I’ve been looking forward to this week’s readings since the intersection of DH and the Archives is what I’m most interested in. However, in an effort to be totally transparent, I found myself reflexively being defensive when reading through Daut’s article the first time – there’s a history of archivists struggling to be recognized as professionals in their own right – and had to reread with a conscious effort to keep an open mind in case my own bias was keeping me in an old pattern of thinking.
In terms of access, I think Daut framed her discussion of decolonizing archives and repatriating Haitian documents in a way that exemplified discussions that archivists are having. I think in most disciplines there is a push back against the white/straight/male version of history that is commonly reflected in archival holdings and there has been a real effort in recent years to include materials that more accurately reflect a realistic historic record. I’m also glad she included Revue de la Société Haïtienne d’Histoire, de Géographie et de Géologie in her discussion about digitization. It echoes the same sentiments that was expressed in “Difficult Heritage…” from last week’s readings. Just because there are documents that can be digitized and available universally, it doesn’t mean that ethically they should.
I couldn’t overcome my bias during Daut’s discussion in the “Content” section as she advocates avoiding the “citizen historian” or crowdsourcing model in regards to digital scholarship and working with the materials. She says “Without a doubt, neither trained archivists nor traditional historians can be replaced in digital historical scholarship.” However, she continues on to discuss the contributions of “historian archivists” which itself diminishes the expertise and training of professional archivists. I think there is a clear difference in being trained to recognize and describe meta/data from documents and being a subject expert (historians) on the content, but both are needed in order to to fully engage with the data presented. This is a discussion that comes up from time to time in the archives profession and something I wanted to mention, but I do not want to devote too much space in this post to it.
Daut’s discussion on curation and context is a mixed bag for me, and I believe its because the term “archive” means something different to me. When Daut mentions that “Digital archiving projects…teach the reader/user the significance and importance of a defined set of documents…” that seems more like a digital project than an archive. By having a creator limit the documents that are used, it might restrict information that could potentially contribute to scholarship. The large amount of materials available in an archive (hopefully) means that no matter what question a researcher is trying to answer they have the resources to do so. That being said, I think that deeper evaluation of archival sources can contribute meaningfully to scholarship. In the case of Digital Aponte, a space was created for the absence of archival material. I thought the Digital Aponte project was a great way to carve out space for a gap in the archival record and to compile secondhand accounts in an effort to recreate some of what was lost. I particularly liked the interdisciplinary nature of the website and how there were sections devoted to genealogy and mapping, all while allowing annotations to encourage collaboration across multiple disciplines. Trying to center and create an environment that resembled Aponte’s Havana also adds necessary contextualization. I’m excited to hear Ada Ferrer’s description of the project during class.
On Tuesday I went to Digital Initiatives workshop on using on using Omeka.net. I’ve only ever interacted with Omeka as a user and didn’t have any experience using the platform. The presentation slides are on the Digital Initiatives website.
Omeka is a content management system (CMS) and publishing platform that is used by many archives, historical societies, and libraries to build digital exhibits and small collections of objects. Omeka focuses more on metadata than WordPress so it’s a good option for collecting higher amounts of data and still being able to organize and present themes and narratives. The presenter went over concerns that should be thought about before choosing a CMS for a project such as:
metadata standards – what metadata standards do you want to use when importing your digital objects. Omeka defaults to Dublin Core but it can be customized
file formats – what file formats will be included? There are standards for file formats that you should think about, and this will also help you manage your storage i.e. a TIFF will require more storage than a jpg
information architecture – how do you envision accessibility and discoverability of your project
rights and permissions – do you have the rights or permission to use all the objects that will be used in your project?
sustainability – do you have the time to manage the project and update it when there are new versions of files available or to check compatibility with new media
The next part of the workshop was going through and using our test site to look at the different ways Omeka can be customized (we didn’t use Omeka S because of the cost and the extra features weren’t relevant for an introductory workshop), added individual items to the sites, and created a collection. The collections are comprised of items that are specifically curated to express a theme or narrative. I really liked the comparison that presenter mentioned where the items held in Omeka are the archive, but the collections are similar to pulling items out of the archive for a museum display.
Overall, the workshop was pretty easy and I found Omeka to be pretty accessible. I’ve used more complex CMSs tailored specifically for archives, so a lot of the interface looked pretty familiar. There was mention of an advanced Omeka workshop in the Spring that will focus creating exhibit and focus a bit on sustainability. The exhibits was the portion of Omeka I was particularly interested in so I’m looking forward to that.
(I wanted to contribute my thoughts on Wednesday’s class since I missed the discussion.)
