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CHI Fellowship Program

Jessica Yann

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January 27, 2017

Phase I: Developing my Timeline

January 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

Now that the new semester is here, I have finally begin to build my archaeological timeline of Michigan.  While not much has changed on the project website, I have been working steadily on collecting the necessary data to include.  You are welcome to view/keep tabs on my project development by going to my project development page here. Depending on when you check, there may or may not be a navigation bar at the top (that has been my most recent struggle).  I’m hoping to have the base pages created soon, with a navigation bar on all of them, and the timeline visible on the main page very shortly.  From there I can amend the events on the timeline and really start to add content.

Speaking of content, I’d like to say a bit regarding the type of information you can expect to see on my timeline.  After struggling a little trying to make decisions about just which archaeological sites to highlight, I decided it was important to highlight the most important sites in our state, which will be represented by those sites that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  These are archaeological sites that have been determined to be nationally significant, that have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory (you can see the criteria for listing here).  I will probably add a few additional sites that represent the earliest occupation of Michigan (these have not yet been nominated for listing).

Keep tabs on my project, comment on what you see, and enjoy! Just know that this is a living draft, that is always changing. I’m hopeful by my next blog post I will have started adding events and information to my page!

 

Erin Pevan

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December 27, 2016

Rifling through a stack of books: Examining expressions of Norwegian national identity

December 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

In my last CHI blog post of 2016, I’ll discuss the next steps of my project, expanding from my last post regarding the visualization of cultural heritage and ethnographic topics to the overall scheme and vision of my own project on Norwegian national identity. As with most large scale and content heavy projects, mine has evolved over these several months to this current iteration that not only serves as the main component to my master’s thesis, but also as the platform from which I can launch further projects that involve my interests in Scandinavian culture heritage, language, and the use of technology as the medium through which I can explore these interests.  Read More

Nikki Silva

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December 16, 2016

Project Introduction: Directory of Oneota Scholars

December 16, 2016 | By | No Comments

Project Description:

My dissertation research focuses on Oneota populations living in Illinois. Artifacts attributed to the Oneota have been found primarily in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Because of the variety of Oneota sites and the different geographic areas where artifacts have been found, it is difficult to parse out who is currently studying or has previously studied the Oneota and what has been published on Oneota archaeology. For this years CHI Project I will create a website that serves as a directory of these scholars and lists their publications, areas of interest, and current institutions of employment. This directory will be used by graduate, undergraduate, and PhDs trying to find other scholars studying the Oneota.

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Jessica Yann

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December 9, 2016

Gliding through time!

December 9, 2016 | By | No Comments

Last time I described my idea for my CHI fellowship project, an interactive timeline on Michigan’s Archaeological history.  I have had plenty of time to play with this idea and test out several different means to try and get a functioning timeline on my web page.  I think I have finally decided on using Timeglider JS, as it looks like it will allow me to create the pop-ups and interactivity I am looking for.  Timeglider JS is a widget written in javascript that you use to create your timeline, then incorporate that into your web page.  I’ve tested it with dates from 14,000 years ago up through the present, and even tested the interactivity to a point. I believe it will do everything I am hoping for.

Now that I have decided how I’m going to accomplish my project, the next step is to accumulate the information to put into it.  During the coming semester, I am going to start compiling archaeological information on important sites and themes to include on my timeline, while figuring out how to best incorporate them into the timeline. Some of the major themes I am thinking of incorporating into the timeline include major environmental changes, faunal changes (i.e., demise of mammoths and mastodons), and then major technological changes (i.e., appearance of pottery, plant domestication, introduction of the bow and arrow).

While I can do this all on my own, I am also soliciting input from you all as well.  What do you see as the most important themes in Michigan Archaeology that should be included? What are your favorite archaeological sites?  What information do you think the general public would most benefit from having included? Let me know what you think!

swayampr

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December 2, 2016

Naughty Norris

December 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

While my project has changed, I am still trying to figure what the UI of my website will be. City plans tend to be static and insipid unless you are a city planner/architect/urban designer in which you start critiquing it. But I am getting ahead of myself. Currently as it stands my project will try and understand the connections between cities and infrastructural projects such as dams. My test site is the town of Norris in Tennessee built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Today, parts of Norris are on the National Register for Historical Places. In trying to bring out connections between cities and infrastructure, I think it is important to bring out human stories. I anticipate using photographs (from the Library of Congress FSA collection) to think about the urban form. One of underlying aspects of my project is to try and analyze Norris for what it is — a model company town that embodied a certain utopia.

So then what is the story? Simply put the story is to try and think about the relationships between cities and infrastructure through people’s lives.

Meet Norris!

Town Plan of Norris

 

The chief architect of the Norris idea was TVA Chairman Arthur Morgan. On paper, Earle Draper, was the town planner. The immediate purpose of the town was to house the workers building Norris Dam about four miles away on the Clinch River. The second subliminal goal might have been to show America that how cooperative living might work.

