What brought me into History: By Adam Sparks

From 1999 to 2001, at the ages of 10 to 12, I resided along with my parents in history.  The house we lived in was located just outside of the historic village of Granville Ohio.  I will not state the exact address to spare the current owner any embarrassment from what I will later state in this post.  The large four bedroom two story house was built in 1824 and was a part of the historic Underground Railroad that went through the community.  The community Granville is filled with homes similar in erection dates, and similar histories.  Additions to our home were made in the 1960s which added a larger master bedroom, a ballroom, and a second dining section.  Erected next to the house on the seven acre lot was a large barn that was similar to the size of the house and built at the time of the house’s original erection.

In a closet, on the second floor of our house, there was a hidden door that opened up to a much larger area where I perceive to this day was a location where escaping slaves would have possibly hid from the slave holding southerners who would travel north to recapture their perceived property.  Other hiding spaces were hidden throughout the estate.  The home still held a strong 19th century spirit, from the ability to see logs from the original trees that were cleared for the house in 1824, to untouched architecture in the original wing of the home.  The three fireplaces and wood-burning stove were still used at times when the central heat was not strong enough against the harsh Ohio winters.

My bedroom, the original master upstairs bedroom, was only modified with the incorporation electricity and air vents, addition of carpet, and restoration of the paint.  There was still not a ceiling light, as I was required to have floor lamps in the large room where the very abolitionists in the 19th century slept. The various original windows, doors, walls, ceilings, doorways, fireplaces, trees were as it was when the very abolitionists walked, ate, spoke, and lived in that house.  To me, when the power went out, the house came alive.  We were then able to live as they did 176 years before us.  Candles, no central air, no electronically made sounds; just the sounds of the house gave us entertainment.

The barn was another area of great entertainment growing up.  Playing with my cousins in the hay lofts and around the untouched structure allowed my imagination to flow.  Both the home and the barn had a massive impact on my childhood, although I had just lived there for a couple of years.  The beauty of the area and the rich history of the home were lost when we had to move to Oklahoma.  As a child, and through my teen years, I held little respect for the history around me at our new home.  Lately I have been completely fascinated with the history there as well.  But my desires still remain to this day to return to Ohio.  People call me crazy, but I am still in love with that region, with the history, and with other non-historic factors that I find joy in (especially the cooler weather).

Another factor that contributes to my desire of preservation takes me back to the house just outside of Granville that we left in the spring of 2001.  Unfortunately the residents that moved into the home after we left brought the home into a state of chaos.  With no respect to the historic value, the house seems junked.  The white paint on the fenses has deteriorated, the barn seems ruined, and the once peaceful property is full of junk.  The calmness and serenity of the house is gone, and it cries for restoration and a return back to the way we had it some 11 years ago.  My family doesn’t understand my emotional attachment to this one house, yet it is still there.  I feel for those in the community that have to see this piece of history deteriorate.  I hope that one day, someone will take it in and restore it, yet I am not optimistic at this point.  I have had dreams that I would inherit a large sum of money, then travel back to Granville, and save that estate from extinction.  Yet those dreams are just dreams, and time is of the essence.  As the year pass, the deterioration continues, and soon that house may disappear along with the history inside of it.

Remixing Rural Texas=Remix (YouTube) + Data Source Annotation (Mozilla Popcorn)

Our Digital Humanities project consists of two elements: (1) a remix, delivered via YouTube and consisting of archival materials (university archives,  Library of Congress, public domain films, oral history interviews, news reports) and other artifacts produced for other purposes and (2) a prototype utilizing Mozilla Popcorn to provide direct links and other relevant information concerning the original context of all source materials, as well as relevant temporal and geographical details linked to timing in the playback.

I described our latest remix in the previous post.  Here, I focus on the second element, the prototype itself. The first 121 seconds of annotations have been loaded into the prototype and are available to share at Remixing Rural Texas. Some corrections need to take place, most notably: (a) video appearing in prototype is not the final version of our remix and (b) the timing of annotations is way off after first 60 seconds. Both of these concerns seem minor and quickly corrected. Instead of focusing on what you won’t see in the current version of prototype, I want to note the items you WILL (now and soon) and what we think makes this demo significant. 

