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CHI Grad Fellow Post

dixonel7

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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!

carlinek

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February 6, 2018

Project update: learning to tinker

February 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

A month into building my Mapping Consumers project, and this is what my page looks like:

I’m building my web map using Bootleaf, trying to tinker with the original code to make it fit my purposes and display my map. Until last week, I hadn’t been having much success. Replacing the map tiles in the original with another Mapbox tileset was trickier than I expected. But, as you can see, with some help from fellow CHI fellow Brian Geyer, I’ve now got the Mapbox.dark map displaying, and centred the map on South Africa. Doing this has meant learning to tinker with Javascript, and developing a strategy for which parts of the Javascript to alter, in which order.

So, my next step, now that I have the map displaying, is to link my geoJSON file containing the data about my pins to display. This will mean replacing all the code referencing geoJSON features with the features in my geoJSON file. Wish me luck!

Nicole Raslich

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February 6, 2018

Digital Formats for Teaching Cultural Heritage Preservation

February 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

As the second half of the academic year is well underway, I am mired in digital platforms, establishing my project. It always helps me, when I get stuck on something and find it overwhelming, to go back and read what I proposed to do. This is where I am starting today. The rest of this post lays out what I am attempting to do, for the first time, for my CHI project. Having previously designed and taught my own course at another Big Ten institution, I find it fundamentally easier to create a typical, lecture style, college course centered around these same materials. I wanted to do something new and challenging with this CHI fellowship, as well as something that could reach a broader audience than a class of fifty college age students. Having several certifications in policy and law compliance, I noticed that the majority of people at these certification workshops are working professionals. People in this arena would likely never take a traditional college course yet needed this information immediately when it came across their desk at work. For the majority of people, it never crosses their mind that when running a water line or erecting a lamp-post or building a house in an old neighborhood, they might run across a burial ground or something else of historic significance. I hope that the online project I develop will aid these endeavors.

Issues such as the return of items of cultural patrimony, the looting and annihilation of irreplaceable cultural heritage monuments, traditional cultural properties and the desecration of national heritage sites worldwide plague our world daily. Because of these issues, my project for CHI is to create an online course specializing in cultural heritage management policy and law both nationally and internationally (UNESCO). This course will highlight some of the more notorious cases, how they were dealt with and the applicable laws used in their mitigation. I hope this course will enhance curriculums in cultural heritage management as well as deliver needed policy training for people outside academia in institutions such as public or tribal museums, and government offices. An online format for this course works well for this topic as the laws dealt with are tedious in a standard lecture format. This format allows for the topics to be broken down into a series of public lectures or informational online sessions that appeal to a wide range of disciplines and audiences.

Designing a course such as this integrate me further into the realm of cultural heritage management by allowing me the expertise required to assist local communities with the preservation and dissemination of their own cultural heritage agendas to a wider range of recipients. Developing this course will allow me to engage with pedagogical approaches for digital course design and digital scholarship while allowing me to deliver a much-needed source of information the communities I work with. As digital outlets become the most common way to reach the widest audience, it is crucial that we as cultural managers take advantage of this trend. In an era where funding quickly disappears without an apparent real-world application, it is crucial we reach a wide audience and make our classes relevant to a broader market.

This will be a mixed methods course, involving short, twenty minutes or less, lectures on each policy, when it applies and the steps to work through it. After each lecture, hands on activities involving actual cases from around the world will be used to allow the participants to work through the mitigation of each law. Then, another short lecture will be given, discussing how each case was mitigated and the results of each mitigation. Discussion boards/online forums will be used to stimulate interactive discussion about what things went both right and wrong in these mitigations. Further lectures will illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of these policies.

My intended audiences are Anthropology, History, Museum Studies, and other disciplines utilizing museum collections and working with issues involving cultural heritage management more broadly. Tribal historic preservation offices, city, county and state governments agencies that deal with these policies can use the modules as training aids for their staff. In many communities, it is an inadvertent discovery or a NAGPRA issue that sparks the formation of a cultural center or society or a board to address issues revolving around section 106. An introductory timeline of the history of these laws followed by a comment section will open the course where participants will offer their experience/involvement with these laws and their background. This is intended to lead to an understanding that almost everyone involved has had little to no training in this and all want to learn more about to protect the past. This creates a sense of community and shared goals through preservation.

fandinod

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February 2, 2018

Lost in Translation or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Github

February 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Grandiose ideas are often the downfall of any undertaking. Take Napoleon and the decision to invade Russia, Tony Stark building Ultron, the Sega Dreamcast and the withdrawal of Sega from the console market. The most important point I am trying to keep in mind for the project is to keep the parts under the hood straightforward and trust the end product will be more than the sum of its parts. The second point was ensuring compliance and responsiveness on both computers and mobile devices, as I am running with the idea that most people idly browse the internet on their phones. If my site was to develop into something useful for students, scholars, and casual visitors during the 2020 Games, I had to ensure a clean and intuitive interface that wasn’t going to cause me grief a few years down the line.

