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Julia DeCook

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May 2, 2018

Launching: Networks of Hate

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

After a long seven months of dreaming, planning, and making, I’m happy to announce that my project, “Networks of Hate: Visualizing Extremist Celebrity Networks” is now live!

The motivation behind building this website was to visualize the ways in which extremist celebrities are connected in terms of the larger movement that they identify with or have been identified as belonging to. Many have noted how groups like the Manosphere and movements like GamerGate served as gateway ideologies/movements to more extremist groups like those that fall under the Alt Right or Alt Lite label, and the goal of my project was to visualize the networks of celebrities that these ideologies often travel on. To build the visualizations, I used R to make the interactive networks.

 Why celebrities?

The new extremism is notable for their use of digital platforms in community building and mobilization. Because of this, there are a number of “celebrities” in the movements themselves that serve as vehicles of these ideological messages, and visualizing how these celebrities are connected can demonstrate how the beliefs of these groups intersect. Of course, celebrities are individuals, but they speak and represent the groups that they are affiliated with to larger audiences. Extremist celebrities in the 21st century not only forge connections but expose groups to one another like brokers. Using platforms like YouTube, Twitter, reddit, and many others, these extremist celebrities forge connections between groups and seeing their group affiliations may illustrate the movement of these ideologies.

The home page gives a brief overview of the project and provides links to the networks themselves. The site is organized into four main pages and then four subpages under the “GROUPS” main page. The pages are as follows:

  1. HOME
  2. ABOUT
  3. GROUPS
    1. Alt Right
    2. Alt Lite
    3. Manosphere
    4. Gamergate
  4. CONTACT

HOME
As discussed above, “HOME” is the landing page where some cursory information is given about the project itself and the motivation behind it. This is an “at a glance” page and it includes links to the network visualizations on the landing page and an explanation of how to navigate the website.

ABOUT
A more in depth essay on the reasoning and motivation behind the project will be found on this page.

GROUPS
The main “GROUPS” page includes information about all of the groups and reasoning behind why they were included, and is titled “THE NEW EXTREMISM: Who’s Who?” to illuminate the purpose that these visualizations are meant to serve.

Alt Right
The first of the subpages includes a brief essay about the Alt Right, who the main players are, and presents the first visualization which includes all four of the umbrella groups that are included in the networks.

Alt Lite
The second of the subpages includes information about the Alt Lite, key players in the movement, and how it was borne out of the Alt Right – particularly after the Charlottesville Rally that resulted in the death of one counter protestor, the Alt Lite aimed to distance itself from overt white supremacy and instead is more focused on a nationalistic, “Western” civilization view. The network visualization on this page shows the connections between the Alt Lite and the Alt Right.

Manosphere
The third subpage is about The Manosphere, which is a web-based loosely connected collection of men’s rights activist websites, Pick Up Artistry spaces, and others. Groups that fall under this umbrella term include Mens Rights activist, r/TheRedPill, MGTOW, A Voice for Men, and others. Whether or not Incels has a place in the Manosphere is contested between the various groups. The Manosphere in particular has been pointed at as a gateway ideology, and this visualization illustrates the connections between the Manosphere and the Alt Lite.

Gamergate
The final subpage is about Gamergate, which was a harassment campaign targeted towards women gamers, game developers, and journalists, and culminated in a number of death and rape threats toward them. The communities where many of these harassment campaigns were enacted are still active and thriving, even if they have slightly receded from the limelight. A notable celebrity of this movement is Milo Yinnaopoulos, who then parlayed this fame in to being connected with the Alt Lite, Breitbart, and the Manosphere. This visualization presents the connections between Gamergate and the Alt Lite.

CONTACT
Just a page with a contact form, and nothing more.

Future Directions
I’m hoping to make more detailed visualizations in the future, like the specific groups that are connected since all of the groups I included in these initial visualizations are the broader umbrella terms. Also, my initial plan to have text pop up as one clicks on each node required a lot more technical knowledge than I could learn in a year, but I feel happy with the end result despite it being slightly different from my initial plan. Despite this, the website is a first glance at seeing how cultural flows and ideology are spread from celebrity to celebrity within these extremist groups, and future work can build off of these initial maps.

ellio252

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May 2, 2018

Introducing “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today, I officially launch my website, “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism,” which uses my dissertation on temporary labor migration to Moscow to examine the interplay between communism and capitalism in Moscow. The project stemmed from both my dissertation research and my observations while living in Moscow. I was always struck by seeing the interplay of the Soviet socialist past and the Russian capitalist present in the architecture as I walked around Moscow. Moreover, I could see the logical outcomes of my dissertation topic spray painted on the concrete as advertisements for dormitory rooms and posted on fences as calls for temporary jobs that came with registration.

