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CHI Fellowship Program



March 20, 2017


March 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

I have not updated the blog about my project in a while. Its scope has been pared down significantly – as Ethan has said from the start that it would. The main change is that in order to make the creation of a database manageable within the time parameters of the program, given my total lack of experience with SQL, I have had to identify one highly uni-variant form of data within the corpus of economic and environmental statistics that exist in relation to the Lake Victoria basin. I selected tables relating to the production and consumption of electricity in East Africa, for historiographical and methodological reasons. The generation of hydropower at Owen Falls is an emerging point of emphasis in the historiography of East Africa, and will likely have considerable significance within the context of my dissertation. Therefore, I think that data from Owen Falls and other sites in East Africa offers a useful point of focus for this exercise.


It also offers a relatively accessible point of entry into writing SQL, because the information consists mostly of simple X-Y tables with recurring categories, e.g. Power (Horsepower) produced, Light (Kilowatts) consumed. Still, I have had to do some data cleaning, because these observations were not necessarily made to be compared with one another and were not produced in a standard form like Blue Books (at least, I haven’t digitized any relevant Blue Books). This data includes some tables that are pre-grouped. The largest bodies of information among these groups are a time-series that charts power and light production at sites across Kenya and Uganda across a decade, and a set of revised projections for the demand for electricity based on a revised estimate for the cost of power generation. These groups of tables seem to offer the most low-hanging fruit for the linking of tables through SQL – and the most historically-sound use of the language in this context, given the fact that the creators of these tables intended to group them.


The tables in these groups have also categories in common with other tables outside their own groupings, and so through the use of SQL these data can reveal an integrated picture of electricity production and consumption. This can give researchers increased access to the history of the region, but can also impose an ahistorical image onto the hydropower industry in East Africa, because historical actors did not necessarily see the industry in the ways that a database might present it. Then again, this tension can also be valuable in trying to understand the historical trajectory of hydropower.




March 20, 2017


March 20, 2017 | By | No Comments


I attended the event described in the article above. The general purpose of this series of events is to preserve scientific environmental knowledge that is supported by the US federal government and is therefore at risk of loss under the Trump administration. The last sentence of the article best captures the specific purpose of the Toronto event: to create a “prototype” for a process that its organizers neologized as an “archivathon” (a Google websearch of the word doesn’t return any uses outside of the context of this project; a Google ngram doesn’t plot any uses). Around 80-100 people volunteered at the event, which occupied the entire floor of the School of Information’s information library. The volunteers included a core group of organizers including faculty from the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania, and people like myself, i.e. those responding to the organizers’ call for volunteers. Many of the volunteers were vocally uncomfortable with the presence of communications media, both conventional and social, but also said that their presence was necessary (the media being what got us there, anyway).


The organizers asked us to split into three working groups: 1) a group of people doing the heavy lifting of going through the EPA website in advance of a webcrawler program, once the program had been written; 2) a group called “hacker’s corner,” which was geared towards writing the webcrawler and split off into its own separate room; and 3) a group oriented towards overseeing the logistics and structure of the data processing that was occurring in the information library that day. Additionally, the organizers also asked that a small number of people create two ‘floating’ teams of volunteers to go between the three working groups in order to document their work – one team via social media, and one via ethnography. I decided to take ethnographic notes, documenting volunteers’ experiences with the archivathon. I spent most of my time listening to people in the third group.


The third group divided into three subgroups. One included some of the lead organizers, each managing specific logistical tasks; this end of the table was fairly quiet. The other two groups included those who were creating a schema for an inventory of the EPA website. The first was tasked with creating an inventory of the EPA website, and the second with creating a rubric for libraries and other organizations to use in order to identify and prioritize materials for digital preservation in case federal support is cut. The inventory group worked mostly in pairs, each taking a specific section of the EPA website to map out conceptually (again, the character of the Toronto event was preliminary). The rubric group worked as a whole. Its members were heritage institution workers and/or digital humanities specialists, and seemed familiar with the interests and limitations of the people who would be using the rubric. Balancing ease and efficacy in the use of the rubric was an overarching theme here. Listening to each group offered different, albeit brief views into the practice of cultural heritage informatics in a sharply political context.

