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December 12, 2018

Finally, the Topic!

December 12, 2018 | By | No Comments

This week I met with a few of the MSU museum staff to explore museum collections and discuss the scope of the project. The intent is to create an online museum exhibition that demonstrates the variety and lineage of Native American crafts in the Great Lakes Area. Fortunately, there is a plethora of resources both in artifacts and in research resources at the museum and surrounding area to help craft of this exhibit.

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December 5, 2018

The Feasibility and Worthwhileness of a Project.

December 5, 2018 | By | No Comments

Scope has been a primary concern for a lot of us during the semester. You have to have an idea that falls right into that Goldilocks zone of feasible and worthwhile. My particular project is no exception. As a research assistant for the anthropology department, I started off the semester hoping to digitize an entire archaeological collection. A collection which may have thousands of artifacts and documents associated with it. I soon realized this is probably too much and decided to build the skeleton of a digital library that could add documents and artifacts in the future. This seemed like a better goal since I will likely be museum RA for quite a while. This was missing an important aspect, however, of what CHI fellowship projects are supposed to be about. That being cultural heritage.

In the future, I hope to be able to use digital heritage to preserve artifacts and educate people about our history. Well, it’s one of my goals. As a Native American archaeologist, I am greatly concerned about spreading Native American culture and passing on our history and values to the public and the next generation. Especially since these things were missing through much of my own upbringing. With this in mind, I realized that I may have actually been focusing too much on just the digital aspect of my project.

Rather than focusing on the digitization of all of the artifacts, or the building of a digital library, some of my attention should be on what sort of story the presentation of these artifacts will produce. This collection holds history. The artifacts that were collected hold the life stories of those that made them and the collection itself holds the story of the archaeologists who put it together. It is important to me that I get both of these aspects out into the world. Because cultural heritage is more than just a catalog. It gives a perspective about who we are.

The exact details of how to do this are still being worked out, but hopefully I will become better at getting the artifacts the and cultural heritage behind them out there in the process. It reminds me that feasibility is important when it comes to the scope of a project, but so is worthwhileness.



November 16, 2018

Popups: the Greatest Puzzle

November 16, 2018 | By | No Comments

I had my first eureka moment in programming a couple of weeks ago. Our cohort was tasked with building a website with a map, putting some points on that map and making some popups appear when you click on those points. We decided to utilize to build the dataset, the tileset and the map required for this. Our website would then fetch the map built on mapbox and put it onto our website. Putting points on the map and customizing the markers for those points ended up being easy tasks. So, it was with a bit of overconfidence I began attempting to build the popups.

I started to look for the code I would need around 7am in the morning our project was due. By 10am, that cold shiver went down my spine when you realize you may not have enough time to meet the deadline. At the time, a month did not seem like enough time. Mapbox has many helpful resources for figuring out how to use their stuff, and I discovered the following code while sifting through their tutorials:

var popup = new mapboxgl.Popup({ offset: [0, -15] })


.setHTML( )



There was a bit more to adding this code to our website, but this is the important chunk for this post. Initially looking at all the code, however, I could not figure out how to make the popups show what I wanted. It seemed like every time I tried to change something, the whole map would crash. I feared my group would have to do one of those talks that was only about what went wrong because of my failure to figure this out. That’s when I found a savior on an old forum. Google had led me to some saint who had my same problem a few years ago. Another user on the forum informed him that he was supposed to put some things into .setHTML() in a particular format. I eventually ended up putting the following HTML into our code and committed the changes:

.setHTML(‘<h5>’ + + ‘</h6><p>’ +  + ‘</p>’ + ‘<img src=”‘ + + ‘” alt=”‘ + + ‘” style=”width:175px;height:250px;”>’ + ‘<p><a href=”‘ + + ‘”>’ + + ‘</a></p>’)

This code essentially uses HTML, along with variables from our dataset that mapbox will recognize, to place what we want within the popup. This included a title, a description, an image and a link to a Wikipedia page.  I reloaded our website and perhaps yelled yes with a little too much enthusiasm when our badly formatted popups appeared when clicking on the points. Figuring out how to work this code felt much different from other times I’ve solved a problem. It’s almost like solving a puzzle, but more meaningful. Like an officer let you off with a warning and gave you 5 bucks for your trouble.

While the feeling of finally figuring out this problem was amazing, we did run into a few issues. First off, it may be because I am new to this, but the code looks ugly to me. By that I mean it seems like an awful lot of trouble to put html code into the parentheses using quotations along with Mapbox variables. This messed up how the properties in my text-editor (Atom) were colored, and it made it also made it super difficult to adjust the code without our website spazzing out. The code was very touchy.

