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Autumn Beyer

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March 1, 2017

Capturing Campus Cuisine: The Interactive Atlas

March 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

Over the past several weeks I have made significant progress on the final detail of the Capturing Campus Cuisine website: the interactive atlas! Originally, I was planning this interactive user feature to be a timeline map, that would allow visitors to move through the Early Period on campus (from 1855-1870) exploring different locations on campus related to food production, processing, and consumption. However, as I have been compiling the data for this project with CAP fellow Susan Kooiman, we realized that many of our sources date to the Early Period, but did not have a specific date associated with the photo or information. Read More

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February 3, 2017

Responsive Rhetoric

February 3, 2017 | By | No Comments

This week has been a hard one and the year has had a rocky start for me: I have been sick, and I am concerned about the recent news that overlaps with my community and research. President Trump is making way for Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Opposition to these two pipelines is the basis of the Native movements around Idle No More and Standing Rock (Mni Wiconi) which pushed for the stoppage of both Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline. This is particularly discouraging as this action would threaten tribal sovereignty and break treaty law.

The result of this decision to allow the pipelines to move forward has yet to be seen. However, I am interested to see that protests occurred immediately after the announcement was made; the announcement was made two days ago and, since then, there were protests in New York two days ago and in Washington D.C. yesterday, and one in Minnesota today against the decision to encourage the continued development on these pipelines with hundreds of protesters at each event, despite it being part of the work week and extremely short notice to organize and react. This means that support is still strong and there is a clear alliance of the over 150 Indigenous Nations who support this movement as well as the millions of Americans who stand united with us.

The chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, David Archambault II, responded to President Trump’s permission for the Army Corp of Engineers to bypass the environmental analysis by writing:

Your Memorandum of January 24th instructs the Secretary of the Army to direct the Assistant Secretary for Civil Works and the US Army Corps of Engineers to review and expedite “requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL,” including easements. It also directs them to consider rescinding or modifying the Memo of December 4th, which calls for an Environmental Impact Statement and consideration of a reroute. There is more, but perhaps most astonishingly it calls for consideration of withdrawal of the Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS.

President Trump, the EIS is already underway. The comment period does not close until February 20th and the Department of the Army has already received tens of thousands of comments. This change in course is arbitrary and without justification; the law requires that changes in agency positions be backed by new circumstances or new evidence, not simply by the President’s whim. It makes it even more difficult when one considers the close personal ties you and your associates have had with Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco.

Your memorandum issues these directives with the condition that these actions are carried out “to the extent permitted by law.” I would like to point out that the law now requires an Environmental Impact Statement. The USACE now lacks statutory authority to issue the easement because it has committed to the EIS process. Federal law, including the requirement of reasonable agency decision making, prevents that.

He continues to hold to Tribal and legal sovereignty with the following comments:
The problem with the Dakota Access pipeline is not that it involves development, but rather that it was deliberately and precariously placed without proper consultation with tribal governments. This memo takes further action to disregard tribal interests and the impacts of yesterday’s memorandums are not limited to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This disregard for tribal diplomatic relations and the potential for national repercussions is utterly alarming.

This gives encouragement to the millions of people who are members of Tribal Nations and those who stand united with them. This unity is the strength of the movement, the nations, and the communities; may these voices continue to speak out and exercise their sovereignty and independence while encouraging considerate and thoughtful civility on the part of the U.S. Government and the Tribal Nations.

However, our survival is our resistance; our survivance is our voice, our sovereignty.  Life is basic part of nature and nature is the most basic of laws.  When life is threated by endangering life-giving, life-maintaining water, we resist to survive. We resist for our children and the next seven generations.  Our survivance is ongoing and we will not stay silent.

Jack Biggs

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January 30, 2017

Wading Through Skeletal Aging Literature and Raphael.js

January 30, 2017 | By | No Comments

Apologies for my tardiness in posting!  It’s been an incredibly hectic semester so far and time keeps on slipping away!

Since my project is focused on subadult skeletal age estimation, I’ve really started going through the literature and publications over the subject.  On one hand, this is a great way for me to conduct in-depth literature reviews for my methods section of my comprehensive exams and prepare for my dissertation since I’m focusing on the growth and development of ancient Maya subadults and how social, environmental, and biological stressors affect those processes.  On the other hand, I’ve been running into a few academically-related brick walls.  One common thread I’ve found throughout most of the literature is that there really is no single-agreed upon method for most of the transitional age-related changes for any single bone or bone element.  Academia, especially Victorian and early 20th century academia when many of these studies originally took place, is full of researchers and their own opinions or just blasting other scholars’ methods.  Additionally, the racist roots of physical anthropology focused on non-white populations as a curiosity while only conducting comprehensive and in-depth studies of white European or American populations.  This is an unfortunate trend that extended embarrassingly far into the 20th century and was not until post-WWII that things began to change.

