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franc230

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December 5, 2018

The Feasibility and Worthwhileness of a Project.

December 5, 2018 | By | No Comments

Scope has been a primary concern for a lot of us during the semester. You have to have an idea that falls right into that Goldilocks zone of feasible and worthwhile. My particular project is no exception. As a research assistant for the anthropology department, I started off the semester hoping to digitize an entire archaeological collection. A collection which may have thousands of artifacts and documents associated with it. I soon realized this is probably too much and decided to build the skeleton of a digital library that could add documents and artifacts in the future. This seemed like a better goal since I will likely be museum RA for quite a while. This was missing an important aspect, however, of what CHI fellowship projects are supposed to be about. That being cultural heritage.

In the future, I hope to be able to use digital heritage to preserve artifacts and educate people about our history. Well, it’s one of my goals. As a Native American archaeologist, I am greatly concerned about spreading Native American culture and passing on our history and values to the public and the next generation. Especially since these things were missing through much of my own upbringing. With this in mind, I realized that I may have actually been focusing too much on just the digital aspect of my project.

Rather than focusing on the digitization of all of the artifacts, or the building of a digital library, some of my attention should be on what sort of story the presentation of these artifacts will produce. This collection holds history. The artifacts that were collected hold the life stories of those that made them and the collection itself holds the story of the archaeologists who put it together. It is important to me that I get both of these aspects out into the world. Because cultural heritage is more than just a catalog. It gives a perspective about who we are.

The exact details of how to do this are still being worked out, but hopefully I will become better at getting the artifacts the and cultural heritage behind them out there in the process. It reminds me that feasibility is important when it comes to the scope of a project, but so is worthwhileness.

koutiany

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December 5, 2018

What does Digital Humanities mean to you?

December 5, 2018 | By | No Comments

A few days ago, in the office, my co-workers referred to me as the “DH person”. “The DH group” is also used to refer to the scholars on MSU campus who work with Digital Humanities. On the one hand, I am proud to be recognized as a “DH person.” On the other hand, I still sense the connotation of that description; there is a distinction between the “DH people” and the “non – DH people”. However, I would like to argue that “DH” should never be a tag that we use to make ourselves and our works look fancier, instead, DH is embedded in our academic activities in terms of studying, researching, teaching, etc. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make DH more accessible, promote DH by showing our co-workers, and the general public audience what they can do with DH. I believe the rise in popularity of DH will eventually benefit the development of huminites as a whole.

The “you” in the title of this blog does not only stand for our fellow graduate students, professors, but also for the general public regards their age and educational backgrounds. Within the field of humanities in the university setting, software makes the analysis process for quantitative research more efficient. More and more data are documented through digital forms, which makes them accessible to a larger audience. With the development of technology, digital learning and researching tools can be seen everywhere in our daily life. E-books and online learning systems provide students who live in remote areas access to acquire knowledge, which benefits not only the people in the school setting, but also everyone who has the desire for learning in various fields. Living in this digital age, we are no longer isolated by geographic distance.

DH is nothing scary. DH is about humanities scholars using digital tools to conduct research, to study and to teach in a more appealing way. DH is never the end goal, but a means. A means that assists humanities to step further, look deeper, and speak louder. Within the framework of CHI fellowship, I, as a German scholar focusing on cultural studies, can combine various forms of materials with the assistance of digital tools and present them to a wider audience. The project I am currently working on is presenting the stories of the German national football team players with immigration background. A map that shows the player’s heritage provides a direct visual assistant. Projects such as this could be a gateway for German language students to develop a better understanding of the multicultural situation in Germany. Currently the project is only available in English, however, more language options could be added at a later stage. Combining football and language teaching could also trigger the learner’s enthusiasm for using the language in a real-life setting, rather than simply finishing activities in a textbook. The project as such could strongly benefit language teaching and turn the learning process towards a more communicative way.

Although DH may not seem like a scary term for us, the “DH people”, it could still be intimidating for those who are not familiar with it. We should not be content with the “glory” DH brought us and forget the original intention that brought us to work with DH: presenting our research in a more comprehensive way; making our research more accessible to a larger audience; and overall, bringing humanities to the next era.

plemonsa

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November 28, 2018

It’s All About the Deliverables

November 28, 2018 | By | No Comments

We, as academics, are conditioned to write grant and project proposals for research that we are interested in pursuing. We have our general format that we follow for these proposals…introduction, background information, research problem and questions, materials and methods, and potential impacts of the research project. However, a large focus of research proposals today, particularly grant proposals, are highly concerned with the “Deliverables” portion. Deliverables refer to the tangible products that will come from the project and the ways in which you will disseminate your results, including public presentations, development of software, public release of raw data in some forms, and analytical programs. This is an important component of your project proposal as it forces you consider who will be your target audience, how you will engage with the audience, and what you hope your project will provide to that community. Is the primary goal of your research to educate? Provide a useful tool? Provide a new method? Create a platform to connect researchers with a common interest?

