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CHI Grad Fellow Post

plemonsa

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November 28, 2018

It’s All About the Deliverables

November 28, 2018 | By | No Comments

We, as academics, are conditioned to write grant and project proposals for research that we are interested in pursuing. We have our general format that we follow for these proposals…introduction, background information, research problem and questions, materials and methods, and potential impacts of the research project. However, a large focus of research proposals today, particularly grant proposals, are highly concerned with the “Deliverables” portion. Deliverables refer to the tangible products that will come from the project and the ways in which you will disseminate your results, including public presentations, development of software, public release of raw data in some forms, and analytical programs. This is an important component of your project proposal as it forces you consider who will be your target audience, how you will engage with the audience, and what you hope your project will provide to that community. Is the primary goal of your research to educate? Provide a useful tool? Provide a new method? Create a platform to connect researchers with a common interest?

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dglovsky

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November 20, 2018

Who will read my academic book? Telling public stories about Africa and Africans

November 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

As a graduate student 90+% of the way through writing my dissertation, I often have ask myself this question: how many people will ever read anything I write? My dissertation will be read by my committee members, maybe a couple of historian friends, grad students or professors in the countries I study, maybe future grad students researching these areas, and perhaps less likely, family members or people in the communities I study. This problem is even more of an issue when you get to the production of actual physical books, which often cost absurd amounts of money that makes them impractical for the vast majority of people.

This unfortunate fact makes me think about how to get across some of the individual and collective stories of my dissertation. I spent about eight months speaking with over 350 people in rural West African borderlands, and have about 150 hours of interviews from more than 100 different communities. How can I share these stories in a way that allows “the public” to engage with them? People in the communities I study in Senegal may not be able to read an academic book I write due to accessibility, but they could access publicly available stories posted on the Internet. My friends and family here in the U.S. will likely not read my dissertation, because the locations where it takes place seem foreign and confusing, but they could browse an online exhibit highlighting some of the most important themes of the migration stories people told me.

The CHI Fellowship has of course taught me digital skills, but it has also forced me to reckon more with ideas of public engagement. I may not read academic books most days, but I find myself often reading websites like Africa is a Country to find accessible looks at some of the most pressing issues facing Africa today, as well as reflections on African history, culture, etc. Probably a few times a month, I listen to podcasts like MSU’s Africa Past and PresentNew Books in African Studies, or Ufahamu Africa, which provide perspectives on different topics that I may not seek out on my own. There are also less academic podcasts like the BBC’s Africa Today or VOA’s Africa News Tonight.

This is a roundabout way of saying that there are a wide variety of ways to engage publicly (my guess is some podcasts gets more listens than the academic book gets reads, especially among people outside of the subject area). This is particularly true of podcasts associated with news producers like the BBC. The same is often true in classroom settings. In a class I co-taught online last summer, my students listened to multiple podcasts on American sports history, which allowed them to engage with a different form of media, one they are more likely to consume on a daily basis.

Digital projects like the University of Kansas’ Migration Stories, which looks at African immigrants to the “Midwest,” publicly share stories that might otherwise go unrecognized by the general public. This sort of engagement can be a teaching tool, not just in the classroom, but oriented to the public at large. My own research focuses on rural cross-border migration in four different West African countries, but also tells stories of individual, family, and communal migration. Through the CHI Fellowship, I am developing a project that brings the stories of these rural West Africans to a larger audience, and that recognizes the importance of their stories without making people sit down to read a 350-page book or dissertation.

fandinod

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November 16, 2018

To the Beginning: Anime and American Fandom in the 1980s

November 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

The first problem to resolve in mapping out American anime fandom is where to situate a start point for the project. The first major anime convention in the United States was Project A-Kon, first held in 1990. Before this point, smaller anime meetings were held as stand-alone local events by clubs or as part of larger conventions which catered to broader American fandom. This was quite typical of conventions on both sides of the Pacific, an example of which is the long running Japanese science fiction convention Nihon SF Taikai (日本SF大会) which had a heavy emphasis on American media.

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koutiany

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November 12, 2018

Mapping the Hooligans

November 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

In 2013, ProFans published a public statement that pointed out the rise of the right-wing extremist activities in German football stadiums. The statement by ProFans, the largest football fan organization, appealed to the relevant parties to work together and to avoid the deterioration of the situation. After Merkel opened the borders to refugees in 2015, almost one million refugees left their home countries and arrived in Germany. The social change provided right-wing extremists an excuse to expand their organization. Accordingly, the number of violent activities inside the stadium planned by right-wing extremist rose dramatically.

