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CHI Grad Fellow Post

wargojon

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April 29, 2016

Cultural Heritage Informatics as Connected Learning? Modes, Meaning, and Metrics of Success

April 29, 2016 | By | No Comments

Last night, my collaborator and I were featured on the Google+ program Teachers Teaching Teachers to talk all things sound, community literacies, and connected learning. Across the larger broadcast we talked through the many phases of #hearmyhome, detailing how it was at once a grounded project in classroom and community spaces, while simultaneously operating as a networked collaborative that invited participants to earwitness culture and community through eight sonic events. We helped shape the soundscapes of the everyday. In the penultimate minutes of the program, the moderators asked us to consider metrics of achievement. “How would you qualify success for the project?” Eagerly, I started talking numbers. “We had over 100+ unique participants! We saw how modes connected, overlapped, and caused disjuncture in how we came to configure ‘home.’ We had participants across the globe, from East Lansing, MI to Australia.” Reflecting on my response, another language and literacy researcher, Ian, asked me to move beyond the numbers. “But what did you learn?” he asked.

As I reflect on the #hearmyhome project, and the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowship in particular, I want to highlight how at a macro level, the projects that emerged from our shared community of fellows are exemplars of connected learning. Refracted through our varied interested in cultural heritage, we designed opportunities for engagement in powerful, relevant, and engaging ways. The affordances of the digital only augmented these visions and aided in the creation and building that occurred. Our learning was participatory, networked, and experiential. At a more micro level, #hearmyhome exemplified that some of the most meaningful forms of learning happen when a learners have interests or passions they are pursuing across contexts of (inter)cultural affinity and social support. The group operated with a shared purpose.
As a model for connected learning design, #hearmyhome offered a way of connecting the spheres of home, school, and community-based learning to leverage the affordances of digital and networked media. We met friends through #CLMOOC, collaborators with the team at #walkmyworld, and even had cheerleaders amplify the project at Sounding Out! In total, the modes, meanings, and metrics of success were larger than the decisions of design and/or series of sonic interactions. Sustained teaching and learning and engaged user participation was the result of making our process open.

As we close out the year here in LEADR, I know many of us would agree that at the core of the work we accomplished this year, our vision was guided by more equitable, social, and participatory forms of learning across our fields and disciplines. Through production-centered and open forms of cultural heritage informatics, we each engaged in relevant, hands-on, and innovative forms of design to fuse our own intellectual interests with digital experiences. Success, then, isn’t the completion and release of our individual projects, or the statistics and benchmarks of how many users, lurkers, and learners visit your site, but the behind-the-scenes process and sustained engagement of open learning.

Sara Bijani

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April 22, 2016

Reel to Reel Archive Construction and OHMS

April 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

As I’ve put this project together over the past several months, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the ideal shape of a digital archival. The more time I spend with the audio reels that form the base of my archive, listening to them over and over as I digitize and transcribe them, the more I feel they deserve to be presented with as little intervention as possible. To this end, my website has evolved into two fairly separate entities. On one end is the archive, where the collection of audio reels will eventually be reproduced in total with as little narrative intervention as possible. On the other end is the mediated environment that I have been referring to as the “galleries,” where I will publish short interpretative essays that situate the audio reels within their various historical contexts.

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Autumn Beyer

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April 22, 2016

The Launch of Mapping Morton Village

April 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the Mapping Morton Village interactive digital map, which provides information on archaeology in general, as well as information on the ongoing Morton Village archaeological project. Read More

Nikki Silva

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April 22, 2016

Mapping Morton Village: Finalizing the Site and Pushing to New URL

April 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

In the past few weeks Autumn and I allowed some of our friends and family, with varying levels of archaeological experience, to view the site to see if it is user friendly. With some of their constructive comments, we first added some language to the intro pop-up to better explain our map page.

We added language to our intro pop-up to explain how to toggle through the layers.

We added language to our intro pop-up to explain how to toggle through the layers.

