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Cody M

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March 2, 2018

Pokémon GO and Narrative

March 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Pokémon GO was, and is, one of the most interesting examples of gaming culture in the last two years. Many players and critics have commented on how fad-ish the game was: it became instantly and massively popular upon its release, but the number of active players quickly fell off after a few months. The game brought people together from around the world to capture Pokémon; it got folks outside and exploring; it allowed players to interact with the world around them in unexpected and emergent ways; and it got people to invest a great deal of time and money in its augmented reality.

It’s Pokémon GO’s augmented reality that makes the game so effective, and it’s the limitations of that augmented reality that made the game have relatively little staying power. By providing the ability to catch Pokémon in the world around players, the game seemed to finally deliver on a fantasy many fans of the franchise had had for a long time: living in and experiencing the world of Pokémon. Yet the augmented reality of the game could not really deliver on that promise. Players grew tired of catching what seemed like their millionth Rattata, and augmented reality’s reliance on the actual world meant players constantly bumped into the real limitations that come with our world. These limitations ranged from the legal (trespassing on private property) to the ethical (catching Pokémon at the Holocaust Museum) to the simple physical (crossing a large region takes a lot longer in the actual world than it does in digital game worlds). Perhaps the best example of these limitations was the disastrous Pokémon GO Fest, held to celebrate the game’s first anniversary in Grant Park in Chicago. Constant network difficulties and game glitches made the game completely unplayable at the event, and Niantic (the company that made the game) had to issue refunds and rewards to frustrated and angry players.

What I think Pokémon GO demonstrates quite well, however, is how we construct and perceive realities, and the significant role that narrative plays in those processes. Narrative is much more than a static, pre-determined series of events; games like Pokémon GO suggest it is a lived, embodied process that unfolds in the moment to moment experiencing of a game. As we move around and experience augmented reality with Pokémon GO, we are constructing narratives that shape our perceptions and understandings of ourselves and the world around us. Pokémon GO’s augmented reality coheres and functions because of the confluence of these narrative processes that it contains: first, the narrative of Pokémon that developers write into the game; second, the narratives players generate as they play and experience the game; and third, the narratives that emerge when players come together in groups (such as the narrative of Pokémon GO Fest as a disaster).

Pokémon GO reveals how narrative is one of the primary processes we use to understand and navigate the world. Narrative helps construct our senses of ourselves and the things we experience, including augmented reality. It does so by bringing our different determined, personal, and collective narratives together to form a unique reality. Psychologist Jerome Bruner gets at this when he discusses narrative as a system that actively constructs and organizes consciousness and the perception of reality (Bruner, 2000). Games have pointed us in this direction for a long time, but we have yet to fully appreciate the breadth and power of narrative processes in our play.

By doing so with games such as Pokémon GO, we can better understand our current (augmented) realities, and further use narrative to build new and potentially transformative ones. The narratives of Pokémon GO are our stories, and they have a lot to tell us about ourselves and what we can do and imagine.

Note: This blog is a short preview of my book chapter for an upcoming collection, tentatively titled Not Just Play: Essays on Motivations and Impacts of Pokemon GO, edited by Jamie Henthorn, Andrew Kulak, Kristopher Purzycki, and Stephanie Vie. Keep an eye out for the full collection, and read more about these ideas there!

Julia DeCook

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March 1, 2018

Ideological Celebrities and Connective Action

March 1, 2018 | By | No Comments

After having a few conversations with my dissertation chair about my dissertation topic, it made me start thinking about my own CHI project trying to map out the celebrities of the far right and how they are ideologically connected. The idea of connective and collective action rests upon something simple, yet incredibly difficult to maintain: the idea of an “us” for there to be a motivation for a fight against a “them”. Indeed, Tajfel’s social identity theory introduced us to the idea of the in-group and out-group in the 1970s, but I think it goes far beyond reducing it to an in and an out. There also must exist connective tissue, for the muscles to adhere to the bones, and together they all move together. In political ideologies and movements, the connective tissue are the celebrities of the movement, the celebrities, the easily identifiable figures upon which a common identity is built.