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Julia DeCook

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January 31, 2018

Networks of Ideology

January 31, 2018 | By | No Comments

For the second part of the CHI fellowship, I’ve proposed a project that would map out an ideological network of celebrities in the “alt-right.” Of course, the term “alt-right’ is an umbrella catch-all term that has been proposed not only by the members of the movement itself but also the media and other institutions that inform the public. As such, the alt-right is merely a descriptor of a group of loosely connected political organizations and movements that have similar goals. There are even differentiations to the levels to which an organization can fall under this umbrella, and “alt-lite” has emerged as a way to identify some of these groups that are similar to the alt-right but have differences that are distinct enough that they do not fall under the term completely.

The first project is going to be constructing a network of celebrities that are active in the alt-right and which organizations that they are connected to. Some of these celebrities act as brokers between organizations that may not otherwise be connected, and the goal is to be able to visualize how celebrities have a broad reach and influence across the groups. For instance, Milo Yiannopoulos is a “celebrity” not only with the GamerGate crowd but also with the Manosphere. Jordan Peterson is also a celebrity within the movement, as are figures like Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, and others. Using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Wikipedia, and other numerous sources, I will hopefully not only visualize the ideological network but also be able to provide some information when the nodes themselves are clicked on.

The outcome of the project is a first step towards visualizing how all of the groups are connected on the basis of their ideology and goals. Starting with the celebrities, I will house the project on a website and will continue to add new networks as time goes on.

I’ve been attempting to scrape my own data but I think just creating the network with already existing information may be the best way to go. A similar project, the Alt Right Open Intelligence Initiative, has done a lot of research in visualizing the discourse and content and can serve as a starting ground for some of this ideology network visualizing. The research done by the initiative has focused primarily on the social media platforms that these organizations use and how they are connected through their content. I am hoping to add to this research by looking specifically at the celebrities and how they are mentioned and talked about by the groups, and thus how they are affiliated along similar ideological lines.

I’m still working out some kinks in how I will go forth with the project but have decided that rather than reinventing the wheel and collecting all of my own data, using already existing data is the better way to go considering the time frame that I have. I hope that this will be the first of a line of projects that will aid in visualizing political extremism in the U.S. and beyond.

fandinod

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January 12, 2018

Tokyo: The Virtual City

January 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

In May of 2017 while in Tokyo I visited Meiji shrine in Shinjuku for the Spring Grand Festival, a series of traditional performances including dance, archery and theater. After returning home, I posted a few photos of the event to social media, as people of my generation tend to do. I soon received a comment from a friend. “Oh wow, I’m there right now!”

His comment took me by surprise. I had no idea my friend was in Japan, much less that they were at Meiji shrine that day. I quickly messaged him to see how long he would remain in the Shinjuku area and if he would like to get dinner that evening, or at the very least meet up later in the week.  “No, no!” my friend explained. “I’m at Meiji shrine in Persona 5. Your picture was so much like Meiji shrine in the game,” he went to on say, “that I knew exactly where you were.”

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Cody M

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December 14, 2017

The LGBTQ Video Game Archive and Visualizing Representation

December 14, 2017 | By | No Comments

The nascent field of queer game studies has expanded exponentially in recent years thanks to the work of scholars such as Adrienne Shaw, Bonnie Ruberg, and Edmond Chang. Yet, despite growing scholarly attention to queer characters and players, queer game studies faces a daunting issue: queer representation and gaming communities are recorded largely in ephemeral digital forms such as wikis, blogs, and fan-made websites, meaning they are in constant danger of becoming outdated or disappearing suddenly. A case in point is GayGamer.net, a website dedicated to game news, commentary, and community for LGBTQ gamers that went dark with little notice in May 2016. GayGamer.net was a valuable resource for documenting LGBTQ game characters and communities, and while parts of it were captured by the Internet Archive, much of the site is no longer accessible outside of an old Facebook page. While many digital objects face similar issues of compatibility and archiving, queer game artifacts and documentation are especially endangered because of the marginalized status of queer gamers and characters in gaming culture. With fewer individuals (almost all volunteers) and institutional resources to support them, these sources must be actively preserved now before they—and crucial LGBTQ cultural heritage with them—are lost.