View prototype depicted here and described below at Remixing Rural Texas.

PROJECT TREATMENT

The project consists of two components: a short documentary, remixed almost entirely from existing archival materials, and a prototype (using a variation on the data-source annotation tool powered by Mozilla Popcorn) designed to foreground the original context of all audio, video, and image-based materials included in the remix, as well as permissions for all artefacts, relevant geographical and temporal context contexts, and additional contextual elements. I will take each element in turn.

REMIX (delivered through YouTube)

Described above, the remix itself offers the initial layers of this local story about communication across difference in 1968—first through sprinters what has been dubbed the “Sports Moment that Changed the World” (see Carlos and Zirin’s The John Carlos Story, 2011):  John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s silent protest at the Mexico City Olympics that followed initial attempts to establish a global channel for this communication about equality and social justice (through the Olympic Project for Human Rights or “OPHR”). We then turn to the time one of those two sprinters spent at our rural university just two years earlier, as part of the ETSU track team from 1966-1967. In this local context, Carlos experienced de jure racism for the first time in his life (Carlos was raised in Harlem). He was here when he first first learned of OPHR, from a Track and Field article in 1967 that generated OPHR’s first most significant and visible and press coverage. While in this local context, Carlos began speaking to local reporters about racism he was witnessing across the region, a fact understandably met with widespread local resistance and eventually leading to Carlos leaving Commerce altogether. The final section turns to another local attempt to establish “a clear channel” for social justice, this one developed on the night of MLK’s assignation when students established a “clear channel” for communication across difference through the Afro American student Society of East Texas.

AUDIO, VIDEO, and IMAGE (text-based, including direct links)

The remix brings together a wide range of artifacts, the vast majority of which were created for other purposes. Our variation of the data-source annotation tool provided by Mozilla Popcorn enables us to make visible the original context for all artifacts included, a use inspired by Jonathan McIntosh’s HTML5 demo of his popular Right Wing Radio Duck(rebelliouspixals.com), which Carter saw one month before her NEH ODH grant application materials were due (in February 2011) and quickly adapted for the humanities content and scholarly purposes she wished to design (grant awarded Summer 2011 for project to be completed December 2012).

The contexts for which almost all of the artefacts selected were originally created and circulated significantly informs the arguments, narratives, and counternarratives largely contained in the remix itself. Our goal is to provide all the information viewers need to explore the original context from which we drew the remix’s audio, video, and images. Where possible, then, we draw from permanent collections maintained by professional archivists—university archives, the Library of Congress, and similar repositories providing free, public access. We also draw extensively from respected, growing repositories of digital content like Archive.org (especially the Prelinger Archives). The remix has also yielded a wide array of artifacts previously unavailable to the general public, including items from the personal archives of local activists and oral history interviews we Carter and other members of the research team have conducted in the course of our research. The vast majority of these items are now available in the Special Collections at Texas A&M-Commerce, thanks to the generous donations of their original owners.  Where possible, we link directly to the source materials. Many artefacts utilized are publically available but not digitized, thus we provide the complete information necessary to locate the items. Each artefact communicates vital information to researchers, yet knowing where to find the item serves another purpose as well: to encourage others to remix the content themselves.

PERMISSIONS (text-based, including direct links)

We take as a given the important role played by doctrine of Fair Use, especially as copyright law (can) encourage creativity and especially as this particular treatment and the application of popcorn to it further establishes it as appropriately “Fair

Use” in compliance with all four factors of section 107 of the Copyright Law.  Where possible, we draw from materials in the Public Doman or holding Creative Commons licensing options that allow the uses we require. Where possible, materials we have created for this remix hold the CC licensing option Attribution-ShareAlike and are placed in the Northeast Texas Digital Collections in the James G. Gee Library at Texas A&M-Commerce. An extended discussion of “Permissions” and links to relevant source materials will be available at https://raceinthedh.wordpress.com/permissions/ on or before August 10, 2012.

MAP (interactive, Google Maps)

The map communicates vital geographical information via an interactive Google Maps option, one we borrowed directly from the elements Mozilla Labs have made available to Mozilla Popcorn users. For our purposes, the map enables viewers to better understand the current, often locally-driven stories as they relate to other places.