These celebrities are instrumental in proselytizing the ideology and are easy to find on social networking services as well as other forms of social media like YouTube and others. With their status and platform visibility, they rally people around a common narrative that they then are constantly spreading across different groups that may otherwise be disconnected, except for the common ideological basis that brought them all to the same celebrity. As such, these celebrities are strategic in the content that they produce and the appearances they make – like other politicians, there is a method to their madness, and what is notable about the far right is their savviness in using digital technologies to form coalitions – although dispersed – that are not only built on the same political beliefs but also political figures that symbolize them.

Thus, it is not that people like Richard Spencer or Alex Jones themselves are the threats, but rather what they represent. They are merely poster children for a movement, an easily targeted rally point, and they are not necessarily “leaders” but merely the public faces of a larger political movement. Looking at the list of celebrities I’ve compiled so far, some are universally appealing to far-right groups whereas others are more divisive, thus demonstrating that not even the celebrities themselves are necessarily accepted across certain boundaries. Although the network I am building does not necessarily identify central figures and other measures of networks, it is still going to be an interesting visualization of how these movements are converging upon central figures within them. They are merely the human face to a larger subculture, and placing responsibility upon one person to be the “face” of an organization is not a new concept. The ways in which they are conducting this old practice of “representation” however is particularly compelling, and articles examining the prevalence of young conservatives (The Kids Are Far Right) point out the ease of which they achieve fame. This then begs the question – are there so many celebrities in this movement because they truly believe in it, or rather are they people who longed to be famous and decided to go the route of political extremist because of the attention they knew they’d receive?

Are they just exploiting a media landscape that privileges outrage?

Grumpy Cat is cute but also angry

In order to explore some of these larger questions, I’ve been going through and trying to give attribute values to my network nodes (the celebrities) by gender, age, and other dimensions to help better visualize differentiating aspects between far-right celebrities. Although I initially didn’t think that this project would connect to larger work that I am engaging in, it has really helped to illuminate the ideas of collective action around media figures – a creation of a “us” for a certain subset of people, and the celebrities then rally the “us” around a “them”.

Ethan Watrall

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February 19, 2018

Call for 2018-2019 Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship Applications

February 19, 2018 | By | No Comments

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative invites applications for its 2018-2019 Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship program.

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowships offer MSU graduate students in departments and programs with an emphasis on cultural heritage with the theoretical and methodological skills necessary to creatively apply digital technologies to cultural heritage materials, challenges, and questions. In addition, the fellowships provide graduate students with the opportunity to influence the current state of cultural heritage informatics and digital heritage, and become leaders for the future of cultural heritage informatics.

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dixonel7

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February 16, 2018

Project Plan Overview

February 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

For my CHI fellowship project, I hope to use the theoretical framework I have created in my previous project to begin considering how queer modes of making act as a form of world-making. In particular, I want to focus on the ways in which queer communities make “things” in order to make their worlds (more bearable). Often, in rhetoric and composition, we are understandably preoccupied with composing practices that follow linear logical progression, and thus linear alphabetic text is privileged as the primary mode for rhetorical creation. However, I wonder how might a preoccupation with lines of text—to linear logic in particular—leave out queer thinkers who see the world differently? In what ways does telling those thinkers that they are “wrong” through a constant focus on neat arguments leading to finite conclusions lead them to lose hope?

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dixonel7

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February 16, 2018

Learning To Code….Twice

February 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I’m working on a project that illustrates and advocates for non-linear, queer composing as a death-defying act of world-making. To do this in a digital project, I’ve been making my project using Twine, self-described as  “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” I think most people tend to use Twine to create a kind of “choose your own adventure” story-game. In this way, the platform works perfectly for my project. I want users to click through it and feel like their experience is completely random and different every time they come to the site.

