Paul Faulstich: Update from Visual Ecology

In addition to building and curating personal online portfolios, students in Paul Faulstich’s course this semester have begun the ambitious project of creating a Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park. In Visual Ecology — a combined theory & praxis course developed with the help of a Digital Course Development Grant from DH@CC — we integrate studio art with scholarly analysis and engaged field research as we create socially and environmentally responsible works. The primary class project has two components: 1) a hardcopy field guide, and 2) a corresponding website.

The Claremont Wilderness Park is a treasured community resource of almost 2,500 acres of chaparral habitat. The City of Claremont estimates that there are about 500,000 visits to the Wilderness Park each year. The Park is habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna, but most of the visitors do not have an understanding of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. This field guide will provide a resource for visitors to help them better appreciate the plants, animals, history, and geology of this cherished part of our city. The Field Guide will be a “pocket naturalist guide”: a laminated, accordion folded pamphlet with illustrations of the most important plant and animal species. Approximately 15-20 plants will be depicted, along with about 25 animals (about 10 of which will be birds). Each species will include its common and scientific names, identifying features, and size. For mammals, their tracks will be shown. The scientific drawings are being created by students, and the photographs are from Professor Faulstich’s ongoing trailcam research. The Guide will also include a map of the Wilderness Park and its trail system, an introduction to the ecology of the chaparral habitat, brief overviews of the geology, fire ecology, and environmental history of the area, credits and acknowledgements, and a salute to Tongva for having cared for this land for eons before it came to be known as Claremont.

The website will provide a source of additional information related to the Field Guide. The website will allow visitors to click on images of plants and animals to get more in-depth information, including material on medicinal uses of plants and animal behavior and demographics, and video clips of animals engaged in their natural activities. A GIS Story Map will allow users to click on a diagram of the Wilderness Park to access detailed information on specific locales. The class is working with the Digital Humanities of the Claremont Colleges staff to create and populate the site with more detailed natural history than can be included in the Guide.

We’re fortunate to live near open spaces large enough to sustain astonishing wildlife. The Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park and its corresponding website could become resources enabling our community to gain understanding and appreciation of our local natural environment.

Microblogging as Scholarship

Students in this year’s Digital Humanities Studio (DGHM 150): Archaeology in a Digital Age have spent the first half of the semester critically examining digital platforms and digitally curated data. Twitter, in particular, has got a bad rep. When most people think about the social media platform, they imagine brief snippets of news containing links to additional information, or the unsolicited thoughts of celebrities and the general public. Few conceive of Twitter and other social media platforms as effective means of teaching concise writing with a creative twist for pedagogical purposes. In a recent studio assignment, Microblogging as Scholarship, that coincided with Dr. Donna Zuckerberg’s lecture, “How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes”: The Alt-Right’s Infatuation with Stoic Philosophy, students in the studio “live-tweeted” to this end.

DZ Lecture

Live-tweeting has the potential to change the way audience members listen to, process, and engage with research, and this practice is consequently growing in popularity at conferences and academic lectures. Live-tweeting is posting a series of focused tweets that offer a minute-by-minute rundown on what is being shared by the speaker/panelists and what questions are being asked by the audience—all in real-time. Why are scholars and students live-tweeting in the first place? We live in an age where many of us own smart phones. For this reason, many of us have the ability to promote and communicate knowledge on a globally accessible platform with just the click of a button. By broadcasting information via platforms like Twitter, we can uphold our fundamental responsibility as scholars to openly share our work with a broad audience rather than only with other academics behind closed doors.

Because this was the first time many of the students had been encouraged to formally engage with a platform like Twitter, they composed their “tweets” in a form set up specifically for this assignment. Their collective “tweets” not only demonstrate their engagement with the topic but also provide a useful summary of the talk, readily accessible to those who weren’t able to attend. You can learn all about their take on this important subject, a play-by-play of the lecture itself, and some thoughtful reflections on microblogging as scholarship by accessing their “tweets” here.

For more information about the Digital Humanities Studio (DGHM 150), visit the course website.

Daniela Hinojosa Sada: Update from Hovig Tchalian’s “Fake News” Lab

Several students and faculty from the Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and Pomona College (PO) have collectively come together to form the Digital Innovation & Text Analysis “Fake News” Lab, a lab with the goal to find a method to evaluate truth claims, public statements, and the trustworthiness of news stories. While similar research in the past has looked at superficial features such as article headlines and article sources as reference points for a text’s trustworthiness, this lab is looking at linguistic (semantic and syntactic) features which could be more holistically indicative of a text’s trustworthiness. The project is an extension of a similar early-stage research project from a year prior, but this lab has the goal of further developing and improving upon the dataset and method of evaluation of trustworthiness that resulted the previous project’s work.

The lab meets weekly and provides students with an opportunity to work under the guidance of an experienced faculty member, Professor Hovig Tchalian, a professor of management whose research focus is language and innovation. He also teaches an introductory data analysis course and uses text analysis techniques to study social discourse. The lab is managed by a project manager, Kristina Khederlarian (CGU PhD student in computational analytics and international relations). The rest of the research team is made up of Anthony Lyons (CGU PhD student in information systems), Amin Nash (CGU Master’s student in English critical theory and analysis), Brady DeMeritt (Pomona ‘19 majoring in computer science and linguistics & cognitive science), Daniela Hinojosa Sada (PO ‘19 majoring in linguistics), Alex Ker (PO ‘22 majoring in philosophy and computer science), and Jack Weber (PO ‘22 majoring in Computer Science and Economics).

Comprising people with diverse backgrounds, the team’s skill sets range from politics and simulation modeling to linguistics and computer science. The project, which is funded by a Project Research Grant from the Digital Humanities Initiative at The Claremont Colleges (DH@CC), has given students a chance to do extensive research by not only having them find and collect usable data sources, but by also having them process that data and use advanced digital techniques such as those of natural language processing and machine learning to analyze the data to create a trustworthiness prediction model. The lab has so far worked to collect data and process that data into linguistic features, and the next step is to use machine learning to identify relevant correlations between the data’s features and trustworthiness levels. There are hopes to in the future not only incorporate this research into team member’s dissertations and theses, but to also further analyze the role that a fake news proliferator’s intent, whether backed by malevolence or ignorance, plays in the manifestation of the linguistic features in fake news.

How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes – a lecture by Dr. Donna Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg Poster

The DH@CC team is excited to welcome Dr. Donna Zuckerberg, Editor-in-Chief of Eidolon, to campus this week. Dr. Zuckerberg’s timely lecture, entitled “How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes”: The Alt-Right’s Infatuation with Stoic Philosophy will be this Wednesday, March 6th, at 4:15pm in the Founders Room in the Claremont Colleges Library. For more information, please contact the DH@CC Team.

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DH@CC has been made possible through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.