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franc230

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October 25, 2018

Mapping Marvell and Indigenous Mapping

October 25, 2018 | By | No Comments

Expectations

At the beginning of this journey in CHI, I had no idea how we were going to go about learning to do culture digitally. Learning some Java, building a website and watching The Matrix seemed like some likely things. But learning how to create maps for your web pages using mapbox and leaflet had not come to mind as our first significant project. As an archaeologist, I probably should have realized that mapping would a vital part of representing cultural heritage digitally. Locating the culture of interest both spatially and temporally is a big step to saying anything meaningful.

Mapping Marvel

My group’s project will map significant locations in the Marvel comic and cinematic universe that are located in New York City. We all like Marvel, and we thought New York would give us the best selection of locations to map. So far, any significant location in the Marvel universe is fair game, but there is concern about what sort of narrative we’ll be mapping out. Do we want to talk about the origins of Heroes and Villains, major battle locations, or some other important aspect of Marvel? Further, how do we choose which locations represent this narrative? We can’t possibly talk about every character in the Marvel universe, so decisions have to be made about who to leave out. This process of deciding what is most important for us to map got me thinking about how I can use mapping in my future research as a Native American Archaeologist.

Indigenous Mapping

Determining what goes on the map is an act of power dependent on the cartographer’s own agenda and biases. Chapin et al. (2005) reminds us that the boundaries of nations are not natural features of the landscape; they are human constructs that often use mapping as a weapon to claim valuable land and resources. For instance, colonists in Canada made land claims during the late 19th century because they believed the natives were not “using” the land properly; i.e. not practicing agriculture. Indigenous mapping attempts to flip the script and make claims of their own with the use of maps.

The first instances of indigenous mapping were conducted in Canada and Alaska in the 1950s. It eventually spread out from there, and by the 1990s, Indigenous peoples from around the world were starting to use maps to their benefit. Their uses of cartography support their claims and defenses of ancestral lands and resources while also strengthening Indigenous political organization, economic planning and natural resource management. It also allows indigenous people to document their history and culture for the purposes of salvaging and reinforcing cultural identity (Chapin et al. 2005). These benefits are not to imply that Indigenous maps are better or more authentic. Rather, I believe it demonstrates that maps are not infallible pieces of information. Every mapmaker has their own agenda. Perhaps the best way to counteract this is to include as many perspectives as possible. Consequently, it is probably a good thing that our Marvel Map is a group project.

Robinson et al. (2016) describes this process of including others in what’s called participatory mapping. By including indigenous people as significant participants, researchers open up a dialogue and create maps that acknowledged Indigenous rights knowledge. In this process, Indigenous members work together to help decide which information is or is not relevant or reliable for mapping the places and environments important to them. The end result is ideally a map and relationship that’s both useful to indigenous and non-indigenous people. Of course, things don’t always go as planned, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Conclusion

This barely touches the surface of Indigenous mapping and especially mapping in general,  but it does bring attention to the fact that our maps have power and consequences. Maps should be negotiated with these thoughts in mind. So, maybe before my group goes and makes a definitive map of the marvel characters, we should go ask some of its characters what they believe to be the most important part of their stories. More realistically, a Map of Marvel in New York would include feedback from creators or people that have dedicated themselves to that universe. Unfortunately, it may unfeasible to do this when the project is due in a couple days. Mapping is hard.

 

Sources

Chapin, Mac, Zachary Lamb, and Bill Threlkeld (2005) Mapping Indigenous Lands. The annual Review of Anthropology 34:619-638

Robinson, Catherine J., Kirsten Maclean, Ro Hill, Ellie Bock and Phil Rist (2016) Participatory mapping to negotiate indigenous knowledge used to assess environmental risk. Sustain Sci 11: 115-126

 

 

dglovsky

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October 21, 2018

Mapping Internal African Migration

October 21, 2018 | By | No Comments

My research focuses on a particular borderland split between four West African countries: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea. Since the late 19th century, people in this borderland have moved between countries for a variety of reasons and in multiple directions. I plan to use my CHI Fellowship to map some of these movements.

For some of these locations, this is not a major issue. I was able to collect geographic coordinates for the 110 villages, towns, and cities in which I interviewed people during my fieldwork in 2016 and 2017 (see the below map for the sites of my interviews). However, the problem becomes in tracking where these people came from. Some people discussed their own migration from villages that may no longer exist, or are in different locations from where they had previously been. Additionally, there are often several villages or towns with the same name, particularly when the name has religious meaning. In other cases, villages have multiple names, and so the officially recorded name in government documents may not line up with the information I was given. Other people I spoke with discussed the migration of their parents or grandparents, and only knew the names of particular districts from which those people migrated but not the villages themselves.