The weird thing about Twine is that it has its own coding language, plus it uses html, css, and javascript. It won’t let me just code using html, but rather I’ve been doing a combination of both html and Twine’s style of coding. So, to get a bunch of overlapping pictures like this:

I have to code it like this:

Plus some css on another page.

I’m not great at coding in the first place– I knew nothing about it until starting this fellowship, so having to both continue to learn the basics of html, css, and javascript, as well as Twine’s formatting is a bit of a chore. To be frank, it took me six hours to get those pictures randomly on the screen and turn them into clickable buttons. Still, I love working with Twine because it offers up a cool way to think about creating a website/story that is random and non-linear in the way that I need it to be. This is what my collection of pages look like right now:

I’m so excited to keep working and build an even bigger web of pages. Wish me luck!

ellio252

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February 13, 2018

Introducing the Basics of My Website!

February 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Since returning for the spring semester, I have been hard at work on getting my website up and running. As I have discussed previously, my website focuses on urbanization and migration to Moscow from other parts of the former Soviet Union from 1970 to the present. Today, Moscow is a world capital with designer boutiques and Michelin rated restaurants, but its socialist past is still visible from the metro system to its prefabricated apartment blocks. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx argues that bourgeois industrialization saved peasants from “the idiocy of rural life.” The 1970 Soviet census recorded that for the first time, more Soviet citizens lived in urban centers than rural ones. Soviet demographers, geographers, and others argued that this “urbanity” symbolized the ultimate success of socialism in the Soviet Union. This website examines Soviet urbanity as it existed and developed in the last two decades of the Soviet Union, tracing its afterlife in present-day Moscow. Drawing upon the research of scholars of second world urbanity, the website demonstrates how the Soviet project of building socialism focused on making citizens both urban and urbane. The socialist city was, in short, a social contract with its residents, providing them with their basic needs.

This website uses temporary labor migration to explore what urban and urbanity meant and still means in Moscow and interrogate who reaped the benefits of the (post)-socialist city. The website will showcase several essays that explain: (1) the centrality of Moscow for access to goods and services; (2) the process of temporary labor migration; and (3) the outcomes and consequences of migration for migrants, Muscovites, and the city itself. The website focuses on the trajectories of 4 locations: the Olympic Village, the Olympic Center, the Likhachev Automobile Factory, and the Lenin Komsomol Automobile Factory. The latter two were built by migrants, and the third employed several thousand migrant laborers. All three have left important traces in Moscow today, offering housing and cultural centers.

This project has two main areas of importance. First, it provides a case study of temporary labor migration, comparing socialist and capitalist practices. Crossing the Soviet and post-Soviet divide is a comparison itself that elucidates what is unique and what is not to socialism. Moreover, this website provides information that will allow others to make comparisons with other guest worker and postcolonial migration patterns. Second, this website both preserves and explains the history of Moscow. Projects for building new apartments and updating infrastructure for the World Cup are recreating and erasing the Soviet legacy. This website explains movement toward these goals while providing a repository of information on part of Moscow’s past.

The website will consist of a landing page that outlines the history of labor migration to Moscow and its economic and social outcomes from 1971 to 2002. The landing page will also host an interactive timeline of events related to population growth, labor migration, and larger events in Soviet history. The website will have five subsequent pages that will each address: (1) the practice of allocating labor in the Soviet Union; (2) changing demographics and borders of Moscow; (3) perceptions of migrants; (4) the history of labor migration related to automobile factories in Moscow; and (5) the history of labor migration related to the Olympics. Each page will act as a stand-alone historical analytical essay that elucidates a specific aspect of temporary labor migration to Moscow through text and interactive elements.

Page one will host two maps, one of the Soviet Union and one of Moscow, illustrating where migrants left and where they worked in Moscow. Page two will consist of four line graphs that will illustrate changing birth, death, migration, and population growth rates in Moscow. Page three will have a line graph to illustrate the changing places of origin for migrants. Pages four and five will show photographs that I have taken.

The website will use a multipage bootstrap to host the various website pages. For the timeline on the landing page, I will use Knight Lab since it allows me to use my own pictures and to illustrate 3 distinct timelines of population change, labor migration, and other events in Soviet history.

