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CHI Fellowship Program

Brian Geyer


May 2, 2018

Launching: No Mud Huts

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today I officially launch No Mud Huts: an open anthropological journal about Kenya’s tech industry! Through this site I intend to contribute to the open science research movement as a part of my broader support for an open access approach to scientific publishing.


I am about to complete my comprehensive exams and will soon be moving to Kenya to undergo a year-long data collection period, during which time I will be writing about my research on this site. Because of limitations regarding participant confidentiality, I will not be publishing all of my field notes and collected data, as would normally be expected of a scientist contributing to the open science movement. Instead, I will be working to write preliminary analyses of those notes and data, in order to strike a balance the ethics of conducting anthropological research with the ethics of ensuring one’s scientific production is accessible to as large an audience as possible.

I intend for this site to shine a light on the processes involved in “doing anthropology” for those who are interested. It is my hope that this site is viewed favorably and intently by those professionals with whom I am honored to conduct research in Kenya, but others who may be interested in what exactly it is anthropologists do and how at least one of us thinks.

Site Overview

No Mud HutsThe site’s layout is rather straightforward, with a landing page, About page, and the hosted blog. Adding new posts is as simple as creating a new Markdown file with the proper opening material, which prompts its inclusion in the blog post list. Despite being a static website hosted by GitHub Pages, No Mud Huts integrates several other open-source tools to allow for quick design changes and an automated comments section complete with Gravatar profile image integration. Comments can be easily disabled for individual posts as well. As the blog grows, the theme I’ve used for setting the website’s aesthetic design has an option to quickly implement post categorizations for blog post lists, as well as the ability to generate suggested links at the bottom of each post.


Julia DeCook


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
    1. Alt Right
    2. Alt Lite
    3. Manosphere
    4. Gamergate

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.



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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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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March 7, 2018

Pictures and Conversation

March 7, 2018 | By | No Comments

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversations?’

Pictures and conversations have been dominating my thoughts on digital projects over the past few weeks, thanks to my work in a digital humanities class. Just as Alice astutely noted, most in the work done in my particular field of history is heavily textual, analytic, and descriptive. While within the discipline of history a book full of text without pictures is the norm, on the other hand a wall of text on a web site is a daunting thing to present to a site visitor, if by daunting you mean a sure fire way to make people click away. Over the course of the last few blog posts I laid out the vision for my project and my ideas to make each part work within a whole. Now, I’ll be working through the implementation of these concepts although not without a little more philosophizing on the idea I am trying to project through my site. In my related digital humanities course I have begun to question the textual dominance of digital projects and have been asking myself how to bend images and nontextual sources towards creating a conversation between the material and a site visitor. History prides itself on writing–a lot of writing. If I’m going to be mining cliches, if a picture if worth a thousand words, a 360 image should worth at least be a novella. Now my dilemma is a practical one: how to incorporate these concepts and images into a digital project?

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Cody M


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!

Ethan Watrall


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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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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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!