“Haiti at the Digital Crossroads” is a richly layered examination of the modern challenges of archival work in the digital humanities. The author, Marlene Daut places 19th century Haitian historical narratives at the center of her argument and uses the summoning of Papa Legba, the gatekeeper of the archives, as an overture to one of the most the traditional epistemological frameworks for Haitian scholars, Vodou.
text does not go deeply into the revolutionary history or the emblematic ‘image
problem’ Haiti faces but is resonant in significant ways. For many people outside
of Haiti, this piece is their introduction to figures such as Toussaint
Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe recurring as more
than honorable mentions in a discussion about archives and history. The Haitian
Revolution, commonly a footnote in 19th century historical discourse,
is only ever brought up to reassign the modern political instability in Haiti into
a direct and continuous line of violence to the revolution of 1804; or to pontificate
about the ‘lack of progress’ that has been achieved since. Daut’s text is conscious
of those facts and still carefully avoids over explaining the importance of the
revolution and its cascading effects for black self-determination. However, the
context is clear. The Haitian Revolution has never ceased to be a question mark
to the powers that be, never mind the short-lived men who secured independence
from it. So why would these men or the revolution they won be highlighted in
any history books?
Vodou As an Epistemological Framework
The use of Vodou as an epistemological framework which creates alternative paths between the world of the living and that of the dead is a useful approach for archival work which seeks to understand a history that was often not preserved in text but by the memory of the dead we now wish to study. Vodou as a religious philosophy is irreconcilable with western religious traditions that inform western epistemologies. Unlike Christians who devote their earthly existence to the eventuality of eternal life, vodouissants have a sacred relationship with death and spend their entire life preparing for this important transition by honoring a relationship with their departed ancestors through ritual practice. Accessing an archive through vodou means understanding that the dead is itself a source of knowledge. One must acquire a profound understanding of the how the dead communicates with the living and how the living can call out to the dead, not just by looking at text but through other phenomenological pathways such as summoning of a Lwa Papa Legba.
Erasure and Inaccessibility in The Archives
the context of a republic born out of a colonial history of slavery and to a
large degree controlled by the interests of American imperialism since the 19th
century, there are significant challenges with the archives, the foremost
being, erasure and inaccessibility.
much like American descendants of slaves live with the trauma of ritual erasure,
not just in the archives of text and artifacts by in commerative and historical
spaces. The positive promotion of slaveholders in our public commemorative
spaces intentional divorced from the memory of slavery is an act of historical erasure
and a ritual moment of erasure to the descendants of slaves every time they are
forced to endure the denial of their history in their own public spaces. I once
had such a moment myself when I visited historical places in France for the
first time. I remember walking through the hall of mirrors at Versailles and
experiencing a moment of ritual erasure. Seeing the gluttonous display of
wealth made me sick to my stomach, understanding that at the time that Louis
XIV – Louis XVI built this palace and its grounds, It was on the backs of
slaves in St. Domingue working on the sugar cane plantations and dying by the
hundreds doing so. The erasure of my ancestors was in plain sight yet no other
tourists around me seemed to have a clue about the ugly history that yielded
these gaudy jewel-encrusted halls. Much like Daut’s reveals about France’s
intentional erasure of Haiti from its history in the rejection of Nemours Histoire
Militaire de la Guerre d’Indépendance de Saint-Domingue when “…the French
government did not think these materials actually pertained to France”
For digital humanists to address erasure in historical narratives, they must rethink how they approach the archives and be willing to find pathways outside of the archives. Daut points out that one of the prongs in the erasure problem is the fact that; the Haitian people have not been in charge of their narrative; and the sources that have traditionally spoken for them have often come from non-Haitian spaces. Digital humanists must look at the archives differently to center Haitian narratives from Haitian spaces and invest in the work of Haitian scholars. For example, the Revue de la Société Haïtienne d’Histoire, de Géographie et de Géologie is a Haitian journal that has been regularly published since 1925 yet is rarely used as an authoritative source of outside of Haiti. The designation of what is and what isn’t an authoritative source is an important aspect of how Haiti’s erasure persists in western epistemologies. Many times in the text, scholars point out that Haiti doesn’t have a complete history written by Haitian historians, implicating that a written history is more authoritative than the one uniquely preserved through vodou and other traditional epistemologies – falsely leading to the conclusion that Haiti has a poor record of its history.
Although it is understandable that for the purpose of archival work, accessibility to material history such as text and artifacts is important for the construction of historical narrative of any country. And the lack of accessibility to Haiti’s material history is an archival problem that Haitian humanists must work together to solve in the spirit of Jacques Roumain’s work. In Haiti, there is an idea of collaborative togetherness called konbit that we love to preach but rarely practice. And it is the responsibility of Haitians scholars to actualize this idea in the work of rehabilitating Haiti’s historical narrative.
Louverture, Haiti’s founding father, who died in captivity in Fort-de-Joux, France
said this as he was captured, and I think it is apt to repeat here in the
context of Haiti’s “bad press” as Daut puts it.