However, the vast majority of skeletal studies, as a result of large institutional collections, are still comprised of mostly white individuals which limits the degree of applicability for those studying cultures in non-white areas of the world where different cultures and environments greatly dictate development of the human skeleton.  As a result, the majority of the methods employed in this interactive website will be pulled from studies comprised of mostly white individuals, as those have most often been heavily researched.  For me, this is an unwanted convenience as it does not actually represent the full breadth of human variation that we see across populations and cultures across the globe.  (However, population-specific studies have become very popular and standards for specific regions and populations have increased, but not enough to the point yet to where I could effectively implement them into my website.)

An additional unwanted event occurred in which I accidentally discovered that another researcher is using the title ‘OSSA’ as well for his osteological software that statistically estimates ancestry.  It has not yet been published and is still in its beta test phase which is why nothing originally came up in my search for anyone else using that acronym.  Although I think I may technically finish my website before him and could thus use the name, this researcher is on my dissertation committee and I felt it wisest not to make them mad!  So for right now, the working title of the project is ‘Fontanelle’ in reference to the spaces on the cranium of incomplete closure on infants.

One last aspect of the project I’m working through is the interactive graphic on the landing page.  Ideally it will be a juvenile skeleton to where when the mouse hovers over a specific bone or element, such as the skull, the skull will change colors and clicking on it will take you to a new page specifically focusing on aging methods of the bones of the cranium and mandible.  I have been trying to accomplish this with raphael.js which allows you to draw vector graphics on webpages.  Since I have had a slower-than-expected start to the semester, I’m a little behind in my execution of being able to do this and it is still weighing me down.  I know that once I am able to map out a single bone, the rest of the skeleton should be relatively pain-free (although this might take a while with all the bones in the body!)

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December 3, 2016

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

December 3, 2016 | By | No Comments

One of the challenges I have when doing research is focusing my work and narrowing the topic. I do not think this is an unusual issue to have. However, it is one I have struggled with this past month. I think this is obvious from my last post.
When I first talked with Ethan about my possible topics for this project, we talked about narrowing it; however, we also discussed some other potential areas of research and I left our conversation with even more ideas than I had going into it. Ethan pointed out that one of the challenges in my project ideas is the relative paucity of research for me to lean on for my project, but there is so much potential in what I can do and there is much to explore.
This is part of the challenge. I keep finding myself being distracted by the openness of the topic: I understand and know the need to make sure my project is contained and focused, but I keep seeing all the open space beyond it. So, as I limit my topic to aspects of rhetorical sovereignty around Idle No More and Standing Rock, I see the issues of water, oil corporations, Native American studies, treaty law, government, tribal and community alliances, gender studies, as well as the linguistic and rhetorical structures and patterns that are present in these areas of study on the activist movements I am working with in my project.
One of the things I have been struggling with is thinking about what topic I want to explore after this project is completed. I want to set it up to make it easy for me to add on to it later. This, too, means I am aware of the open areas beyond the limited scope of this project as I see potential connections in my future studies. However, these decisions are difficult to make, as they are all interesting subjects that I want to delve into and explore. In the meantime, I continue to focus and try to not get distracted by the space all around me.
But, then again, …
SQUIRREL!!

Jack Biggs

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November 10, 2016

Subadult Skeletal Age Estimation

November 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

As it gets later and later into the semester, I’ve started trying to put together ideas for my CHI project.  While I’ve been thinking about what specifically I would like to do, there was one notion that kept popping up in my head: make accessible, usable, and relevant for other people, not just myself.  Sometimes as researchers, we get so buried in our niche fields and specialties that although we view our own research as interesting and significant, others obviously do not.  I feel that this is especially true in anthropology and archaeology given how technological advances of the past few decades have allowed us to create even more specialized areas of research.  Though these new methods can greatly add to our understanding of how populations of the past interacted and moved within, through, and around cultural and physical landscapes, we must be careful not to disenfranchise other researchers in the process.