For the map on the first page that describes the history of labor migration to Moscow, I will use leaflet.js to construct a map that shows the 15 largest migrant-sending regions of the Soviet Union. Each pop-up will contain the area’s population in each census year (1970, 1979, 1989, 2002, 2010) as well as the number of migrants sent to Moscow in those years. I will also construct a map of Moscow that shows the 12 largest migrant-employing enterprises, and each pop-up will provide information on how many migrants worked there, the size of the overall workforce, and the type of work done at each location.

For the graphs that will chart the changes in birth rates, death rates, migration rates, overall growth of the city, and changing place of origin from 1970 to the present, I will use AM Charts, with Frappe being my backup. I opt to use either because they provide pop-ups that include data information and an explanation if necessary.

 

carlinek

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February 6, 2018

Project update: learning to tinker

February 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

A month into building my Mapping Consumers project, and this is what my page looks like:

I’m building my web map using Bootleaf, trying to tinker with the original code to make it fit my purposes and display my map. Until last week, I hadn’t been having much success. Replacing the map tiles in the original with another Mapbox tileset was trickier than I expected. But, as you can see, with some help from fellow CHI fellow Brian Geyer, I’ve now got the Mapbox.dark map displaying, and centred the map on South Africa. Doing this has meant learning to tinker with Javascript, and developing a strategy for which parts of the Javascript to alter, in which order.

So, my next step, now that I have the map displaying, is to link my geoJSON file containing the data about my pins to display. This will mean replacing all the code referencing geoJSON features with the features in my geoJSON file. Wish me luck!

Nicole Raslich

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February 6, 2018

Digital Formats for Teaching Cultural Heritage Preservation

February 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

As the second half of the academic year is well underway, I am mired in digital platforms, establishing my project. It always helps me, when I get stuck on something and find it overwhelming, to go back and read what I proposed to do. This is where I am starting today. The rest of this post lays out what I am attempting to do, for the first time, for my CHI project. Having previously designed and taught my own course at another Big Ten institution, I find it fundamentally easier to create a typical, lecture style, college course centered around these same materials. I wanted to do something new and challenging with this CHI fellowship, as well as something that could reach a broader audience than a class of fifty college age students. Having several certifications in policy and law compliance, I noticed that the majority of people at these certification workshops are working professionals. People in this arena would likely never take a traditional college course yet needed this information immediately when it came across their desk at work. For the majority of people, it never crosses their mind that when running a water line or erecting a lamp-post or building a house in an old neighborhood, they might run across a burial ground or something else of historic significance. I hope that the online project I develop will aid these endeavors.

Issues such as the return of items of cultural patrimony, the looting and annihilation of irreplaceable cultural heritage monuments, traditional cultural properties and the desecration of national heritage sites worldwide plague our world daily. Because of these issues, my project for CHI is to create an online course specializing in cultural heritage management policy and law both nationally and internationally (UNESCO). This course will highlight some of the more notorious cases, how they were dealt with and the applicable laws used in their mitigation. I hope this course will enhance curriculums in cultural heritage management as well as deliver needed policy training for people outside academia in institutions such as public or tribal museums, and government offices. An online format for this course works well for this topic as the laws dealt with are tedious in a standard lecture format. This format allows for the topics to be broken down into a series of public lectures or informational online sessions that appeal to a wide range of disciplines and audiences.

Designing a course such as this integrate me further into the realm of cultural heritage management by allowing me the expertise required to assist local communities with the preservation and dissemination of their own cultural heritage agendas to a wider range of recipients. Developing this course will allow me to engage with pedagogical approaches for digital course design and digital scholarship while allowing me to deliver a much-needed source of information the communities I work with. As digital outlets become the most common way to reach the widest audience, it is crucial that we as cultural managers take advantage of this trend. In an era where funding quickly disappears without an apparent real-world application, it is crucial we reach a wide audience and make our classes relevant to a broader market.