« En me renversant, ils n’ont
abattu que le tronc de l’arbre de la liberté des noirs. It repoussera par ces
racines parce qu’elles sont profondes et nombreuses. » Toussaint
“In overthrowing me,
you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty.
It will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.” Toussaint
I. The premise for my mapping project draws its inspiration from our running class dialogue about the complicated ways in which we must all negotiate our subjectivity when leveraging digital software and tools to design and build maps. So, in approaching the praxis mapping assignment, I found that my core aim was to wrestle with the interplay between subject/object by integrating cartographic methods with monochromatic photography, in turn juxtaposing the overhead vantage point of traditional cartography with the first-person standpoint and embeddedness of photography. Intending to embrace a more reflexive and intimate approach to mapping, in other words, I wanted to challenge traditional cartography by considering the means by which a series of photographs could invite viewers to craft their own personal visual narrative about a geographic space. While I feel as though my project involves more aesthetic ways of knowing than the propositional or analytic epistemologies of traditional mapping methods, I still want to recognize the fact that this approach nevertheless depends on those same cartographic conventions, otherwise I wouldn’t have a prearranged map of Williamsburg to plot each of my black and white photos. I also want to note that while I cannot wholly unlearn the biases or inclinations of my eye as an amateur photographer, I did make a self-conscious effort to capture a wide array of material, ranging from traffic lights and church spires, to convenience stores and ripped fliers, to flagpoles and local graffiti. Taking the urban landscape of Williamsburg as my priority, and with late-stage gentrification as a key thematic focus in my daily routes, I ultimately elected not to embed any photographs of people, if only because I did not want to exploit their likeness for the sake of my project or its associated narratives. (Admittedly, I am also not too skilled at portrait photography.)
II. With the vast majority of us having combed through our fair share of Google Street View, I think I can speak for most people when I say that these photos are decidedly austere in their ~25,500TB attempt at rendering an “immersive geography” of the world, which is to say, the industrial world. To some extent, given the parameters of Google’s on-the-ground approach to cartography, this spare style is understandable and even somewhat expected, but I nonetheless feel as though it is important to the note that the Lovecraftian deity of Google did not shoot these photographs wholesale; rather, these interactive VR panoramas are only possible due to a process called image stitching, in which computer software quilts together an overlapping array of adjacent photographic images. Part of the inspiration for my map plays on this Big Data concept of global mastery — i.e. via capturing and showcasing a three-dimensional rendering of our local “street view” experience of the world — by photographing and mapping Williamsburg through the subjective vision of a single digital camera.
III. The offer a visual overview of my photographic map of Williamsburg, built more specifically with CartoDB, I’ve embedded three annotated screenshots below in order to demonstrate the visual identity of my map as it stands now.
IV. I see this project as a continual work-in-progress — one without an end in sight. In my mind, it is iterative, open to any and all collaborative efforts, reserved to a running state of flux and revision. As we seem to recognize as a class, maps are never subject to completion because the mere concept of “completion” in cartography is a representative fiction — or, better yet, an ever-persistent fantasy of corporate, colonial, and/or national hegemony. As far as my efforts go, in other words, I see this map as a draft in its beginning, ever in process and never quite complete.
I used this praxis as an exploratory step in what I hope will become a larger project and potentially my thesis/capstone work. Recently I had the opportunity to walk the area of downtown Manhattan that was known during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, roughly 1880-1940, as Little Syria with GC historian and president of the Washington Street Advocacy Group, Todd Fine and music historian Ian Nagoski. I have not lived very long in New York City, so going in my knowledge of the history of this area and people who had lived there was rudimentary at best. That being said, I wanted to learn more about this group of immigrants from the Eastern Mediterranean and their role in the history of New York City, especially as the perception of immigrants from this part of the world remains so highly contentious. I have a background in Islamic/Middle East Studies and Arabic language and have been looking for a bridge to connect my current study of the digital humanities with my previous work in the Middle East. I think this project may just be that bridge.
“I believe that you have inherited from your forefathers an ancient dream, a song, a prophecy, which you can proudly lay as a gift of gratitude upon the lap of America.”
– Khalil Gibran, I Believe in You (to the Americans of Syrian origin)
The walking experience of Little Syria was an incredible dive into the physical history of the area which was located on Washington Street, just south of the 9/11 memorial to Battery Park, but it was also an auditory exploration of recordings created by its residents, provided in the form of a playlist by Ian Nagoski. The name Little Syria, can be a little misleading as it refers to the region of Greater Syria, which in the late 19th/early 20th century included parts of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, and was given to the area because it was the origin point of the majority of the population who lived there. Most of the buildings in Little Syria were demolished when the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was built in the 1940s, with just a few buildings remaining, including the St. George Chapel (white building on the right in the picture below, which was designated a New York City landmark in 2009 and is now home to the St. George Tavern).
