This is a guest post from Camille Salas, an intern with the Library of Congress.
In addition to the audio, physical, and visual media that students will encounter as they head back to school this fall, some students will use Viewshare* for the first time to explore a variety of new subjects. The Swag Diplomacy: Black Travel Memoirs view is a great example of how educators are utilizing Viewshare to showcase not only research but also engage students in learning about “fascinating people and remarkable places.” I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans and Moya Bailey, the primary creators of the view about this important work and how they would like to see it used.
Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans is Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of African American Studies, Africana Women’s Studies and History at Clark Atlanta University. She is the former Director of African American Studies at the University of Florida. She is author of Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History (2007) and co-editor of African Americans and Community Engagement in Higher Education (2009). Evans earned her PhD in Afro-American Studies in 2003 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her publications and full bio are available at http://www.professorevans.net/.
Moya Bailey is a graduate fellow in the Digital Scholarship Commons at Emory University where she explores critical race, feminist, and disability studies. Her current work focuses on constructs of health and normativity within a US context. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She is a blogger and digital alchemist for the Crunk Feminist Collective.
Camille: Moya, your website (http://moyabailey.com/) notes that you introduced Dr. Evans to Viewshare, please tell us how you came to hear about Viewshare and your interest in using it. (Editor’s note: the Viewshare program was retired in 2018.)
Moya: I was fortunate enough to attend THATCamp CHNM the unconference for digital humanists hosted by the George Mason Center for History and New Media. Trevor Owens did a workshop on Viewshare, which was beautifully described as a platform for visualising data with mapping capabilities. It was especially helpful that the workshop description said to bring data in a CSV format so I and other participants got to plug in our data and play immediately! I saw what a great tool it was and emailed Stephanie that day to show her what Viewshare could do! It was truly love at first sight!
Camille: Moya, what prompted the connection between Viewshare and the SWAG (start with a guide) Diplomacy project? You mentioned on your website that, “There’s nothing like working with a scholar and showing them there’s a way to get what they have in their head out into the world where others can access it.”
Moya: Stephanie reached out to me, a graduate fellow at Emory’s Digital Scholarship Commons, to help make a map for her amazing project charting the world travels of famous African Americans as described in their autobiographies. Initially, she’d found some mapping software that wasn’t the right fit. I suggested Google Maps, which was closer to what she needed, but users could not map multiple points at the same location. For example, Paris, France, was a popular destination for many African Americans but you could only see one point on the map at a time and couldn’t tell there were 29 other people under a data point of Billie Holiday in Paris. When I saw the Viewshare workshop advertised, I thought it would be a right fit and it was! I was able to take my Excel file and create a view during the workshop that allowed you to see and search by “Traveler” and “Country.” It was exactly what we were looking for!
Camille: Dr. Evans, I really enjoyed looking at this view as it is rich with information for those who might not have previous knowledge about the subject matter. Please tell us about the SWAG Diplomacy project and what your plans were for disseminating or sharing the information prior to your introduction to Viewshare?
Dr. Evans: Swag Diplomacy is an outgrowth of my teaching a Mentoring ‘At-risk’ Youth course for the past ten years in communities from California and Massachusetts to Rhode Island and Florida. The project is designed as a curriculum for teachers and mentors using the international travel memoirs of 200 Black autobiographers. These narratives can help address issues that arise in young lives from violence and substance abuse to identity issues and academic challenges. S.W.A.G. stands for “Start With a Guide” and Diplomacy means an outreach effort to mentor youth for global competency.
Dr. Evans: Essentially, this project reflects my own life story. Part of my life was very privileged because as an Air Force “brat” I lived in Germany from 7 to 10 years old, which provided a memorable childhood experience that prompted me to travel later, in my academic life, to Brazil, England, Tanzania and Paris. The other part of my life was spent surviving many of the ‘at-risk’ factors I now try to mediate through my mentoring classes. This project brings together 200 Black narratives as tools of hope and guidance, the two things youth need most. The Viewshare platform was–literally–the perfect application for the vision in my head. As a traveler, I have always been interested in maps and this platform that Moya introduced me to was the perfect digital application of my work. She is definitely brilliant, “crunk” and “quirky” and her passion for digital humanities matched my own passion for using digital humanities as a tool for maximizing the impact of Black intellectual history. She is a very enthusiastic but patient teacher which can be seen in the quality of the final product. The site will soon be accompanied by my book, which should be available in 2013. The two resources, when used in tandem, will enhance how adults guide adolescent development.