The second sort of issue this code runs into is its reliance on Mapbox to provide all the features of the maps. The other groups developed projects that hardwired their dataset into their code. I imagine this allowed them to update the points and properties of their map in real time. Our map, however, required us to update the dataset, then the tileset, and then the map itself. All these layers of updates meant that it sometimes took a day for any changes in our dataset to be reflected on our website.

The last note I’d like to end on is talking about how easy all of this seems now. Building the popup and putting some HTML code into .setHTML () seems like such an obvious thing to do now. Even putting the code into our actual index.html file instead of pulling stuff from mapbox doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore. My newly acquired affection for popups has increased my enjoyment for programming. Hopefully the next problem is the same.



November 13, 2018

Getting Digital into the Humanities

November 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

I recently attended a digital round table at a conference on Asian that focused on open access, online journals and the difficulty in maintaining the journal both financially and technically. While the presenters clearly cared very deeply for their journals and upholding academic integrity, they were just as plainly overwhelmed with the management of a WordPress site. One professor mentioned that they had issues moving forward with the journal because they needed to get IT people involved with a site that only housed text and photos.

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September 20, 2018

CHI Fellow: Lauren Elizabeth

September 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am Lauren Elizabeth (LJ) and I am a third-year PhD student in the Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education program. My research interests currently include considerations of the cultural epistemologies of New Orleans Black women and youth, Black feminist geographies, storytelling, and English Education. Narratives and stories are essential to my work, if not the work itself, and so I believe that the CHI fellowship will be an invaluable learning experience.

Prior to my time at MSU, I received my Master’s while also working as a Secondary English and Literacy teacher. Working with youth was a constant reminder of digital space and the critical conversations being had already by youth, as well as those that needed to be had by schools.

Because my work is informed by various disciplines and epistemologies, I am not only interested in how I synthesize my project(s), but I am also intrigued by the process, especially the exploration of crafting digital narratives and the ethics involved. This includes critical conversations concerning (at times violent) sociohistorical legacies of archives, mapping, and the representation of particular communities. I also hope to began a deeper exploration of my own pedagogical stances, such as “What is access and whom is it for?” What does it mean to digitize a story—especially when we think of authorship, agency, and ownership? Who are the mappers and cartographers—the meaning-makers of a place? While I do not plan to answer all of these questions or neatly tease them out within the year, I hope that as a CHI graduate fellow of the 2018-2019 cohort, I will be able to attend to these possibilities and tensions.



September 20, 2018

Dave Glovsky: Better late than never

September 20, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am in my sixth and final year in the History Department at MSU. I spent almost two of those years overseas conducting research on rural communities in four West African countries: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea. I spent most of a year talking with farmers, herders, and traders about cross-border movement and migration, exploring what these cross-border relationships tell us about life in these twentieth and twenty-first century borderlands. My interest in these rural communities stems out of two years I spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small town in southern Senegal, located near Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea.

So how did I end up as a CHI Fellow? I thought about applying to CHI before, but was unable to do so because I haven’t spent both semesters on campus at MSU for three years. I also wanted to wait until I had actual data collected that I could apply to this fellowship. I plan to use the next year to add a digital component to my dissertation, visually tracing how individuals and communities crossed borders to create a larger space outside of the control of colonial and post-colonial West African governments. As an educator, I find students are increasingly interested in digital tools to gain and produce knowledge.

Additionally, maps have fascinated me since I was a child. They provide a template that people can understand in a way that explaining work through text cannot always do. This is particularly true when tracing how, when, and where people moved. Explaining that someone moved from Guinea to Gambia means almost nothing to 99.99% of Americans. But when a map represents that movement, it becomes comprehendible. After having conducted 200+ interviews in over 100 communities, I am ready to gain the technical know-how to put my research online, not just for people in the U.S., but for the communities I worked with in West Africa while conducting research. Check back at the end of the year to see how well I did!

You can follow me on twitter at @glovsky, where I post mostly about West Africa.



September 13, 2018

Why the CHI Fellowship? – Erica

September 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Digital humanities is experiencing a growing presence in history, but many historians are reluctant to embrace it as more than a method for storing their research or creating graphs. While compiling a digital archive is an important component of the modern historian’s repertoire, myriad digital tools exist to enhance research, presentation, and dissemination. I believe that by ignoring these digital methods, many academics are restricting their potential, both individually and their ability to collaborate with other scholars. So for me personally CHI is an opportunity to locate like-minded scholars, and connect with the academics who are utilizing and developing digital tools.