As I discussed in my previous post, I study subadults’ social identities as well as skeletal growth and development within Late Classic Maya society.  To me, this is absolutely fascinating and necessary for understanding the ancient Maya.  To other bioarchaeologists, archaeologists, or even the general public, it is not, just in the way that other people put emphasis on their research as an essential tenet of their field.  In other words, not everyone places the same level of importance on specific aspects of research as you do.  The specialization of your methods and research should be approached very cautiously so as not to make you too generalized on the one hand, or too specialized on the other.  This is what I want to avoid while thinking about my CHI project.  If it’s too generalized, it will just become lost in the sea of similar online tools.  If too specific, then it has the potential to be relevant to a very small number of people and therefore useless to most archaeologists, bioarchaeologists, and students of human osteology my target audience.

Taking all of this into consideration, I’ve been thinking about how to effectively integrate my specific research into a much broader capacity for my CHI project that would be useful for people other than those who study ancient Maya childhood (of which there are very few).  However, since I do focus on skeletal growth and development I feel that I can use that knowledge and hopefully translate it into a tool that is useful and educational.  My most likely idea would be to create some sort of minimally interactive repository for estimating the age of subadult skeletal remains.

Subadult skeletal remains are much easier from which to obtain an age-at-death due to incredibly well-documented processes that the body undergoes during the first 18-20 years of life.  These mainly include the incredibly specific timing of teething events (down to a few-month window) and tracking growth plate fusion.

Dental eruption chart from "Human Osteology", Academic Press, 3 ed. (2011) - Tim D. White, Michael T. Black & Pieter A. Folkens

Dental eruption chart from “Human Osteology”, Academic Press, 3 ed. (2011) – Tim D. White, Michael T. Black & Pieter A. Folkens

In adults, it is much more difficult to estimate age-at-death since the body has stopped growing and you are then looking at degenerative changes over time which are affected by health, occupation, status, etc.  Although studies over estimating age are numerous, there is not a dedicated repository focusing on subadult remains.  I feel it would be beneficial to create some kind of age estimator where the user would indicate what levels or stages of growth and development an certain bone presents (that is being physically studied by the user) and the website would crank out an estimated age range based on the most updated or accepted age-estimation studies.  Ideally this would be most heavily geared towards students but also used by other researchers as a way to quickly estimate the age based on multiple bones which otherwise would cause them to wade through different publications.  My goal is for this to potentially be used as both a learning interactive experience and a tool for the user.

This might sound all well and dandy, but why is estimating age-at-death so important?  Estimating the age-at-death of skeletal remains is one of the first tasks when encountering these materials, be they modern or archaeological.  Understanding the age distribution of a past population is invaluable to how you interpret that population.  Different cultural, biological, and environmental factors, all of which affect one another, will determine what the age distributions are within that population.  For an archaeologist, this helps reconstruct who this population was and how they functioned and interacted.  For example, normal age distributions for the ancient Maya show high infant mortality rates, low death rates among young adults, but higher death rates among older adults.  Compare this to the plague pits of Europe during the Black Death – everyone was affected almost equally so the age distribution is more or less even.  Since we are able to more accurately determine the ages of subadults, researchers can ask age-specific questions and better understand what kind of stresses juveniles and infants are experiencing at what specific ages in their childhood. Overall, understanding the age distribution is essential to understanding the people themselves.

 

 

pebbles1

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November 5, 2016

Looking forward

November 5, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hello!
O’siyo!
こにちわ!
It is November and we are moving further into web design and interactive visuals in our cohort work. I am getting excited about planning my project. I know I want to do something with visuals, space/place, and water.
I am still holding onto the idea of working with the water systems in Flint. However, I am still looking at some other possible ideas of place and space with my colleague and classmate, Stephanie Mahnke. We both have strong interests in Asian and Asian American studies and are both members of Asian Pacific American Graduate Association (APAGA) and may do something related to that.
Likewise, the water rights issues surrounding Standing Rock and the movement behind No DAPL has emerged this semester. This is reflective of the issues I have been looking at for the past few years around Indigenous social movements and water rights issues.
 
Whichever way I go on this project, I will need to think about place and space as well as digital presence and presentation. Additionally, I believe rhetorical sovereignty is an essential part of this project. So, I should make sure this project is one that incorporates the voices of the community it represents.
In short, I must ask myself some questions to start working on this project:

  • How will the topic of my project be presented? What kind of digital space will be most useful in promoting the topic of the project?
  • What community will this digital presence represent? How will the community be reached and represented in this digital format?  How can the community interact with this online presence?
  • How can it be useful and informative for both the community it represents? What needs does it meet for the community?  How will it encourage community engagement?
  • How will the visualization of the data explore the issue in new and useful ways that will develop and clarify connections within the data? How will this format be more effective than any other format that could be used?
  • What kind of interactive design on the website will help create activism and unity within the community? What new understanding and development of the topic will this digitization be able to present to help the community?