This walking experience got me thinking about the past and how I might explore the intersections of the history of Little Syria, the history of New York City, the experience of the immigrant’s “American Dream”, and our relationship with immigrants, all within a hauntological (“always-already absent present”) framework (simple, right?!) and could I use some sort of map to do it? I knew that I would not have time to build anything even close to what I envision for a final project, but as with any project, you have to start somewhere.
I have experience mapping using many of the applications that we read about in “Finding the Right Tools for Mapping” and I was not sure which would be the best for this project but first I needed some data. I must admit that I fell down many of the same “rabbit holes” that I have fallen down in the past, including spending far too much time looking for data resources, learning there were none and then having to find and build my own datasets which (I knew from past experience) requires a ridiculous amount of time, though I do seem to always underestimate just how long it takes.
I began by playing around a bit in Mapbox with a very small dataset that I built of the locations of Syrian Periodicals in New York based on information from The Syrian American Directory Almanac (1930). It turned out to be nothing particularly exciting so I decided to build something in Storymaps, which was not particularly exciting either.
In the end, I am still not sure what direction this project is going but it was an interesting exploration with mapping applications.
Coming down from a summer filled with local events and good eats, as well as being a proud Brooklynite, I couldn’t help but focus my mapping project on nearby food spots in my borough. Particularly, my map is a visual marking of Black-owned bars and restaurants in my borough. I came across Genese Jamilah’s article list, “Black Owned Restaurants and Bars in New York City and Brooklyn.” There, I extracted Brooklyn based businesses and pinned them on ArcGIS Story Maps. With zero familiarity with ArcGIS, I opted to explore a site cost-friendly and user-friendly. After figuring out gestures–such as dragging mistakes to the trash bin, marking an area with a diamond cursor to create a text box, I gradually grew comfortable with using ArcGIS for a linear map.
While pinning a business, I had access to provide a description of the place, along with a hyperlink to their websites or contact information, and even provide a picture. It can be seen that I attempted to provide an image of the restaurant Amarachi. However, ArcGIS does not provide a function in which users can drag the image to scale. It can be seen that the restaurant sign is partially cut off.
Image cutoff seen above.
Besides the procedural, this assignment led more personal inquiry on the topic. As I was mapping these businesses, I quickly realized the error in that I was mapping from a singular source. Jamilah’s article has many bars and restaurants users may find elsewhere, and more. These businesses all have websites, or Facebook, or Yelp. However, any Flatbush native can assert Jamaican-Guyanese restaurant, McBeans, or Peppa’s Jerk Chicken should be added to the map as well. Another error worth pointing out is that a few internet searches may not provide a comprehensive list, as there is a probability some establishments do not have an online existence.
Another personal inquiry while mapping was the non-existence of black-owned bars and restaurants to the left of Flatbush Avenue. Granted, although it was asserted before the businesses were listed from a single article, along with the knowledge that there may be a probable chance businesses are not present online, I could not help but obsess over the missing marking of black Brooklyn to the left.
Overall, ArcGIS Story Maps is a source I could rely on again for linear maps, and possibly integrate in a K-12 classroom on local history and businesses.
Since I have no experience with mapping, or other graphing or visualization tools, I felt at a loss to begin working on this assignment. I tried to consider a number of topic options, but one kept recurring. The phenomenon of state-enforced family separation in the 20th century is a topic I have wanted to explore since February 2018 when I attended a conference in Moscow and heard a paper entitled “Desired Children – Transnational adoption of Jewish child survivors in the immediate aftermath of Second World War.”
Much of the information that is accessible about the phenomenon of forced adoptions in the 20th century is brought to light by scholars and activists working in a particular region, often with significant personal investment in the history that they study and expose. I believe that a global conversation could help specialists working with these histories, particularly through: the validating process of being heard by sympathetic listeners outsides one’s own “bubbles”; comparison of research methods; comparison of experiences–biographies, healing, justice. Our mapping assignment struck me as an opportunity to think again about how I could facilitate such a conversation.
With trepidation, I turned to Olivia Ildefonso’s, “Finding the Right Tools for Mapping“, hoping I would find something that would feel accessible.I arranged time to work at the library so I could plunge right into the powerful ArcGIS on one of the library’s desktops. But the machine felt foreign, and I decided to try QGIS instead–it’s open source, and would work on my MacBook, so I might feel more comfortable. All I managed to do was to open an account and download the software and become re-intimidated. Since I had arranged to meet with Micki, I hoped she might be able to give me some magic key. In our meeting, Micki focused on the importance of choosing a realistic and appropriate question and data set. Whereas I saw the assignment as primarily an exercise in using the digital resources, I understood Micki’s perspective to prioritize thinking in map form, and then afterwards finding appropriate digital tools, preferably as simple as possible. My notes from the meeting read:
a question worth asking
a data set we can ask it of
a way of measuring that data that makes sense
I also have a few hand-drawn maps and diagrams that Micki created at our meeting, trying to help me think of other topics I could work on that would be more manageable than the highly-sensitive and complicated one I had suggested. Something that would not need an extensive investment of time in research and collection of data, but could still involve some creative conceptualization.