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dglovsky

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November 20, 2018

Who will read my academic book? Telling public stories about Africa and Africans

November 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

As a graduate student 90+% of the way through writing my dissertation, I often have ask myself this question: how many people will ever read anything I write? My dissertation will be read by my committee members, maybe a couple of historian friends, grad students or professors in the countries I study, maybe future grad students researching these areas, and perhaps less likely, family members or people in the communities I study. This problem is even more of an issue when you get to the production of actual physical books, which often cost absurd amounts of money that makes them impractical for the vast majority of people.

This unfortunate fact makes me think about how to get across some of the individual and collective stories of my dissertation. I spent about eight months speaking with over 350 people in rural West African borderlands, and have about 150 hours of interviews from more than 100 different communities. How can I share these stories in a way that allows “the public” to engage with them? People in the communities I study in Senegal may not be able to read an academic book I write due to accessibility, but they could access publicly available stories posted on the Internet. My friends and family here in the U.S. will likely not read my dissertation, because the locations where it takes place seem foreign and confusing, but they could browse an online exhibit highlighting some of the most important themes of the migration stories people told me.

The CHI Fellowship has of course taught me digital skills, but it has also forced me to reckon more with ideas of public engagement. I may not read academic books most days, but I find myself often reading websites like Africa is a Country to find accessible looks at some of the most pressing issues facing Africa today, as well as reflections on African history, culture, etc. Probably a few times a month, I listen to podcasts like MSU’s Africa Past and PresentNew Books in African Studies, or Ufahamu Africa, which provide perspectives on different topics that I may not seek out on my own. There are also less academic podcasts like the BBC’s Africa Today or VOA’s Africa News Tonight.

This is a roundabout way of saying that there are a wide variety of ways to engage publicly (my guess is some podcasts gets more listens than the academic book gets reads, especially among people outside of the subject area). This is particularly true of podcasts associated with news producers like the BBC. The same is often true in classroom settings. In a class I co-taught online last summer, my students listened to multiple podcasts on American sports history, which allowed them to engage with a different form of media, one they are more likely to consume on a daily basis.

Digital projects like the University of Kansas’ Migration Stories, which looks at African immigrants to the “Midwest,” publicly share stories that might otherwise go unrecognized by the general public. This sort of engagement can be a teaching tool, not just in the classroom, but oriented to the public at large. My own research focuses on rural cross-border migration in four different West African countries, but also tells stories of individual, family, and communal migration. Through the CHI Fellowship, I am developing a project that brings the stories of these rural West Africans to a larger audience, and that recognizes the importance of their stories without making people sit down to read a 350-page book or dissertation.

fandinod

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November 16, 2018

To the Beginning: Anime and American Fandom in the 1980s

November 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

The first problem to resolve in mapping out American anime fandom is where to situate a start point for the project. The first major anime convention in the United States was Project A-Kon, first held in 1990. Before this point, smaller anime meetings were held as stand-alone local events by clubs or as part of larger conventions which catered to broader American fandom. This was quite typical of conventions on both sides of the Pacific, an example of which is the long running Japanese science fiction convention Nihon SF Taikai (日本SF大会) which had a heavy emphasis on American media.

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franc230

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November 16, 2018

Popups: the Greatest Puzzle

November 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

I had my first eureka moment in programming a couple of weeks ago. Our cohort was tasked with building a website with a map, putting some points on that map and making some popups appear when you click on those points. We decided to utilize https://www.mapbox.com to build the dataset, the tileset and the map required for this. Our website would then fetch the map built on mapbox and put it onto our website. Putting points on the map and customizing the markers for those points ended up being easy tasks. So, it was with a bit of overconfidence I began attempting to build the popups.