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jfelipe195

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April 14, 2016

BARDSS and the Study of Slavery and the Slave Trade

April 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

         BARDSS will allow scholars of Atlantic slavery to access data on hundreds of thousands of individual African slaves and their descendants who lived and died in Latin American slave societies.  The quantity of data in BARDSS means that historians and social scientists will be able to use baptismal records as a kind of census, opening many possible avenues for research. One exciting possibility for historians of the slave trade is to employ BARDSS data to fill gaps in our existing knowledge of Atlantic slave trade patterns. One cannot understate the impact of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database on our understanding of the Atlantic slave trade.  However, due to the fragmented nature of the sources, the data is often quite incomplete.  For example, out of the 910 transatlantic slave voyages that arrived in Cuba from 1789 to 1820, during the era of the legal slave trade, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database  can only tell us the African region of embarkation for 239 (Fig.3).  Thus, the African origin for nearly three-quarters of the Cuban transatlantic slave trade is a puzzle.  However, by examining the contents of BARDSS’ Origin attribute, we can begin to assemble the missing pieces and complete our picture of African forced migration to Cuba.

Figure3 

          Churches usually baptized African slaves soon after their arrival in the Americas, and, as noted above, the vast majority of these slaves were identified as belonging to an African nation.  While these nations may not have corresponded to contemporary African polities or ethnic groups, they correlated closely with the different African coasts where slave ships embarked their captives.  For the year of 1808, for example, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database contains information on seven slave ships landing captives in Cuba.  Of these seven, one arrived from the Bight of Biafra, one from the coast of present-day Sierra Leone, and the other four were of unknown origin.  By looking at the baptisms performed in just one church in Havana, Espiritu Santo, during 1808, we can begin to make educated guesses about the unknown embarkation regions of the remaining two ships.  Surprisingly, a plurality of the African slaves baptized in the Church of Espiritu Santu were identified as Congo, a national origin corresponding to a sprawling region of West Central Africa (see figure 4).  We can be fairly certain, then, that at least one of the two ships took on slaves along the coast of present-day Angola and Gabon.

Figure4

 

             BARDSS’ ability to tell us about the African origins of slaves in the Americas is even more crucial for the era of the illegal slave trade, which continued on a large scale in nineteenth-century Brazil and Cuba.  Smugglers of slaves, hoping to cover their tracks, rarely left behind detailed itineraries of their illicit voyages.  In many cases, details about illegal slaving voyages are only known thanks to the interdiction of mainly-British naval vessels tasked with hunting down slave ships.  In 1830, Matanzas was a thriving center of Cuban coffee and sugar production–industries dependent on the labor of enslaved Africans. For historians interested in learning about the African origins of the slaves working Matanzas’ cafetals and ingenios, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is a poor source.  It contains information on only one ship, the schooner Santa Rosa, which in 1830 unloaded slaves of unknown origin in Matanzas. What little Slave Voyages can tell us about this ship comes from the records of British officials tasked with the slave trade in Cuba.  However, the baptismal records of the San Carlos Cathedral in Matanzas tell a different story.  In 1830, 284 adult African slaves were baptized at San Carlos.  They belonged to more than seven different nations corresponding to every major slave trading region on the Atlantic coast of Africa (see figure 4).  Clearly these individuals could not have all arrived on the Santa Rosa. Instead, the Matanzas slave trade appears to have been wide-ranging, with slave ships bringing captives from Upper Guinea and Sierra Leone (Mandinga and Ganga), the Bights of Benin and Biafra (Arara, Carabali, Lucumi, and Mina), and from the coast of Central Africa (Congo) (Fig. 5).

Figure5

 


              BARDSS’ utility is not limited to studies of the Atlantic slave trade itself.  After all, African slaves baptized as older children or adults comprise only a portion of the entities included in the database.  In many circumstances, the majority of baptized individuals were newborn infants, whose parents’ names (often including ethnonyms) and birthdates were recorded by the priest performing the baptism ceremony.  This allows historians a glimpse into the intimate lives of enslaved people.  For example, the archives of San Carlos in Matanzas record 368 infants born in the year 1830–a frequency of 1.01 per day.  By month, the number of births ranged from a low of 22 in August to a high of 38 in October.  Adjusting for the length of each month, the frequency of births ranged from 0.71 per day in August to 1.23 in September–an increase of 73 percent (see figure 5).  What might account for the steep decline in Matanzas births during the summer of 1830 and the dramatic rise in autumn?  With BARDSS, a inquiring researcher would be able to compare birth rates from one year to the next and across geographical locations in order to determine whether and where this pattern was repeated.  If so, he/she might begin to identify environmental, social, or economic explanations for this pattern (Fig. 6).

Figure6

            Needless to say, we cannot give a full accounting here of the possibilities BARDSS offers for historians, social scientists, and genealogists.  As with any source, the informativeness of baptismal records depends on the questions researchers ask of them.  BARDSS can tell us about much more than baptisms. It contains data on locations, dates, children, parents, priests, slaves, slaveholders, free people of color, the African slave trade, and more.  As described above, BARDSS data can be used alongside those of other online databases to fill gaps in our knowledge of the past and answer important historical questions.  