TIMELINE (image-based, with embedded link)

Initially, we planned to develop an interactive timeline for the same reasons we incorporated the interactive Google Maps option.  Many open-source options for dynamic timelines are available, of course. We have not yet been able to incorporate the timeline into our prototype, however. Instead, we will create the timelines as static images with an embedded link that leads to an interactive timeline hosted elsewhere. We will complete this element by November 2012.

FOOTNOTES (text-based, including direct links)

Much of the narrative includes direct quotes from a range of scholarly sources, including much of Carter’s own more traditional, print-based scholarship. When direct quotes occur in the narration, the footnote provides the exact reference including the page number. Also included in the “footnote” are the sources and page numbers for direct quotes appearing on the screen. For us, the “footnote” here functions in many of the same ways the “in-text citation” functions in Modern Language Association documentation format.

CONTEXT (text-based, including direct links)

In many ways the “context” elements function much as would the scholarly “notes” or “endnotes” in traditional, print-based scholarship. We like to think of this element as contributing most directly to the prototype as a “scholarly edition” of the remix itself, providing relevant scholarly, historical, and theoretical information viewers might find especially useful in teasing apart the various storylines embedded in the current remix and inviting deep participation of readers as they construct counternarratives and/or extend existing ones.

AUDIENCE (intended and strategy for engagement)

The target audience is scholars and students in rhetoric, composition, and communication studies, academic/public historians, academic/public librarians, especially those interested in activist rhetoric, the long civil rights movement and, especially, the black freedom struggle.

Our plan to engage audiences across the specified media platforms:

The project addresses issues of key concern (communication across difference) by drawing from material likely to be familiar to many, reframing the key issues by juxtaposing the familiar with the unfamiliar and, in doing so, hopefully making both the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Our desire is to inspire and facilitate new research on communication across difference among speakers and writers underrepresented in our scholarship, classrooms, public programing, creative works, and collective memories. By calling attention to one local context we hope to inspire others to do the same, perhaps further extrapolating these or related issues in Commerce, Texas, or (we hope) attending to similar issues in the viewer’s own local contexts. Perhaps new remixes and data-source annotations might even remix other local contexts with the narratives emerging in this particular university town.

Such issues of audience engagement are of key concern to us in the next phases of this project. The current phase (Start Up) is primarily expository rather than participatory. We are fundamentally concerned with the potential for this prototype to encourage and enable participation among a variety of community, educators, and researchers as partners. Thus our next phase will foreground these efforts.

DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY

In addition to direct reference, use, and extended analysis in two key national publications appearing in September 2012 (bibliography below), we are already scheduled to present this project at a variety of area and national events. Below please find scholarly publications and presentations already scheduled for the upcoming year.

Publications

Carter, Shannon and James H. Conrad. “In Possession of Community: Towards a More Sustainable Local.” CCC (September 2012).

Carter, Shannon. “A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town.” CLJ (September 2012).

Carter, Shannon and Kelly Dent. “Racing the Digital Humanities: Rhetorical Historiography and Community Engagement.” College English (invited). September 2013.

Carter, Shannon. Keynote. Florida Writing Symposium. University of Central Florida. Orlando, FL. September 21, 2012.

Carter, Shannon, with Steve Parks (Syracuse University) and Deborah Mutnick (Long Island University-Brooklyn). Imagining America. New York. October 5, 2012.

Carter, Shannon, with Kelly Dent, and Sunchai Hamcumpai. Thomas R. Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition. Louisville, KY. October 21, 2012.

Carter, Shannon, with John Carlos (featured speaker). Conference on College Composition and Communication. Las Vegas, NV. March 21, 2013.

Carter, Shannon, with John Carlos and Nancy Welch. CCCC (Writing Democracy). Las Vegas, NV. March 21, 2013.

Carter, Shannon, Kelly Dent, Belford Page, Jennifer Jones. CCCC (panel). Las Vegas, NV. March 21, 2013.

FUNDING

Our project has been funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (Start Up Grant HD-51398-11) and direct and in-kind support of Texas A&M-Commerce’s Office of the Provost, College of Arts and Humanities, Special Collections (Gee Library), and Faculty Center for Teaching with Technology.