Despite popular perception, most African migrants don’t actually leave the continent. Without even considering migration within individual countries, most international migration in Africa occurs from neighboring countries. Côte d’Ivoire alone hosts 1.3 million migrants from Burkina Faso, while nearly 600,000 Ivorians live in Burkina Faso. For some perspective, Burkina Faso’s population is estimated at nearly 20 million, with Côte d’Ivoire’s nearing 25 million.

Countless articles in newspapers around the globe understandably discuss the migrant crisis in Europe, with Africans (and others) trying desperately to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life. However, the more demographically significant migration of those within the continent remains understudied. But how to represent these migration in a way that transcends numbers? This is what I hope to do through CHI.

Many of the people I spoke with migrated short distances, in some cases less than 10 miles. Are these individuals foreigners in their new countries? Are they considered international migrants? These are some of the questions I explore through my own research. While other aspects of African migration are worth of study, these more localized studies remain opaque for much of the public. Digital Humanities practitioners have the ability to bring these migrants into the public eye, and are also able to more easily share their research with the public in Africa. During my 4 years in West Africa, I was constantly reminded how much of academic knowledge is sealed off from the outside world through expensive journals and scholarly monographs. Graduate students and faculty at the University of Dakar would ask me if I had particular articles that they could not access. While more journals are open-access than in the past, much scholarly research still remains behind closed doors, inaccessible to those being written about.

However, rural Africans are increasingly gaining access to the internet through smart phones and improved wireless infrastructure. Thus, if research can be made accessible online, it can be accessed by growing numbers of Africans, including those whose communities are the subject of academic scholarship.

plemonsa

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October 17, 2018

Privacy in Digitally-Driven Projects in Forensic Anthropology

October 17, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today, the majority of research and daily practices in Forensic Anthropology have a digital component. When writing grant proposals for forensic research, institutions, such as National Institute of Justice or the National Science Foundation, generally fund projects that have deliverables in the form of large data mining and sharing via digital sources. In daily practice, forensic anthropologists aim to identify individuals primarily through the use of software with large amounts of reference data to which they compare their target individual.
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koutiany

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October 16, 2018

Who am I? Nationality, identity, and digital tools

October 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 1922, Albert Einstein said, “Since the theory of relativity is accepted by the readers, nowadays, I am recognized as a ‘German scholar’ in Germany and the ‘Swiss Jew’ in Britain. However, if my theory is no longer popular or accepted, then I immediately turn into the ‘Swiss Jew’ for the Germans and the ‘German scholar’ for the British.”*

The quote above is Einstein’s answer to the question “who am I?”. One can simply answer this one of the most frequently mentioned philosophical questions with his name, occupation, nationality or other characteristics. Nationality is one of the distinctive characteristics that could potentially help people to identify themselves. However, under the effect of the globalization and other historical events, the migration of populations tends to play a significant role at this present stage. Under this background, identifying oneself simply with nationality becomes more complicated. Not only does the individual need to find out to which nationality (nationalities) do they belong, but their choice is also affected by the question, “what do other people think I am?”

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holteri1

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October 12, 2018

A Question of Authenticity: Digital Artifacts in Museums

October 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

One of the reasons I was drawn to the CHI fellowship was my interest in the digital preservation of artifacts and historical sites for use in museums. I saw the opportunities of photogrammetry and 3D rendering as essential to the future of museums of any kind and wanted to learn more about the possibility of making history more tangible through digital tools. However, one of the main issues raised against the use of digital artifacts in museums is the question of authenticity.

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cartyrya

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October 11, 2018

Data from the Atlantic Slave Trade

October 11, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am currently supporting Matrix with Enslaved, a digital project that links historical datasets related to the Atlantic slave trade. My work includes looking at data compiled by different historians and reorganizing that data so it is easier to link to other datasets. Most of these datasets are organized by person and include a number of characteristics for each person, as enumerated in the historical documents. The characteristics may include name, birthdate, sex, age, and occupation. They may also include descriptors for color/race, ethnonym, and place of origin.

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TaylorPanczak

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October 8, 2018

Access to Digital Humanities: a critique

October 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

With the invention and advancement of the digital humanities, anthropology is in a unique position to be inclusive to the populations that are being studied. We as curators of digital archives have the opportunity to help enable access to a societies cultural heritage but is access always equal? Hypothetically, access to the digital humanities should be equal but in practice, this may not be true. The most obvious reason for unequal access is technological availability. According to Internet World Stats, which provides information about internet usage worldwide and collects data from various sources such as the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union, on average, only 55.1% of a given geographic regions population has internet access. When this figure is broken down further, access to the internet is unequally distributed across the globe with North America (95%) and Europe (86.1%) having the most regular access and Africa (36.1%) and Asia (49%) having the least. The perception of everyone having access to computers or the internet is clearly rooted in a western bias and needs to be addressed when considered when creating a digital archive. Without this consideration, who are we presenting for besides ourselves and a general Western audience? What is considered the “public” needs to be addressed and reevaluated.