My website’s landing page provides an historical overview of temporary labor migration to Moscow, tracing the origins of these practices to end of the nineteenth century. In the imperial period, peasants made their way to the capital to work in factories and send cash, needed for redemption payments, back to families. The opening essay also introduces the Soviet internal passport and domicile registration systems that governed rural to urban migration from 1932 to the end of the Soviet Union. A timeline then provides information on the development of Moscow, as seen through the lens of temporary labor migration and population growth, from 1971 to 2002. The second page explains the changing places of origins of migrants and provides a map. While migrants originally arrived from the areas near Moscow, the near complete depletion of the youthful rural population meant migrants from Siberia, the other republics of the Soviet Union, and even countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union replaced arrived in larger numbers from the mid-1980s onward.

The next two pages use a series of graphs to explain population change. The first of these pages explains the centrality of migration to population growth by providing information on birth and death rates as well as the tempo of migration to the capital. If births provided 10,000 new residents annually, migration provided 50,000 to 70,000. The following page looks at the reception of migrants in the capital, paying particular attention to nationality and the changing role of citizenship. The last two pages are case studies – one of automobile factories, the other of the Olympics – of work places in which migrants dominated. I also explain the afterlife of these locations in the post-Soviet period.

It is my hope that my website will provoke its users to consider several important questions, such as the (dis)continuities between the Soviet and post-Soviet periods as well as the Soviet Union’s relationship to the history of postwar Europe, particularly in regards to migration. Before at last introducing my website, I must thank several people. Ethan Watrall, the director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Program, and this year’s cohort of CHI fellows have helped me every step of the way. My advisor, Lewis Siegelbaum, has helped me conceptualize the research that I display here (and has also written extensively on the car factories that I discuss on my website). Lastly, Ramya Swayamprakash encouraged me to apply for the CHI Fellowship after sharing her positive experiences as a CHI Fellow in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Without any further ago, I give you “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”: https://ellio252.github.io/Moscow_Migration/.

ellio252

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April 30, 2018

Migrants and Muscovites: The Memory of Migration

April 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am writing this blog from Moscow, the place that my website (now almost fully functional) is about. I find it appropriate to discuss all the ways that I have seen migration play out over the course of my various stays here. I first came to Moscow in June 2011 as an undergraduate with one year of Russian under my belt. I’m not sure what I expected when my plane took off from JFK that summer evening, but I was shocked by the streets of Moscow. Growing up in the Bronx, I feel more at home in urban environments, but Moscow’s streets had kiosks everywhere. You could buy everything: fast food, cigarettes, beer, newspaper, SIM cards. It is probably more accurate to say that there was nothing that you couldn’t buy. It seemed to me that Russians ran many of these makeshift shops, but clearly migrants from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union had joined them.

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dixonel7

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April 27, 2018

Adventures in Courier New

April 27, 2018 | By | No Comments

This is one of my last weeks at CHI and its led me to think about all of the progress I’ve made this year learning to code. I’m not sure if my project will really highlight all that I know and have learned when I showcase it next week, but I really have made a ton of progress. If you begin the CHI fellowship with no knowledge of coding like I did, you might experience the journey in similar ways I did.

When I started CHI, we were all asked to work through a bunch of classes via Code Academy, where we learned the basics of html, css, and javascript. I remember being thrilled to figure out how to place a picture on a webpage using html, and changing font size and style with css. I took copious notes and felt like I had arrived!

In the first half of the semester, the CHI fellows were given group projects and tasks to learn how to work with mapping, data-visualization, and website-building. Again, I felt like I had a ton of tools to prepare myself, and I did! But what I’ve learned this semester is that trouble shooting is a much more complicated process.

When I started working with Twine, it felt like starting from scratch. Building a Twine story is a bit like working with an HTML and CSS page, except that Twine also has its own kind of language that is like html and css, but not quite. My first few weeks on my project was especially tough.

One Friday, it took me all six hours of our workday to figure out how to change a font from “futura” to “courier new.” SIX. HOURS. I was honestly so ashamed. We worked on an additional coding project that day where we could change the title to whatever we wanted, and I called mine “Adventures in Courier New” to celebrate my embarrassing victory of learning.

What I’ve learned throughout this process in CHI is that the individual making of a project is much more time-consuming than learning the basics within a pre-created template or program. My project may not look like much, but it is evidence of hours of toiling, googling, tutorial-viewing, self-deprecation, and multiple asks for help. Coding, like writing, is not an individual process, but a very social one, something that requires the support of many multiple people. I’ve come a long way since my Adventures in Courier New, but I have years to go before I feel like I truly know what I’m doing.

dixonel7

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April 13, 2018

My Adventures in Troubleshooting (and the Importance of Good Technical Writing)

April 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned during this CHI project is how necessary various forums on HTML and CSS are to a person’s progress on a project. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had to rely entirely on the Twine Cookbook and googling random questions online to try to understand what I need to change. Programs like Code Academy  are useful is developing a basic understanding of how to understand and use html, css, and javascript. But, in the end I’ve spent way more time perusing the cookbook and reading forums online for specific solutions for the problems I’m having. For this reason, I’ve also learned the importance of good technical writing. Which, PS, turns out a lot programmers aren’t the greatest at that.