For future project phases building from this prototype, we will be applying for an ACLS Digital Innovations Award (due September 26, 2012) and an NEH Digital Implementation grant (due January 2013), as well as a Media Grant from Humanities Texas (in November 2012).

PROJECT STAGE

Other than the Timeline, all project elements for Remixing Rural Texas will be complete and finalized by no later than midnight CST on August 10, 2012. Timeline complete by November 1, 2012.

As of July 27th, 2012

Remix complete. Prototype complete. First 121 seconds of data-source annotations loaded into prototype (for Audio, Video, Image, Map, Context, Footnote, and Permissions). Between date of submission and August 10, 2012, we will be finalizing details and complete input of data-source annotations.

Above elements from the application I just submitted for the The Pixel Market 2012 contest. Application materials found at reda-THE-PIXEL-MARKET-2012_Shannon-Carter

“A Clear Channel: Part I”

Our second remix, A Clear Channel, may be our best one yet! We are planning a screening at Texas A&M-Commerce on August 7, 2012, in Innovations A in the Sam Rayburn Student Center at Texas A&M-Commerce. But you needn’t wait nor travel from afar.  All you need to view this component is an internet connection.

Summary: A short documentary (A Clear Channel) about the complexity of communicating about racism in America, drawing attention to this this issue as it played out in one local context (a rural university town) at a particularly complex time (after 1964, as the first African American students set foot on this campus that had been segregated since 1889). Narrative remixes collective memories of 1968 drawn from existing source materials to explore attempts by local African American student activists in a newly desegregated university to communicate about race in ways that promote social justice.

STORY SYNOPSIS

We begin with a quote from Martin Luther King’s memoir that implies racism in America can be solved through effective communication across difference, which segregation makes impossible for obvious reasons: “. . . they cannot communicate because they are separated” (King). The local context under investigation in the current remix is one of the last two public colleges in Texas to begin the process of desegregation (in 1964).

The remix itself is “a story about what happened next.” More precisely: “If, as MLK” implied, “. . . segregation led to hate based on fear resulting from the unknown perpetuated by the lack of communication forced by our physical and legal separation, how did communication change after desegregation reached this rural university town?”  That question guides the remix, drawing extensively from a range of scholarly, instructional, popular, contemporary, and current artifacts that foreground the many complexities surrounding communication in 1968—locally, nationally, around the world. Especially important to our analysis are the tensions surrounding the civil rights movement most traditionally represented in sentiments like that offered in the MLK quote that opens the remix (and which King himself challenged) and rhetoric of collective resistance that emerged, in part, as a response to the increasing frustration with civil right’s legislation’s many unfulfilled promises. Our remix takes this tension into one local context, teasing apart the critical race narratives embodied in local attempts to disrupt the racism that persists in everyday life across the nation. A core text throughout is the Charles and Ray Eames instructional film A Communications Primer(1953), a rich, influential film based loosely on Claude Shannon’s seminal text “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” (1948), the latter of which is widely regarded as the foundational theory for information studies. The remix uses this linear model of communication and its theory of “noise” as both a touchstone text and a point of departure. Building on Shannon Carter’s scholarly article “A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town” (2012), among others, the current remix suggests attempts to communicate about racism in America relied on the creation of new “channels” to counter more established ones.

More specifically, the remix offers the initial layers of this local story about communication across difference in 1968—first through sprinters what has been dubbed the “Sports Moment that Changed the World” (see Carlos and Zirin’s The John Carlos Story, 2011):  John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s silent protest at the Mexico City Olympics that followed initial attempts to establish a global channel for this communication about equality and social justice (through the Olympic Project for Human Rights or “OPHR”). We then turn to the time one of those two sprinters spent at our rural university just two years earlier, as part of the ETSU track team from 1966-1967. In this local context, Carlos experienced de jure racism for the first time in his life (Carlos was raised in Harlem). He was here when he first first learned of OPHR, from a Track and Field article in 1967 that generated OPHR’s first most significant and visible and press coverage. While in this local context, Carlos began speaking to local reporters about racism he was witnessing across the region, a fact understandably met with widespread local resistance and eventually leading to Carlos leaving Commerce altogether. The final section turns to another local attempt to establish “a clear channel” for social justice, this one developed on the night of MLK’s assignation when students established a “clear channel” for communication across difference through the Afro American student Society of East Texas

Deadlines

As we press forward at a frenetic pace – we are right on target to meet our August 9 deadline. Our second video A Clear Channel is halfway complete. The team is collaborating in the CLiC office under the direction of Dr. Carter who treated us to a fantastic lunch today! What I am inspired by, is the creative process that we are generating as we work collaboratively to have this documentary function as a powerful statement on race relations during the 1960’s.

