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CHI Project Info

Jessica Yann


December 9, 2016

Gliding through time!

December 9, 2016 | By | No Comments

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

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

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

Jessica Yann


November 18, 2016

Timeline of Michigan Archaeology

November 18, 2016 | By | No Comments

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

Erin Pevan


November 15, 2016

Navigating the visualization of language and identity in Norway

November 15, 2016 | By | 2 Comments

Since my last blog, I’ve ruminated upon the overall purpose of my CHI project; it first shall serve as the digital component to my Master’s thesis, and it second shall serve as that culmination of my background in history, information technology, and anthropology. But even more important, this project serves to digitally represent a somewhat abstract idea, that of the connections between language and identity, and to extend the examination of these relationships beyond text.

In these last few weeks, my project has been molded and shaped to fit this narrative that explores the connections between language and identity, and serves to answer questions regarding how language has become a marker for identity in Norway, and how these identities are expresses in forms of narrative, from literature to music lyrics to comics to art. This project aims to use forms of narrative to tell a narrative of language and identity, and what this means for the multicultural society of Norway – how, over time, the connections between political and cultural machinations have had a profound affect upon language in Norway, and how language has manifested as a marker for Norwegianness. In addition, I want to tell the story of how notions of homogeneity are challenged through language in Norway, and how identity in Norway is expressed in terms of the relationship of these different communities to the Norwegian language. This project aims to help reassert awareness of the importance of Norwegian language identities by providing a timeline of access to their literature and see, through examples of their literature, why language is a hugely important concept in identity formation. Some questions that have churned in my head include:

  • How is literature used to address and express issues of language identity in Norway?
  • How can a digital platform negotiate boundaries and barriers of language use and identity in ways another medium is perhaps limiting?
  • How can we use a digital map or timeline to show flexibility in language use boundaries in ways that acknowledge the complexities of creating boundaries of language use and identity? How are these complexities challenging assertions of homogeneity?
  • How can a digital platform be used to acknowledge perspectives and boundaries, such as those in a cultural, political, or colonial context, while still providing an answer to the question of how literature, through time, has contributed to a Norwegian national identity through language?

These types of musings become important for scholars to examine in the age where words become extremely powerful tools to express ideology, especially in the media, and in the case of national identity, expressive of what it means to be a part of that identity and whether or not your personhood reflects that ideology and identity.

The next step in this process of forming a digital project of a seemingly abstract idea is visualization. I must admit, my first step in this process was to create the tool, of which I felt I had a better handle, and adapt my story to the tool. However, in reviewing this process, I’ve now realized the importance of making your narrative the prime component of the project FIRST, and let the tools fall where they may. Tools for digital visualization are abundant in this day of open-source material; I believe that, given a good sense of creativity, storyboarding, and a lot of examination of the tools out there, you can create any perfect visualization to tell your narrative in a way that both conveys your argument clearly, while also generating a useful and exciting user experience design. If you create your visualization first, you run into the danger of limiting the bounds of your narrative, and what arguments you want to convey. Once I made it through this hurdle and really formed (for the most part) that narrative, I began that journey: how do you visualize the connections between language and identity in Norway?

In Wendy Hsu’s 4-part blog series On Digital Ethnography, available on the website Ethnography Matters, she explores the relationships between extending ethnographic research beyond text and into the digital world. A key component of this series is to consider the role and form of the digital medium as ethnographic knowledge itself. In particular, Part 4 considers the power of moving beyond print medium as a means for conveying ethnographic knowledge. In particular, she says

“If we open up the definition of ethnography beyond text and print, then we can start to envision a media enriched, performative, and collaborative space for ethnographers to convey what they have encountered, experienced, and postulated. Utilizing the affordances of digital media, ethnographic knowledge can be stored, expressed, and shared in ways beyond a single medium, direction, and user.” (Hsu, Ethnography Matters).

Again, it’s about keeping the narrative in focus, and molding those tools to best express your narrative to your end-users. In particular, she discusses the digital medium as a multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience, including not only video, audio, text, but also through space and time. The assertion of placing a project within a spatial or temporal context to construct stronger arguments and provide essential information is not new to academic scholarly work, but in the realm of digitization, we find a new power in our ability to tangibly visualize this spatial or temporal context for a better user experience.

My next step in this project is to further ponder the different tools and visualization platforms that will best convey my narrative of the relationships between language and identity in Norway. I foresee a temporal aspect to this project, so utilizing Timeline.js might prove useful. Is there a spatial component? Possibly, since much of Norway’s language history is also tied to terrain, historical territorial disputes, and positionality of different communities. An ethnographic archive of different examples of Norwegian narrative searchable through space and time? It’s time to dive into the repositories and find out.


Hsu, Wendy. 2013 Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions.




November 4, 2016

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

November 4, 2016 | By | No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Autumn Beyer


November 2, 2016

Capturing Campus Cuisine: Early Foodways at Michigan State University

November 2, 2016 | By | No Comments

I love food, and this year I am combining this love with both of my fellowship, Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) and Campus Archaeology Program, into a focused research project on the Early Period of MSU’s campus (1855-1870). Within the Campus Archaeology fellowship I am working with fellow Susan Kooiman on a meal reconstruction project. This involves using archival research along with the identification of archaeological food remains, both plant and animal materials, from MSU’s campus excavations. My CHI project will be creating the website that publicizes the meal reconstruction event to be held in the spring, as well as include background information about the project focusing on our research methods and reconstruction areas.

