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koutiany

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May 10, 2019

Launching the project

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

At the end of Spring Semester 2019, I have finally finished my first website project “Multiculturalism in German Football World” with the full support from the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fellowship. As a beginner in the field of digital humanities, I have very limited experience with using data visualization tools, reading and writing codes, etc. This project is simply a starting point for me to try out the tools out there and to gain experience with basic computer languages, such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Here is a map that depicts the birthplaces of the players from 2006 to 2018.
(Light –> Dark Blue)

As a German Studies scholar, my research primarily focuses on the perception of multiculturalism in the German Football World and the relationship between football and national identity. I intended to use this website as a platform to present facts I have summarized, which will be used as evidence to support my dissertation arguments in the future. This project views the concept “Multiculturalism” from two levels: national and regional. On the national level, I traced and mapped out the heritage of each player who played for the German national team in the World Cups from 1990 to 2018. As the map shows, the national team has become more multicultural-orientated after reunification. On the regional level, I examined the existence of a certain cultural phenomenon that happens in the football world, hooliganism, and how certain fan groups borrow political ideologies to justify their behaviors that are anti-multiculturalism. In addition, I also added a single page that summaries and update the social media posts related to players that have multicultural backgrounds.

During the process of creating this website, not only did I gained the skill of using digital tools and building website, but also the ability for solving the issue through the internet, my colleagues, and other professionals. Trying to acquire a computer language or simply trying to understand how does website work from the other end is quite challenging for a beginner. After all the frustration I experienced and all the coffee I drunk along the way, I still would like to say “it has been a fun journey and I hope I could do it again soon.”

plemonsa

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May 10, 2019

The Launch of MapMorph

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

MapMorph: Teaching Human Variation is pedagogical tool for teaching the history and implications of race theory in biological anthropology, as well as the causative forces controlling human variation (climate and genetics). The website describes how climate is known to influence the human form, such as cranial size and shape and body ratios. This project changed drastically from its inception, but I hope that it will serve the intended audience. The target audience for this project is middle and high school students, as well as introductory college courses.

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franc230

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May 10, 2019

CHIMIRA Launch Post

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

            CHIMIRA is a metadata schema created for the management and description of cultural heritage assets within an archaeological purview. This metadata schema was incorporated into a digital repository for MSU collections. While the digital repository has been finished and data entry is under way, there is currently no front-end framework to display these data to the public (though there are plans for one in the near future). Since there is no public website linking to my project, I have linked to my GitHub, which contains the documentation for CHIMIRA.

Screenshot of the Project Home for the Digital Library

            Every good metadata scheme has a name. In respect of the fellowship which allowed for the creation of this one, I decided to name my metadata scheme CHIMIRA: The Cultural Heritage Informatics Metadata Initiative for Research in Archaeology. In addition to thanking the CHI fellowship, I wanted the name to reflect how it is many-parted like the mythical, Greek chimera. Multiple metadata standards are responsible for the creation of CHIMIRA, including: CARARE, TDAR/Digital Antiquity, ARGUS, DCMI, CIDOC CRM, and LIDO. With an archaeological audience in mind, I chose parts of these standards which would best consider the identification, provenience and description of heritage assets. The goal was to create a database which could flexibly describe cultural heritage in its many forms and in a detailed manner. The ability to conduct research with this database was not the goal, but it is a possibility. At the very least, the level of detail that can be described will make the planning of research an order of magnitude easier.

Once the standards and entities were chosen, they had to be fit into the particular structure that the digital repository application, KORA, calls for. This eventually led to a structure with 8 overarching forms: Collection Information, Heritage Asset, Digital Resource, Document, Site, Activity, Actors, and ARGUS ID (see the link for the full metadata schema). These forms allow records to be created for archaeological phenomena which may be associated with the archaeological collections at MSU: a specific collection would fall under Collection Information; an artifact would fall under Heritage Asset; an image or 3D model would fall under Digital Resource; and so on. Any of these records can then be associated with one another. Every Heritage Asset, for example will be able to be associated with its relevant collection.

Screenshot of the CHIMIRA Forms

The end result is a new digital repository using a new metadata standard for MSU archaeology collections. Data from the Butterfield Collection have provided the initial substance for this repository, but plans exist to incorporate all data from MSU archaeology collections into the digital repository. This will greatly increase the ease of managing collections and planning research using these collections. Further, this cultural heritage will be available online through the anthropology website both as raw data and as digital exhibits interpreting various aspects of the collections.