But I still felt stuck. I tried looking at Tableau and still could not find a way in to this world of mapping…. After our last class session, when Matt said our map topic could be as simple as something like “the last 5 places we’ve visited”, I decided that I would stick to the general topic I had chosen, but without asking any of the complicated questions that are on my wish-list to open up. I adopted the simple aim of plotting out 5 of the locations that I would want to include in a conversation that would bring together experts who research the topic of family separation in their home countries: The “Stolen Generations” in Australia, which I learned about when I lived in Sydney; the “Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan Children Affair” which I learned about while living in Israel; the “Kinder der Landstrasse” and “Verdingkinder“ in Switzerland; the “Lost Children” of Francoist Spain, and the “Sixties Scoop” in Canada. And I decided to try Story Maps, since Robin had been very encouraging about its accessibility. At first, I found myself in a loop of Story Maps options, signed up (again?) for a trial of ARCGIS to gain access, and tried to check out “learning options”, before finally stumbling upon a template that seemed useable. I typed in my title– and saw that I could not control spacing or placement of the words. I adjusted the title, using the subtitle option, and once I became prepared to relinquish control, I did find the software to be quite user-friendly. It helped me to finally achieve my starting-point goal of a map that showed 5 places that were relevant for the topic of 20th century state-enforced family separation.
I could see how uninformative it was, but also felt I had a framework into which I could begin inserting information. So I added some data for each of the numbered locations, which would appear with hover feature:
I then re-numbered the countries to try to reflect some chronological order of when the policies of family separation were in place. Because of overlaps, I did not see how to make this order apparent to a user, though it did help me with my own visualizations, from Australia (#1) where policies began already in the 19th century, through Canada (#5) where they began in the 1960s and seem to have continued later than in the other countries. This very basic map, which managed to communicate at least something, at least to me, emboldened me to revise my minimal goal and try to produce a map that communicated the factors underlying the family-separation policies in some of the different locations. Twentieth-century western governments removed children from their families when they perceived the birth families as being of some “inferior” ethnicity/race, political affiliation, and socio-economic class. Racial/ethnic factors were relevant in four of the five countries I had chosen to mark on the map: Australia, Canada, Israel, Switzerland (Kinder der Landstrasse). Politics was the factor in Francoist Spain. Australia and Switzerland also had socio-economically-based policies/practices of family separation: Australia’s policy is sometimes called the “stolen white generations”, and in Switzerland, the Verdingkinder, “the contract children”, or “indentured child laborers”. This would mean figuring out how to include 2 factors in one location.If I managed to show the Verdingkinder factor in Switzerland, then I would add Ireland as an additional location that forced adoption on a socio-economic basis…. And maybe add Argentina as another location for political theft of children… And maybe figure out how to add data about the widespread policies and practices of removing children born to unwed mothers…. But… I was unable to figure out how to color-code in the Express Map, and still cannot think of a way to mark the factors by category using the tools that I see in the template. Since it is nearly time for class I am submitting this blog post with a link to the sad-looking product of my efforts, but with some guarded optimism about having embarked on a process, and maybe beginning to at least be able to formulate questions about how to move further. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/cd582eb6436d47a88aae29724750c78c
For my mapping
assignment, I wanted to create a digital map of a ‘big problem, big solution’
topic. I set the widest parameters for my topic option while limiting my
visualization options. I wanted my visualization to cover the globe or as much
of it as possible and re-examine mapping from the standpoint of geospatial representation
of place, identifiable by a coordinate pair of longitude and latitude. In my
map, I sought to explore how global positioning is correlated to attainment in global
development, how each country’s national development is always under the sphere
of influence of local and global powers, why the notions of global north and
global south exist and how those representations can be harmful or helpful to
I landed on the ‘big
problem, big solution’ issue of sustainable energy development where in the
developing world has been taking measurable steps toward success in contrast to
the developed world. I created a map of the inventory of global wind masts and
solar stations from which there is access to measurement data. I gathered this
data from 4 World Bank studies from 2012-2018. My interest in looking at this
issue was very different from the organization who published these studies and
the project funders attached to them.
