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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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Tos_Ram

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May 6, 2016

Launching Michicanxs of Aztlán: Stories of Xicano Culture in Michigan

May 6, 2016 | By | No Comments

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Now live and available for your viewing pleasure, Michicanxs of Aztlán is a website documenting Xicano culture in Lower Michigan. This project grew out of my work in CHI last year with The Xicano Cookbook project, and I decided to branch off in order to take a slightly different approach on a very similar topic. Whereas last year’s project functioned like a digital essay that discursively discussed various theories, stories, and images related to Xicano culture, this year’s project is more like a collection of snapshots. By focusing on a small number of stories, I have been able to contextualize my data to a greater extent by giving it more space within my website.

Created as part of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship program, Michicanxs of Aztlán is also intended to function as an ongoing sort of repository of Xicano narratives. Great Lakes Xicanos in particular have limited space—virtually or physically—to display our work, and few repositories like this exist currently digitally.

Michicanxs of Aztlán currently displays three stories written as part of an independent in Xicano/Indigenous rhetorics, which I took fall semester 2015. Each story has its own page, with an individualized header that includes a representative image and short description of the narrative. I’ve included these descriptions below.

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Bernard C. Moore

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April 25, 2016

A Review of Namibiana Resources on the Web

April 25, 2016 | By | No Comments

A Review of Namibiana Resources on the Web

As I have mentioned in previous Blog posts for the CHI, the Namibia Digital Repository contains two main endeavors. First, it is a digitization project; countless hours have been spent standing in front of scanners digitizing books and papers, and many more have been spent setting up VHS players to record to hard drives. I have described the process of digitization in a previous post on 29, January, 2016.

This post describes the other goal of the NDR, agglomeration of existing digital resources regarding Namibia which are already on the web. A few qualifiers should be made. First, the goal of pulling existing resources – whether from university repositories, NGO web-sites or government publications – is not about replacing these repositories. It is about providing an additional home to the files. One of the less appreciated aspects of digitization and the digital humanities is the maintenance and organization of digital resources.1

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jfelipe195

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March 22, 2016

BARDSS: The Administrator and the User Interface

March 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

This post explores the structure of BARDSS and, in particular, how we envision the user interface which might be launched by the end of April, 2016. BARDSS is divided into two main domains: the data entry/administrator interface and the user, search, and visualization interface. The data entry is only accessible for those working in the project. It is used by the team in charge of extracting the data from the documents and migrating it to the software. The user interface has a main landing web-page with diverse sections. The most important tool in the user interface is the search tool. This is where users can do crossed search based on the fields already listed and that we already introduced to the readers in the last post.

This is how we migrate data from the documents to the data entry form or administrator interface (Fig. 1): In order to make everything faster, we divide the screen into two windows, one for the database entry section, and the other for the digitized copy of the baptismal records. It looks more difficult than it actually is. There are many predetermined field that we just need to click on to add the data. For example, if we click on gender, legal status or filiation , a tab open with the limited options for those fields. We just need to select one of them. Once a field is added, we can reuse it without needing to write it again. For example, in the field “African origin,” every time we find a new “African nation” we click on the icon (+) and add the new nation. This feature works in the same way for owner, priest, church, and location. Once added, everything is faster. Fields are reusable. If the conditions are favorable, the images are clear, and the calligraphy is not extremely complicated, we usually spend around three minutes to add a single baptismal record to the database. We can access to the list of every record we have added and we can edit them whenever we want (Fig. 2).

addbaptismFig 1: Screenshot of the data entry section or administrator interface

dataentryFig. 2: Screenshot of a record list from the administrator interface

The user Interface: a work in progress

This is how we envision the user interface (Fig.3). The landing page will contain the basic information of BARDSS, but most important, the search tool. The section Using the Database offer to the users some instruction of how to navigate the site. This section will also contain the description of the fields. In particular, we want to highlight that some fields need to be approached carefully such as “African Nation” and “Race.” This section will also contain a glossary of historical terms that are usually used in the documents. Map and Images will contain some significative images related to slavery in places represented on BARDSS such as Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and Florida. An interactive map will show the location of those parishes that show up on the site. About the Project is dedicated to acknowledging those institutions and individual contributors that have helped to make this project possible. It will also have some links to related projects such as the ESSS or the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database”. Finally, the Contribute will make possible for users working with baptismal records on slave societies to collaborate with our project. We have not decided yet what would be the best way to make possible this collaboration through an interactive method between collaborators and administrators.

userinterface                                                            Fig. 3: BARDSS landing page

The most important section in BARDSS is the search tool, this is the core of this project. The goal is that users can make different types of crossed search based on the fields contained in the database. There are two main ways to search in the database, by data categories or by text. Data categories are those fixed fields we used to move the information from the document to the database. The great majority of the fields from BARDSS could be considered “data categories.” Some examples are gender, origin, filiation, legal status, age category, etc. The text category refers to those fields that are mainly plain text, such as names of the owners, baptized individual, mother, father, etc. The left side of the side in the search section will contain a list of the data and the users just need to choose/filter to obtain the results. After the search, the results will show up in a table expandable columns containing the fields selected during the search. Based on the successful project, the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,” BARDSS will make possible to the users to visualize their search. The results can be manipulated in the form of graphs, pie charts, and bar charts. Next section will show some of this features and some samples of the type of visualization users can expect from BARDSS.

serchtool                                            Fig. 4: The search tool, a work in progress

Tos_Ram

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March 22, 2016

“Crunk Mestizaje” Story Preview

March 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

For my CHI project this year, I am building a website that will host stories of Xicano cultural survivance in Michigan. I’d like to take the opportunity with this blog post to give a preview of one story to be featured on that site. Enjoy!