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May 2, 2018

Introducing “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today, I officially launch my website, “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism,” which uses my dissertation on temporary labor migration to Moscow to examine the interplay between communism and capitalism in Moscow. The project stemmed from both my dissertation research and my observations while living in Moscow. I was always struck by seeing the interplay of the Soviet socialist past and the Russian capitalist present in the architecture as I walked around Moscow. Moreover, I could see the logical outcomes of my dissertation topic spray painted on the concrete as advertisements for dormitory rooms and posted on fences as calls for temporary jobs that came with registration.

My website’s landing page provides an historical overview of temporary labor migration to Moscow, tracing the origins of these practices to end of the nineteenth century. In the imperial period, peasants made their way to the capital to work in factories and send cash, needed for redemption payments, back to families. The opening essay also introduces the Soviet internal passport and domicile registration systems that governed rural to urban migration from 1932 to the end of the Soviet Union. A timeline then provides information on the development of Moscow, as seen through the lens of temporary labor migration and population growth, from 1971 to 2002. The second page explains the changing places of origins of migrants and provides a map. While migrants originally arrived from the areas near Moscow, the near complete depletion of the youthful rural population meant migrants from Siberia, the other republics of the Soviet Union, and even countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union replaced arrived in larger numbers from the mid-1980s onward.

The next two pages use a series of graphs to explain population change. The first of these pages explains the centrality of migration to population growth by providing information on birth and death rates as well as the tempo of migration to the capital. If births provided 10,000 new residents annually, migration provided 50,000 to 70,000. The following page looks at the reception of migrants in the capital, paying particular attention to nationality and the changing role of citizenship. The last two pages are case studies – one of automobile factories, the other of the Olympics – of work places in which migrants dominated. I also explain the afterlife of these locations in the post-Soviet period.

It is my hope that my website will provoke its users to consider several important questions, such as the (dis)continuities between the Soviet and post-Soviet periods as well as the Soviet Union’s relationship to the history of postwar Europe, particularly in regards to migration. Before at last introducing my website, I must thank several people. Ethan Watrall, the director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Program, and this year’s cohort of CHI fellows have helped me every step of the way. My advisor, Lewis Siegelbaum, has helped me conceptualize the research that I display here (and has also written extensively on the car factories that I discuss on my website). Lastly, Ramya Swayamprakash encouraged me to apply for the CHI Fellowship after sharing her positive experiences as a CHI Fellow in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Without any further ago, I give you “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”:

Cody M


March 6, 2018

LGBTQ Video Game Archive Preservation Update

March 6, 2018 | By | No Comments

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, I’ve been working with the LGBTQ Video Game Archive, founded by Adrienne Shaw at Temple University, to record and preserve cases of LGBTQ representation in video games since the 1980s. One of the difficulties the Archive has faced in recent years has been the ephemeral nature of many of the digital sources the Archive draws on to provide evidence and information for its entries. Many of these sources are blogs, personal websites, or social media posts, and as soon as their creators stop maintaining them they can disappear suddenly. An example of this was, a website for LGBTQ players to discuss games and gaming cultures that went dark without notice in May 2016.

To help prevent the loss of queer representation and culture in games, the Archive has been storing copies of the sources its entries draw on for storage at the Strong National Museum of Play. For this blog, I thought I’d lay out the process I’ve been using to do that copying/storing/preserving, and to welcome suggestions for how to improve the process in the future!

The first step of the process is saving all of the webpages that the Archive uses as HTML files.We’ve organized these sources according to type (article, blog, etc.), and I plug the list of URLs for these pages into Chrome Download Manager, a Chrome extension that downloads each URL as a HTML file. Chrome Download Manager makes it easy to do this in large batches, and allows one to designate the filename convention for the resulting HTML files. I usually save them as *URL*.html, where *URL* in each case is the source’s URL. This helps keep them in a specific order to it’s easy to rename them and store them.

Once I have all the HTML files, I first rename them to a simple unique identifier. Something like, A1, A2, A3, etc. for articles, and so on. I then use a Mac Automator script to convert all of them to PDF files (the Strong Museum’s preferred file format for preservation).

This process has made it relatively easy—and fast!—to store sources as both HTML and PDF files. There are a few hiccups usually in doing this with large batches of files, specifically with converting HTML to PDF. But in general it’s easy to fix those issues and to have quality PDFs on the other side. For videos, I’ve been using Youtube-dl, a command-line tool for downloading videos from URLs.