I started to look for the code I would need around 7am in the morning our project was due. By 10am, that cold shiver went down my spine when you realize you may not have enough time to meet the deadline. At the time, a month did not seem like enough time. Mapbox has many helpful resources for figuring out how to use their stuff, and I discovered the following code while sifting through their tutorials:

var popup = new mapboxgl.Popup({ offset: [0, -15] })

.setLngLat(feature.geometry.coordinates)

.setHTML( )

.setLngLat(feature.geometry.coordinates)

.addTo(map);

There was a bit more to adding this code to our website, but this is the important chunk for this post. Initially looking at all the code, however, I could not figure out how to make the popups show what I wanted. It seemed like every time I tried to change something, the whole map would crash. I feared my group would have to do one of those talks that was only about what went wrong because of my failure to figure this out. That’s when I found a savior on an old forum. Google had led me to some saint who had my same problem a few years ago. Another user on the forum informed him that he was supposed to put some things into .setHTML() in a particular format. I eventually ended up putting the following HTML into our code and committed the changes:

.setHTML(‘<h5>’ + feature.properties.title + ‘</h6><p>’ + feature.properties.description  + ‘</p>’ + ‘<img src=”‘ + feature.properties.img + ‘” alt=”‘ + feature.properties.title + ‘” style=”width:175px;height:250px;”>’ + ‘<p><a href=”‘ + feature.properties.link + ‘”>’ + feature.properties.title + ‘</a></p>’)

This code essentially uses HTML, along with variables from our dataset that mapbox will recognize, to place what we want within the popup. This included a title, a description, an image and a link to a Wikipedia page.  I reloaded our website and perhaps yelled yes with a little too much enthusiasm when our badly formatted popups appeared when clicking on the points. Figuring out how to work this code felt much different from other times I’ve solved a problem. It’s almost like solving a puzzle, but more meaningful. Like an officer let you off with a warning and gave you 5 bucks for your trouble.

While the feeling of finally figuring out this problem was amazing, we did run into a few issues. First off, it may be because I am new to this, but the code looks ugly to me. By that I mean it seems like an awful lot of trouble to put html code into the parentheses using quotations along with Mapbox variables. This messed up how the properties in my text-editor (Atom) were colored, and it made it also made it super difficult to adjust the code without our website spazzing out. The code was very touchy.

The second sort of issue this code runs into is its reliance on Mapbox to provide all the features of the maps. The other groups developed projects that hardwired their dataset into their code. I imagine this allowed them to update the points and properties of their map in real time. Our map, however, required us to update the dataset, then the tileset, and then the map itself. All these layers of updates meant that it sometimes took a day for any changes in our dataset to be reflected on our website.

The last note I’d like to end on is talking about how easy all of this seems now. Building the popup and putting some HTML code into .setHTML () seems like such an obvious thing to do now. Even putting the code into our actual index.html file instead of pulling stuff from mapbox doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore. My newly acquired affection for popups has increased my enjoyment for programming. Hopefully the next problem is the same.

holteri1

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November 13, 2018

Getting Digital into the Humanities

November 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

I recently attended a digital round table at a conference on Asian that focused on open access, online journals and the difficulty in maintaining the journal both financially and technically. While the presenters clearly cared very deeply for their journals and upholding academic integrity, they were just as plainly overwhelmed with the management of a WordPress site. One professor mentioned that they had issues moving forward with the journal because they needed to get IT people involved with a site that only housed text and photos.

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koutiany

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November 12, 2018

Mapping the Hooligans

November 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 2013, ProFans published a public statement that pointed out the rise of the right-wing extremist activities in German football stadiums. The statement by ProFans, the largest football fan organization, appealed to the relevant parties to work together and to avoid the deterioration of the situation. After Merkel opened the borders to refugees in 2015, almost one million refugees left their home countries and arrived in Germany. The social change provided right-wing extremists an excuse to expand their organization. Accordingly, the number of violent activities inside the stadium planned by right-wing extremist rose dramatically.

Die Bundespolizei hinderte 42 Hooligans an der Ausreise

There are various types of fans in German soccer culture. Since the subgroups inside the fan population overlap with each other, sometimes it is hard for the public to distinguish between the different fan groups. Those who support their football club in an ultra-fanatical way are categorized as the ultras. In contrast, the hooligans are fans with extremely violent behaviors. Some fan groups may be influenced by political ideologies such as conservatism or socialism, or exhibit racist behaviors, ranging from avowed nationalism to anti-fascism. Recently, the fan group most frequently criticized in mass media is the right-wing extremist football fan who conducts violent crimes inside the stadium.

Journalists have documented cases of right-wing extremist football fans conducting crime since at least 2013. For example, Borussia Dortmund has long been the most attractive club for neo-Nazis in the state of North Rhine- Westphalia. Eastern Germany also has a noticeable scene. Faust des Ostens is a hooligan group connected to the Dynamo Dresden football club. Right-wing extremist speech and behavior appear not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the lower leagues. Six football fans celebrated Energie Cottbus’ promotion by marching through the city in Ku Klux Klan hoods. In 2017, SV Babelsberg fans got into a fight with Energies Cottbus fans because the EC fans baited them with Nazi chants, such as “Arbeit macht frei, Babelsberg null drei”.