The World Bank states that their interests in conducting these studies. “…aims to help improve developing country’s knowledge and awareness of solar and wind resources.” The World Bank’s framing fails to point out that although these resources exist within their local borders, the manufacturing of solar and wind energy is often controlled by global financial entities therefore making sustainable energy development in the global south interconnected with the policymaking and financial intervention of the global north. The reverse is also true. environmental pollution in the global north is interconnected with human development indices in the global south.
In terms of visualization, I developed my map through 4 layers of data. I decided to represent each inventory through a different color and symbol. The wind masts global inventory is represented in pink in the shape of a meteorological tower. The representation of each symbol is also determined by the size of the each local inventory. For the solar global inventory, I assigned a blue flag in the size of each local inventory.
The third map aggregated both solar and wind. There is a clear evidence that project funders such as ESMAP who principally work to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 decided to focus on the same geographical spheres of influence with the exception of Armenia getting added to the solar inventory.
I also created a visualization option for the map to display pools of sustainable energy projects as opposed to individual projects.
The map also has a dynamic function which can display individual local inventory acquisition over time from the first inventory acquired to the last. This feature can only be accessed through the map page.
This map represents many things that even I haven’t fully examined but it in the most basic ways it answers our question about global positioning and its correlation to indices of human development. Sometimes global positioning means an absolute advantage in a natural resource such as solar energy development because a country is located near the equator. And mobilizing that particular resource whether for trade or other national interest is always interconnected to the influence of other powers which is why the same countries are the duplicate focus of both solar and wind energy development by global financial interests.
I have always considered the use of mapping as an interesting way to look at ‘lived experience’ and to learn more about constructed ideas of place within a space. For my mapping project, I took a tiny step toward exploring my own experience while studying abroad in the fall of 2016.
I decided to work with ArcGIS StoryMaps because I had worked with ArcGIS Desktop in the past and was interested to see how the online/public interface worked. I also chose this tool because it allowed me to incorporate other forms of media alongside my map rather easily.
While contemplating what to map I decided to focus on a film I created for a class in my undergraduate career that combined many video clips from my time abroad. This film served as a contained example of what I could do if I wanted to explore my entire abroad experience through my entire collection of photos and videos. For my base map, I chose to use the OpenStreetMap Vector base map because it resembles Apple Maps and Google Maps, both of which I used constantly when traveling abroad. By using the OpenStreetMap, I included an element of my experience that cannot be separated from my pictures and videos.
I started by plotting the exact location of each video clip on the map. I gave each point a number that corresponded to the order the video clip appeared in the film. For example, the first clip is from the rainbow panorama art installation at the Aarhus Art Museum in Aarhus, Denmark. This location is marked with a ‘1’ since it appeared in the film first. I experimented with the labeling of my points. For some, I gave the name of the location where the clip was filmed, for others I gave a descriptive title related to the content of the clip. If I continued working on this map, I think it would be useful to have the exact location of the photo or video along with a description of the content together because it would incorporate a geographical location with my interpretation/feelings/understanding of each location. I believe this to be more compelling when examining an individual’s ‘connection’ to a point in space.
I wanted to feature additional photos I took from the locations of the video clips on the map but I could not figure out a way to upload them without first bringing them online so they could be embedded. To remedy this, I chose to include photos within the storymap using the sidecar feature. I added three photos corresponding to the first three locations presented in the film. In the description box, next to each of the photos I listed a number that corresponds to the numbered location on the map. I also gave the name of the geographical location found on Google maps, as well as the date I visited each location. If I move forward with this project, I think it would be interesting to have each marked location on the map have a sidecar with additional photos of the landscape, photos of items collected from the site like a museum ticket, diary entries, and other media to create a fuller picture of my lived experience.
While working with ArcGIS StoryMaps, I did run into a few issues. Originally, I wanted to upload my film directly to the page but was unable to because it was in .mov format instead of .mp4. I had to embed the link to the film on YouTube to have it appear within my story. Some of my points are close together, so when the map is zoomed out not all points are visible. The scale of the map does not allow all points to be seen within the same frame; I think this diminishes the ability to geographically visualize the film as a whole because not all the locations are displayed. I already mentioned above my issue with adding photos to my map and my solution by using the sidecar feature. While this feature somewhat solves the problem, I think it creates distance between the film, map, and photos, causing them to seem disjointed. Ideally, an individual would see them all together, creating a fuller multimedia experience. By looking at each element separately it is harder to recreate my lived experience and does not allow for a user to explore/view the media together.
In my field of study, I think StoryMaps could be used to explore the lives of historical figures or even specific communities in a more expansive way. This tool allows for the visual exploration of many materials that allude to an individual or community’s perceptions of a place. Additionally, by attempting to create a map that reflects my experiences abroad, I think StoryMaps could be used outside academia as a social platform for displaying a person’s journey/experience/life. I won’t say if this could be good or bad, but it is thought-provoking in terms of social media’s role in the world today.
