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Julia DeCook

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November 10, 2017

Ethics of digital data collection: The debate continues

November 10, 2017 | By | No Comments

The conversation around digital data collection and ethics behind it often default to rules/laws that exist in “face-to-face” data collection: if it’s in a public arena, then the rules are the same for observing people in physical public spaces. However, as many within the realm of digital data know, the idea of “public” can vary in the virtual sphere, and further, questions have been raised whether or not we as researchers have the right to use posts and other digital artifacts posted by users if they posted them without the intention of the posts being discovered and used without their consent by researchers. Basically, if someone knew that eventually their content would be used in research, would they have posted it at all? It’s the digital Hawthorne Effect.

This brings up a few issues with the approach of studying online communities, particularly on Reddit where they have the option to go private and the larger issue of there being Discord Servers, IRC channels, Slack channels, etc. where the members congregate. This then brings up the issue of gaining consent from every single member that frequents those closed access communities, and even on Facebook there are a number of closed groups that require membership to view their content. Although we can all agree that when something is closed it is no longer in the “public sphere” of the Internet, there’s one thing that I’ve grappled with in terms of looking for things using hashtags – if I happen to come across, say, an Instagram account because they used a hashtag once, can I then look at their account and use other posts by them if there are no hashtags on any of their other posts?

Basically – is visibility and “searchable”-ness (through hashtags) a facet of what constitutes “public” data, or is the mere fact that the account itself is public (i.e., not locked down and private) sufficient? If it doesn’t have a hashtag, does it exist in the public sphere?

Digital research can become incredibly messy, not just because of the types of content that exist online that help to paint a picture of social and cultural life through multiple modalities, but also because of the questions of ethics that arise throughout these processes. Postill and Pink (2012) talk about “hashtag sociality” in their work discussing ethnographies in virtual environments, and that hashtags are not merely a part of online culture but serve as an organizing function for topics like a web forum does (Solis, 2011). This still complicates my earlier question in whether or not content from an account that has hashtags on some posts but not others are still “public”.

The Intenet as a public sphere has been a topic of discussion for decades now, but laws surrounding internet privacy and mobility still challenge the status of “public-ness” and “open-ness” that the Internet is typically known for. It is more complex, and because of its ever-changing nature, constantly being differentiated from traditional notions of public-ness.

Hashtags are now ubiquitous in online interactions, and may be complicating some of the questions of ethics surrounding what data is “open” and “public” and what is not. I wonder where these conversations surrounding digital data ethics will go, especially since now there are so many concerns about how so much of our lives have gone digital and the risk of privacy involved in using this data in research without the person’s knowledge (not necessarily consent, but maybe even consent). There are clear and defined expectations and rules for what is public and private (open versus closed group), but what is someone just posts something without granting it discoverable markers? Is it still public then? I don’t know if this adds an unnecessary complciation to the ethics debate, but it is one that I’ve been curious about throughout my own research.

Nicole Raslich

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November 9, 2017

Maps and Landscapes

November 9, 2017 | By | No Comments

Having completed a recent digital mapping exercise in CHI, maps and digitization has been a part of my daily thought process for several weeks now. As a kid, I always loved maps. I would stare at them and dream about all the places I wanted to go and the adventures I would have. An entire wall of my bedroom was a large map of the United States, by large I mean at least 6’ x 5’, from the Air Force. It was so fun to stand on my bed and read the names of cities all over the country and see where Air Force bases were located. As an adult, whenever I travel to a new country, a map is the first thing I order to take with me or buy when I land. I have a collection of atlases and maps from everywhere I have traveled, including historic maps of some foreign countries I have been too. My office walls are full of antique map and globes. I even enjoy maps from places that are not real.

For our mapping project, we did the land of Middle Earth and mapped the journey of Frodo and Bilbo, overlapping various points throughout the stories where they intersect. This lead to me thinking about other kinds of maps I use. Being an avid gamer, one of the most important features of any game, is the map. Any massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) requires the use of a map, that’s why it is so important to explore the realms and reveal the map on any game. Even on racing games, a map is essential. The evolution of landscapes, both digital and real are fascinating to look at through topography and cartography. If anyone has ever seen a map of Michigan from the 1600’s, you find it looks like a weird, triangular piece of earth, jutting into the lake.

map of michigan 1600's

Click here for more information about this map.

This looks nothing like the beautiful mitten we all know and love today (unless you’re from Wisconsin maybe).

xray of michigan and wisconsin

 

Click here to learn more about the real mitten state.

Our sense of self-identity is tied to maps and the landscapes we consider home. What do you say when someone asks, ‘Where are you from?’ What image does this question bring to mind? Now this brings me to something I am excited about. At BlizzCon recently, the new World of Warcraft expansion was announced, complete with trailers and new maps.