Jack Biggs


March 17, 2017

Making headway…finally

March 17, 2017 | By | No Comments

The past few months have been incredibly frustrating as I made little headway in creating my clickable SVG of a juvenile skeleton using Raphaël.js.  By clicking on a certain bone, the user would be taken to another page corresponding to age estimation methods for that bone and use the features specified to come up with an estimated age.  Since clickable SVGs are created as paths that have beginnings and endings, each path corresponds to either a single bone or a closed path on a bone.  As a result, this means that each bone would have its own link, so to simplify the process, entire regions of bones will be selected at once no matter which bone you click on.  The skeletal regions have been split up according to standard anatomical regions: skull, thorax (ribs, vertebrae, sternum), upper limbs (hands, forearms, arms, clavicles, scapulae), pelvic girdle (pelvis and sacrum), and lower limbs.

Although I appeared to have the correct links and format for Raphaël.js, nothing would work and nothing showed up on my webpage.  Fortunately, I think I have found a way around that.  Instead of linking raphaël.js and my skeletal SVG data paths from separate files, I was able to successfully link embed the SVG data directly into the body of my html page without even using raphaël.js.  Downside is that this makes the code on my html page much longer and look less clean.  However, it correctly links and works and so I’m happy to have slightly less concise code if it means that one of the main functions will work!

As an example, I’ve copied and pasted my example here (  For right now, the outlines of the skeleton are linked to another website so when you click on a feature, it takes you to – a website created by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin dedicated to teaching basic human skeletal anatomy as well as focusing on other primate skeletal morphology.  (This was honestly the first site that popped in my head when testing to see if the linking feature of my SVG worked).

As it stands right now, there is a major problem that I had not anticipated.  The only portion of the skeleton that is truly clickable is the outline of each bone, not the actual bone itself.  This was not a problem I had thought about until I finally got everything working.  My solution to this problem is basically messing with the original paths and outlines of the SVG so that the space between the outline is filled in and is the actual clickable content.  With this process, there are now exponentially more paths, meaning that there are way more individual closed loops that would require their own separate links as the program (Inkscape – free!) is no longer recognizing my grouped regions (i.e. it is not recognizing the ‘ribcage’ but each individual rib or piece of rib that is its own separate loop).  Though less than ideal, this may just be the nature of the beast so that each individual path would then have to have its own link, making my skeletal regions less useful as an overarching theme.

Despite this newest hiccup, I am incredibly relieved to be past this one major hurdle do I can now focus on each of the individual ageing methods that will link up to specific bones.


Jessica Yann


March 16, 2017

Project Update!

March 16, 2017 | By | No Comments

Greetings all! I don’t have many exciting new developments to report on my CHI project, so instead I thought I would share with you some screen shots of where I am at right now, and some of the pieces I could use help on.  The first is coming up with a flashier banner to go across the top. You can see my current placeholder banner below:

Along with that, I need a flashier title for my project.  You should be able to access it here, if you want to take a look at it in its current state. I’m still working on formatting, so you may still see some odd placement, off font size, or other issues.  However, please point them out!

All that aside, I have been learning a lot about how to make archaeological information accessible to the public. It is a lot more difficult than I anticipated to take the language from a National Register form, convert it into something that a school kid could understand, and maintain the information about why that site is importance.  I’ve done more editing on the text for each of my timeline events than on anything else!  We often underestimate the importance of communicating archaeology to the public. One of my main goals with this project is to successfully show how important archaeology is to understanding our past.  I hope by the time I am finished I will have succeeded, at least somewhat, in doing just that.



March 1, 2017

Getting Back to the Basics: Reducing the Content of My Site

March 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

My original vision for this project was to make a website showcasing the work I have been doing in collaboration with my colleagues in the Sociolinguistics Lab at MSU.  We’ve been documenting speech in the Greater Lansing Area over the last few years and have come across some unexpected trends…speech in Lansing is moving away from the prototypical rust-belt dialect and towards a more western (maybe Californian) dialect!

The website was going to showcase these facts. My earlier vision also included showcasing the sociolinguistics literature and previous findings regarding the Michigan dialect, commenting on how variationists like myself usually differentiate between dialects.  This then turned into having to describe (socio)linguistic theory and Bill Labov and vowel formants and standardization and OMG.  Waaay too much information.

Needless to say, I had a talk with myself and decided that I should just stick to the facts.  The stuff people, linguists and non-linguists alike, care about.  So, for better or for worse, my website is much simpler than originally planned, but I think it’s for the best.  No one wants to read the equivalent of a novel when they visit a website, right? Right!