Data Entry Page for One of the Forms

The next step in this project will be the incorporation of this digital repository into a front-end framework that can display the data and resources. This will be in the form of a website. Putting data from the collections on the web will further serve two major goals of this project: making the data more accessible to researchers and the public; and allowing for public outreach through “digital exhibits”. Using blog posts and essays labeled as “Digital Exhibits,” archaeologists from the anthropology department will be able to give their own interpretations of cultural heritage. This could include faculty, graduate students and undergraduates who write their own informed essays about the particular artifacts, documents, actors or other aspect of the collections that interest them. This could further generate interest in the archaeological collections at MSU and perhaps even stimulate research. Overall, these collections will be more accessible to researchers and the public, providing better opportunities for important cultural heritage to be reused thanks in part to CHIMIRA.

cartyrya

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May 10, 2019

Introducing Africa’s Imperial Commodities

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

I’m launching Africa’s Imperial Commodities, a digital history project that explores export data from Africa to Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The website includes essays that contextualize the available data and data visualizations that allow users to engage with the information in the underlying dataset. The three main essays on the website feature animal skin, peanut, and kola exports. There are also links to related digital projects and brief descriptions of the technology used on the website.

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dglovsky

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May 10, 2019

Introducing West African Migration Stories

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

The border post at Canhamina in Guinea-Bissau, at the border with Senegal

When I first started the CHI Fellowship, I had dreams of mapping the migration of all of the people I spoke with during the course of my field work. I interviewed over 350 people, and probably half of them migrated at one point or another. That would have been an awfully crowded map! The more I started to think about what I wanted to display through my project, the more I realized that a map, while nice, did not exactly capture the spirit of what I wanted to demonstrate: the individual movements of people and families that stitched together, make up my dissertation. So I changed my project the focus on those narratives themselves: you see my project, West African Migration Stories, here.

In the process of writing my dissertation, often times individual voices get muffled. A paragraph here, a couple sentences there, but stories are truncated and not given time to breathe. My goal with this project has been to display people’s voices, and to provide context for those stories, but to also let the stories speak for themselves. You can see the final product here.

I organized the project around three key themes: fleeing the war for independence in Guinea-Bissau, fleeing 1960s-70s Guinea because of economic and political hardship, and seasonal peanut farming. I chose these three because they all shed light on aspects of migration across Africa: migration due to war and violence, migration due primarily for economic and political reasons, or seasonal migration to work in specific industries. While each story is unique, the journeys can be related to broader trends across Africa.

Originally, I was not going to introduce the interviews, just let the stories speak for themselves. However, most of these interviews were between thirteen minutes and an hour long, but the excerpts from the interviews below range from four to ten minutes (averaging about six). Because the transcripts focus on the migration itself, I wanted to contextualize the migrations as part of a person’s larger life. No migrant is just the story of the migration itself, but of the larger journey of their lives.

TaylorPanczak

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May 9, 2019

Introducing the Peruvian Origins Informatics Project!

May 9, 2019 | By | No Comments

I am excited to finally launch the “Peruvian Origins Informatics Project” for public viewing. This website was designed to illustrate material culture of the pre-ceramic inter-zonal connection between the highlands and coast of southern Peru. Within the website there are many features and areas to explore. One main feature of the website is a mapping function that shows the locations of these important archaeological sites in southern Peru. Each spinning fishtail projectile point represents a different archaeological site and link to an artifact page where a 3D model is displayed. The 3D models on the artifact pages are of projectile points that were recovered during excavation or surface survey. Each model is fully manipulable and is an accurate representation of the actual artifact.

The goal of this project was to increase the popularity of the pre-ceramic period in southern Peru. Artifacts that are displayed on this website range from being 12,500 years old to less than 4,000 which shows the scale and time depth of these areas. Many different aspects of this website went well but some did not. Although the time it took to properly display the 3D models was intense, the final product is polished and works well on this scale. I would have liked to have had more models of artifacts from more sites for this website but due to time constraints and technological difficulties, this was not feasible. In addition, many small coding aspects did not go as planned such as the main photo slideshow. I was not aware that the slide show only allowed four pictures to be display at one time which did not allow me to visually display the beauty of these areas effectively. Other than intensive time expenditure, this project/website went exceedingly smoothly.

https://www.peruvianinformaticsproject.com/

franc230

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April 27, 2019

Data Fears

April 27, 2019 | By | No Comments

The metadata scheme for my digital repository is finished and entered into KORA. There is now officially a place to enter data from the MSU archaeological collections online, and I am ecstatic. There is, however, still the fear that what I built may have hidden issues. This fear in part stems from a few talks that I attended at the meetings for the Society for American Archaeology earlier this month. These talks addressed issues such as data literacy and data reuse which are directly related to themes of my project. My project is, after all, the data management of archaeological collections.