Much like our own cartography, the maps of our MMORPG’s change and evolve with new continents being discovered. This expansion shows to be no different (Expansion News). Those of us that have played WoW since it’s early beta days in 2003, know all too well the familiar terrains of Azeroth and are only too excited to explore the new lands opened with each expansion. As a player, you become familiar with the capital cities, the paths there and the various terrains and animals encountered in each. We know intimately the homeland of our chosen race and the home continent of our allegiance, be it Horde or Alliance, much as we know the familiar stomping grounds of our physical homelands. These digital landscapes change as much as our own physical ones through time. Compare Azeroth here at the origin of WoW, in the days of old when we could only travel via foot, flight path or boat.

map of azeroth

Here you see the map as it looks now, six expansions later.

draenor world map

As the game has evolved over time, new continents have been revealed along with new races on these inhabited lands, much like the coast of Michigan. This entire train of consciousness has been brought on because the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly approaching, and I hope to have time to flee back into my favorite digital and/or physical glades be they in the eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, the Upper Peninsula or somewhere new.

The landscapes we inhabit are our home. We become used to them as we travel the slopes and explore the depths of the worlds around us and sometimes fail to notice the small changes that take place until we are away for a significant time. Over the U.S. holiday, take the time to enjoy your homelands and their associated families, both digital and physical. Notice the landscape both beneath your fingers and feet and appreciate their beauty. Happy Thanksgiving!

For Azeroth!

ellio252

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October 30, 2017

Mapping Moscow’s Past and Present

October 30, 2017 | By | No Comments

For the last several weeks, the CHI fellows have been working on a mapping challenge, in which we have made maps with a specific theme, complete with pop-ups. For my final project, I too hope to have a map to illustrate the locations of Soviet factories and dormitories, while my overall project will examine the relationship between Soviet and post-Soviet, socialist and capitalist. Working on our mapping challenge has made me consider the benefits as well as the limitations of using maps to illustrate how Moscow has changed from the 1970s to today.

The Russian Army Theater (formerly the Soviet Army Theater), located on the Street of the Soviet Army.

During the Soviet period, Soviet socialism was inscribed into the landscape. Streets and squares had names like “the 50th Anniversary of October” and “Dzerzhinsky,” referring to the surname of the first director of the Soviet secret police. Street names constantly reminded citizens of their collective history from the Great October Revolution to victory in the Great Patriotic War, the name given to the Soviet Union’s fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Many Soviet names remain in Moscow. I lived on October Street, a name that denotes the month of the Bolshevik victory over the Provisional Government in 1917. Soviet street names, it is worth noting, replaced tsarist ones. My street had previously been Alexander Street in honor of three of the Romanov tsars. Renaming streets not only served as a reminder of a shared Soviet history but also replaced the previous imperialist one.

The landscape of Moscow has also evolved since 1971, the year in which my research project begins. First, the borders of Moscow have expanded. In 1961, the Moscow Automobile Ring Road opened, demarcating the official boundaries of the capital. Since then, what were once “sleeping suburbs” outside of the Ring Road became neighborhoods of the capital. Second, the advent of capitalism in the former Soviet Union has also refashioned the appearance of streets. Designer shops now line Tverskaya Street the main drag heading north of the Kremlin, and shopping malls have emerged throughout the city. Since the early 1990s, tiny kiosks that served as grocery stores and cafes sprouted up on sidewalks and in alleyways until they were demolished in early 2016. Third, and perhaps most dramatically, new high rises are replacing older Soviet apartment buildings, inciting both the ire and support of Muscovites.

Maps have the power to shape reality, but which reality will I show? Simply comparing the Soviet and post-Soviet periods can obscure the over 25 years that separate the end of the Soviet experiment from today. The kiosks which shade my memories of my first trips to Moscow would be lost in a then-and-now comparison, but they played an important role in Moscow’s post-Soiet history. Maps can also only show so much. Even if Moscow’s landscape is decidedly market-oriented today, red stars and hammers and sickles also adorn that same space.

dixonel7

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October 27, 2017

Making as World-Making

October 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

Part of my goal in the CHI fellowship has been to explore an idea I have been developing over the last year about queer multimodal composing: that the act of making things can make worlds. I’m definitely not the first person to have developed an understanding of making as world-making, and I owe much of what I know from the work (and in many cases personal mentorship) of Malea Powell, Angela Haas, Jacqueline Rhodes, Qwo-Li Driskill, Gloria Anzaldúa, Trixie Smith, and Dànielle DeVoss, Andrea Riley Mukavetz, among many others.

In this fellowship, I would like to particularly focus on how queer modes of composing and making can create more welcoming, beautiful, livable worlds for queer people. What follows is some history and background of my project, alongside some of my own art.