No matter which community I end up supporting with this project, I know I want to promote activism and engagement. All three of these communities have strong links to my world and life. It is a difficult choice and one I must make soon.
Any feedback you want to give is very welcome!
Thank you!
Wado!
どうもありがと!

swayampr

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October 28, 2016

Changing Gears

October 28, 2016 | By | No Comments

When I first began thinking about a prospective CHI fellowship project, I wanted to map the Underground Railroad between Detroit and Windsor, specifically spatializing where and how people escaped. In the last few weeks however, I have begun to think about fundamentally changing my project. My primary reason for this is that I am studying 20th century US and Canadian history and feel that I would not be able to do justice to a project that is temporally so removed from my doctoral research.

Although the alternative has not fully germinated in my head, at this point I am gravitating towards understanding the impact of photographs on architecture and built form. Let me add a little context to this: I have been researching the Farm Security Administration’s photographs from the Great Depression era, in specific photographs that relate to the Resettlement Administration in their effort to relocate sharecroppers to other locations and break Poster of the Resettlement Administrationaway from land tenancy. Often criticized for being ‘socialist’ in its mindset, the Resettlement Administration made way for the Farm Security Administration.  Before that however, there was a proliferation of ‘company towns’ throughout the Unites States, thanks to the Resettlement Administration. At their peak in the 1930s, company towns housed about 2 million Americans, including as many as one in five adults in places like South Carolina. But most made way for the post World War II suburban sprawl.

These company towns embody a certain kind of welfare capitalism, in form and philosophy. Often built and designed in conjunction with large infrastructural projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s dam projects. Often these towns claimed to use local materials, and embody a vernacular architectural form. For my CHI project then, as a preliminary thought, I would like to map these company towns in the South, especially in Tennessee. The company town, in the early decades of the 20th century, especially, represents a specific moment American history when welfare capitalism was able to dictate every aspect of life.Often, these company towns were a response to a certain kind of industry, and thus supported specific kinds of industries and transport infrastructure. I think digital tools, provided through open-source platforms Github, Leaflet, and Mapbox, and enhanced through JavaScript programming will help spatialize these company towns in novel ways. Specifically, I think an interactive map of these company towns placed in a larger regional context will help tease out relationships of these urban forms with other New Deal infrastructural projects, such as large dams. In specific, it might help us question the model of the company town itself. Refreshments concession inside the Norris visitors' building

Some of the projects that guide my evolving project are:

  1. How can digital tools be used to spatialize historical data? Specifically, how can we use digital mapping to tell an effective story of company town planning and form?
  2. How might it be possible to integrate the FSA photographs with the plans of company towns? What will this tell us about the ways in which the Great Depression was represented in popular culture?
  3. How might we re-think the suburban sprawl in relation to these company towns and big infrastructure?

While the specifics of my project are still being worked out, I would like to point out the ways in which I think digital tools are especially useful in redefining scale and impact of my project:

  1. Digital tools, especially GIS have helped re-open spatial questions across disciplines, but especially in History. Indeed, by scraping spatial data from archives, researchers can address a variety of questions. These tools help researchers ask old questions anew with greater analytical depth and context.
  2. Through spatializing and visualizing data, these tools help tease out connections that might have otherwise seemed latent. Visualization of data is an underused tool, in my reading, especially in the humanities. Just being able to see things on a large canvas often times makes connections far more explicit.
  3. Interactive interface. To me, the most exciting part of the project is the ability to design a user interface that lets the user interact with historical act in tactile ways. In a sense, a well thought out and designed interface can help the archival material speak for itself.

And now, I will go back to figuring out the specifics of my project. Any feedback/inputs/comments are always welcome!

Jack Biggs

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October 16, 2016

Introducing Jack Biggs and the Digitization and 3D Modeling of Human Skeletal Remains

October 16, 2016 | By | No Comments

Hi everyone! So I tried to post my introduction blog a while back but I guess I somehow messed it up and it never appeared so this is going to be a double blog today.
My name is Jack Biggs and I am a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. My focus is in the bioarchaeology of the ancient Maya in Central America, primarily within the Late and Terminal Classic Periods (about AD 250 to 950). I will hopefully finish up my coursework next spring and start working on my dissertation proposal.lamanai
Although not entirely set in stone, my (hopeful) dissertation research will focus on the skeletal biology and cultural identities of subadults in Late Classic and Terminal Classic ancient Maya society. Specifically, I am interested in how the growth and development of the skeleton is affected by cultural, biological, and environmental stressors and surroundings. By looking at how these factors affected infants and children, I hope to analyze differences in how society viewed subadults, how they were treated compared to adults, and by proxy, how we can interpret maternal health via infant remains.
Additionally, most of my research and the collections from which I will collect data come from central Belize. The skeletal remains from these sites are predominantly from cave and rockshelter contexts which were often used as mortuary spaces. The comparison between these site types and possibly between more urban centers (data and preservation willing!) will add an interesting extra layer to my overall research goals.
I have yet to decide exactly what I’m going to do for my CHI project, but I’m excited to figure it out and be a part of this program!