The LGBTQ Video Game Archive is a great example of ongoing preservation efforts in response to these problems. The LGBTQ Video Game Archive was started by Adrienne Shaw at Temple University in order to collect all instances of LGBTQ representation in video games from the 1980s to the present, and to “offer a record of how characters are explicitly coded, what creators have said about these characters, as well as how fans have interpreted these characters” (Shaw). By focusing on developers and players in addition to the characters themselves, the archive aims to develop a complex picture of how each representation has functioned within queer gaming communities. The documentation of queer representation in games is ongoing, and the number of games to document increases each year.

In terms of my CHI work, I’m interested in the new types of analysis that the archive, combined with digital humanities tools and digital cultural heritage methodologies, enables. For example, Utsch et al. used the archive to create data visualizations of queer representation throughout video game history, and revealed several trends such as a predominance of gay men in LGBTQ representation and an exponential growth in overall number of representations. To date, however, an intersectional analysis of the archive that addresses sexuality alongside identity categories of race, class, or disability has not been attempted, and I intend to address these intersections using new interactive data visualizations. The visualizations will be interactive in order to make them more fluid and dynamic: in other words, to make them better representations of identity than the static categorizations that intersectionality has sometimes been accused of. This intersectional analysis of the archive is only the beginning of the archive’s potential, and it has a number of limitations. For example, it only includes games currently in the archive, and only what is observable and documented about each representation. Future work will add more games to the analysis, and could provide more granular analysis of other intersections.

These projects are so important because I believe digital humanities should become more responsive to the needs of marginalized communities such as queer gaming communities. As we build and make with our digital tools, we must constantly confront the question of who we are building and making for. Our digital research and projects should demonstrate the digital theories and practices of social justice, and should do the crucial work of engaging with communities and supporting their efforts to make and shape themselves. Representation in queer games and queer gaming communities provides some practical methods for doing so, and contributes to ongoing discourse of what digital humanities can be.

For an excellent collection of recent work on queer game studies, check out Queer Game Studies (edited by Shaw and Ruberg) if you haven’t already.

LGBTQ Video Game Archive

Utsch et al.’s Visualizations

dixonel7

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December 12, 2017

Queer (World) Making

December 12, 2017 | By | No Comments

In my previous posts, I’ve outlined some of the ways making and multimodal composing offer up spaces for people to make in order to make their worlds. In my last post, I articulated what I think are some differences between multimodal composing and making. In this post, I want to discuss the ways in which I see queer communities already engage in the “making as world making” I discussed in my last post.

Making as world-making is enacted daily in queer communities all the time, as exemplified in the work of Qwo-Li Driskill, Malea Powell, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherie Moraga, all people who claim queerness, all people who make worlds through their own makings. Thus, I don’t want to claim that anything that I am suggesting is new. My previous post was designed to provide some examples of the ways in which I see people of color enacting multimodal composing practices that resist straight, white, Western forms of knowledge, and without enacting the baggage of multimodality as a trendy buzzword used to describe something that everyone does everyday. It was also designed to show that thinking of multimodal composing as making in order to make worlds opens up space for us all to expand what we value when we discuss multimodal composing; it also puts more weight in multimodal composition’s possibility for supporting queer and feminist making, but also in supporting all of our lives. Indeed, in my first post, I quoted Stacy Waite, who said “if oppression is really going to change, it’s our civic duty to think in queerer ways, to come up with queer kinds of knowledge-making so that we might know truths that are non-normative, and contradictory, and strange” (64). I would argue that we already do think in queer ways, enact queer kinds of knowledge-making; they just aren’t always recognizable in my field (composition and rhetoric) as knowledge-making. However, they have always been world-building.

Two examples of this kind of world building enacted by queers are the Lesbian Avengers, an activist group that began in the 1990s, and the drag ballroom community. Both of these communities enact “multimodal” composing as world-making in their everyday action. For example, in the documentary film “The Lesbian Avengers Eat Fire,” a group of Avengers marched on Washington in 1993 to protest a hate crime committed against a lesbian woman and gay man, whose home was set on fire. At this protest, the avengers practiced fire-eating to show that fire had no power over them. In the film, as they take the fire into their mouths, they claim “We take the fire of action into our hearts and we take it into our bodies. . . our fear does not consume us.” This act of eating fire is a making, a making both of a protest and of a community but of a space, even if for a moment, in which fears of being killed for being queer are literally consumed.