In the contemporary political context, how are political ideologies, in this case, specifically the right-wing extremist ideologies present here, used, and promoted among the football fans? On the one hand, football as a cultural product provides a platform for various types of audience to express their feelings. On the other hand, recognizing and analyzing the current situation could be beneficial in terms of deepening our understanding of the right-wing extremist movements in German society.

Working with the CHI fellowship allows me to present the Hooligan culture from a different point of view. With the help of the new technical mapping tools we’ve been using in the last couple of weeks, I could simply pinpoint the hooligan activities of various clubs on a customized map. Instead of depicting the hooligan activities through text, a well-designed map could present the reality in a more direct, and clear way. Since hooligan activities do not only accrue in the Bundesliga level, but also in the lower leagues, I would use different colors for each league. Through the geographical description, the reader can also see the differences between the five new federal states and the ten old states, which could lead to the next level analysis. Furthermore, within each league, certain teams have traditional rivals. Some may be in the same area, but in the opposite side of the city. The hooligan activities always rise to the next level when two rival teams play with each other. With the visual presentation, readers will have an easier time tracking down and understanding the complicated relationship between football clubs.

The German hooligan groups also share a connection with other hooligan groups throughout Europe, which could also be depicted through the map. Since the map could be easily inserted in a website, other cultural phenomena could also be listed to this website, such as the clothing culture of right-wing extremists, certain musical groups, etc. Websites, as one of the digital platforms, play a significant role in combining geographical, visual, textual information and linking research subjects. The ultimate goal of mapping the hooligan culture is to show the public that right-wing extremists have been using football as a tool for conducting violence, spreading fear, and promoting extremist ideologies. As the ProFans said, “the right-wing extremist is not part of our creative, diverse, colorful and loud fan culture in the stadium.” *

* „Die extreme Rechte ist nicht Teil der kreativen, vielfältigen, bunten und lauten Fankultur in unseren Stadien.“- ProFans

cartyrya

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November 8, 2018

Data from the Atlantic Slave Trade, Part 2

November 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

In my last post, I discussed how historians use ethnonyms in historical datasets. The main take-away from that post is ethnonyms are difficult to interpret but can reflect the movement of African slaves with similar socio-cultural characteristics to specific regions in the Americas. Historians use this information to explore cultural continuities between Africans and African-descended people in the Americas.

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TaylorPanczak

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November 6, 2018

Digitizing the History of Archaeology: Ethical responsibilities

November 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

Recently I have had the opportunity to scan over 1000 slides of excavations that occurred along the southern coast of Peru throughout the 90’s and early 00’s. While the task itself was mundane and took many more hours than I was expecting, the images that I discovered through this digitization process were absolutely breathtaking. I was witnessing the slow evolution of one of South America’s oldest archaeological sites in terms of excavation and landscape modification. Not every slide itself is valuable but together every slide represents a small portion of a story that was largely only known to the excavators until now. This slide scanning process made me think of the history of archaeology and how the later generations of archaeologists have an ethical responsibility to digitize the old records so they are more freely available. This includes old site forms, journal entries from the PI or the excavators, any pictures of the excavations or tools, and any other documents that could be useful for future archaeologists. Digitizing these documents can also be used as outreach for the public in which archaeologists of the past had worked. This can help to further include communities in the process of archaeological investigation and possibly garner interest from outside the field.

With the discipline becoming more mature and getting older by the year, the history of archaeology is becoming much deeper and is starting to reach a point where some of that history can be lost if it is not moved into a new format. It is no surprise that as technology advances thing become obsolete and eventually become nontransferable onto the newer formats. I fear that if we do not start digitizing old archaeological records soon, we will not be able to transfer them onto a format that is widely and equally available to everyone. Digital records are much easier to gain access to than physical paper copies for obvious reasons but the overall control of information is vastly different between the two mediums. If information is purely stored in a physical format, the paper copies can be easily forgotten through purposeful or unintentional endeavors where as digital information can be sought out on the internet and stumbled upon. My point here is that it is our ethical responsibility as archaeologists to make what we do as widely available as possible to the public and future archaeologists. It is also our responsibility to maintain our own history otherwise we may lose precious information in the miasma of archaeological research. The large and publicly known sites may persist in public and written memory but the supporting sites that build and perpetuate theory have the potential to be lost unless we make a concerted effort to conserve all archaeological data.