Die Bundespolizei hinderte 42 Hooligans an der Ausreise

There are various types of fans in German soccer culture. Since the subgroups inside the fan population overlap with each other, sometimes it is hard for the public to distinguish between the different fan groups. Those who support their football club in an ultra-fanatical way are categorized as the ultras. In contrast, the hooligans are fans with extremely violent behaviors. Some fan groups may be influenced by political ideologies such as conservatism or socialism, or exhibit racist behaviors, ranging from avowed nationalism to anti-fascism. Recently, the fan group most frequently criticized in mass media is the right-wing extremist football fan who conducts violent crimes inside the stadium.

Journalists have documented cases of right-wing extremist football fans conducting crime since at least 2013. For example, Borussia Dortmund has long been the most attractive club for neo-Nazis in the state of North Rhine- Westphalia. Eastern Germany also has a noticeable scene. Faust des Ostens is a hooligan group connected to the Dynamo Dresden football club. Right-wing extremist speech and behavior appear not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the lower leagues. Six football fans celebrated Energie Cottbus’ promotion by marching through the city in Ku Klux Klan hoods. In 2017, SV Babelsberg fans got into a fight with Energies Cottbus fans because the EC fans baited them with Nazi chants, such as “Arbeit macht frei, Babelsberg null drei”.

In the contemporary political context, how are political ideologies, in this case, specifically the right-wing extremist ideologies present here, used, and promoted among the football fans? On the one hand, football as a cultural product provides a platform for various types of audience to express their feelings. On the other hand, recognizing and analyzing the current situation could be beneficial in terms of deepening our understanding of the right-wing extremist movements in German society.

Working with the CHI fellowship allows me to present the Hooligan culture from a different point of view. With the help of the new technical mapping tools we’ve been using in the last couple of weeks, I could simply pinpoint the hooligan activities of various clubs on a customized map. Instead of depicting the hooligan activities through text, a well-designed map could present the reality in a more direct, and clear way. Since hooligan activities do not only accrue in the Bundesliga level, but also in the lower leagues, I would use different colors for each league. Through the geographical description, the reader can also see the differences between the five new federal states and the ten old states, which could lead to the next level analysis. Furthermore, within each league, certain teams have traditional rivals. Some may be in the same area, but in the opposite side of the city. The hooligan activities always rise to the next level when two rival teams play with each other. With the visual presentation, readers will have an easier time tracking down and understanding the complicated relationship between football clubs.

The German hooligan groups also share a connection with other hooligan groups throughout Europe, which could also be depicted through the map. Since the map could be easily inserted in a website, other cultural phenomena could also be listed to this website, such as the clothing culture of right-wing extremists, certain musical groups, etc. Websites, as one of the digital platforms, play a significant role in combining geographical, visual, textual information and linking research subjects. The ultimate goal of mapping the hooligan culture is to show the public that right-wing extremists have been using football as a tool for conducting violence, spreading fear, and promoting extremist ideologies. As the ProFans said, “the right-wing extremist is not part of our creative, diverse, colorful and loud fan culture in the stadium.” *

* „Die extreme Rechte ist nicht Teil der kreativen, vielfältigen, bunten und lauten Fankultur in unseren Stadien.“- ProFans

cartyrya

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November 8, 2018

Data from the Atlantic Slave Trade, Part 2

November 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

In my last post, I discussed how historians use ethnonyms in historical datasets. The main take-away from that post is ethnonyms are difficult to interpret but can reflect the movement of African slaves with similar socio-cultural characteristics to specific regions in the Americas. Historians use this information to explore cultural continuities between Africans and African-descended people in the Americas.

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TaylorPanczak

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November 6, 2018

Digitizing the History of Archaeology: Ethical responsibilities

November 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

Recently I have had the opportunity to scan over 1000 slides of excavations that occurred along the southern coast of Peru throughout the 90’s and early 00’s. While the task itself was mundane and took many more hours than I was expecting, the images that I discovered through this digitization process were absolutely breathtaking. I was witnessing the slow evolution of one of South America’s oldest archaeological sites in terms of excavation and landscape modification. Not every slide itself is valuable but together every slide represents a small portion of a story that was largely only known to the excavators until now. This slide scanning process made me think of the history of archaeology and how the later generations of archaeologists have an ethical responsibility to digitize the old records so they are more freely available. This includes old site forms, journal entries from the PI or the excavators, any pictures of the excavations or tools, and any other documents that could be useful for future archaeologists. Digitizing these documents can also be used as outreach for the public in which archaeologists of the past had worked. This can help to further include communities in the process of archaeological investigation and possibly garner interest from outside the field.