Another example is the creation of drag balls, in which queer communities of color walk, dance, and perform in drag for trophies. Drag balls are not just spaces for queer self-expression, but for community and home-building, for making a world in which being a queer of color is celebrated and loved. In the film Paris is Burning, interviews with those who participate in the drag balls highlight that the balls are not simply pageants, but home spaces where people find and join their own chosen families in their “houses.” Drag balls, then, become more than just a making, but a home and a world that is more bearable for queers of color.

I want to be clear that I understand that queer communities are already engaged in making as world-making; I know I’m not discovering something queer people don’t already do. Just as Angela Haas is careful to acknowledge that she is not claiming that wampum is the origin of hypertext (in her piece “Wampum as Hypertext”), I want to acknowledge that I am not calling for queers to start making things and making worlds; I know we’re already doing this work. However, in both the cases of the Lesbian Avengers or in the drag balls, none of these communities are claiming to be doing multimodal work; they may not even choose to claim that they are “making” anything necessarily, certainly not for the means of world-making. These communities are just doing it (as Harjo writes, dancing it, being it) because it makes the world more bearable. What I am arguing is that a cultural rhetorics orientation to queer and feminist multimodality includes this story as a means “to make one absent story present in our discussions” of queer, feminist multimodal composing, “and the addition of this story may lead us to better understand the theory of discovery” (Haas 96).

Cody M

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December 12, 2017

Supporting Inclusive, Interdisciplinary Game Studies

December 12, 2017 | By | No Comments

It’s no secret that gaming cultures and communities—including game studies—have longstanding issues with inclusion, especially inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented peoples. The most apparent example of this is #GamerGate, the thinly veiled, ongoing harassment campaign against game critics, scholars, and developers who are women, people of color, or LGBTQ folk. Game studies has fared somewhat better in this regard, in that many game studies conferences and publications include some scholars from marginalized communities, and to some extent encourage academic criticism of games and gaming cultures. Yet even in game studies, the study of race, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories remains cordoned off from the rest of the field: they’re things that scholars of these topics engage in, but others can ignore. In other words, they’re viewed as specializations or special issues, but optional ones at that.

Yet if we as gamers and game scholars truly hope to create inclusive gaming communities and game studies, or to seize on the potential for games to “make us better” or “change the world” in Jane McGonigal’s words, then we have to stop compartmentalizing discussions of identity, community, and intersectionality. There is no sitting on the sidelines when it comes to race in games. There is no part of gaming or game studies where it is not an issue, so there is no place where it is possible to ignore it without doing harm. The same is true for gender, sexuality, disability, or class. To pretend they are separate issues is to perpetuate exclusion and marginalization by refusing to confront them. We can’t marginalize the discussion of marginalization and expect anything to change. If we want to change our culture and realize the potential of games, then we all have to actively cultivate practices of inclusion.

That sounds like a tall order, because it is. Creating inclusive communities requires a lot of listening to each other, educating ourselves, and respecting and navigating difference. But the good news is that none of us has to do this work alone. We can do it together, and together we can build the communities and programs that can sustain and empower us all. For example, the Inclusive Game Development Collaborative, hosted by Michigan State University and founded by Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée, is a cross-institutional program dedicated to supporting diversity of all forms in game development (http://gamedev.msu.edu/inclusive/). It provides a forum for sharing and discussing issues of representation and inclusion in games, and further organizes events at MSU that focus on topics such as concept art and representing cultures or indigenous game design. The Collaborative exemplifies how to bring people together from different backgrounds and experiences, and to especially support developers and scholars who have been marginalized or excluded in gaming culture.

As part of the Collaborative, I’ve had the honor this fall of working with Jonah Magar at MSU Libraries to develop the Game Studies Guild, a group of scholars, students, and gamers interested in games and game studies that reads current game studies texts, plays games together, and engages in critical discussion of them. There are so many amazing faculty and students doing work with games at MSU, but unfortunately they rarely get the opportunity to work together across programs, departments, or colleges. Even when they get to, the work they do rarely makes its way out to communities beyond the university. The main goals of the Game Studies Guild are to address this by fostering community and discussion across disciplines, supporting use of the Library’s developing gaming resources, and hosting critical gaming events that are open to the public and streamed on Twitch.tv (a popular platform for streaming gameplay). The group’s interdisciplinary and open nature is a reminder of another form of inclusion: the inclusion of different perspectives and forms of knowledge.