March 1, 2017


March 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

I wrote this in January and never published it, so here goes anotha try

I’ve done away with Bootstrap and am giving it a go with HTML and CSS.  Everything is coming along… slowly but surely.  I wish I could globally change my sub-pages, but am not savvy enough to know how. Lots of copy/paste going on.  Still pondering a name for the website.  It’ll likely come to me in a dream.



February 27, 2017

Working out NorrisTown!

February 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

In the last month, I have begun putting the innards of my website together. Unsurprisingly it was difficult. But I am happy to report some progress! At this point, I am working towards making a page that whose format I would like to replicate in the other pages. In other happy news, I was able to procure some archival material (thanks to the internet and sagacious archival staff at Cornell University and the National Archives in Atlanta), seminal to my project.

In working out a page format I liked, I first went to a front end platform like Bootstrap. Unfortunately, what I wanted needed too many changes to the template. So I just began working ground-up. As someone new to JavaSript and CSS, I prefer to have everything at one place. It might be a slightly archaic way of working and definitely pedantic, but it’s the one way I am able to work on ‘website stuff’ without having to work again on a separate CSS file etc.

Broadly speaking the website will have five sections: about; ‘Norris: A Utopia’; ‘Understanding Norris’; ‘Photographing Norris’; ‘Company Towns in America’. Each of these sections will further have a drop down menu listing out sub-sections.

The section exploring Norris as a utopia will explore the imaginations that understood Norris as a utopia. It will explore the utopian nature of Norris through newspaper clippings, material generated by the TVA to justify Norris and extoll its virtues, press releases, and essays/commentary by architects and planners of Norris (this is where the Earle Draper papers would feature heavily).

Housing in Norris was based on typologies. The next section, ‘Understanding Norris’ will trace the rationale of the housing typologies, the housing typologies themselves and relating the typologies to plans, elevations and housing types.

As an important infrastructural project the Norris Dam was important for the TVA in many ways. As a project undertaken during the Great Depression, the Norris Dam and the town of Norris were photographed extensively by the Farm and Security Administration (FSA)- Office of War Information[1]. The photographs are available at the Library of Congress website. The next section then will showcase the FSA photographs, in addition to photographs of Norris from newspapers etc.

Lastly, Norris was company town. The last section will examine briefly, a history of company towns in the United States through essays and book sections. This section will also showcase further sources that readers can access on company towns.

On a personal note, I have begun to work in and through GitHub, a platform that has been giving me nightmares for many months now!

The page format I am veering towards is here . I would really appreciate any feedback you might have!

Also, I am really looking for a fun title. I welcome all ideas!!

[1] For more see

Erin Pevan


February 24, 2017

An organized chaos of Ngrams, corpora, and theory

February 24, 2017 | By | No Comments

At this point in my project exploring Norwegian national identity in literature over time, there is not much to report other than my continued progress knee-deep into the different pieces of my project. Over the past several weeks, I have been delving into different visualization tools to illustrate trends in national identity in Norway over time, and Ngram viewers (such as Google Ngram Viewer and Culturomics Bookworm, as well as a new fun Ngram discovery from the Norwegian Nasjonalbibliotekets Språkbanken repository) are the tools I am currently testing as my visualization for these trends.
Read More

Jessica Yann


February 17, 2017

Timeglider JS: moving right along

February 17, 2017 | By | No Comments

Construction of my timeline project is moving right along.  I have almost completely entered in all of the basic events, and have formatted the website into what it will basically look like. It is really coming together! I am using Timeglider JS as the framework for the timeline portion of my project and coding the rest of the pages with html/css. So far, it has been pretty easy to manipulate the basic components of Timeglider to enter in my own data points and re-do the icons (I’m pretty proud of my legend).  It has definitely been a learning process, but I think it will do what I want. Assuming I keep all my commas where they are supposed to be.

While the content is not yet as complete as it will be by the end of the project, I welcome feedback (just understand that nothing is yet in its final version!). You can view my timeline here.     Perhaps more importantly, I need a catchy title! Timeline of Michigan Archaeology is just too long. What do you think, internet? Take a peak through the site, then give me your feedback.  If I choose your title, I’ll give you an acknowledgement on my page! 🙂





February 3, 2017

Slowly Building My Website

February 3, 2017 | By | No Comments

I’ve done away with Bootstrap and am giving it a go with HTML and CSS.  Everything is coming along… slowly but surely.  I wish I could globally change my sub-pages, but am not savvy enough to know how. Lots of copy/paste going on.  Still pondering a name for the website.  It’ll likely come to me in a dream. Hopefully.