Autumn Beyer

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April 12, 2016

Mapping Morton Village: Introduction Modal and User Navigation

April 12, 2016 | By | No Comments

As Nikki and I finish up the final touches on the Mapping Morton Village site, I focused on user interaction and navigation. One aspect of our site that we knew we wanted to include was an automatic (on page-load) popup modal to give an introduction to our site, see image below.

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Nikki Silva

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March 30, 2016

Mapping Morton Village: Lightbox Images and Captions

March 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

During the past few weeks, we’ve focused on getting some technical aspects of the site figured out. I focused on making our images more interactive by giving each one Lightbox attributes, which makes the images/captions larger and ‘pop-out’ from the page. We also gave images captions on the page and in the Lightbox pop-up, though we still need to write captions for many of the images. For the captions on the page, I created a separate div-class for captions in our main CSS file, which centers the caption underneath the images and provides the styling for the caption boxes (white font in a gray box). Read More

wargojon

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March 13, 2016

Mapping Meaningful Sound: The Before or After Question

March 13, 2016 | By | No Comments

My CHI project (#hearmyhome), uses sound to amplify what Steph Ceraso has called “multimodal listening,” a process that attends to the bodily, material, and contextual aspects of sonic interactions and relations. #hearmyhome uses the rhythmic resonances of everyday to explore more expansive understandings of space, place, and self. Thus, for a project that is about writing with place, mapping its products and participation seemed a must. As a collaborative team, we decided to hang our research on a hashtag, #hearmyhome, to aggregate data. It allowed us to index user-produced soundscapes while attending to the wider goal of exploring the multiple “homes” of our global participants. At first, we were curious in creating a crawler, a tool that would crawl the hashtag and pin locations of participants’ products. If the research component of the project investigates the acoustic territories of everyday culture, then we would want to visually see its cartographic reach.

Now, in its fifth week, as the sonic event sequence turns the corner on the halfway mark, I’ve taken a step back. I’ve asked myself, “How do I map (and for what purpose) meaningful sound?” Limited by my own technological know-how with Leaflet and Mapbox, the pause in constructing the map and soundscapes knowledge base has been delayed. Well, stopped actually. I’ve taken a hiatus with that part of the project. Collecting the mundane music through each sonic event, I’ve decided to chart and map #hearmyhome’s participation at the conclusion of the 8-week sequence. Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 7.10.47 PMThe engagement between #hearmyhome participants across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is far more interesting than any meaningful work that would happen by observing the expanse and scope of participation concurrently. Ultimately a pedagogical project, #hearmyhome has already sparked interesting instructional questions. For example, users have asked how remediating a ‘Where I’m From…’ poem may change if choosing not to write it using alphabetic print, but instead selecting sound as the mode of primacy and attaching it to place. Deciding to map these small moments and glimpses of ambient audio after the sonic even sequence, we hope to keep the buzz alive far into the future as we lurk, learn, and lead alongside of you all.

If you are still interested in participating in #hearmyhome join us by signing up for our weekly emails here. Like our page on Facebook for more information on each sonic event or simply ‘lurk and learn’ by following the #hearmyhome hashtag across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Interested in what participant sounds like? Click the Soundcloud link below and listen to how Steph responded to the prompt for our fifth #hearmyhome sonic event. We chose Steph’s example as it illustrates not only the beauty of noise, silence, and everyday hearings, but also for her ability and skill to remix the found sounds into a song all of their own. We encourage you to join the #hearmyhome collaborative at any time and we look forward to earwitnessing the everyday with you.

Note: Hours after publishing the original version of this post, I found the How to Make a Sound Map: Cartographic, Compositional, Performative article on the Acoustic Ecology blog. May be worthwhile for those of you interested in the intersection of sonic composition and narrative cartography.

Bernard C. Moore

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March 4, 2016

Finland in Namibia: On the Way to an Omeka Exhibit

March 4, 2016 | By | No Comments

March 2013, Helsinki: I had the privilege to interview Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Prize Laureate, for my documentary film From Windhoek to Washington. From 1977 through 1981, Ahtisaari was the United Nations Special Representative for Namibia, and eventually the UN Special Representative, directing the United Nations Transition Assistance Group which administered the first free elections in Namibia in 1989, ushering in the post-apartheid period with independence on 23 March, 1990. His work in Namibia and later in Kosovo led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

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