Idea: Map several active non-state mass societies. Why: The exclusion of non-state and anti-state perspectives from conventional political discourse produces an incomplete ideological spectrum which naturalizes the presence of the state.
Some issues to report:
Group Representation– A. Present or past and present – There are many concluded anti state experiments so it was a decision to start the project with a few active communities. By including past communities, a great deal of information regarding the trajectory of these ideas would be clarified in some instances, but wildly complicated in others.
B. Representation – The issue of uniting, through representation, stunningly diverse communities belonging to a loosely unified group marker(s). The issues of representing communities with a tendency not to represent themselves in concrete terms is something of an obstacle for practical and ethical reasons. Committing to a principle articulated by Jennifer Guiliano and Carolyn Heitman (Difficult Heritage and the Complexities of Indigenous Data, 2019), I intend to recognize “multiple ecosystems … related to data that must exist simultaneously and be treated as part of a nonhomogeneous whole.”
C. Misrepresentation – Running the risk of misrepresenting groups who are ambiguously aligned with anti-state sentiment. In some cases communities are not explicitly anti-state, but apolitical. It seemed better to separate out these distinctions than to run the risk of misrepresentation. At the same time, these exclusions risk misrepresenting groups that disregard that technicality.
Data Representation– A. What do I want the data to reveal beyond merely presenting the existence of these groups?One of my goals is to represent connectedness of groups as something rhythmic and more contingent than what is expressed by legal or linguistic formalities that too often misrepresent reality and encumber human agency. For this reason, I’ve included an information sheet. It can be found below, with the title “Active, non-state mass societies on map”
B. What elements of the data should be privileged to make this point? – Population size, which would appear to be an obvious choice, proved to be an unskillful measurement in the context of this study. The choice to define the scope and domain of subject groups’ internal membership with a light touch prompted my use of the intentionally vague term “community” in favor of the prototypical population count. This decision is in some instances attributable to a group’s voluntarism, and in others representative of a non-paradigmatic conception of sovereignty. – Customs similarly seemed to miss the mark by giving the impression that non-state organization is specific to a particular society, place, or time, though in fact it is a ubiquitous cultural legacy. Equally problematic is the potential for the term “custom” to obscure the unique traditions, events, rituals and genuine customs shared within the group – as well as between one group and the society in which it is contained. For these reasons, the term “praxis” is used to denote the synthesis of theory and practice apparent in each group’s methods. This way, the data presents cultural distinction and methodological similarity without presuming the primacy of either. – Genealogy is used to indicate grounding principles and relevant ideological connections, with the risk of oversimplification hopefully outweighed by the benefit of concise reference points.
C. Names and figures The data is not necessarily uniform across multiple sources. When employed, averages and editorial decisions must be noted to preserve transparency.
Technical Limitations and Choosing Software – A. QGIS –——- My first inclination was to utilize open source software. I downloaded QGIS, for which the CUNY Graduate Center offers workshops, and immediately realized the software was too advanced for my current understanding. I switched to Tableau, which appears to function much more intuitively and offers web-based training videos.
B. Tableau –——- b1. Working with Tableau Desktop software, I must first create an Excel spreadsheet because I am compiling my own data “set” from textual resources. Importing my data with the software is easy enough but I’ve now entered a labyrinth of software-particular jargon. Additionally the Tableau training videos are less than helpful in the context of applying my own data, which doesn’t meet the software’s standards. I begin to experiment and make some progress but choose to abandon Tableau upon realizing the software will not meet my standards for cartographic representation. b2. My chosen map template, based on the AuthaGraph World Map, is less than compatible for use in Tableau — The software’s process for working with longitude/latitude coordinates clashes with the design of the AuthaGraph map projection. This is a non-starter for me, for reasons I will explain below.
C. Static Map –——- I choose to create a static map and use slides for detail, rather than interactive mapping software.
Mapping Process –
A. Using AuthaGraph World Map as a template.
The Authagraph mapping projection, invented by Japanese architect Hajime
Narukawa in 1999, was selected by the Japanese National Museum of Emerging
Science and Innovation (Miraikan) as its official mapping tool in 2011 and
awarded the 2016 Good Design Grand Award from the Japan Institute of Design
According to the project website (authagraph.com) The map is
“made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles,
transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining area proportions, and
unfolding it onto a rectangle … The map substantially preserves sizes and
shapes of all continents and oceans while it reduces distortions of their
shapes, as inspired by the Dymaxion map. The projection does not have some of
the major distortions of the Mercator projection, like the expansion of
countries in far northern latitudes, and allows for Antarctica to be displayed
accurately and in whole.” My image was sourced from (http://narukawa-lab.jp/archives/authagraph-map/)
My decision to use this map projection comes from a desire to represent space with minimal distortions, wary of the interplay between cartographic and ideological reproductions.
