DHC Weekly 9/12- Ecosia

Hello Digital Humanists and welcome back to the second week of classes! This week’s topic is looking at a search engine that my friend told me about, Ecosia. Ecosia is a search engine that promises that with every search, they plant a tree, pretty cool right?

The number updates about every second, you have no idea how long it took me to get a good screenshot

How does it compare to Google? That’s a great question! Terms of Service, Didn’t Read gives the engine a “B,” compared to Google’s “C” rating. Ecosia does collect your data, but they do not sell it to third parties. Further, you can request that no data be collected through the site. What’s the most important about this is that you don’t necessarily need TOSDR to figure this information out. All of it is listed on the website. Another cool thing I found is that Ecosia publishes its financial reports, so you can see where this money is going! You can easily find what information they’re getting If you’d like to learn more about TOSDR, check out our previous post-bacc’s blogpost on it!

Okay, so how does a search engine plant a tree for every search? Well, Ecosia explains this on the website.

Not only do they explain how they plant trees, they also let you know how they use advertisements without infringing on your privacy.

Not going to lie, ironically, this blogpost is starting to seem like a sponsored advertisement. It’s not though!

The final question, though, how does it work?

I tried out a few searches to see how they match up to Google. I looked up “Greta Thunberg,” it just seemed topical.

There are only a handful of differences between the searches. The news sources are slightly different. Google, understandably, has way more resources to get the most up to date stories. Ecosia, on the other hand, has slightly older new (a whole day old). Everything else is pretty similar. I would suggest if you’re worried about getting the most up-to-date news or you specifically want to use something like Google Scholar, look for other options. That being said, for any basic search, I can’t seem to find any reason not to use Ecosia! Further, it’s constantly updating, so may check out if someday soon there will be an Ecosia Scholar that we can all use when it’s 2AM, the library’s closed, and we have a paper due tomorrow!

Taylor Faires, Post-Baccalaureate Fellow ’19-20

As promised, here’s an introduction! I’m Taylor Faires and I’m the new post-baccalaureate fellow for the Digital Humanities Center. I graduated from Barnard this May and I’m excited to be on campus again in a new capacity.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the humanities, collaborating with friends on writing songs, poetry, and plays. While at Barnard I was an active member of the student theatre community, serving as a board member for the Columbia University Players and performing in student productions. Despite my interest in theatre, however, I graduated with a combined major in Political Science and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. I finished up my time at Barnard with two major projects: my political science capstone project and an independent study project conducted in Southern Ecuador. Both of these projects looked at the intersections of power when it comes to development and humanitarian aid, paying close attention to conflicting narratives and their importance in how programs that are meant to help look on the ground and how people respond to it.

My previous focus on the construction of narratives and their importance in international and domestic policy led me to wonder about digital narratives. Memes are cool, but what are they saying about our culture? How are they shaping the way we think? The way we vote? Our media and how it shapes us has become an incredibly important topic for study in all of the social sciences. Why not, then, bring it to the humanities? It is these questions that guide my research project on internet and fan culture. Our media shapes us in ways that we are only beginning to explore, and I, for one, am excited to learn more!

In addition to my own research project, I’m here to help you with yours! Expect to hear from me with all sorts of cool tools I’ve found in my own research!

At the end of the day, I’m learning too. I want to learn how to use the many tools at the Digital Humanities Center and across Barnard can help me bridge the gap between so many of my interests. While I love the humanities, I also love science- with environmental science a field I hold near and dear to my heart. How do we bridge the gaps between academic disciplines towards a recognition that everything is connected. The success of The Lorax is relevant to climate change just like erosion patterns or the Green New Deal are. Young adult novels have a political agenda. Stories matter because everything is a story.

That’s all for today but tune into my DHC weekly blog to see musings on ethics, digital humanities, tools and tricks!

Summer Fellows Blog 8/26: Celia Naylor

It Takes a Village

I had not expected that working on my digital humanities project this summer would clarify some core elements of my larger Rose Hall project. I realize there are strategies that enhance learning processes, and there is no one monolithic way to teach a new concept or subject to everyone. Yet, I did not realize that visually mapping out what I envisioned for this project would enable me to conceptualize other dimensions of this project and to enhance my central purpose and related objectives.

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DHC Weekly Blog 8/26: What you show matters!

Hello all! I’m not sure if you were all aware, but there are fires in the Amazon.

I’m Taylor, by the way. I’m the new post-baccalaureate fellow for the Digital Humanities Center with an introduction post to come soon. Before that, however, I want to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: the Amazon Rainforest.

In this week’s blog post, I’m going to review two maps of the fires that I have seen on social media. One is from Business Insider and the other is from a British news site called Express. There is a lot of media coverage of these fires and, as such, I’d like to take the time to go over how important data visualization is in this coverage. Our previous fellow, Sylvia, made some great guides about mapping tools and I’d like to expand that conversation. Maps can fundamentally change the way that information is reported and interpreted. Remember, there is no such thing as a purely objective report.

