Final Project Reflection

By Alaina Mathew

When I first started as an intern at the Create Caribbean Research Institute, we were made aware of the final project due at the end of the school year. Dr Esprit constantly advised us to browse through the topics on the carisealand site and review previous topics, in order to familiarise ourselves with the work ahead. Everything that we have learnt from the Digital Humanities course; from the DH tools, to analysing websites and articles, have led up to this moment. Presenting on our project of choice.
As a scuba diver, I have always been interested in marine life, so naturally I gravitated to the topic: Marine life and Global Earming. I was eager to combine my diving experience and knowledge with my skills and create a project that I was passionate about. Though I was excited to tackle this topic, it was later brought to my attention that there were no available spaces left for the topic. I decided to settle for The Economic and Political Impacts of Climate Change. I was saddened as this topic did not interest me in the slightest. And because of my lack of interest for the topic, I found it rather difficult to gather my thoughts and formulate a project title. I had no idea what exactly I was going to do. It was stressful and my mind was clouded with doubts.
After seeking out Dr. Esprit for guidance, she helped me figure out the direction in which I wanted to go, and so, the title “The Cost of Living in the Age of Climate Change” came about. With this topic in mind, I chose the community of Salisbury as my area of study. Salisbury is a community known for its farming as the village is built on agriculture and its economy is highly dependent on it. I chose this topic of research as I am a resident of the community. I believe that I can bare witness to the hindrances faced economically due to climate change. This project will highlight the farming grounds and commercial property affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and how they impact the economy of Salisbury.
Then another problem came along as I did not know how to represent my collected data. I was not quite sure which Digital Humanities Tool was best suited to represent my information. I spent a few days searching knightlab and spark in order to find the perfect software. I first found juxtapose from knightlab interesting and I wanted to compare the before and after the hurricane using a side by side image of the community. It was difficult to do this as I was unable to get the perfect images of the before and after. Then I concluded that storymap would be the best option for me to pinpoint the location of the farming grounds and damaged buildings. I started using storymap, however it became stressful as I was unable to locate specific places in Salisbury. The software only allowed me to select the general location of the community on a larger scale. This is where I had a mental breakdown and thought that I could not do this project. I thought that I had to change my topic and start from scratch, however Dr. Esprit saved the day yet again as she suggested an alternative method to present my data. Google maps. She showed me how to use it, and from there it was smooth sailing.
Overall, though I was not too impressed with my topic, and faced many challenges in the preparation I enjoyed researching and testing my skills. I found out many things about my community that I had not known before. I learned how much of an effect the businesses and agriculture has on Salisbury’s economy. And that year after the hurricane, along with research made me realise how important it is.

Project update- week 5

By Alaina Mathew

This week I decided to narrow down my topic by removing a certain area of study. Initially, I intended to map out houses, businesses and farming grounds that were affected by Hurricane Maria. I have come to realise, however that it would not be possible to map every house that has been damaged by the hurricane, since Salisbury is a large community. Moving forward, I will be focusing on mapping local businesses and farming grounds affected by the hurricane. I also began telling my project story through storymap using knightlab. I faced many problems as it was very difficult to pinpoint specific budings in the village of Salisbury since it’s a large area to cover. Even locating churches and restaurants posed a major issue. I came to a realisation that the Storymap DH tool was not able to execute my topic in the way that I desired. Initially, I had the intention to map multiple locations on each slide, under different categories. I was unable to do this because storymap creates an animation with a movement from locations (kind of like a timeline). This is when i decided to execute my project with a different tool. With the help of Dr. Esprit I was able to map my locations using Google maps. I created a rough draft of what i wanted in order to familiarize myself with the tool. It was much easier to operate and navigate than storymap. I was able to get clear images of the community of Salisbury, enabling me to pinpoint specifc locations without having to estimate distances. I was also able to add layers based on the category that i was focusing on. For example (one layer for businesses damaged by the hurricane, and another layer for farming grounds affected.) I intend to finish it within a few days.

For the upcoming week, and the next, I intend to interview a few local farmers and business owners on the economic strain on farming and businesses since Hurricane Maria. In this way, I will be able to receive information from the direct source (primary source). I will also try to complete the storymap, and find alternative methods to present my data.

Project update- week 1

By Alaina Mathew

Economic and political impacts of climate change. 
For the duration of this week, I mainly reflected on my project topic and thought of ways to go about research and collecting data and information for it. It was a bit difficult for me to come up with new ideas, as I went over my research questions a few times and tried to go more in depth with the questions. 