Camille: Dr. Evans and Moya Bailey, please tell us about the process of working together to create this view. What was the division of labor like? What did you learn from the experience in terms of using Viewshare to showcase the research?
Moya: When Stephanie approached me about the project, we enlisted Whitney Peoples, a fellow Emory graduate student, to create the CSV file of the data that Stephanie had already meticulously collected from 200 autobiographies and memoirs. In addition, Whitney located images of each traveler, links to their biographies and autobiographies. I did the initial search for additional mapping programs and constructed the layout for the Google map and then finally our Viewshare map. I taught Stephanie and her research assistant how to use Viewshare and how to update the view by simply refreshing the data.
Dr. Evans: For three years, I collected data of names and travel locations from Black life stories. I knew I wanted to map the global locations, and had Google Maps or another platform in mind, but also knew the sheer volume of the data was too much for me to do alone. Knowing of the Emory Digital Scholarship Commons, I called for assistance and, when connected with Moya, it was instant symbiosis. I am a wannabe techie, maintaining my own website, but Moya KNOWS the digital ins-and-outs of systems in a way that brought the site to fruition in a very short turn around time. Her suggestion of bringing Whitney aboard for the data CSV creation, helped move it forward at lightening speed and Yvonne Nash, an undergraduate history major at Clark Atlanta University, spent the last half of her summer taking the project to the next level by scouring additional web sources to clean up and beef up the number of online bios available for each traveler. Support for the project also came from Dr. Sean Warner, Dean of the CAU College of Education and from Dr. Gwendolyn Mitchell, Director of the CAU Center for Excellence in Faculty Development who gave me digital support to access and edit the project.
Camille: Dr. Evans and Moya Bailey, the Swag Diplomacy view is noted as a curriculum for teachers, what grade levels do you have in mind and how would you recommend that teachers use it?
Dr. Evans: Because of the ease of access, this can be used for all grade levels, but the target audience ranges from middle/high school to college/graduate school. The SWAG digital project highlights biography and geography but, for the book project, I expand to address four subject areas of national and Georgia State standards (grades 9-12): history, geography, vocabulary, and writing (poetry). With this data set of 200 authors, there are endless possible applications for teachers and mentors.
For teachers, I suggest paring history assignments based on the areas of “Historical Thinking Standards” of UCLA National Center for History in the Schools, especially area #4 “Historical Research Capabilities”. Another intended use is to explore U.S. Civil Rights history (Georgia History Standards SSUSH22), which clearly calls for investigation of Black politics (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965), education (Brown v. Board of Education, religion/social movements (Martin Luther King, Jr.), and culture (Jackie Robinson).
Georgia Department of Education’s geography curriculum standards challenges students to “describe the interaction of physical and human systems that have shaped: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica.” . In addition, standards require a general understanding of sub-themes that include Physical Characteristics and Concept of Place People, Culture, Customs.
In Language Arts, the Georgia Standard includes multicultural literature, particularly poetry. In the SWAG DIPLOMACY book, I also provide 1255 words pulled from 12 autobiographies; this approach will allow students to learn vocabulary words from more than a random word list. This approach uses words as an entry point to getting to know fascinating people and remarkable places.
Dr. Evans: The mentoring aspect is also central to the project, as my partners over the past decade have included Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, Reichert House and PACE Centers (Gainesville, FL) and both middle and high school programs. So, as with the clasroom curriculum, I engaged these agencies, their mission statements, and their mentoring praxis as a basis for how I framed these narratives. Thus, we better understand hard issues like rape or molestation by reading Pam Grier, Maya Angelou and Antwone Fisher; drug addition through Richard Pryor and Billy Holiday; domestic violence through Tina Turner, Sandy “Pepa” Denton, Miles Davis and Bill Russell; identity development through Walter White, Ru Paul and Mae Jemison; and relationships through William and Ellen Craft, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, and Angela Basset and Courtney Vance. In addition to guides for life and school, I focus on work and career choice as a third topic facing youth. Beyond a guide for children, this SWAG Viewshare will also be of interest to advanced scholars doing narrative, comparative or international research.
Camille: Dr. Evans and Moya Bailey, are there any other features you would like to see in Viewshare that would be helpful for teachers and students? Do you have plans for creating any other views?
Dr. Evans: This may already exist, but it would be helpful to be able to track visitors. On my personal site, I can track visitors, which is especially exciting, given the international aspect of this project.