While this process isn’t perfect, it’s functional, and it doesn’t require individually downloading each and every source. If you have suggestions for how to improve on the process (or have gotten wkhtmltopdf, another command line tool, to be more cooperative), please contact me!



February 13, 2018

Introducing the Basics of My Website!

February 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Since returning for the spring semester, I have been hard at work on getting my website up and running. As I have discussed previously, my website focuses on urbanization and migration to Moscow from other parts of the former Soviet Union from 1970 to the present. Today, Moscow is a world capital with designer boutiques and Michelin rated restaurants, but its socialist past is still visible from the metro system to its prefabricated apartment blocks. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx argues that bourgeois industrialization saved peasants from “the idiocy of rural life.” The 1970 Soviet census recorded that for the first time, more Soviet citizens lived in urban centers than rural ones. Soviet demographers, geographers, and others argued that this “urbanity” symbolized the ultimate success of socialism in the Soviet Union. This website examines Soviet urbanity as it existed and developed in the last two decades of the Soviet Union, tracing its afterlife in present-day Moscow. Drawing upon the research of scholars of second world urbanity, the website demonstrates how the Soviet project of building socialism focused on making citizens both urban and urbane. The socialist city was, in short, a social contract with its residents, providing them with their basic needs.

This website uses temporary labor migration to explore what urban and urbanity meant and still means in Moscow and interrogate who reaped the benefits of the (post)-socialist city. The website will showcase several essays that explain: (1) the centrality of Moscow for access to goods and services; (2) the process of temporary labor migration; and (3) the outcomes and consequences of migration for migrants, Muscovites, and the city itself. The website focuses on the trajectories of 4 locations: the Olympic Village, the Olympic Center, the Likhachev Automobile Factory, and the Lenin Komsomol Automobile Factory. The latter two were built by migrants, and the third employed several thousand migrant laborers. All three have left important traces in Moscow today, offering housing and cultural centers.

This project has two main areas of importance. First, it provides a case study of temporary labor migration, comparing socialist and capitalist practices. Crossing the Soviet and post-Soviet divide is a comparison itself that elucidates what is unique and what is not to socialism. Moreover, this website provides information that will allow others to make comparisons with other guest worker and postcolonial migration patterns. Second, this website both preserves and explains the history of Moscow. Projects for building new apartments and updating infrastructure for the World Cup are recreating and erasing the Soviet legacy. This website explains movement toward these goals while providing a repository of information on part of Moscow’s past.

The website will consist of a landing page that outlines the history of labor migration to Moscow and its economic and social outcomes from 1971 to 2002. The landing page will also host an interactive timeline of events related to population growth, labor migration, and larger events in Soviet history. The website will have five subsequent pages that will each address: (1) the practice of allocating labor in the Soviet Union; (2) changing demographics and borders of Moscow; (3) perceptions of migrants; (4) the history of labor migration related to automobile factories in Moscow; and (5) the history of labor migration related to the Olympics. Each page will act as a stand-alone historical analytical essay that elucidates a specific aspect of temporary labor migration to Moscow through text and interactive elements.

Page one will host two maps, one of the Soviet Union and one of Moscow, illustrating where migrants left and where they worked in Moscow. Page two will consist of four line graphs that will illustrate changing birth, death, migration, and population growth rates in Moscow. Page three will have a line graph to illustrate the changing places of origin for migrants. Pages four and five will show photographs that I have taken.

The website will use a multipage bootstrap to host the various website pages. For the timeline on the landing page, I will use Knight Lab since it allows me to use my own pictures and to illustrate 3 distinct timelines of population change, labor migration, and other events in Soviet history.

For the map on the first page that describes the history of labor migration to Moscow, I will use leaflet.js to construct a map that shows the 15 largest migrant-sending regions of the Soviet Union. Each pop-up will contain the area’s population in each census year (1970, 1979, 1989, 2002, 2010) as well as the number of migrants sent to Moscow in those years. I will also construct a map of Moscow that shows the 12 largest migrant-employing enterprises, and each pop-up will provide information on how many migrants worked there, the size of the overall workforce, and the type of work done at each location.

For the graphs that will chart the changes in birth rates, death rates, migration rates, overall growth of the city, and changing place of origin from 1970 to the present, I will use AM Charts, with Frappe being my backup. I opt to use either because they provide pop-ups that include data information and an explanation if necessary.