Author Archives: spruithi

Web Skeleton

This week in the CHI fieldschool has been quite a whirlwind experience. In one quick week, we have assembled our project teams, formulated our work plan, and begun work on the actual construction of what we have deemed ‘Digital Detroit’ – our cultural heritage website focused upon the construction of Detroit’s identity. I have been assigned the task of lead content expert, which entails drafting each thematic narrative, distributed amongst my content team.

For me, the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the project’s planning was coming to an agreement on what the ‘essence’ of the project would be. This means coming to concise conclusions on what each historical narrative would entail, which visualization would fit properly with the associated theme, and what tools would be used to reasonably and efficiently accomplish these tasks. Once that was decided, we were able to coordinate with our team members to accomplish each item of our work plan.

Since web design is such a collaborative process, a project manager and team leaders are assigned the duty of making sure each team member is accomplishing their assigned tasks, as well as maintaining cohesiveness between tech development, content, and design. This is to ensure the fluidity and ease of project development, reducing the chances of miscommunication.

As of week one, we have created the skeleton for our web page, began collecting data and constructing visualization, and researched each historical narrative topic to have a drafted copy ready, opening the floor for critiques and tweaks. Since this is a two-week project, we are on the fast track to successfully developing a user- and visual-friendly cultural heritage website on the great Motor City.

Detroit's Historic Fox Theater

Detroit’s Historic Fox Theater

Beyond MapQuest

I have to be honest; before the start of this fieldschool, the extent of my map use was limited to looking at my house on Google Earth and finding directions on MapQuest. I was aware of the many uses of mapping, but lets be real, I had no interest in studying cartography. Yet, this all changed when my eyes were opened to the world of maps, not strictly used for directions of tracking movements – psychogeography. Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviors of individuals”. Though I am no geographer, maps based on psychogeography could be deemed quite useful in the world of anthropology.

In my interpretation of Debord’s definition, these maps can extend to things such as political mapping for upcoming elections, historical migration through time, the spread and eradication of diseases, weather and climate change, subway routes, individuals in relation to the greater universe, and the list goes on and on.

Especially for my field of study (archeology), psychogeographic mapping could be an essential tool in visualizing past cities, cultures, migrations, even behaviors, in a way that could not be previously done. As my time in the fieldschool progresses, I see more and more the importance of digital technology for cultural heritage. The world we live in today thrives in technological circumstances, and since such visualizations are pioneering exhibits that would not be easily accessible to the public, it is pertinent to have these tools to be a step ahead from the competitive world of scholars.


Digital Technology & The ‘Age of Surveillance’

Many of the news articles in the past week have left me dazed and confused. When Edward Snowden’s name was released as being the triggerman for leaking the NSA court order to collect massive databases of US Verizon Business communications ‘metadata’, the media went into a frenzy. Almost instantaneously, investigators were probing the personal and professional memoir of Snowden – using surveillance of his public/private communications, of course. The irony of this almost makes me laugh, but reifies the ease of access into personal intellectual property.. [especially with digital surveillance technology]

I am grateful to be in a field of study [Anthropology] where I was able to recognize this threat before it became public knowledge – but that’s exactly what scares me. The United States’ Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency have been making similar court orders for the past seven years, right under our noses.

I fear our future will become not too far from the science-fiction worlds of ‘The Minority Report’, ‘Blade Runner’, and George Orwell’s ‘1984’. As you read this, these secret surveillance court orders continue to be implemented and Verizon endlessly fills their databases. Our time to question not only the effectiveness, but also the constitutionality, of the Obama administration’s actions is now.

Prior to starting the fieldschool this summer, I was aware of the ease of ‘hacking’ – or at least that’s what my computer-savvy friends told me. Now, as I begin to become more knowledgable on the back-end of the Internet, my fear of abuse [by the government] of this sophisticated technology has only risen. The world we live in is a world of technology and technological advancement; there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, nor a reduced speed in progress.

Literacy of technology does not only give you a step ahead of cohorts, but it also allows you to fully understand the capabilities of our government’s surveillance technologies. This, to me, is a crucial awakening.

I would also like to share the breaking news article The Guardian published last Wednesday [click on link]

True Life: I’m Hillary

On this episode of True Life, you will be discovering what it’s like to live the life of Hillary Spruit… Okay, that’s as far as I can take that. Haha. But I would like to tell you a little about myself. I am a finishing my last semester of undergrad in December, receiving a degree in Anthropology with a specialization in Ancient Egyptian Archaeology, as well as Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies. I am currently preparing for law school applications, where I would like to explore the field of Antiquities Law.

I started my college education as a student of the residential college James Madison here at MSU, majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics (and Pre-Law). When on the first day of class, the professors gathered all of the freshman for a “welcoming to the Brotherhood”, I knew I was not in the right place. Fortunately, that same semester I was introduced to the world of anthropology. The next semester, it became my major.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the ancient mysteries (and discoveries!) of  Egypt. So as soon as I could, I took my area course with Ethan (which is what eventually led me here). The emotion and inspiration that were provoked from that class solidified my decision to go to law school to fight for the preservation of ancient artifacts which shaped the world we live in today.

As for the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool  my advisor had a lot to do with that. I was interested in going on a study abroad this summer, yet I couldn’t find the right fit for my field of interest. My advisor asked if I had heard of Ethan and the Fieldschool he was teaching, and I must admit, I knew nothing of the program. But as soon as I read that I would be working both with cultural heritage and digital technology, I knew this would be an excellent program for me.

Technology is seemingly exponential in its progress, and isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon. In order to be successful in ANY field, experiences like the ones we are going to receive here are invaluable in the workplace, giving myself and my peers a leg up on our ‘competition’. As our first week comes to an end, I have become more and more excited about the work that we will be able to create as a whole.

I hope this gives you a little more information to figure out who I am and how I got here. Again, I couldn’t be more excited to see what our final product from all of this will be!