My experience as a mini Digital Humanist

By Shalian Shaw

For many weeks I worked on my Carisealand project. Many times I thought that the end product would not be so great. I spent countless hours doing online research and even visited  the office of the Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division.

Originally I had planned to only do a timeline presenting the changes in the forest and wildlife biodiversity in just Dominica due to climate change. I later had to change my idea as all the information I was being presented with in my research would not have been sufficient to fulfil my idea. Finding information solely on Dominica was really difficult therefore I had to broaden my scope. With the help of Dr Esprit, this is how I arrived at the project I have now. At this point I felt like I had wasted my time doing my previous research but I had to regroup and continue. So now I had the task of creating both a Story map and a timeline to effectively showcase my research. Using these tools were relatively easy to me after spending some time exploring them. The new plan was to showcase the effects of climate change on the forests and wildlife biodiversity in various countries across the region. This encompassed the countries of Brazil, Costa Rica, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico and of course Dominica. Researching these countries were quite interesting and also quite alarming. Places like Haiti have very little to no forests left!

The end result was a story map showing how climate change has affected the forests and wildlife biodiversity in the various countries and then a timeline showing the effect of major hurricanes on the forest and wildlife biodiversity of Dominica specifically. Working on my project really opened my eyes and it was a great experience. I am satisfied with the end result and all the work that I put in.

I also have a newfound respect for digital humanists and all the work they put into things such as research and preservation of information. Although my small project is somewhat incomparable to theirs, especially as they use more advanced and complicated technology, I understand better the hard work it takes.

Carisealand Project update

By Shalian Shaw

For the past week I found it a bit tedious to work on my project. After visiting the office of the Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division, I now had the task of analyzing the information I was given and picking the information I may use in my project.

While analyzing, I identified the answer to one of my questions “How does the damaging of forests during natural disasters impact human survival ?”. One example of this is the deforestation caused by intensified natural disaster, due to climate change, puts many areas at risk for landslides. Because of this many people have to relocate.

For one of my other questions “Have any new species been observed in animals and plants in the past few years in Dominica?” I have not really found any information.

While researching I stumbled upon some info for another question “What examples are there of how wildlife adapted to the changing climate ?”. Although I did not quite find all what I was looking for. From the information that I was presented with I also realized that I may have to visit the office or perhaps even the archives for other important information that I did not obtain.

I also started gathering pictures throughout the last week, which was a relatively  easy task.

In the upcoming week I aim to continue learning more about the tools and continue assembling my project. I also intend on possibly revisiting the office or the national archives.

Project update #4: A forestry visit

By Shalian Shaw

During the past week, I did as much work as possible relating to my project. I engaged in some research pertaining to my project topic. I also visited the office of the Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division to investigate the changes of our forests over the past few years which may be a result of climate change.

At the office I was presented with two reports concerning the wildlife and biodiversity of Dominicas forests. One was “The impact of climate change on forest reserves and water sources.” . This contained some information which I already knew, but also had some information which was new to me. Particular things which interested me were the protected areas and why they were protected. For example the emerald pool is protected because a Parrot Research Team checks the developments of nesting parrots in that area. The other was a report on Dominica’s terrestrial biodiversity. This provided a lot of information about plants and animals endemic to Dominica. It included pictures of all the flora and fauna and it was fascinating to see some animals I had never even heard of before.

Once again while conducting my online research I found it quite difficult to obtain a vast amount of information about Dominica and by extension the Caribbean. After searching through numerous pages and even changing the search words I came up with very little, which was again frustrating. Most articles pertaining the effects of climate change on the biodiversity of forests and wildlife were based on studies done in the US.

In the upcoming week I aim to continue my research. I have to also try to learn more about the tools and start assembling my project. I intend on gathering pictures and selecting relevant information from what I have gathered.

How will we survive without our forests? Carisealand Project update

By Shalian Shaw

During the past week, I mainly engaged in research pertaining to my overall topic and main area of focus which is ‘The effects of the changing climate on the forests of Dominica in the past 10 years ’. I also thought about the direction I wish to go in with my project and how I would like to go about answering all relevant questions.

“Forestry, Wildlife and Parks, Forestry! In Our Face; All The Time!” an article by Ronald Charles who is the Assistant Forest Officer for the Forestry, Wildlife & Parks Division, was an interesting one to read while I did my research. The main question being answered in the article was whether Dominica can survive in the absence of our forests. He talks about the importance of our forests in Dominica and what will result from a deprivation of our forest resources.

