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CHI Grad Fellow Post

Jessica Yann

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April 21, 2017

What makes an archaeological site significant?

April 21, 2017 | By | No Comments

The semester is winding down, and my project is beginning to take on its final form. I’ve been finalizing text, references, and glossary terms, and basically making sure the content is what I want prior to playing with the formatting. As I’ve been finishing with the text, I’ve made a few observations I think are worth sharing. Read More

mahnkes1

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April 12, 2017

Layers of Engagement

April 12, 2017 | By | No Comments

When working with communities, the design process for a website is purposefully ongoing. Some days I find myself doing more deleting than generating, and on others, I’m reenergized by the newer possibilities proposed by the community. Beyond the natural ebb and flow of any collaborative check-in, I’ve also been struck by the buildup of audience considerations over time. To make the site more accessible to an older Filipinx American community, I initially had to change content to a more approachable style than the academic. The overly-conceptual and technical prose was deleted, and I fell back on the ethnographic-type style of my field notes. It made good sense as I was engaging in the experience of their cultural center and its potential for communication to publics.

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swayampr

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April 11, 2017

Challenging times…

April 11, 2017 | By | No Comments

As my website is coming together, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the things came to be. When I first thought of working on Norris, I had grandiose plans about how the website would come together. Beginning to work on the website however, quickly brought these plans down to Earth. One of the first stumbling blocks was thinking of the home page. Originally, I had planned on georeferencing the plan of Norris in order to create a layered effect and a constant comparison between plan and reality as well as past and present. However, when I began georeferencing, I realized that that site plan that I had digitized, was, first, not the final one and second, that parts of the original plan were not built, which made said georeferencing challenging at best, and borderline impossible at worst. So, while I went back to the drawing board (so to speak) in trying to find an updated site plan for the town of Norris, I began piecing together other parts of the website.

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Jessica Yann

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April 3, 2017

Digital Heritage from Vancouver

April 3, 2017 | By | No Comments

This past week I attended the Society for American Archaeology conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  This international conference highlights the newest archaeological research, and is always the highlight of my year.  Visiting a new city, trying new food (this time it was oysters from off the coastline in BC), and seeing new sites are always fun, but what I find most useful is being around so many like-minded people and hearing new and exciting ideas.

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nelso663

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March 31, 2017

Considering ICT-Mediated Humanities Collaboration: A Report from ACRL 2017

March 31, 2017 | By | No Comments

Last week I was able to attend the annual conference for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in Baltimore (proceedings here). One talk struck me as particularly relevant to cultural heritage informatics. The authors explored humanities scholarship collaboration across institutional and disciplinary boundaries, focusing on the fifteen institutions that constitute the Humanities Without Walls (HWW) consortium (which includes Michigan State). The authors reported the themes that emerged from qualitative analysis of semi-structured interview transcripts, and represented the resultant collaboration network as a network graph with dimensions including team-size per project, number of grant awardees per institution, and number of connections between projects and institutions.

The authors also advised of ways to engage with these innovative networks of humanities scholarship collaboration. For the Adaptive Research Practices theme that emerged from the analysis, the authors advised intervening at the level of student-instructor interaction. This fellowship’s emphasis on learning techniques for creating and maintaining web content represents this sort of engagement. Regarding the Networks of Scholarship theme identified in the qualitative data analysis, the authors recommended that information professionals support places for scholars to interact across conventional boundaries, for instance in research centers, communities of practice, or other hybrid organizational forms.

Finally, the authors encouraged information professionals to foster experimentation in novel forms of Scholarly Communication and Dissemination.  Significant, but certainly not the only developments include the use of blogs and personal websites for scholarly communication and dissemination, the use of platforms like GitHub, GitBook, or Authorea, and the use of networks like SSRN, Mendeley, Zotero, or ResearchGate.

Considering electronically-mediated scholarly collaboration, one challenge to effectiveness is the very knowledge in which researchers trade. Codifying knowledge that is part of a rapidly evolving domain is a problem particularly for the knowledge work of distributed research teams, whatever the branch of the sciences (Bos et al., 2007). On this point, researchers in computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) have advanced our understanding of the need to enrich virtual knowledge-work-spaces, suggesting features like document annotation or authorship tracking to produce affordances like knowledge evolution monitoring (Malhotra and Majchrak, 2012). One particularly exciting development that seems to address this obstacle to collaboration is content that is published on the web not only for dissemination but, even more, to elicit wider contribution. In this respect, these projects (perhaps a subset of what have been called virtual research environments?) constitute something more than scholarly communication/dissemination. Examples of this kind of project include the Modes of Existence project (site / source), and the Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography, which grew out of the Asthma Files project (site / source).

doyleras

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March 31, 2017

Connecting SQL and PHP

March 31, 2017 | By | No Comments

I have now created a database of tables about the production and consumption of hydroelectricity in the final decade of colonial rule in Uganda and Kenya, i.e. the years after the construction of the Owen Falls Dam for which I have been able to digitize data (I am also trying to get comparable information from the postcolonial era). The use of phpMyAdmin in WampServer made this a straightforward process, with only the minor hiccough that, at first, I misunderstood how to save work within it. With that obstacle out of the way, it really does make generating SQL easy by using PHP shortcuts to do so.