One talk I found particularly relevant to my project was given by Erika C. Kansa who pointed out the need to improve data literacy among graduate students who often do not have to become data literate individuals. Bhargava et al. (2015) defines data literacy as the desire and ability to constructively engage in society through data. It requires one to understand the underlying principles of data and the pitfalls that one can fall into. One pitfall is the “File and Forget” attitude that can come with fancy data management systems concerned with the archival of data. There is a lot of data out there that has been painstakingly archived and described, but that data is often rarely reused, if ever.

The concept of reuse highlights the need to prepare data for dissemination and the need to get more communities involved in the reuse of data. This includes not only academics, but also the general public. There is a common sentiment that data needs to be protected from other academics who may steal the data or from the public who will misinterpret the data. I believe there is some merit to these arguments, but we run into problems of reuse when we become data dragons. Data dragons who horde the knowledge that has been arduously developed, built and added to and hidden in mountainous repositories. I am ardently of the opinion that the best way to make use of our data is to make it open. This means making the black boxes of our data accessible to the public by changing the culture of how people interact with data. Specifically by encouraging people to become more data literate, while also making our data more inclusive.

The CHI fellowship and building this database have made me personally more data literate, but the express goal of making the data more inclusive has always been on the periphery. The MSU Digital Repository contains metadata for describing a wide variety of archaeological situations, and was built with the intentions of being useful to archaeologists, and curators. The metadata are described and defined as plainly as possible (Here is a link to the github containing the metadata scheme – feel free to let me know what you think!). But the average person would undoubtedly have trouble meaningfully interpreting the data and the metadata without learning the basics of archaeology.

So far, I am unsure of how to explicitly make the data more inclusive and thus the fear that what I am making will fall by the wayside and never be reused. I think this aspect of the project will heavily rely on a future front-end framework (a website) which will more plainly layout the denser data that this repository is capturing along with easily digestible interpretations of the cultural heritage. This should get our data out there and encourage others to use it rather than hording it in cabinets.

holteri1

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April 25, 2019

The Simpler, The Better: Photo Carousels

April 25, 2019 | By | No Comments

I’ve often complained about introductory-level tutorials that operate under the assumption that you know something about programming. While in some cases I’ve successfully worked through a particularly difficult tool or explanation, ultimately what I’ve learned is: there’s probably an easier way.

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dglovsky

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April 17, 2019

Making my Dissertation Digital

April 17, 2019 | By | No Comments

Have you ever tried to explain your dissertation to your family? Your students? Strangers or acquaintances you barely know? This is a trying task. My dissertation focuses on mobility and migration between four different West African countries (Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea), looking at the multitude of reasons people moved and the larger meaning of all of this movement. One of the biggest challenges I face in explaining all of this is the diversity of perspectives from the people with whom I spoke. Oftentimes reasons vary, perspectives vary, and the individual voices can get lost in 350 pages of historical arguments and narrative.

My research is based on unnecessarily large amounts of archival research, plus 220 interviews I conducted in rural parts of Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. The documents often tell similar stories, of governments seeking (and generally failing) to control borders and movement, although their attitude towards these movements depends on the period and perceived need for economic migrants and/or security concerns. But what about the voices of the individual migrants themselves? These are rarely seen in documents, and thus must be brought out through interviews.

Each person’s story differs. Many from Guinea-Bissau and Guinea served as seasonal migrant farmers. Many of these farmers had good experiences, using their time in Senegal and Gambia to earn money they could use to buy goods unavailable at home, pay colonial taxes, and save up money to build their own homes and start a family. Some of these farmers went year after year, spending over a decade traveling to another colony/country for months at a time planting and harvesting peanuts. In many cases, these farmers became integrated into their host communities and set down roots. Others went once and decided to never go again. I also interviewed many people who fled violence and economic depression in search of a better life. Others simply crossed borders looking for better farm and pastureland.

When I decided to apply for the CHI Fellowship, I wanted a place where these voices could speak for themselves. My dissertation does not feature long excerpts from interviews because it’s already 350 pages long without them. While the voices of my interlocutors are throughout my dissertation, I am not able to capture the full extent of what they said. I want their voices to be available to the public, as a tool for public memory, for scholarship, and for teaching.

This has not always been the easiest process, but as I come to the last few weeks, I am grateful for the opportunity. It has reminded me whose stories center my research. Too often it is easy to forget that history is not just a series of newsworthy events and processes, but the combination of many people whose collective actions form a rich and cacophonous story.

holteri1

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April 1, 2019

Feedback at the Speed of Light

April 1, 2019 | By | No Comments

             As a historian, most of my work – reading, writing, revising – is conducted alone. Feedback especially takes long periods of time and varies between professors and colleagues. Papers often go through conferences, editing, and rejection before you can claim you have completed a piece of work. On the other hand, Digital Humanities allows you to work with nearly instance feedback, providing cruel, unforgiving critiques.