The houses in Norris were supposed to be built on a modest and tasteful scale, with an eye to community as much as comfort. In design, they were to balance the traditions of the Tennessee Valley (building materials of natural stone and native cedar, and a porch on every house) with modern conveniences. It is important to remember that at the time of its construction, the region around Norris was less than 10 percent electrified. Norris on the other hand was to be fully electric, with ceiling heat and refrigerators in every home.

Norris Town Center

Norris was also supposed to be a completely walkable town. Modelled around the garden city concept, the town would be surrounded by a buffer zone of protected, undeveloped forest that would keep the ugly outside world at bay. Thus the people of Norris would in theory be able to visit their neighbors, walk to school, the grocery store etc—all without getting into a car.

As I research though I am beginning to think about the user experience. Right now my idea is to create a website where users can use the city plan to navigate the lives of the people who lived in the town through clickable icons. In addition, longer essays would be cross linked. One of the ideas I am kicking around is to create a 3D model of the city plan that users could interact with on the website.

However, I am looking for new ideas, so any ideas would be most welcome!

 

 

 

 

nesbit17

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December 2, 2016

Workshopping: How to Model Variation

December 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

As a variationist sociolinguist, my research focuses on the way language varies and changes in communities of speakers and concentrates in particular on the interaction of social factors (such as a speaker’s gender, ethnicity, age, degree of integration into their community, etc) ModelingVariationand linguistic structures (such as sounds, grammatical forms, intonation features, words, etc). As such, when trying to visually represent and statistically model the effects of various variables, many a variationist has simply defaulted to a statistician, throwing in the towel and hanging our head in shame.

Thankfully, I think my field has found a savior and is finally able to walk out of the dark ages.  I attended a workshop at the latest conference I attended (NWAV 45) and learned how to model variation through the use of an interactive application built as a Shiny app with various statistical and graphical R packages (a programming language I am already quite familiar with).  The Language Variation Suite “allows one to handle imbalanced data, measure individual and group variation and rank variables according to their significance”.  The best thing about this suite is that it is easy to use and requiring minimal programming skills.  Much of the interface requires only a drag/drop process.

I am in the process of writing my second qualifying paper for my degree and have low-key been procrastinating because I have had no idea how to deal with the interaction of all the variables I care about.  This suite has come at the perfect time in my academic career and I can’t wait to try it out!

Nikki Silva

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November 29, 2016

Easy Doesn’t Mean Right

November 29, 2016 | By | No Comments

Is the easy way always the best way?

During the 1st semester of the fellowship, fellows are responsible for completing a series of tasks focused on certain topics such as project management, web mapping, and data visualization. As a returning fellow, I completed these tasks last year. Because of this, groups usually include at least one of the three returning fellows to help current fellows complete these mini-projects. I have found over the past semester that though this is beneficial, there are some times when the knowledge I have of an easy way to do something is a hinderance when showing others how to complete the tasks.

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Jessica Yann

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November 18, 2016

Timeline of Michigan Archaeology

November 18, 2016 | By | No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few weeks about my project for my CHI fellowship.  As I have mentioned before, I strongly believe in making archaeology accessible to a broad range of people. In my work with the State Archaeologist of Michigan, as well as with various school groups, I’ve noticed that there are several things most folks really want to see: a timeline of Michigan archaeology to help put things into perspective, and lots of artifacts.  You can view a basic version of the current available timeline on the State Archaeologist’s website.   However, this timeline is very basic and lacks any interactive features.  It also highlights very few artifacts. Read More

nesbit17

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November 11, 2016

Project Musings

November 11, 2016 | By | No Comments

As the semester rolls on and we are tasked with trying to visualize our CHI projects, I am feeling a little stressed and inspired, all at the same time! As I’ve said before, my project is going to center around the research I’ve been conducting in the Sociolinguistics Lab in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, here at MSU.  For this project, we have been conducting and recording interviews with college freshmen at LCC and MSU and subsequently training them to interview their friends and family members.  The purpose of building this corpus is to document language change in the Greater Lansing Area. There are two reasons for having people interview their friends and family: (1) to gain less accessible participants and (2) to get a better picture of the social networks and upbringing of the college students.  These last two factors have shown to have insurmountable effects on ones choice to participate in a sound change and I’m hoping to drive this home somehow with my CHI project.  Thus far we have interview data from over 50 speakers ranging in birth date from 1908 to 1995! My initial idea for my CHI project was to create a website through which we could (1) gather more data – via some sort of recording interface whereby native Lansingites can record themselves reading some of the data samples and answer some of our demographic questions and (2) update the larger community (linguistic or otherwise) about our research and findings.  I am still a little unclear of how I am going to make the components of this project work, BUT I am inspired by the group projects that we did in LEADR two weeks ago.  For that project, we created a website that had a map and integrated way points onto the map that were related by some theme.  I’m thinking I can use this exercise to better visualize (1) where the speakers in our sample were born and raised, but also (2) to display how language in the area has changed over time.  In essence, I’d have way points for each birth place of a speaker and then perhaps another set of way points documenting where they moved.  It would also be nice to use a visualization tool to display familial and friendship relations within our sample.  Not sure how all of this will work, but I am very excited to figure it out.  To be continued…