After speaking with a few locals in the farming industry, I found out that there are many farming grounds in Salisbury (mainly crops) and a few dairy and poultry farms. The major crop (cash crop) in Salisbury is watermelon. After the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017 , the production of watermelon and many crops like breadfruit decreased drastically. Directly after the hurricane certain foods such as Watermelon and tomatoes were in abundance After a while, was there was a major shortage in some of these crops. The prices of the little crops that were grown were raised immensely to make a profit to meet the high demand. An example of this is ground provision. The price of green bananas went from $1 per hand (about 7 individual green bananas) to $1 for a single green banana. Changes in agricultural supply result from the combination of changes in yields and changes in crop rotation. 

In a review article on the effects of global climate change on agriculture by Richard M Adams et al, I learned how certain climate change scenarios affects the crop yield. Temperature increases lead to higher respiration rates, shorter periods of seed formation and, consequently, lower biomass production. For example, higher temperatures result in a shorter grain filling period, smaller and lighter grains and, therefore, lower crop yields and perhaps lower grain quality (i.e. lower protein levels). As a response, farmers have taken action in making plant adaptations to climate change. 

For the upcoming week, I intend to do more research on the topic in order to stay more informed. I also wish to find out more about mapping and make myself more acquainted with the technology as I have no knowledge on It, and it is the main research tool I intend to use in presenting my research.

Project update- week 4

By Alaina Mathew

Throughout the week I continued to play with and navigate through the different software and their features. Adobe had a lot of features, such as spark, Photoshop mix, Photoshop express, Lightroom etc. I played around with the Photoshop features, however found no interest in them. Though I had sent onto spark the previous week, I went onto it again, this time with a different purpose. It’s features make it easy to use, especially to those who are not creative. The templates help aid in making a project. I have come to the conclusion that I will not be using Spark or any of the Adobe tools to complete my project.

Moving forward eith my Project, I will be using storymap from knightlab. I will map out the community of Salisbury, and pinpoint the business places, homes and farming grounds that were affected by the hurricane, with a short description of how it was affected. This seems like the most practical tool to use, considering my project topic, “Cost of Living in the Age of Climate Change”. I have been working on this bit by bit throughout the week.

I also wish to interview a few of the business owners to get an official statement on the damage/ effects the hurricane had on their business.

Project update- week 2

By Alaina Mathew

Economic and Political Impacts of Climate Change

Cost of Living in the Age of Climate Change.

Climate Change does not discriminate. It does not choose between the whites or blacks, or the Christians or Buddhist, it does not choose between the rich or poor. Climate Change doesn’t see colour, race, nationality, religion, finance. It affects us all.

As the semester approaches its end and the project is soon due, I cannot help but feel anxious and nervous. Though I have over a month left to complete my project, I feel as if I have accomplished nothing. Or not enough. I have often though about where I want to go with my topic, how exactly I’m going to tackle it but I feel overwhelmed because I’m not quite sure where to start. Climate change is a topic that everyone is aware of, yes. But I find it difficult to formulate a project that is specific, something that I can pinpoint and work on directly.

I have been researching for the past week about my topic. I found over 30 sites with relevant information on climate change. I mostly focused on the economic impacts of climate change on agriculture. To which I got a vast amount of websites and articles to read. The rest consisted of economic impacts of climate change on fisheries. What I did not research however and could not research was the economic impacts it has on communities. For my topic I will be assessing how people were displaced after TS Erika and Maria, and how it put a strain on businesses in Salisbury. How these extreme events affected the economy of Salisbury.

This upcoming week, I will focus mainly on familiarizing with the Digital Humanities tools. I previously decided to use mapping, however I wish to use the other tools and choose from the options that will tell my story best. Or which one I’m more comfortable in navigating.

Project update- week 3

By Alaina Mathew

This week, I visited spark and knightlab to familiarize myself with the various tools that each have available.

On knightlab, I found juxtapose very interesting as I continued to play around with it. It helps compare two pieces of media, to highlight then and now stories. I intend to use juxtapose for my project topic to show before and after photos that show the impact of Hurricane Maria in the community of Salisbury. This way, it would be easy to detect how much damage was done, the time it took to rebuild and how much progress was made in under a two year period.

StoryMap was another ingesting tool I believe will aid in telling my story. StoryMap helps to tell a story by highlighting the locations of a series of events. I wish to use this tool to pinpoint the businesses that were affected in Salisbury after the hurricane.

SceneVR was another unique tool that has potential for my project. It turns stories into navigable scenes in 360° narratives. It is a very unique feature especially as it allows you to view images in 360°,making it easy to see every detail of a photo.

Sadly, I did not find any interesting tools to use in my project on Spark. However I may be using its features for future projects. There are features to create webpages, graphics and video stories. It mainly did not catch my interest as I am seeking more interactive tools to use for my project.

As of now, I have three options from knightlab which I am very interested in using for my project. Juxtapose, StoryMap and Scene are all very interesting tools I wish to use for my topic. I’m not quite sure if I will incorporate all or two of them. Or just focus on one. But for now, they all seem very interesting. For the upcoming week, I want to be able to choose which DH tool I will be using and begin working on my project.