——- Active, non-state mass societies on map ——-
Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (1958 – present)
Community: Programs active in some 15,000 (of 38,000)
villages in Sri Lanka. Approximately 11 million individual beneficiaries.
Praxis: Self-governance, village councils; collective
labor, distribution of group funds; building schools and clinics; family and
conflict resolution programs; starting a village bank and offering support to
Genealogy: Buddhist tradition, Gandhian Anarchism
Federation of Neighborhood Councils-El Alto (Fejuve;16 November 1979 – present)
Community: 600 neighborhood councils in El Alto,
Praxis: Self-governance, provincial councils,
consensus; worker’s self-management and common ownership; conflict resolution/
restorative justice; providing public services, water connections, sewerage
outlets, electrical cables and garbage collection services; building parks,
grade schools, clinics, housing, a public university and work cooperatives.
Genealogy: Aymara traditions, Revolutionary Syndicalism,
Marinaleda (3 April 1979 – present)
inhabitants; the whole municipality of Marinaleda, Seville province, in the
autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain.
Praxis: Municipal councils; communal property,
agricultural cooperatives, trade unionism, full employment; grants for home
construction, voluntary public services.
Genealogy: Social Democracy, Revolutionary
Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca (CIPO-RFM; 1980s
rural communities in Oaxaca, Mexico
participatory democracy and consensus, autonomous communities; common ownership
of land, environmental protection, sabotage and direct action against private
industry; worker cooperatives, building schools and hospitals, maintaining a network
of autonomous community radio stations, educational outreach programs;
political representation of 26 different, mainly indigenous, communities
including Chatino, Mixtec, Chinantec, Cuicatec, Zapotec, Mixe, and Trique
Genealogy: Green Anarchism, Anarcho-Communism
Spezzano Albanese (1992 – present)
inhabitants; the whole municipality of Spezzano Albanese, Cosenza Province in
Praxis: Dual power alternative to the local
government, participatory democracy; fund raising for the development of local
worker cooperatives and trade unions.
Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (1 January
1994 – present)
inhabitants; 55 separate municipalities organized into 5 regions (currently
expanding as of October 2019)
Praxis: Self-governance, autonomous councils,
participatory democracy, consensus; sabotage and direct action against state
encroachment; promotion of education, health and arts (especially indigenous
language and traditions); worker cooperatives, family farms and community
stores; providing low-interest loans, free education, radio stations, universal
health-care; self-reliant economics, agricultural production; common ownership
of land, participation in international markets.
inhabitants; 34 separate villages in the Kabylie region, Algeria
Praxis: Dual power alternative to the local
government, democratic assemblies modelled off traditional village councils;
sabotage and direct action against local courts, government offices, political
party offices, and police stations; councils coordinate further protests,
garbage collection, fuel distribution, cleaning, welfare programs and
maintenance for local schools and public services.
Genealogy: Amazigh tradition, Anarchism
Abahali baseMjondolo (2005 – present)
active supporters in 64 different shack settlements across Durban,
Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town, South Africa
Praxis: Dual power institutions, direct democracy;
direct action such as land occupations and self-organized water and electricity
connections; tactical use of state courts to overturn laws unfavorable to shack
settlements; mutual aid projects like community kitchens and vegetable gardens;
dismissal of party politics, campaigns for public housing, occupation of unused
Genealogy: Marxism, Mutual Aid
Barcelona’s Squatters Movement (2000 – present)
Community: Thousands of inhabitants; around 200
squatted buildings and 40 social centres across Barcelona, Spain
Praxis: Squatting, anti-work philosophy; freely
fixing up houses, cleaning, patching roofs, installing windows, toilets,
showers, lights and kitchens; pirating electricity, internet and water;
providing social services to the surrounding residents, including bicycle
repair workshops, carpentry workshops, self-defense classes, free libraries,
community gardens, free meals, computer labs, language classes, theatre groups,
free medical care and legal support services; Helping elderly residents avoid
eviction; organizing protests.
Genealogy: Anarchism, Mutual Aid
Zone to Defend (ZAD; 2009 – present)
10 and 15 ZADs across France; no official figures.
Praxis: Squatting, voluntary organization,
maintaining permanent villages as blockades to development projects; sabotage
and direct action challenging large infrastructure projects in defense of the
environment; demonstrations to protect the biodiversity of the wetlands; mutual
aid projects, community farming and business.
Genealogy: Environmentalism, Anarchism
Rojava (9 January 2014 – present)
Community: 2 million+ inhabitants in the Kurdish region of northern Syria
Praxis: Dual power alternative to regional governments, federal system, direct democracy, municipal governance, local civic councils; community ownership, workers cooperatives; “co-governance” policy in which each position at each level of government in the region includes a female and a male; promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity; oil, food and agricultural production.