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September 30, 2016

Presenting Michael!

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hi there, CHI community. I’m Michael Nelson, and I’m really excited to be a part of this cohort. I’m in my second year of the master’s program in Media and Information at MSU’s Department of Media and Information. After watching movies and eating food, I’m most interested in exploring scholarly communication and knowledge management. I’m currently exploring those latter two topics in research for my master’s thesis and in other projects at my college. I also enjoy project-based work on these topics, as I found this past summer working at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research as part of the University of Michigan iSchool’s Research Experience for Master’s Students program.

In short, I’m enthusiastic about these topics both as a researcher and as a practitioner.

Right now, I’m thinking my project might involve following up on some coursework I’ve done in the field of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development (the field commonly known as ICTD or ICT4D). I’m especially interested in ICTD projects that have been applied in the context of indigenous knowledges.

My interests are informed by the work I did as an undergraduate and the work I’ve done since then. Studying history at North Park University in Chicago, I became especially interested in knowledge production, specifically knowledge in the human sciences. Then, the ups and downs of working at a startup investment fund and subsequently at a Chicago high school during the years between undergraduate and graduate study spurred my interest in returning to school in the domain of information science.

Looking forward to collaborating with and learning from other Fellows this year, and also to discussing all that right here on this blog with the CHI community!



September 30, 2016

Introducing Monica

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

MeHello! My name is Monica Nesbitt. I am a third year PhD student in Linguistics.   My research interests are in the subfields of phonetics, phonology, and sociolinguistics. More specifically, I am interested in probing the ways in which social and cognitive attributes effect speech perception and production and what their implications are for sound change. I am currently involved in documenting language change here in Lansing and am interested in utilizing the skills I will learn as a CHI fellow to create a repository of the interviews being conducted by myself and my collaborators.  Very excited to get started!


Jessica Yann


September 30, 2016

Introducing Jessica

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello all!

My name is Jessica Yann. I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. My focus is archaeology, specifically of the Midwestern region with an emphasis on the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  I am currently working on finishing up my research and analysis for my dissertation.

683My dissertation research focuses on how Native Americans and British traders were interacting throughout the Great Lakes region from 1760 to 1820, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘British period’ in the history of this region.  Specifically, I am looking at the choices that various groups were making regarding what goods to get from traders as well as who groups were choosing to trade with.  I am examining issues of supply and demand to test notions of dependency.  Many early research on this time period and topic claim that Native Americans became completely dependent on Europeans.  By looking more closely at supply and demand, I can examine these notions of dependency, and get a better idea of what was actually happening during these trade interactions. [Spoiler alert: I don’t think Native Americans were ever ‘dependent’ on Europeans, in the sense that they could not survive without them. I’m investigating this.]

All of that said, I am really excited to be working with CHI this semester.  I’m not sure that my project will relate specifically to my research, but I really love the idea of making archaeology more approachable and accessible to the public, so my project will probably revolve around that.  As my project develops, I will keep you all posted!



September 30, 2016

Introducing Ramya

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hi! I am Ramya, a first year graduate student in History at Michigan State. I am broadly interested in borderlands history, urban history and environmental history (specifically water). I come to history from an inter-disciplinary background in Journalism, Political Science, Science Technology Studies and most recently, Urban Design. I recently completed a Master’s thesis positing the idea of a political border as infrastructure (most of my thesis is available at here), using the case study of the Detroit River

 DSC_0463My proposed doctoral project aims to understand the relationship between a political border and urban form. I view the urban and environmental history of the US Canada border along the Detroit River as a critically under-researched topic. Through an exploration of the relationship between urban history and the political border, I want to explore a more bottom up way of envisioning and analyzing the border. Extant work on the US Canada border has analyzed the changing relationship of the two countries (especially post 9/11). However, there is little or no work on the Detroit Windsor border linking city growth with the formation of the US-Canada border.

My proposed project for the Cultural Humanities Informatics Fellowship aims to map the Underground Railroad vis-à-vis changes in urban form on both sides of the Detroit River border between the United States and Canada through the 19th century. Thus far, scholarly work on the Underground Railroad has been focused on important actors and events. In relating growing urban areas on both sides of the Detroit River with the Underground Railroad through the 19th century, I aim to spatialize the operation of the Underground Railroad.  By tracing the relationship of infrastructure (i.e. technology, people and places) of the Underground Railroad to the growth of urban areas on both sides of the Detroit River, I aim to move beyond traditional scholarship on the subject. I see this project folding into my larger dissertation that aims to examine the relationship between city growth and border making, particularly of Detroit and Windsor.

One of my motivations in applying to MSU is the tremendous support offered to digital humanities. I am very excited to be a part of such an inter-disciplinary cohort and look forward to learning from my peers!



September 30, 2016

First Year: New adventures

September 30, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello! O’siyo! Konichiwa!
My name is Kenlea Pebbles, and I am one of the fellows in the Cultural Heritage Informatics cohort at Michigan State University (MSU). I am one of two of the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture (WRAC) fellows in this year’s cohort. I am looking forward to everything we will be learning and producing this year.

This is my first year in the Ph.D. program in WRAC. I will be focusing on cultural rhetorics and linguistics in the Writing and Rhetoric program. I have a strong interest in: environmental rhetorics, feminist rhetorics, visual rhetorics, Native American and Indigenous rhetorics, digital rhetorics, and a plethora of other topics. In particular, I am interested in how linguistics and cultural rhetorics intercept and overlap.

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