Author Archives: Richelle Valkema

Moving on after the Field School

These first couple of days after ending the fieldschool have really found me still stuck in the “fuzzy-mind” state that the intense pressure and stress I felt during the last week left me in.  I finished my articles, but they were rushed at the end and I was not completely satisfied with them.  Research and content should have been easy for me but I suffered writer’s block after writer’s block and I left the Matrix everyday feeling a little bit more crazy from sleep deprivation each time.

That being said, I still miss everyone a lot and I miss going to class and working together.  Even though I am entering my fifth year of university, this was the first course/class/place that I have really had to apply project management skills and ideas to group work and it was nearly impossible to do the work on your own.  I am really grateful for how helpful and open everyone was in the fieldschool.  I spent much of my blog posts just complaining about everything we have done or used, but I gained valuable skills that I will use in my future jobs and in my personal life.  I started this with absolutely no previous experience in website design or development so everything from codecademy to mapbox has been new and exciting and absolutely useful to my personal and professional life.

I know that I should be using this space to talk about all of the wonderful skills that I have actually gained or about the course set up or even about how wonderful our professor was and how great and absolutely necessary it was to have his guidance and encouragement, but the main thing I think back to is the people.  I hope that wherever life takes me, that I will still hold onto this network of people and friendships. I hope that if I find myself in New Zealand that Flora will take me to the quirky named bar she used during the one map project, and that if I go to California that I could grab burgers with Cindy and Erick(sorry if I misspelled your name~).   There are always those people who you meet, who have a big impact on your life, that leave quickly after you meet them.  Don’t forget me guys, and don’t forget to monitor our website~~!

I may come back and edit this or add to it later as I remember important things, but this is what I am thinking of right now when I look back at the fieldschool.  We never did have our pizza party or bring in donuts… maybe later?

Closing in on the Finish Line and the Topic of Political Correctness

As I am writing this post, I realize that I didn’t write one for last week when we first started developing.  At least, I don’t remember posting one so I apologize.  This week has been extremely chaotic for my personal life so it is no wonder that I keep running into so many road blocks with my writing.  On Wednesday, my parents and youngest sister almost died in a serious car accident that completely totaled their vehicle and turned it into a convertible.  Thursday my laptop crashed as I was going to shut it down and I lost all of my research on one of my topics for the project so I have to redo it.  And then today, Friday, I woke up and checked my bank account in order to make sure a bill payment went through only to find out that someone on the other side of the country was using my account to make fraudulent purchases.  Very chaotic, indeed.

Away from personal.

Last week when we decided the teams and roles for all of our people, I ended up in content where I typically end up.  I originally wanted to be a part of web design but I tend to thrive in content and research due to my areas of interest.  Besides suffering writer’s block due to my preoccupied mind, I also had an issue with something I typically try to avoid: being politically correct in terms of ethnicity and race.  Without giving too much of the project idea/theme away, I can comfortably say that one of my topics deals with civil rights and the issue of racial discrimination.  This is an issue for me because I am always unsure of what is politically correct to label someone.

Being the modern university student that I am, there are many things that I believe I am better about than my parents such as eating healthier, managing money better, actually getting a degree, and not labeling people.  My generation has had an issue with labels since middle school when bullying was terrible enough for assemblies and everyone had to listen to faculty rhetoric about how labels are obsolete and everyone is human…and labels are bad. On repeat.  I got it, I get it, I’ll keep getting it.  I try my hardest to not label or belittle anyone and I feel like I generally do okay, but it is impossible to get away from labels in the social sciences.  I mean, my degree specialization is in ASIAN studies.

This is why I am having one of my issues with this piece on civil rights.  A lot of literature labels people as African American, Asian American, Native American, white, etc.  But if I use these labels then I am erasing Caribbean Americans and including them as African Americans.  Same with European Americans that have darker complexions or are ancestrally from Africa.  I would be taking away Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Filipino Americans, Korean Americans, etc. and labeling them as Asian Americans.  And not all white people are equal!!  I am so tired of being ‘othered’ in classes that cover issues about race because I have fair skin.  Italian, Irish, and Polish Americans were not always considered as equal, it’s a large misconception.  The topic just becomes too touchy when race is involved and yet race can’t be taken away from the topic because it is the key reason behind the topic.

Civil rights is just a difficult topic to write about while trying to include everything.  If civil rights was an easy topic, than there wouldn’t be so many civil rights violations going on today.  Or rather, human rights violations disguised as civil rights issues.  It’s impossible to be politically correct all of the time or even some of the time because no matter what, you are going to offend someone.  Try to at least keep that in mind if you visit our site once it is finished.

Of Maps and Rain: Third Week Down and We’ve got a Theme!

This was a tough week at the CHI Fieldschool with one person out due to a communicable illness and then myself getting sick on Monday thanks to my one hour, four mile hike to campus in the pouring rain followed by seven hours sitting in wet clothes with a slight chill, but we created a theme!  But I am getting ahead of myself, here is this week in fast forward:

We started off the week by learning about different types of data visualizations through mapping such as Mapbox and CartoDB.  Of these two mapping devices, I personally found Mapbox to be easier to use and I also preferred Mapbox’s visuals compared to CartoDB.  The layering function in Mapbox proved to be much more beneficial to my team during this weeks mapping challenge.  We were supposed to check out GeoCommons but a lot of people ended up spending too much time or getting stuck on CartoDB so we kind of skipped over it.