In 2004 my brother—stage64ebca376845f34bc5a6fe3d9e78ba07f5c84e05 name “the Latino Saint,” or “Saint” for short— released a crunk rap album entitled, Half Breed. As far back as I can remember, his music has pretty much always been about partying and taking pride in Mexican and Latino identities; this album is no exception. Half Breed takes its name from the mixed Mexican and white backgrounds from which we both come. As with most crunk music, much of the content is centered around alcohol, dancing and celebrating life with friends and family. Yet, in spite of the negative connotation of the term “half breed” itself, Saint delivers these club songs from an unapologetically Mexican perspective, reclaiming both the term and the concept of “half breed” and using it to assert his own position as a Mexican MC from the Midwest.

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Bernard C. Moore

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January 29, 2016

The Process of Digitization

January 29, 2016 | By | No Comments

My past couple of posts have been more on the political and ethical side of digitizing materials for the Namibia Digital Repository. This post will approach the project from the other side: the process of digitization. For those who are conducting historical research, digitizing materials is a necessity if we are going to ever finish these dissertations in an organized and structured manner. So even for those who aren’t pursuing a digitization project for their CHI Fellowship, this blog post may help you in other ways.

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Tos_Ram

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December 26, 2015

Expanding The Xicano Cookbook

December 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

For my CHI project this year, I will be continuing work on my project The Xicano Cookbook, a digital essay documenting Xicano culture in the Great Lakes region. With a special emphasis on food practice, visual art, and oral history, it articulates the ways in which Xicanos have survived and thrived on Anishinaabe land in the midst of ongoing colonialism. The project is guided by decolonial theory and the ingenuity of everyday Indigenous resistance. Thus, it mixes academic theory with the recorded words and artwork of Great Lakes Xicanos to deliver stories about the cultural survival of a de-tribalized, Indigenous people.

Xicano Cookbook Image

I will draw from a bootstrap theme in order to re-conceptualize the framework of my cookbook project. One of problems with my StoryMaps project is that it’s just a bit clunky, so one of my goals is to simplify the design in order to making navigating the site easier for users. The landing page for my website will center the image of the calavera and title of the project, followed by a short description about how the website relates to Chicana/o Studies.

Tabs at the top of the page will be how users are able to navigate through the different “nodes” I have written. I will continue to use SoundCloud to integrate audio clips into the various nodes. A header with the calavera image and title project will be kept at the top of the page as users scroll down on the information, as will the tabs. An “about” section will include brief information about the CHI initiative, Anishinabek culture, and my approach to this project. A works cited tab will also be visible in order to provide a list of scholarship that I draw from, in addition to including links to other related food projects that exist online—for example, to Decolonize Your Diet.

In many ways, this project is being created for a scholarly audience and will contribute to the fields of Chicana/o Studies, Cultural Rhetoric, and Food Studies. At the same time, in making the Xicano Cookbook multi-modal, I think it will also appeal to non-scholarly audiences interested in visual arts and storytelling.The Xicano Cookbook currently displays two oral histories given by Xicano artists from Michigan. These histories give listeners a sense of the issues that Xicanos face culturally and socially and how they use food practices and art to address those issues. Interviews with several more Great Lakes Xicanos are currently archived in an offline repository and will be added to the site over time.

There are currently 6 different works of art displayed and discussed on the website. The project’s primary function is to speak in depth about the works, providing historical and cultural context and theorizing their political functions, as opposed to acting as a full-fledged digital archive or repository for these images. This is why I have chosen to describe the project a more of a digital or multi-modal essay, rather than using one of the aforementioned terms.

Sara Bijani

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December 9, 2015

Archiving Oral Culture

December 9, 2015 | By | No Comments

I’ve been taking my comprehensive exams over the course of this semester, which provides a strange and exhausting opportunity to really step back and think about the state of my field of research, as well as the ways that field has historically been presented to students and scholars from outside of the field. The overlap between reading for these exams and planning a project for the CHI fellowship has provided me with some interesting perspectives on the problems of teaching recent American history, as well as some useful perspective on the potential value of new archival resources in the classroom, particularly around audio and visual content. The traditional print sources that historians favor make up an increasingly small part of the cultural archive available to those of us who study the very recent past, and I’m excited to have this opportunity to try my hand at building a more accessible means of accessing these multilayered sources. Oral histories, in particular, interest me. “True” oral histories—collaboratively constructed narrations of a person’s life history—provide a deeply dimensional and rich resource for historians, provided that they are treated as something more than a flat and flawed transcription of an audio file. Unfortunately, the practical exigencies of real time work with audio files leads most historians to lean heavily on these transcripts. Text files are searchable, making them efficient to catalogue and reference in research. Audio files are unwieldy and extremely difficult to effectively “skim,” making them unpopular with any scholar on a deadline. The “Oral History Metadata Synchronizer” software—primarily developed by Doug Boyd and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries—offers a potential solution to the practical problems of academic research with oral histories.

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