So like I said earlier, I’ll also be posting another entry today. Similar to what Autumn posted previously, I will be focusing on photogrammetry as well. In the Maya Bioarchaeology Lab here at Michigan State, we have been using photogrammetry for about a year. Instead of cultural artifacts, we have been making models of the skeletal remains that were excavated from a number of sites in central Belize.
AKB11-13-32For me, one of the most important aspects of creating these digital models is to preserve the bones and the data that they give. The remains are incredibly fragile and by making models of them, we’re able to preserve them digitally and slow down the rate at which they break down due to handling. However, the data they give us is also incredibly valuable. Within the programs available to create and modify the models, you can also take measurements in the 3D space. This is incredibly useful for bioarchaeologists since discrete skeletal differences between groups or populations can be left in the architecture of the bone, especially on the skull.
Additionally, we are trying to use photogrammetry to digitally reconstruct bones that may otherwise may be too fragmentary or may be missing pieces that connect other parts of the bone. Again, this can give us the ability to collect data from places where it was previously unavailable.
Even though we are still working on the kinks and focusing on our methodology at this point, it is incredibly exciting to see the potential that photogrammetry has for the future of archaeology and bioarchaeology.

pebbles1

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October 16, 2016

Place and Space: Northern Wales in the 1800s to 1900s

October 16, 2016 | By | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I presented some research on place and space at the Cultural Rhetorics Conference (CRCon).  My presentation was on “Whose Voice and Space?: A look at white space and rhetorical sovereignty in St. Kitts memory of colonization.” Specifically, I looked into the massacre of the Kalinago people at Bloody Point and how that relates to the rhetorical sovereignty around the claiming of the land and deaths at the hands of the colonizers of the Island and how it relates to the rhetorical sovereignty of the Islanders.

I am very excited about the work we are starting in relation to mapping because of my interest in Indigenous peoples and People of Color and our emerging voices and the rhetorical sovereignty we claim over our own stories and histories in contrast to the stories told about us. As my cohort learned during this week’s lecture, maps are political and tell a story of power. Who claims that power over the land and place that is mapped, tells their perspective of what is true about that location. In short, the act of claiming the land, naming the places, and presenting a history of that location to fit a narrative are acts of power and colonialism.
I am looking forward to our current assignment of creating an interactive map, as my colleagues and I have chosen to look at Northern Wales. Wales, like other some other Celtic areas, was conquered by the English. However, unlike many places (like St. Kitts) that were colonized many centuries later, they managed to keep their language and culture (while somewhat modified) mostly intact. This caused many of the places and locations to have a Welsh name as well as an Anglicized name and–on occasion—an alternative English name.  

Specifically, on our map, we will be looking at the labor produced in the area (specifically the quarries, mines, and woolen mills—including places of strikes and unionization), who benefited from that labor, and the philanthropic results of these acts within the community that created arts communities and arts education outreaches that are results of families that financially benefited from the industrial ages’ slave trade and wanted to benefit from the work produced by Welsh laborers in the 1800s to the 1900s. However, while large estates, gardens, and resorts were built with this money, the locals from the region, experienced hardships. This lead to strikes, work outages, and unionization. This action created a better financial base through the better wages through unionization so the communities of these Welsh laborers and their communities benefited. The philanthropic results of the money placed back into the community by these workers and their families created arts and educational programs that benefited the region.

In short, I am looking forward to exploring this idea in more depth and visually representing this time and location by recognizing some of the history that is overlooked by many.   

Autumn Beyer

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October 13, 2016

A Different Perspective on Ceramic Fabric Impressions: 3D Modeling

October 13, 2016 | By | No Comments

This past week I attended the 60th anniversary of the Midwest Archaeological Conference in Iowa City, Iowa. While my presentation overlapped with the digital archaeology session, I was able to attend one presentation by Dr. Sissel Schroeder, Jake Pfaffenroth, Marissa Lee, and Sarah Taylor (University of Wisconsin-Madison) on Photogrammetry and 3D Models of Fabric from Impressions in Pottery.

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