SOURCE This looks… bad

Above is a map that I’ve seen circulating a lot over social media. It depicts South America with a large swath of red. There isn’t a caption to this image as it was originally from a video. When you look at this, it looks bad… really bad. The way the data is portrayed suggests that the fires in the rainforest are, actually, just one, catastrophically huge fire that threatens to consume the entire country. It opens eyes. It has a sense of urgency. People see this and are ready to get on a plane. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this sense of urgency, but the data is portraying a situation that is not the reality of Brazil right now.

SOURCE: The caption on Business Insider was “This map shows every fire that has started burning since August 13th across South America. Courtesy of Global Fire Watch”

When you see this map, it still looks bad. It still gives a sense of urgency; however, if you look at the caption and more closely at the map, you see that it is not just one big fire, but hundreds of little fires. Not only this, but the caption explains that these are all of the fires since August 13th. While the caption doesn’t say that some of these fires are now out, it does at least suggest this.

The difference in these maps is important. The map from Global Fire Watch and Business Insider portrays a situation that is much closer to reality. There is not one fire ravaging the Amazon, but many little fires. This data visualization is important because there are so many articles right now that are telling different stories. None of them are entirely wrong. They’re using different data and it’s confusing.

The situation in the Amazon is that there have been many fires this month. Many of which have been started intentionally for agricultural purposes. When you put up a map like the first one, people think it’s a natural disaster. It isn’t. What’s going on in the Amazon is human-led deforestation and, while tragic, it is no accident. We need to shift the conversation to why those fires are started in the first place and how to move towards sustainable development. Portraying these fires as accidental obscures the need for a candid conversation about business interests and how they impact the environment.

You may be thinking, “Wait, Taylor, this is all science stuff. What does that have to do with digital humanities?” And to that, I say, “everything.” While these maps may be portraying an environmental issue, what we learn from it is relevant to all disciplines. When you use maps for a project, know that you are responsible for how they are read. As previously mentioned, no map is free from bias or agenda. It’s easy in disciplines that aren’t “hard sciences” to get the brunt of the subjectivity critique, but the fact of the matter is that even “hard sciences” are subject to biases and should go about research carefully.

As researchers, in any discipline, it is important to realize the power of data visualization and to need to wield that power responsibly.

Summer Fellows Blog 7/8: Kimberly Springer

Despite having barely scraped by in both high school and college French, two of my favorite sayings from that language are: je ne regrette rien. “I regret nothing” is more aspirational than reality, but it resonates with me at this stage in the digital humanities fellowship and stewarding black feminist organizations’ archival materials from analog to the digital space.

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Summer Fellows Blog 6/18: Pamela Phillips

I have lived in public housing for the majority of my life and experienced first-hand how the negative images and perceptions of public housing communities and residents can invoke feelings of shame and embarrassment because of the way media influences public discourse. The communities are portrayed as breeding grounds for crime and drugs and the residents are often characterized as people who don’t work, are lazy and want to live off of the government. Much of what mainstream media writes about public housing often has a negative tinge; focusing primarily on the conditions of the buildings, mismanagement of the properties, government disinvestment, and the impact of concentrated poverty. Residents are sought for comment mainly to add authenticity to reported claims. Rarely are they asked to provide a counter-narrative or about anything other than the housing stock, as if there aren’t whole lives being discounted. It is a personal and professional goal to bring residents’ stories into the light, paint these developments with an air of community and hope and highlight public housing as a stabilizing force in urban communities.

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Summer Fellows Blog 6/17: Kimberly Springer

Can’t a document live? Developing an Online Black Feminist Digital Archive

Social movement researchers and social historians have come to realize that to tell the story of recent histories previously left out of the historical record, we need but ask the people who were there. We ask them the basic who, what, when, where and how of what they did to create social change. But we’re also taught to inquire after their archive: “Do you have any photos, flyers, documents?” We’re encouraged to add to the historical record through interpreting their words, but also to seek material objects that can be added to an archive for future versions of our inquiring selves.

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Summer Fellows Blog 6/14: Celia Naylor

The Rose Hall Great House has been immortalized not because of Jamaica’s slavery past; rather, it signifies for most local Jamaicans and visiting tourists alike a haunted house, in which the ghost of its most famous mistress, Annie Mary Palmer (née Paterson), roams the grounds as the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” The most renowned plantation home in Jamaica located in the Montego Bay area, it has become a popular wedding venue and tourist destination attracting over 100,000 visitors per year. It also vividly represents one telling example of how popular fascination with slavery distorts reconstructions of slavery in the present day. Based primarily on Herbert G. de Lisser’s 1929 novel The White Witch of Rosehall, the contemporary Rose Hall tours neglect the stories of enslaved people entirely. Instead, visitors leave with a titillating story about Annie Palmer; and, the names and experiences of enslaved women, men, and children who labored at Rose Hall remain unspoken, unremembered, and unmemorialized.

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Summer Fellows Blog 6/14: Katherynn Sandoval

Hello, welcome to my first blog post. My name is Katherynn Sandoval, I am a current undergraduate student at Barnard College. This summer I am working as a Summer Research Fellow at the Digital Humanities Center. I will be conducting research on immigration and education. My research is focused mainly on the integration of transnational immigrant students into U.S. colleges and universities. Through an extensive literature review on higher education and immigration policies, as well as student interviews, I hope to uncover and address the challenges immigrant students face in getting a higher education degree.

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