (see Figure 3).

These upgrades to the user interface will result in a much more detailed representation of the reach of television to communities in the American South during this period.



May 14, 2014

CUBORIENTE: Image Mapping Africa-Inspired Religio-Cultural Heritage in Eastern Cuba…Launched!

May 14, 2014 | By | One Comment

The Cuboriente website project is dedicated to a digital image mapping of Africa-inspired religio-cultural heritage in the eastern, Oriente region of Cuba. Motivated by the opportunities of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative (CHI), Cuboriente developed from a desire to contribute to Afro-Caribbean digital humanities work. The project is grounded in the eastern Cuba research of the African Atlantic Research Team (AART) of Michigan State University. The website represents the collaborative efforts of Prof. Jualynne E. Dodson, director of AART, CHI Fellow Shanti Zaid, and Dr. Sonya Maria Johnson, building on the work and resources of the Research Team. We created Cuboriente as a digital public educational resource to showcase some of the African heritage religious and cultural activity from a region of the island that few have a chance to see.

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May 12, 2014

rapKenya is Launched!

May 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

rapKenya imageI am excited to launch my project, rapKenya, which can be viewed at . rapKenya is intended to be a one-stop online resource for people interested in accessing and learning more about Kenyan hip-hop culture, particularly rap music.There are two components of this project: 1) digitization and annotation of Kenyan hip-hop lyrics and, 2) building of an online Sheng dictionary. Both components work towards the goal of giving people access to Kenyan hip-hop lyrics and help them discover the meaning of the lyrics. So far, I have completed what I would call the phase one of this project. I have built a website where this project will live using Foundation5 html framework.

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Ethan Watrall


May 12, 2014

Call for 2014-2015 Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship Applications

May 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative invites applications for its 2014-2015 Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowship program.

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowships offer MSU graduate students in departments and programs with an emphasis on cultural heritage (Anthropology, History, Art History, Museum Studies, Historical & Cultural Geography, Classics, etc.) the theoretical and methodological skills necessary to creatively apply information, computing, and communication technologies to cultural heritage materials. In addition, the fellowships provide graduate students with the opportunity to influence the current state of cultural heritage informatics, and become leaders for the future of cultural heritage informatics.

During the course of their fellowship (which lasts an academic year), students will collaboratively develop a significant and innovative cultural heritage informatics project. Projects might include (but are certainly not limited to) a serious game, a mobile application, a digital archive, or a collaborative digital publication. To support their work, fellows will receive a stipend of $2000 Read More

David Walton


May 11, 2014

Introducing the Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Center

May 11, 2014 | By | One Comment

Introducing the Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Center (VBRCHC), whose web address is:


I must begin by stating that I was born and raised in Romulus, MI.  I attended Cory Elementary, Romulus Middle School and Romulus High School.  This project is a labor of love. It truly all began when I was an elementary school student at Cory Elementary.  My mother took my siblings and me to the IGA Super Market.   On the wall was a mural that represented the Black heritage in Romulus.  I was shocked and amazed.  As I continued my education in middle and high school, no one could decipher nor translate the mural into common lay person terms.  I asked my elementary and middle school teachers about the information represented in the mural, but as people that were not from Romulus, they were ill equipped to address my questions.  From that moment forward, I have been dedicated to presenting the history, heritage and legacy of African Americans to the development of Romulus, MI.  Thus, my 2013-2014 Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) project is titled the “Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Map (VBRCHM).”  The VBRCHM is the first step of a larger project, the Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Center (VBRCHC).  This project is the manifestation of that childhood dream and passion. Read More

David Bennett


May 9, 2014

Visualizing Southern Television (v. 1.0) Launched!

May 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

In 1987, the University of Mississippi held a symposium entitled “Covering the South: A National Symposium on the Media and the Civil Rights Movement” wherein participants discussed the influence of media on the civil rights movement. During one panel, a group consisting of eleven Pulitzer Prize winners and three Emmy awardees make huge claims about television’s role in the movement. CBS reporter Robert Schakne claimed that “Little Rock was the first case where people really got their impression of an event from television. It was the event that nationalized a news story that would have remained a local story if it had just been a print story.”[1] NBC news correspondent John Chancellor touted that reporters “were able to show [southerners] themselves on television. They’d never seen themselves. They didn’t know their necks were red. They didn’t know they were overweight. The blacks didn’t know what they looked like… [These images provoked] a profound reaction in both the black and white communities, because they’d never seen that, because we never see ourselves.”[2] While these comments are clearly disturbing in their simplification of southern self-awareness, they also illustrate a problematic and commonly held view of television’s relationship with historical events. For these journalists, it seems, television made these historical events important. Read More