The challenge this week focused on mapping data provided by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology or choosing to continue using National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Sites and mapping information provided there. Since we were feeling ambitious, my team decided to mix the focuses and create our project using information from both.  This is why Mapbox was more useful with the layering function because we could create one layer that included World Heritage Sites in Africa and then create another layer of artifacts.  We couldn’t include exact coordinates for the artifacts because they were listed in the UPenn Museum archives by provenience or sometimes just by a country so it was hard to find coordinates.  Therefore we attempted to just map the artifacts by density within a certain area and then compare it to UNESCO World Heritage sites to see if artifacts were coming from heritage sites.

The first project of the week took up a lot of time on our schedule, but thankfully Leaflet proved to be much easier to use than the other mapping functions.  The Leaflet project/challenge was also easier considering we were only asked to locate a specific city with a specific point and then create a small text box that popped up when you clicked on the marker for the location that described the location.  One thing I was disappointed in was that I could not create two text boxes for the two markers I created because we didn’t have the time nor skills necessary for such a feat.  I liked the look of the map styles, but I wish there were more bright and fun styles that we could access without subscribing to the site.

The last major tutorial we got for the week was Tableau.  While I think the look of Tableau is great and it is relatively easy to use, I continually came across problems that may or may not have been due to using Windows 8.  I could use pre-made data sets and then mess with the functions to alter them but I could not upload ANY of the example sets.  If anyone randomly comes across this and has dealt with this issue, I would super appreciate some hints.  I think Tableau could be really useful with it’s multi-visual presentation and functionality, but I am worried about being able to use 97-2003 Xcel files which may be necessary later on.

Then we came up with a project idea of which I don’t want to share~!  I can’t stop others from sharing but I would much rather launch our site at the end and have it be surprising and new for everyone to look at!

Codecademy: A Reflective and Thoughtful Review

These last two weeks have been fun and informative, but the real work definitely began before May 28th at nine am (five thirty am if you are me).  Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about  Codecademy has been the ‘go-to’ source of information and learning that make up the fundamental building blocks that this fieldschool has been built upon.  It has been extremely valuable and a great learning tool; however, I think it would have worked better to go over the lessons in class and then have done Codecademy as homework.

Codecademy made me so frustrated at parts that I wanted to pull out my hair and throw my laptop from my second floor balcony onto the cement parking lot below.  At other times I appreciated the information so much that I thought everyone should go to the site if they were interested in learning how to input code or create websites.  The site starts with Web Fundamentals covering both HTML and CSS.  These two went relatively quickly and easily without very many mishaps or confusion.  Most of the trouble came with JQuery.

Not everyone in the class decided to start JQuery before JavaScript, but regardless of the order, everyone had difficulties.  The site becomes more picky in these two sections and the code hasn’t been universal in our class.  For example, if I want to do a console.log function on my account it is necessary to input: ‘console.log=’ while in other students’ accounts it didn’t require the ‘=’.  In one particular exercise in JQuery, I had two other students input their exact codes word for word that they had used to pass the exercise and my account would not acknowledge it as correct.  The unanimously agreed to be the most difficult course was JavaScript but I had a hard time just getting to it.  I read the code and i understand how to use it and what code does what, but I just can not seem to get my account to work on certain exercises so I eventually gave up.  I am still writing down the code and I have been using it in class, but I don’t see an end to the frustration of not being able to make the account work.

Overall the site is useful and I plan on reviewing the covered material again as I go throughout the course, but I don’t think it is useful to make it a prerequisite for the fieldschool.  It was much more useful to be able to talk to the other students face to face about the different exercises and try them out together than it was to try to do it on my own.  The site doesn’t always explain certain lessons clearly and the more advanced students, or maybe rather the more insightful students, helped a lot with the more vague lessons.  In my opinion, this site is definitely at least an 8.3 out of 10 in terms of usefulness and awesomeness with the major need being more descriptive lessons and less finicky grading.


Introducing: Rikki Valkema

Who am I? Hello, my name is Richelle Valkema but I much rather prefer to be referred to as Rikki.  I am twenty two years old and super excited for my upcoming graduation in December.  I just finished up my fourth year at MSU as an undergraduate anthropology student focused in the socio-cultural subdivision specializing in Asian Studies.  My main area of interest is South Korea, especially the modern media culture and its relation to a possible increase in the South Korean crime rate.

Hobbies: reading, writing, singing, sketching, KOREAN!  I am currently studying Korean as well as Mandarin Chinese and I know a little Spanish as well as my native language, English.  Learning languages is actually a hobby of one of my younger sisters and mine.  Studying other cultures and practicing other languages have always been things that I enjoy so when I learned what anthropology was and that I could major in it, I quickly chose to major in it right away!

Where am I from?  I am a native Michigander born and raised in Kalamazoo.  I come from a relatively large family but I am the first child to go to college.

Why the CHI Fieldschool?  I chose to apply for this program/fieldschool because it specializes in the digital aspect of cultural heritage and I am sadly not very capable with technology.  I do not have my own webpage and my younger sister has always set up my accounts such as twitter and youtube.  I really wanted to understand technology better, and I really wanted to find out how this relates to cultural heritage.  Technology is becoming too important in the field of anthropology and I figured that I really couldn’t keep waiting to learn about it if I wanted to be capable and competitive in my career/search for a career.

Technology and the understanding of how it works is especially important considering how many of the sources for my area of interest are in a digital format and involve using technology that I am not currently familiar with.


So far from what I have seen this last week, I can’t wait to really dig into our project designing and creation.  There are so many people here that know where their interests and passions lay and I love how refreshing it is to be surrounded by passionate intellectuals!


It’s nice to meet you all!