This year’s events are further dedicated to issues of representation and diversity in games, and our fall events focused on these issues in Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights At Freddy’s and Blizzard’s Overwatch. We would love to have you participate in person or via our live stream, and you can find out more at our website (https://libguides.lib.msu.edu/gsg). All are welcome, regardless of experience or knowledge with games.

There are so many ways to get involved with this work where you are: including readings and discussions of intersectionality and inclusion in your courses, forming a reading or working group dedicated to these topics, attending and supporting existing events related to them, starting a program at your institution that promotes them, or even just making them a topic of conversation in the gaming groups and communities you’re a part of. Whichever way you choose to get involved, the crucial thing is that you do.

Jack Biggs

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December 11, 2017

Digital Narratives of The Disappeared

December 11, 2017 | By | No Comments

Since I’m a returning CHI Fellow for this school year, I wanted to do something quite different compared to my project from last school year. That previous project is called J-Skel and it is an online juvenile skeletal age estimator. That project focused more on the scientific side of things and was intended to be useful in an instruction or classroom setting or to be used as a reference for those who are estimating the age-at-death of juvenile skeletons. Although this is a useful tool for those in the field of human osteology, it is not as applicable to people in everyday life. For this year’s project, I wanted to tackle something both technically and culturally disparate, but first, a quick backstory to explain the impetus behind this new project.

As a bioarchaeologist studying the ancient Maya at MSU, my advisor (Dr. Gabriel Wrobel) runs an ancient Maya Archaeology and Bioarchaeology Fieldschool every year called the Central Belize Archaeological Survey (or CBAS) in Central Belize, about 20 km south of the capital city of Belmopan. As a graduate student, I supervise excavations at the rockshelter sites we dig, as well as give lectures to the students and to the general public if they wish to attend. This year, I lectured over the final segment of Maya prehistory through the Colonial Period and ended with the Guatemalan Civil War that resulted in the genocide of Modern Maya people and the destruction of villages during the late 1970s and early 80s that resulted in the systematic targeting and death of over 200,000 indigenous Maya. As I gave this lecture, none of the students had ever heard of the Guatemalan genocide – also known as the Silent Holocaust. I found this to be somewhat of a disservice that none of them had ever been told about these events. It is because of this that I decided to do my project over the Silent Holocaust.

I want this year’s project to be targeting a much wider audience than my last project and to also take on a cultural and civic justice direction. The Guatemalan Army systematically targeted and eliminated poor indigenous communities in the Guatemalan Highlands, where most of the Modern Maya reside today. Because these peoples mostly speak their own regional variations of Mayan languages and because they have been without a voice since the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, this ethnic cleansing has received far less attention than many others. Families were separated and murdered and entire villages were wiped off the map. It is because of this that I want to inform, or further inform, people about these atrocities that should not be silenced.

Victims and members of the ‘Disappeared’ from the Guatemalan Civil War, Image source: https://espressostalinist.com/genocide/guatemalan-genocide/

In order to make this a project with more of a cultural impact, I plan on creating an interactive map that will allow users to track different journeys concerning the genocide, such as personal journeys or testimonies about fleeing and/or surviving, villages that were attacked, villages that were completely razed, events of social outcry in the major cities, modern-day efforts to commemorate and remember, etc. Although this is not an as well known series of events as other genocides such, as the Holocaust or the Massacre at Srebrenica, it has been heavily researched and there are data out there. I plan on using resources that are publicly available to craft and guide my website so as to be as effective and accurate as possible.

Theoretically, this will not be as technically challenging as my last project (knock on wood) since at that time, I had little knowledge of how to code and interact with different coding languages. Though I’m still not an expert in any sense of the word on coding, I think this will be easier due to my gained knowledge from last year – a pleasantly challenging experience. However, I plan on using at least three new (for me) and different tools this year: Knight Lab StoryMap and Timeline as well as possibly Frappe in order to tell these narratives and help visualize the data. Part of this project isn’t just to inform the general public about events that should not be forgotten, but also to inform me as I will be adding in content as I discover it and I’m excited to go on that journey.