Queer Composing as Life-Affirming and World-Making 

As the Cultural Rhetorics Conference in 2016, I sat in on a panel on queer mentorship. At this roundtable, a director of a writing center at a women’s college told us about her writing center as a queer space. She had multiple students who identified as LGBT and she worked hard to cultivate a welcoming space for them. Still, at one point, as she discussed her students’ struggles with self harm and thoughts of suicide, she tearfully asked the group of us: “My queer students are literally dying. What can I do?” We remained silent, blinking at the enormity of the question.

How many of us had asked ourselves this? How many had asked our mentors? Probably everyone in the room. We went on to share some stories of possibility and hope, but the questions stayed with me long after the session. It still sticks with me. I want to know what I can do as a scholar, a student, a teacher, a practitioner and a mentor to defy the deaths of my queer siblings, friends, mentors, teachers, and students.

Because it is what I am perhaps best at and what I care about most, I want to think about how queer work in writing and rhetoric especially can defy death.

Terrific, Radiant, Humble

In “Cultivating the Scavenger,” Stacy Waite writes,

I advocate for queer methodologies because I am queer, because queer teenagers all over the world are killing themselves at horrifying rates, because 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)

Like Waite, I want to spend my career thinking in queerer ways, encouraging my colleagues to think in queerer ways, teaching my students to think in queerer ways. Developing and foregrounding the queer imagination is one way to counteract the normative structures in place that delegitimize and erase queer ways of knowing. For instance, Waite recalls a time in the second grade in which, as an answer to her teacher’s question, “what saved Wilbur from being killed in Charlotte’s Web?,” Waite responded “writing” instead of “Charlotte.” “I remember she said my answer was ‘kind of out there'”(65), Waite writes. Indeed, how many of us have been told our work, our desires, our thoughts, our hopes and dreams, were ‘out there?’ How many times can we hear it before we grow too weary to go on?

I wonder, in what ways can writing, composing, world-making save us, as it did for Wilbur?

Resisting Linearity, Resisting Conclusions, Resisting Death

In “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications,” Ann Wysocki asks, 

How might the straight lines of type we have inherited on page after page after page of books articulate to other kinds of lines, assembly lines and lines of canned products in supermarkets and lines of desks in classrooms? How might these various lines work together to accustom us to standardization, repetitions, and other processes that support industrial forms production? (114)

Just as Wysocki likens rows of text to rows of groceries or desks, I think about the rows and rows of gravestones in a graveyard: we live and die by (hetero)normativity.

I believe one way to avoid that kind of slow, organized death is to move beyond the boundaries. I mean this both figuratively and literally. Our rows and rows of alphabetic texts are products of Western normative thought, and each neatly concluded seminar paper equates to a little death: a finished product. To avoid these little deaths is to embrace the death-defying queer possibilities of non-linear composing and creation. A resistance to neat death-like conclusions is a figurative act of defying death. But, at its most literal, an embrace of queer multimodal composing offers up a space in which queer ways of knowing are valued, and an embrace of queer ways of knowing has the potential to save queer lives.

carlinek

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October 5, 2017

Different kinds of distance: some thoughts on maps

October 5, 2017 | By | No Comments

This is my second blog post for the CHI fellowship. Today I’m thinking and writing about digital maps, and how those let us see cultural and social divides in the present and the past.

Africa’s a Country, a website whose purpose is to counter that old mistake Western people make about Africa, recently published a piece about Johnny Miller’s aerial photographs of contemporary South African inequality. Miller’s photographs are taken from the air (what he called the “nadir zone”). The purpose of the photos is to highlight the spatial proximity of highly unequal communities, but also to show the powerful-but-narrow infrastructure barriers that divide them (highway ramps, fences, ditches).

I’ve also spent a lot of time recently looking at South Africa from the air, but through maps – usually Google maps, sometimes a historical map of the Eastern Cape region in the nineteenth or twentieth century. Some of my research is about the history of migration – of people and commodities – in the Eastern Cape. A paper I’m currently working on investigates the circulation network of a particular newspaper, through the postal address information given by people who entered prize competitions in the paper. As I find addresses, I plug the town name into Google maps, to see how far away the place is from East London where the newspaper was published.

But Miller’s aerial maps of inequality got me thinking about how my Google maps don’t show all the types of distance and difficulty that existed historically – the economic or infrastructural distances that might inflate the physical distance from point A to B. Some historical maps do this, by showing old road networks and political boundaries. But even they can’t show the degree of difficulty it takes a person to cross a boundary – a particularly salient problem in South African history when black people’s movement between urban and rural areas depended on a pass.

One of the potential projects that I came to the CHI fellowship with was to map consumer/newspaper subscriber networks in early-twentieth century South Africa. But how would you create a map that showed not just physical distance, infrastructural barriers, and political borders, but also degrees of difficulty that it might take for a person or object to cross even a very short distance?

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

pebbles1

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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!)

pebbles1

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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.