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CHI Project Info



April 28, 2017

My MySQL table

April 28, 2017 | By | No Comments

Using WampServer, I produced an SQL database of information regarding the production and consumption of hydroelectricity in several towns in Uganda and Kenya from 1954-63. I chose this dataset because these years saw the largest increase in hydroelectric power in the history of East Africa. This dramatic hydroelectric expansion was comprised of several dams, but was based mainly on the completion of the Owen Falls Dam across the Victoria Nile in Jinja, Uganda – which remains the largest single source of hydroelectricity in the region. This set of development projects emerged during what became the final decade of British colonial rule in East Africa, and has had a profound influence on the economies, environments, politics, and science of the region in the postcolonial era. By producing a database that allows the user to track these changes across time and space, I have created a basis for researching the history of electricity in East Africa through quantitative means.

Extant scholarship, particularly work by the historians Robert O. Collins, Terje Tvedt, Heather Hoag, and Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, presents the contours of the political and technical debates about dam construction in East Africa. This historiography has yielded progressively more fine-grained analyses of the water politics of constructing dams on the Nile and elsewhere in East Africa, including especially interactions between governments and displaced communities. Yet, it has done little to contextualize or question the data that planners used to make decisions about the construction and operation of the dam, or the roles played by commercial and industrial elites in materializing demand for electricity. This database should offer a means to complement their research.

Erin Pevan


April 27, 2017

Creating your project’s identity: What’s in a name?

April 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

For my last CHI blog pre-project launch post for April, I want to include a short discussion of the thought process and decision making that goes into creating a title for a digital project. It has been the part of my project that I’ve been sitting on for the longest time, deliberating between different titles that would best capture the attention of a wider audience and reflect the overall premise of my project. In the end, I decided to go for both catchiness (at least, in my perspective) and connection to the overall basis of the project and the narrative of the website design, both of which are based upon my use of and exploration of Norwegian literature for national identity markers. Therefore, borrowing from the sometimes-wordy, yet descriptive and fun, titles of Norwegian folktales, I decided upon a title that reflects my personal quests for exploring Norwegian literature while also explaining (in a subtitle) the purpose of the project. Stay tuned for next week for the project launch and you’ll see what it is!

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Jessica Yann


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



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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Autumn Beyer


April 5, 2017

Capturing Campus Cuisine: An Update

April 5, 2017 | By | No Comments

This past month has been very busy for the Capturing Campus Cuisine project! Susan Kooiman and myself have been working hard on writing up the information for each of the pages and working with the Campus Archaeology Program on planning the meal reconstruction event which is slated for later this month! This event will encompass the information gathered from Susan and I’s research at the MSU Archives, her research into cookbooks at the MSU Special Collections, and my faunal (animal) bone analysis. We have also been working the the chefs at MSU to create an small event that will include recipes and food items from the Early Period of MSU’s history (1855-1870).

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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


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


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!



March 20, 2017


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.


Jack Biggs


March 17, 2017

Making headway…finally

March 17, 2017 | By | No Comments

The past few months have been incredibly frustrating as I made little headway in creating my clickable SVG of a juvenile skeleton using Raphaël.js.  By clicking on a certain bone, the user would be taken to another page corresponding to age estimation methods for that bone and use the features specified to come up with an estimated age.  Since clickable SVGs are created as paths that have beginnings and endings, each path corresponds to either a single bone or a closed path on a bone.  As a result, this means that each bone would have its own link, so to simplify the process, entire regions of bones will be selected at once no matter which bone you click on.  The skeletal regions have been split up according to standard anatomical regions: skull, thorax (ribs, vertebrae, sternum), upper limbs (hands, forearms, arms, clavicles, scapulae), pelvic girdle (pelvis and sacrum), and lower limbs.

Although I appeared to have the correct links and format for Raphaël.js, nothing would work and nothing showed up on my webpage.  Fortunately, I think I have found a way around that.  Instead of linking raphaël.js and my skeletal SVG data paths from separate files, I was able to successfully link embed the SVG data directly into the body of my html page without even using raphaël.js.  Downside is that this makes the code on my html page much longer and look less clean.  However, it correctly links and works and so I’m happy to have slightly less concise code if it means that one of the main functions will work!

As an example, I’ve copied and pasted my example here (  For right now, the outlines of the skeleton are linked to another website so when you click on a feature, it takes you to – a website created by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin dedicated to teaching basic human skeletal anatomy as well as focusing on other primate skeletal morphology.  (This was honestly the first site that popped in my head when testing to see if the linking feature of my SVG worked).

As it stands right now, there is a major problem that I had not anticipated.  The only portion of the skeleton that is truly clickable is the outline of each bone, not the actual bone itself.  This was not a problem I had thought about until I finally got everything working.  My solution to this problem is basically messing with the original paths and outlines of the SVG so that the space between the outline is filled in and is the actual clickable content.  With this process, there are now exponentially more paths, meaning that there are way more individual closed loops that would require their own separate links as the program (Inkscape – free!) is no longer recognizing my grouped regions (i.e. it is not recognizing the ‘ribcage’ but each individual rib or piece of rib that is its own separate loop).  Though less than ideal, this may just be the nature of the beast so that each individual path would then have to have its own link, making my skeletal regions less useful as an overarching theme.

Despite this newest hiccup, I am incredibly relieved to be past this one major hurdle do I can now focus on each of the individual ageing methods that will link up to specific bones.