Building Resilient in Dominica

By Alaina Mathew

Dominica to other countries is seen as a tiny, underdeveloped and helpless island in which much feel pity. On September 18th, 2017, hurricane Maria devastated the island and set it back tremendously. Shortly after the hurricane, the Prime Minister of the Country; Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit declared that Dominica would be the first Climate resilient country in the world. Many questioned this and it has been debated island-wide for quite some time. This rose attention from other countries and organizations and many were on board with the idea, but is it possible for this idea to become a reality?

A small island like Dominica, with a population of about 75 000 And low GDP, Is it possible for this island to easily become climate resilient? Rebuilding takes time, Yes, but it has been a year and a half since the Hurricane and there are still communities without internet access and many houses remain without roofs and abandoned. Some communities do not have electricity and water comes and goes on a regular basis. Our economy still will not permit us to make this change as the process is very expensive. Yes we are still suffering the effects of the hurricane and Rome wasn’t built in a day; however, I don’t see how it is possible for us to become ‘climate resilient’ any time soon, especially with the little progress we have made so far.

The steps taken to become climate resilient, is not only for the government, but the people need to help in this process as well. In Christopher Flavelle’s essay on the topic, he spoke of the obstacles to this change to climate resiliency. One of these was the building code in Dominica which most people ignored. Architects, contractor, and residents ignored this code and this is one of the reasons where so many buildings in Dominica were so badly damaged or destroyed. Another obstacle to change outlined was aesthetic. Though Domincan’s knew having a concrete roof was safer, many turned a blind eye to it as they felt it was unattractive and chose the galvanize roof instead. We do not yet have what it takes to become climate resilient.

In Dr. Esprit’s essay, “Resistant Narratives in the Age of Disaster: The Example of Dominica” she highlights dealing with trauma post Hurricane Maria. We cannot hope to become climate resilient if we don’t work on educating people and helping them deal with the trauma caused by the hurricane. Even after a year since the disaster, there are many who are still terrified when the rain falls, many people who cannot sleep at night or are unable to cope with the stress from the hurricane. Are we so focused on this climate resilience that we cannot see that we need to care for our people first? Don’t get me wrong, it is important that we rebuild our home. Not just for ourselves but for our economy, however there, we need to focus on the now. And how to prepare ourselves for upcoming hurricanes other than being climate resilient. In the closing line of her essay Dr. Esprit says “Maybe I’m thinking too far ahead. Maybe the Prime Minister is, too.” I cannot help but think that this is true. Maybe we are thinking too far ahead with this idea of Climate resilience. This is a process that will indeed take time, but we’re in a rush to make it happen. In this search for climate resiliency, the essence of Dominica, the nature isle of the WORLD will be lost. Are we ready for this change? We always complain that our country is less developed than probably every other island/ country, but to what cause to we want to be developed? Are we ready to slowly give up our brand? and what we love about our little island?

DH Review: Dominica’s Road To Independence

By Alaina Mathew

The Road to Independence is a multimedia web resource to celebrate Dominica’s 2015 History Week. The multimedia project focuses on dates from   1950 to 1980 and highlights the main events that took place during that period. The project consists Of a wide range of Media. These include newspaper clippings, documents, images, voice recordings etc. This project allows readers to have a better understanding of the Dominican culture and history especially from its colonialism to its independence From Britain in 1978. This  project allows one to question themselves and it brings forth the important question as well how well do you know Dominica’s history? how well do you know your own culture ? are you familiar with it? But mainly, WHAT IS THE HISTORY of Dominica?

By providing the readers with the information in an orderly and organized manner, it becomes easy to pinpoint information and navigate the site. Everything needed is straight forwards. The site is even categorized into sections for specific age ranges in order to provide every age group with information. They are not targeting one specific audience (in terms of age) but everyone is welcome to gain knowledge on the history of Dominica. The information is also not just limited to Dominicans, but can be accessed worldwide.

The design of the site is very user friendly relevant. Its clarity enables users to effectively use the site. Since the information on the site is clear, it can be actively and easily conveyed to others as it does not force the readers to do a lot of reading. It also has a strong visual hierarchy.  There is a clear viewing order to the visual elements on the screen. Allows user the ability to distinguish between the primary and secondary information. The primary information on the webpage is displayed at the top with the most critical information. They are titled  in different categories. Additional information (crucial information) is at the right side of the page. It is separated into four sections by decades. 1950, 1960, 1970, and 1980 and beyond. In the centre is an introduction. The page has soft grey colour scheme with an old image on the homepage in black and white to portray an old look to the page. It is relevant as the aim of the project is to educate readers on the history of the users.