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carlinek

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April 6, 2018

Presenting “Mapping Consumers” at a World History conference

April 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

Two weeks ago, I went to Northeastern University’s 10th annual Graduate World History conference. My paper was largely based on the sources that I draw on for my CHI project. This was my first time showing my site to the public, and the deadline for the conference presentation was a great motivation to get my site up and mostly functional. This is what my site looks like currently:

Mapping consumers home page

One of the things that was helpful about presenting this to an audience of strangers was learning which parts of my site are self-explanatory, and which need more context. I found myself having to explain the colourful marker clusters, which is a feature built into the Bootleaf template that I’m using. When there are more than a certain number of markers in a certain area at a certain zoom level, it will create a coloured cluster representing this group of markers. However, I realized while presenting that these clusters somewhat obscure the argument I want to make with this map — that testimonial-writers in the black press were from rural places all across the South African countryside.

Based on this experience, I’ve now changed the zoom level at which the marker-cluster feature works. I’ve turned off the marker-cluster feature at a lower zoom level, so now as you zoom in, you’re able to see the spread of testimonial-writers across the map. Like so:

Markers showing testimonial writers in the Eastern Cape region

Another positive take-away from this conference was that because it was a World History conference, I was able to think in new ways about how my local South African project is contextualized in global history. My paper made the argument that testimonials show how local South Africans responded to global marketing campaigns (in particular the well-funded campaign for tea consumption put on by the Tea Market Expansion Bureau).

fandinod

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March 31, 2018

Visualizing the Past: Maps and Photography

March 31, 2018 | By | No Comments

With the technical issues of my project mostly resolved, the remaining elements to complete are the core of the web site: the information on the venues and their connection to the remaking of the Tokyo cityscape. To restate my original goal, I am seeking to explore two interconnected aspects of the 1964 Tokyo Games. The first is the cultural legacy of the Olympics in Tokyo and the second is the impact of the Games on the urban landscape. For this post, I will concentrate on the latter, the urban transformation of Tokyo.

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ellio252

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March 30, 2018

Mapping Movement

March 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

The most rewarding aspect of my project has been working on my map since it has been the most challenging. I opted to use leaflet.js to build my map, which shows how many migrants each region in Russia sent to Moscow in various years between 1970 and 2000.

I first used leaflet.js during one of our development challenges last semester, and I found it a bit confusing at first. The leaflet.js website has a tutorial, but it was unclear where to place the information for the JavaScript and CSS sheets with the other information from the bootstrap that we used. If we failed to properly place this information, the map would not run. Once we figured out where to place and how to properly label this information, the map showed up.

One of the major issues I faced was not inherently technical but dealt with the best way to integrate my dissertation research into the map. Soviet authorities sometimes changed how they recorded statistical information. Every year through 1985, the Moscow Committee for Statistics (Moskomstat) recorded the place of origin by region (oblast) for migrants who arrived in Moscow from other locations within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). For Soviet citizens from one of the other 14 republics, only the republic, and not a specific region within the republic, was noted. Approximately every 5 years, Moskomstat recorded that nationality of all arrivals, which complicated my understanding of who these migrants were. Although the number of migrants from other Soviet republics began to rise throughout the 1980s, migrants remained primarily ethnic Russian, meaning that Russians were leaving other locations in the Soviet Union for the RSFSR.

Political reforms during perestroika and the breakup of the Soviet Union also changed statistical recordings. During perestroika, Moskomstat often simply recorded various types of internal migration: intra-region, inter-region, and inter-republic without specifying places of origin. In the post-Soviet period, the Northwestern Region separated into the Northwestern and Northern Regions, and across the Russian Federation, several regions changed their names. On my map, I have pop-ups for each small region surrounding Moscow (other areas in the Central Region), each large region across the RSFSR, and each republic of the former Soviet Union. I am currently deciding if I should include any other additional information in my popups. My next goal is to find an appropriate Soviet-era map, printed in English. The current map tiles that I am using through leaflet.js use local languages, which might make the maps difficult for my English-reading audience.

Julia DeCook

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March 29, 2018

Networked Society’s Celebrity Networks

March 29, 2018 | By | No Comments

I have had to tone down some of my initial goals for what I thought my network would be, but am still going to endeavor to make a semi-interactive network and a website to house information for people who are interested in viewing the affiliations that extreme right celebrities have.