Today we have focused on Part IV of the video which covers aspects of Black Nationalism including the John Carlos story and the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Pulling aspects from BBC Newsreels and Archive.org, we have gathered some amazing material for this piece.

Collaborating in the Digital Humanities

Remixing Rural Texas is a true collaboration. I am fortunate enough to be working with a group of brilliant and hardworking scholars like Shannon Carter, Kelly Dent, Adam Sparks and Sunchai Hamcumpai. We spent today in the CLiC office going over every inch of the first half of the storyboard for A Clear Channel. This included citing numerous sources, links to artifacts, research on the spot and editing.

As Adam edited the video, Kelly researched, helped us find artifacts on the wiki and kept us organized. I worked on the storyboard to ensure that every single piece of audio, imagery and video was accessible and clear on the board while making sure that all was in order. Sunchai worked from Denton on specific imagery that needed retouching and detailing for the highest resolution possible as well as generating citations for the bibliography.

It would not be possible to generate such a powerful documentary without everyone working together in such a positive manner. We continue to push forward to meet our deadlines with a spirit of true collaboration, hard work and talent.

While our fearless leader (Dr. Carter) meets with scholars in Santa Fe this week, we will continue working on this piece for the rest of the week.

Jennifer Jones

Storyboards galore

As the Storyboard person, I develop, maintain, and keep track of the storyboards we use to develop our videos and our Popcorn. This can sometimes mean making three or four edits in a single day, and hunting down changes to reconcile what’s actually in the video with what’s actually in the board.

Today, to help out a team member, it meant developing an individualized storyboard. Sunchai is responsible for managing the Bibliography/Works Cited for the videos and for the annotations. But, I noticed on our first video, that tracking down sources can be a little time consuming. So he now has his own storyboard that will help him keep track of everything that’s in the video, so he can immediately question team members if something is missing. This should ease the editing process greatly.

Storyboards also help us analyze and contextualize the message. Through the boards, we are able to see whether the video is telling the story we actually want to tell, and to make changes to communicate with each other.

As the developer of the storyboards, their format makes perfect sense for my divide-and-conquer mind. But I recognize that they can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. I’m always ready to help explain the boards, and help out team members in crafting special boards for them, but the really awesome thing is that the board works perfectly for our techies, who have their own column for timestamps, and can work through whatever issues they have.

Kelly Dent

Race in the Archives

Jeremy Floyd and Robyn Hollis

In preparation for our next video, A Clear Channel, Kelly and I spent over two hours scanning artifacts in the archives. As part of the process, we went through President D. Whitney Halliday’s papers searching for the demands that AASET presented to the administration. During this process we found correspondence relating to the civil unrest on the ETSU campus comparing its response to that of Northwestern University and Columbia University. Also found were photographs in the East Texan and the East Texan Special that showed the successful programs that AASET generated, including a breakfast program for children of the Norris Community. These papers also documented the campus’s reaction to desegregation and the administration’s moves to satisfy the needs of all students.

We were assisted by our wonderful and amazing librarians Jeremy Floyd, Assistant Archivist, and Robyn Hollis, Cataloguing Assistant. Andrea Weddle, Director of the Special Collections, has been extremely supportive of our project and has granted us access to the archives on a regular basis. Adam Northam, Digital Librarian, has been a central player in this project as he has assisted us through digitizing our Oral Histories and supported us in developing our goal of offsite consumption. Holly Naramore, Special Collections Assistant, has also supported our team by helping us find relevant materials. We are forever indebted to this group of librarians for all of their help, and truly could not accomplish any part of this project without them.