Similar to the Two Plantations project, the two major tools used in this project were Textual Analysis and Digital preservation. This allows the users to explore humanistic inquiry especially in history. It answers the question on Dominica’s history perfectly; “How far have we come?” The site uses textual analysis (text-documents, newspaper clippings, court, legal and Parliamentary documents) to gather patterns and trends of Dominica from the 1950s onward to the 1980s and beyond. Digital preservation helps to keep track of these records in which the information from the research was derived. This research project would generally be described as political as it is dependent on the laws, policies and paradigm shifts in society from that time period in time.

To improve the project, the category under Primary School and Secondary school should have more information. For example, on the home page you can find images of the national wear. This information should also be included under the primary school category as young children should learn more about it. Also, under this category, it begins with the political parties in Dominica, however that is the only information displayed there. There is no further information under this category to guide students.

The two projects were very similar in many aspects. Especially as both related to history. I believe that Create Caribbean could use their Digital Humanities skills to better improve  the two plantations project. The design of the site was very user friendly and easy to navigate. It was also well organized and straight forward, however, they could assist in adding additional information as the project was limited to very broad information.

DH Review:A tale of two Plantations

By Alaina Mathew

The two plantations project displays research into the lives of 431 enslaved people in seven multi-generational families at the Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica and Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. The history of these slaves were collected from the annual inventories of the two slave owners in Mesopotamia and Mount Airy. When faced with this project, the major research question is Where do we come from? How can we find out lineage?

Richard S. Dunn, the researcher of this project  was able to piece together the information from the inventories and reconstruct lineages of slave families from both plantations through four to five generations. On the site, the lineages of the slave families from both estates were represented by Family trees,  family diagrams and family lists.

The site is relatively easy to navigate as it is straightforward. At a first look at the site (what you see when you go on the site/ Home page) there is an introduction to the project where a few questions are briefly answered about the two plantations (click right to read more answered questions). The background at the top of each question on the introduction of each page shows  different images such as the slave estates, plantation, slaves working and an image of what seems to be the inventory. Scrolling down, the site takes the user to the second category/section of the site “Family Diagram” where a written diagram of Sally Thurston’s family on the Mount Airy Plantation is seen. Click right to the next Category “Family Trees”. This section allows the user to see the family trees of different slave families from the two plantations with brief information on each person. Next is the Family list where a table is displayed, showing names, families, relationships between different slaves etc.. Scrolling down brings the user to the Analysis which has a simple question “What can we learn from these slave biographies?” where the question is answered. The site then takes you to the about section where information about the researcher is given. Finally,at the bottom of the page there is a section that reads “more information”.

Some of the major tools used in this project were digital pedagogy, textual Analysis, and digital preservation. The project explored humanistic inquiry through history. It answered the question; “Where do we come from?”  the site allows users to gain information online with the use of digital pedagogy. it educates its users on the lineage of slaves from two different plantations; Mount Airy and Mesopotamia. this project shows the possibility of tracking lineages through generations. textual analysis  and digital preservation were used to collect this information. The Inventories from the two plantations were used in order to document the lineages of the slaves on those two estates.

In order to make the site more user friendly, I  believe more information should have been given (background information). The area in which the site gets a bit confusing is the “more information” section at the bottom of the webpage. There is a link to learn more about the book, however  when this link is clicked and it takes the user to another page, the book is not available in the library. Overall it is truly an easy to navigate site

Children of Men

By Alaina Mathew

In this film, set in 2027, the human population faces extinction as almost two decades of infertility has left society to the brink of collapse. It brings to mind am image of the “end of the world” where there is constant war, suffering and poverty. The United Kingdom (UK) is the only country with a functioning government. Many illegally migrated to the UK to seek refuge, however the country held oppressive immigration laws,and illegal immigrants were either killed or held in cages. In the film, the character “Key” is presented just after the youngest person in the world (age 18) dies. Later, we find out that she is pregnant with the first baby in almost two decades. It is seen as a miracle.

This film portrays the theme of hope. In a society that has lost its humanity and is almost non existent, Key being pregnant gives a sense of hope. Hope for the future,and hope for generations to come. It makes us believe that there is hope amidst all the chaos.

The human project, which is where the two main characters are desperate to reach symbolizes evolution. It is what ignites the feeling of hope in the characters and what keeps them motivated to reach their destination. They will do whatever it takes to get there. Theo, the protagonist in the film is determined to do whatever it takes to get Key and her new born baby to the Human Project where both he and Key believe will be their salvation. He risks his life to get them there because of his belief and faith.

At the end of the film, though many questions -such as the reason behind infertility- remained unanswered, it was a movie that left even me with hope. This film forces the audience (me) to believe in something, it forces us to have hope, to have faith and to fight for what we know is right no matter what it takes. Many people believe that this generation would be the downfall of humanity, however i believe that we possess so many attributes that will save our race and empower us, paving a way for the generations to come.