This will be a mixed methods course, involving short, twenty minutes or less, lectures on each policy, when it applies and the steps to work through it. After each lecture, hands on activities involving actual cases from around the world will be used to allow the participants to work through the mitigation of each law. Then, another short lecture will be given, discussing how each case was mitigated and the results of each mitigation. Discussion boards/online forums will be used to stimulate interactive discussion about what things went both right and wrong in these mitigations. Further lectures will illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of these policies.

My intended audiences are Anthropology, History, Museum Studies, and other disciplines utilizing museum collections and working with issues involving cultural heritage management more broadly. Tribal historic preservation offices, city, county and state governments agencies that deal with these policies can use the modules as training aids for their staff. In many communities, it is an inadvertent discovery or a NAGPRA issue that sparks the formation of a cultural center or society or a board to address issues revolving around section 106. An introductory timeline of the history of these laws followed by a comment section will open the course where participants will offer their experience/involvement with these laws and their background. This is intended to lead to an understanding that almost everyone involved has had little to no training in this and all want to learn more about to protect the past. This creates a sense of community and shared goals through preservation.

fandinod

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February 2, 2018

Lost in Translation or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Github

February 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Grandiose ideas are often the downfall of any undertaking. Take Napoleon and the decision to invade Russia, Tony Stark building Ultron, the Sega Dreamcast and the withdrawal of Sega from the console market. The most important point I am trying to keep in mind for the project is to keep the parts under the hood straightforward and trust the end product will be more than the sum of its parts. The second point was ensuring compliance and responsiveness on both computers and mobile devices, as I am running with the idea that most people idly browse the internet on their phones. If my site was to develop into something useful for students, scholars, and casual visitors during the 2020 Games, I had to ensure a clean and intuitive interface that wasn’t going to cause me grief a few years down the line.

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Julia DeCook

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January 31, 2018

Networks of Ideology

January 31, 2018 | By | No Comments

For the second part of the CHI fellowship, I’ve proposed a project that would map out an ideological network of celebrities in the “alt-right.” Of course, the term “alt-right’ is an umbrella catch-all term that has been proposed not only by the members of the movement itself but also the media and other institutions that inform the public. As such, the alt-right is merely a descriptor of a group of loosely connected political organizations and movements that have similar goals. There are even differentiations to the levels to which an organization can fall under this umbrella, and “alt-lite” has emerged as a way to identify some of these groups that are similar to the alt-right but have differences that are distinct enough that they do not fall under the term completely.

The first project is going to be constructing a network of celebrities that are active in the alt-right and which organizations that they are connected to. Some of these celebrities act as brokers between organizations that may not otherwise be connected, and the goal is to be able to visualize how celebrities have a broad reach and influence across the groups. For instance, Milo Yiannopoulos is a “celebrity” not only with the GamerGate crowd but also with the Manosphere. Jordan Peterson is also a celebrity within the movement, as are figures like Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, and others. Using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Wikipedia, and other numerous sources, I will hopefully not only visualize the ideological network but also be able to provide some information when the nodes themselves are clicked on.

The outcome of the project is a first step towards visualizing how all of the groups are connected on the basis of their ideology and goals. Starting with the celebrities, I will house the project on a website and will continue to add new networks as time goes on.

I’ve been attempting to scrape my own data but I think just creating the network with already existing information may be the best way to go. A similar project, the Alt Right Open Intelligence Initiative, has done a lot of research in visualizing the discourse and content and can serve as a starting ground for some of this ideology network visualizing. The research done by the initiative has focused primarily on the social media platforms that these organizations use and how they are connected through their content. I am hoping to add to this research by looking specifically at the celebrities and how they are mentioned and talked about by the groups, and thus how they are affiliated along similar ideological lines.

I’m still working out some kinks in how I will go forth with the project but have decided that rather than reinventing the wheel and collecting all of my own data, using already existing data is the better way to go considering the time frame that I have. I hope that this will be the first of a line of projects that will aid in visualizing political extremism in the U.S. and beyond.