 

doyleras

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November 4, 2016

Introducing John Doyle-Raso//Building a database of Lake Victoria’s environment and economy

November 4, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello all! I am a second-year doctoral student in the Department of History. I am especially interested in studying environmental history and histories of science and technology, focusing on water politics in Africa. I am interested in historicizing the water politics of Lake Victoria as part of the broader water politics of the Nile Basin. I plan for my dissertation to address the policy shift from swamp reclamation to wetland preservation in Uganda in the second half of the twentieth century. I will conduct archival and oral research in English, Kiswahili, and Lusoga. My supervisor is Dr. Laura Fair; the other members of my comprehensive examinations committee are Drs. Walter Hawthorne (to round out my major field in African History), Jamie Monson (for Environmental History), and Georgina Montgomery (History of Science).

I began my postsecondary studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, majoring in peace studies and sociology and minoring in biology (I have an abiding interest in ecology and evolutionary biology). Thanks to an Undergraduate Student Research Award, I was able to do four months of oral research about village-level water politics in Dodoma Region, Tanzania, at this time. After my bachelor’s degree, I completed the dual master’s degree program in world and international history at Columbia University and the London School of Economics. My thesis addressed the final years of colonialism in East Africa, 1953-63, in light of the completion of the Owen Falls Dam across the Victoria Nile in 1954.

I plan for my doctoral research to extend my master’s research to address the transition from colonialism to independence in East Africa, to narrate people’s experiences with the changing politics of the lake aside from those of a narrow class of development experts, and to be the first book-length study of Nile water politics to foreground changes in East Africa. I will focus on the change in environmental policy from one of swamp reclamation to one of wetland preservation, bookended by the dates 1954-1986. This change was happening globally at the time, but had uniquely wide-ranging significance in East Africa due to the position of the region at the source of the Nile.


For my project for the CHI fellowship, 2016-17, I will build a database to document and visualize economic and environmental changes in the Lake Victoria basin. The database will both inform my analysis and serve as a way to access freely information that I have collected in Africa, Europe, and North America – a vital issue in African studies, wherein research participants and other local people often lack access to research findings.

I participated in the HILT 2016 digital humanities training prior to joining CHI this year. At HILT, I learned about an array of programs and tools for analyzing and representing data digitally; the CHI fellowship continues my exposure to these approaches. I am especially interested in programs such as CartoDB, Cytoscape, and Google Fusion Tables. Network analysis programs like Cytoscape would enable me to analyze the dynamics of overlapping networks, including: the relevant scientific communities; government, activist, and other political actors; and relationships between political and scientific leaders. Programs such as CartoDB and Google Fusion Tables would let me map these networks, and the resources about which they communicated. Environmental history is highly amenable to such approaches, given its focus on space across time.

I intend to focus on data regarding water as well as the energy and commodity industries in the Lake Victoria region in the late colonial and early postcolonial eras. I will pull this data from sources that I digitized from African, American, and European archives. This corpus contains disparate information on economic variables, such as the inputs and outputs of different industries, as well as environmental variables, like rainfall and lake level. Creating the database will help me better understand the historical context I will research for my dissertation, by structuring these sources of data spatially and temporally.

I will be able to add to this database as my research advances. For example, this summer, I visited a number of different government scientific offices in East Africa and learned that many continue to update environmental records dating to the colonial era (with some gaps). In particular, there are long-standing government programs for hydrometeorology and limnology – two disciplines with major economic and political implications in the Lake Victoria basin. The database and skills that I will develop in the CHI program would help me to ascertain what scholarship I can and cannot produce based on such sources.

In particular, my work in CHI will advance two of my primary goals for my scholarship. First, it will help me represent changes in water and land use in East Africa in an integrated manner. Land politics are central in the historiography of East Africa, and water politics were integral in shaping land usage, e.g. agriculture, forestry, mining, and wildlife conservation. Yet, the relationship between land and water in the Nile basin has received little attention, and so our understanding is incomplete.

My second goal is to produce knowledge about changes in environmental policy that occurred during the transition from colonialism to independence. Historians of development, environmental politics, and water in this context have focused on projects started by colonial governments and continued into independence. Most depict continuity, emphasizing the power of the twinned discourses of development and modernization. Thus far, historians have tended to argue that postcolonial governments continued the forceful drive for modernization begun under colonial rulers without significant changes occurring. Yet, the history of Lake Victoria affords opportunities to study historical change in this context. For instance, the collapse of the East African Community in 1971 ended a number of long-standing organizations aimed at integrating economic, political, scientific, and other activity in the region. Additionally, the policy shift from swamp reclamation to wetland preservation has reversed the valence of state objectives regarding a key link between land and water. By focusing on the shift from reclamation to preservation, I will challenge the prevailing depiction of development and modernization in Africa as extensions of the colonial state. A database of economic and environmental data over time would make it easier to analyze these changes.