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legershe

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September 30, 2018

Whaddup!

September 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

I’m Shewonda Leger. I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, with a specialization in women’s and gender studies. I take my responsibilities as a scholar seriously, because there are very few Haitian American women like myself in academic spaces. Therefore, my research makes space for conversations about diasporic Haitian women’s embodied learning practices and lived experiences in both academic and nonacademic spaces.

I am invested in finding modes of creating and circulating knowledge for communities that have always been othered or silenced. I continue to find the best ways of incorporating digital technologies and multimodal practices in my teaching, because traditional standards of teaching have privileged text-based forms of writing.

I love making films. I love watching films. I love telling stories. I love listening to stories.

TaylorPanczak

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September 27, 2018

There and Back Again: A CHI fellows tale-Taylor Panczak

September 27, 2018 | By | No Comments

Hi my name is Taylor Panczak and I am a 1st year graduate student at MSU. I have recently transferred into the anthropology program from Northern Illinois University where I completed my first year of graduate studies. I am an archaeologist with a specific focus on lithic technology and the construction of digital representations of  archaeological artifacts. For my masters thesis, I am currently working on creating a projectile point typology from the Terminal Pleistocene highland site of Cuncaicha rockshelter located in the southern Andes of Peru. I am also exploring the nature of inter-zonal connections between the highlands and the coast of Peru by comparing projectile points of similar morphology. I am working with Dr. Kurt Rademaker throughout this project and plan on perusing my PhD soon after I have completed my M.A at MSU.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the spring of 2017 with a B.S. in Anthropology. During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine twice to participate in excavations at the neolithic archaeological site of Verteba cave During these field seasons I learned valuable information about archaeological methodology and how to be culturally relative. This was my first experience leaving the United States and I quickly learned that no matter how much you wanted to be on time, sometimes the bus just doesn’t show up for that day and you had to take this setback in stride.

This past summer I spent 10 weeks in Peru where I conducted research for my own thesis and also participated in geologic survey of southern Peru. My experiences this summer have changed my outlook on archaeology and have shaped the way I will conduct research in the future. Throughout the field season I would encounter setbacks while attempting to create 3D models of projectile points. Some days the models would not render, the hostel I was staying at would not have electricity, or a variety of issues would occur with the model making software. I quickly learned that it did not matter if I had created 1 3D model or 30 on a given day, I could not give up and had to keep pressing on no matter how much I pleaded with Aegisoft to work.

I am very excited about the upcoming year with CHI and hope to leave a lasting impact on archaeology by creating a large digital archive of the projectile points at Cuncaicha.

plemonsa

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September 26, 2018

Identifying Amber Plemons

September 26, 2018 | By | No Comments

Hello, unidentified individuals. I use that term frequently. Unidentified individuals.

My name is Amber Plemons. I am identified. I have the ability to speak and advocate for myself. But what happens when unidentified human skeletal remains are discovered? Their voice has to be restored through someone else, whether the goal is to provide justice for a cruel act bestowed upon them or closure for loved ones.

I am a third year PhD student in Biological Anthropology, focusing in Forensic Anthropology. As a forensic anthropologist, much of my days are spent attempting to narrow down candidate lists for identifying unknown persons, researching new methods to improve identification efforts, or improving and building upon these established methods.

I began this career path years ago (more than I care or am willing to admit) at Texas State University, where I received a B.S. in Anthropology, followed by my M.A. in Applied Anthropology at Mississippi State University. At Mississippi State, “the other MSU”, I managed databases for prehistoric and historic skeletal assemblages. Here, I realized the power of digital curation of information for past populations, both biological and cultural material, and became interested in digital projects involving bioarchaeological and forensic skeletal collections.

At “the real MSU”, Michigan State University, I work with Dr. Joseph Hefner to build a reference databank of cranial macromorphoscopic trait data, traits used to estimate ancestry in skeletal remains. The goal of this project is to record the patterns of trait variation across the world in hopes of increasing accuracy and reliability of ancestry estimations. By folding these efforts into a digital project, we increase the ability to exchange data with researchers around the world. This is what encouraged me to become a CHI Fellow, where I hope to map trait expressions to create a visual representation of human craniofacial variation. We can then easily relate trait variation patterns to geographic barriers, climate and humidity, population histories, and genetic data to understand what shapes craniofacial morphology. This project will help to improve and refine ancestry estimations and aid in increasing the likelihood of identifying ‘unidentified individuals’.