With the discipline becoming more mature and getting older by the year, the history of archaeology is becoming much deeper and is starting to reach a point where some of that history can be lost if it is not moved into a new format. It is no surprise that as technology advances thing become obsolete and eventually become nontransferable onto the newer formats. I fear that if we do not start digitizing old archaeological records soon, we will not be able to transfer them onto a format that is widely and equally available to everyone. Digital records are much easier to gain access to than physical paper copies for obvious reasons but the overall control of information is vastly different between the two mediums. If information is purely stored in a physical format, the paper copies can be easily forgotten through purposeful or unintentional endeavors where as digital information can be sought out on the internet and stumbled upon. My point here is that it is our ethical responsibility as archaeologists to make what we do as widely available as possible to the public and future archaeologists. It is also our responsibility to maintain our own history otherwise we may lose precious information in the miasma of archaeological research. The large and publicly known sites may persist in public and written memory but the supporting sites that build and perpetuate theory have the potential to be lost unless we make a concerted effort to conserve all archaeological data.

 

 

john5110

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November 2, 2018

Who Writes Our Stories?: Critical Digital Literacies & Youth Activism

November 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

My research interests are transdisciplinary and primarily focus on race, storytelling, and s/place. Working alongside communities of Color, I also consider education and schooling sites to make meaning. There is a lot of amazing work being done that considers Black Studies and digital scholarship, and so below I focus primarily on digital tools in education.

There is conversation concerning “the digital world” in education. Much concerns social media in the classroom or tools such as SMART boards and Google Drive. Even then, terms such as “digital natives”, which I find extremely problematic, evoke a lack of agency because despite youth (broadly with little context) being categorized as knowledge-holders in digital spaces, they’re still spoken of in deficit ways.

Critical conversations around digital tools and technology look not only at how it’s being used, but how technology is used as a tool of power and by whom. Critical theorists also push us to go beyond a surface level integration of digital tools in classrooms and look at digital space and it’s relationship with out s/places, such as schools (Gitlin & Ingerski, 2018). Garcia, Stamatis, and Kelly (2018) consider the ways that “technology mediates student identities” (p. 404) and others (Garcia, Mirra, Morrell,  Martinez, & Scorza, 2015; Mirra, Morrell, & Filipiak, 2018) look more broadly at youth identities, the possibilities in critical digital literacies and youth activism.

I first came to meaningfully think about the possibilities of digital tools, youth, and communities when I came across Youth Radio’s website. I was in a course about Youth Literacies and simultaneously working with youth to understand their literacy practices through Instagram and Snapchat.

“West Side Stories: Gentrification in West Oakland” (Youth Radio Interactive) uses storytelling, art, and interactive mapping to speak to the tensions, layers, and competing interests of gentrification and displacement in West Oakland. Specifically, the mapping features West Oakland’s people, places, and histories.

Not only does this involve transformative work, but it’s work that is authored by whole communities, and features youth participatory action research (YPAR). It challenges preconceptions of who can research the tensions and possibilities of a community and whose voices matter. It offers public access to community members, but also to others so that we may learn.

It pushes me to think of the ways I can work alongside members of my communities to render our cultural artifacts, literacy practices, and the s/places we care about as intentional narratives that reject damage-centeredness (Tuck, 2009).

fandinod

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October 26, 2018

“Just Communication”: Exploring the History of Fandom and the Internet

October 26, 2018 | By | No Comments

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
–R. Batty, Blade Runner

This year for my CHI project I am interested in tracing the development of American anime fandom, with a particular emphasis on the dual role of the internet as a means of communication and as a medium for the transmission of anime shows among fans. This examination of American fandom intersects with my primary research interest in U.S. – Japan relations and the role of popular culture and technology in the construction of that relationship. Part of what drives my interest in the digital aspect of fandom is the question of how to deal with fan-created content as a historian in training, especially as much has already disappeared permanently from the internet.

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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.