I think I saw one exception to this, however, and found it easier just to write the SQL manually: in instances where I was generating multiple tables with the same series of keys. These instances included a set of tables that changes in the values of certain variables over time, and a set of tables that compare the same information across multiple townships in Uganda. In these instances, it was faster to cut-and-paste those tables into a new SQL script and change select values for each key than to use phpMyAdmin’s UI to create new keys and values.

Moving on to making PHP script with which to access this database, I learned another thing that the phpMyAdmin UI does exceptionally quickly: generate PHP arrays from SQL tables. I have saved these arrays in Brackets, because they will make it easier to make the form with which visitors to the site will query the database. I have revisited the education in PHP that offered in the O’Reilly “Head First” series, and on CodeAcademy. I need to write PHP script that can pull substrings from within each table (so that users can query specific data points) and that can adjoin tables (so that users can compare information across the narrow range of shared keys that I made the database around).

Erin Pevan

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March 29, 2017

Snags and setbacks won’t slow me down

March 29, 2017 | By | No Comments

News flash: sometimes your project doesn’t go the way you expect it to!

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Nikki Silva

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March 24, 2017

Directory of Oneota Scholars: Tracking Them Down

March 24, 2017 | By | No Comments

My last blog post addressed the criteria of inclusion I am using for the Directory of Oneota Scholars. As I was collecting names of scholars, I had to eventually stop and begin working through this corpus to gather information on their current research interests, position, the institution (or entity they are at), and a website for contacting the individual. To track down this information, I have mainly used Google to search for individual’s names on their own and then with ‘archaeology’ in the search bar. It has been a bit difficult to track down current information on multiple scholars: out of 110 scholars, I have no current information on 14 individuals. I will continue to try and gather information on these individuals and begin filling my website with the content. Thankfully, I have already created my website and a coding template for each scholar, and the site is ready to be populated. I hope to finish populating the site with content in the next month. Please comment below if you have any questions about the project!

mahnkes1

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March 24, 2017

The Rhetoric of Code

March 24, 2017 | By | No Comments

When working to persuade an audience, one assumes to mostly wrestle with whatever’s rendered on the other side of the code. The archaic mess of symbols tucked under the rug of GitHub files is kept cleanly from view—or especially interest—from the community I work with, because the rhetoric of the rendered site seems to be what counts most, the public face with the most agency. For example, as I continue to construct my site for Filipinx-American spaces, I begin to lean more heavily toward the Fil-Am community in terms of their needs and how the website could possibly contribute to meeting those needs. The process is a loop wherein I present the current manifestation of the site to community members with an assumption toward their needs, and their feedback corrects those assumptions, sending me back to the rebuilding of the site. The feedback loop continues (on and on, it seems, at this stage of the semester). None of them care for how I manipulate code, nor do I think to persuade them of my hefty inelegant patchwork of code adopted from several online spaces.

This last week, however, I’d been introduced to the rhetoricity of code, adding yet another layer to community work and the persuasive complexity within digital literacy.

At this year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication, Dr. Kevin Brock’s presentation “Treating Code as a Persuasive Argument” drew attention away from the often emphasized instrumental power of code toward its rhetorical capacity. Exploring a user’s proposal on Ruby Rails to improve code logic’s efficiency in determining a default layout, Brock revealed how the discourse of the proposal’s reception illuminated code’s ability to perform, measure against existing code, measure in terms of readability, measure in potential to bring further code improvements, and demonstrate potential applicability to other pages. The prioritized elements of code logic and representation point to the particular values of a digital discourse, one that may inform the persuasiveness and argument underlying any proposed code.

Fortunately for now, crafting a persuasive set of code is beyond my skill set. Admittedly, I’m not so discriminant in finding and adopting a code as long as it renders something decipherable and functional on the other end. Despite this, I can appreciate Dr. Brock’s insights into the rhetoricity of code which sheds light on the engagement of programmers and communities behind the scenes as another complex discourse that digital literacy grapples with. It also brought to my attention the idea of how adoption of certain codes for particular functions could culturally rewrite the code’s original use in the community, consequently helping to disperse a re-appropriated version. An example of this could be the innocent use of codes traditionally (and originally) used for listing as a new means for paragraph indenting. In these ways, code evolves as any other language, though with functionality seemingly dictating the values and hence direction of its evolution (for now, and put in extremely simplified terms).

In a sense, with digital composing, I realize I don’t just work with the community that drives my content. Especially with a public repository on platforms like Github, I could also potentially be engaging with the coding community.

doyleras

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March 20, 2017

SQL

March 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

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

 

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

 

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