However, considering the role that the Internet has had in the resurgence of populist fascism in the U.S. and beyond, I felt that paying special attention to “celebrities” with significant online presences might be an interesting way to visualize these connections. Although the term “network society” was coined in the early 90s, the origins of it are from before that in terms of how society would eventually be connected by wired communications. Famously, Castell’s work The Rise of the Network Society laid down the foundations of how he envisioned society would eventually function: it is not that networks merely exist within our societies, but rather are the very basic foundations of them. Although of course, I’m not saying that the Internet is to blame for the rise of extreme right-wing politics, it did play a part in the accessibility of the ideology to millions of people.

In that regard, how do we envision networks of Internet celebrities within the networked society? What conditions led to their rise, and how might these conditions also lead to their downfalls? These aren’t necessarily questions that I’m grappling with since my project will be mostly descriptive and for visualization purposes, but are ones that can be dealt with later in academic work. In terms of downfall, we have seen how although the affordances of the networked society have been great, they have also been detrimental: websites are being shut down, subreddits are being removed, and Twitter accounts are being banned. But this brings about another age-old issue in terms of how digital space is governed and regulated, which are things that will constantly be debated as technology outpaces the policies that control them. This project, although not necessarily intended to, has really helped me think about the power of platforms, infrastructures, and their roles in shaping and inhibiting social movements – which is the basis of my dissertation, stay tuned for more.

Theoretical musings aside, I’m following a tutorial on how to make my network graph because a lot of network mapping software does not easily allow for the creation of event-affiliation or bipartite networks. However, software like R that requires a lot of manual coding do allow for the creation of these visualizations. Although seemingly very descriptive, event-affiliation and bipartite graphs can be helpful in determining who belongs to some organizations, thus increasing their likelihood of encountering people who otherwise may be disconnected. I’m making slow progress on the graph because it is in d3.js, but there is an R tutorial that may help me move along faster. Either way, I’m grateful for the experience because instead of pointing and clicking, I’m actually managing to teach myself the foundational code of what makes up these networks. Foundations of foundations, we’ve gone meta.

Tutorials for the curious:
How to Make an Interactive Network Visualization
Network Analysis and Visualization with R and igraph

ellio252

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March 29, 2018

Charts, Graphs, and Coding, Oh my!

March 29, 2018 | By | No Comments

For my remaining blogs, I plan to address the different technological elements on my website. First up are the graphs that I have created using AM Charts, a website that allows you to build JavaScript charts, graphs, and maps. For my website, I built graphs that show for Moscow: births and deaths, natural and migration-related population growth, total population growth, and changing nationality and place of origin.

AM Charts provides a very user-friendly system that provides you with multiple options for building your charts and graphs. First, you can download free versions of AM Chart’s products. The website advertises that, “The only limitation of the free version is that a small link to this web site will be displayed in the top left corner of your charts.” The download comes with over 80 sample charts that you can view and examine the code. The graphs range from simple bar graphs to complex bar and line graph combos with interactive elements that explain data points. The download also comes with a brief tutorial and various JavaScript and CSS sheets. The second option for using AM Charts is paying for it, which I cannot comment on, except to say that if the creators are correct, it should be similar to what I have described.

I have also used the third option: the online chart editor. This option requires you to create a free account with AM Charts. The online chart editor provides you with several dozen templates to work with. After selecting your template, you may either upload a CSV file with your data or input it manually. I found it somewhat difficult at times to adjust the legend and axis labels, but I discovered that there are multiple ways to address these issues. The chart builder allows you to select and alter options through an input interface, but you can also access the code to edit your chart there. Once your chart is complete, you can use an embedded link to present it on your website. AM Charts will save your graphs that you built while logged in to your free account.

The graphs that I have created have helped me understand my research data better. On my website, I have three line graphs that depict population growth in Moscow. The first shows births and deaths on the same graph. Until 1984, births and deaths rose together, which did not radically alter Moscow’s population. In 1989, deaths surpassed births and continued to do so throughout the 1990s. My second line graph illustrates population growth related to migration and live births on the same plane. Migration consistently played a larger role in contributing to population growth, but tended to mimic the patterns of natural births. In 1989, deaths surpassed births while migration did not contribute to Moscow’s population decline until 1992. Migration to Moscow dropped sharply, but rebounded before birthrates did, contributing to population growth. The last graph shows Moscow’s overall population growth.

My current dilemma is how to use graphs when methods of recording data changed. In the Soviet period, place of origin and nationality were not necessarily the same thing. For example, an Armenian could have lived in Azerbaijan before moving to Moscow. Soviet statistic takers in Moscow recorded place of origin for all migrants annually, and nationality every several years. Statistics in the post-Soviet period tend to only record place of origin, which obscures information and poses a challenge in creating graphs.