Throughout the upcoming week I aim to continue my research and make myself more familiar with the tools needed to execute my project. I wish to delve in the specific technology of mapping and become familiar with it so that I face as few problems as possible as I progress.

At our last digital humanities class, Dr Esprit mentioned how her father was trying to get the public to realize how our water levels were decreasing and this somewhat inspired me. Because of this I actually hope to find out more about the decreasing water levels in Dominica as a result of losing much of our forest cover. I also hope to visit the office of the Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division to further look into the changes over the past few years.

I honestly feel like this might be a challenging task as I am not well versed in dealing with technology. I also have the task of managing my time and ensuring that my project and other school projects are given adequate time and effort.

Minimalism

By Shalian Shaw

‘The User, the Learner and the Machines We Make’ by Alex Gil explains minimalism, different approaches to it as well as advantages and disadvantages. Minimalism is defined as designing systems that use the least hardware and software resources possible. This includes reducing the complexity of a resource to just achieve simple goals. It may be simplifying it for personal, or readers’ ease. One major advantage to using minimalism when working on projects is that readers can easily understand and navigate the scholar’s creation. All extra embellishments are eliminated.

An interesting example of a minimalist piece of hardware is a ‘Raspberry Pi’, which is basically a small and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming. One way in which this hardware was used, which was rather intriguing was a Raspberry Pi-powered Drogon that could be used to watch Game of Thrones.

Another compelling part of the article was the short story about “the man who wanted a little bit more space”. It talks about a man who lived with his mother in a really small house. He extended the space piece by piece, adding different rooms and other necessities. He then wanted to move out on his own but needed to build an exterior stairway. However he could be fined for building an exterior stairway before the process of dividing the house was finished. He put things into perspective, and thought about how people’s definitions of a objects varied. He settled on building the stairway and just waited to be fined, and that’s indeed what happened. He was ordered to stop building the stairway until he received the proper paperwork, but years passed by and he continued to use the unfinished stairway.

We see that the man was able to use his unfinished stairway, it did the same job that a finished one would have done. He survived with just that and he was good.

By presenting this story, Gil forces readers to to ponder “What do we need?”. He wants scholars to think about what is enough and focus on what’s important when working on humanities projects.

Update 2: Carisealand Project

By Shalian Shaw

Although I did not accomplish all that I wanted to during the past week, I did do some work relating to my project. I mainly did research pertaining to my overall topic to contribute to the carisealand syllabus that all the interns are working on together. I also thought about the direction I wish to go in with my project and some of the aesthetics of it.

While doing my research I found it quite difficult to obtain a vast amount of information about Dominica. After searching through numerous pages and even changing the search words I came up with very little, which was initially discouraging. Most articles were about bigger and more well known caribbean islands such as Puerto rico, Jamaica and Trinidad.

Following a digital humanities class last saturday, I feel a bit more confident in what I wish to do for my project. Although I am still not so versed in the area of technology I feel like I will be able to execute it well. I have come to a decision at to what tools I should use, considering what I wish to do and the information I intend on presenting.

Last week, I hoped to have visited the office of the Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division to further look into the changes of our forests over the past few years, but i was not able to do so. In the upcoming week I aim to finally visit the office. I have also formulated some key questions I wish to ask as well. Along with that I have to continue my research and make myself more familiar with the tools needed to execute my project.

Working towards a resilient Dominica

By Shalian Shaw

According to climate.nasa.gov climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which adds heat-trapping gases to the Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change is having very real and detrimental effects to the earth and all the life forms on the earth. This change in climate results in changes in sea levels, severe droughts and an increase in severity and frequency of natural disasters. The caribbean region is very familiar with the effects of these disasters. One of the worst cases of this on the island of Dominica is that of hurricane Maria which happened on September 18 2017. On this day the category 5 hurricane caused destruction all throughout the island.  Maria wreaked approximately $1.3 billion in damage, equal to 225 percent of the country’s annual economic output. After the disaster Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, pledged to rebuild the island into the world’s first “fully climate-resilient” nation.

In an article ‘This Tiny Country Says It Can Beat Climate Change’ by Christopher Flavelle, the plans to execute the idea are examined. In the article an interview with the Prime Minister following the hurricane is referenced. Dominica can be viewed as a ‘lab rat’ as this is the first country undertaking this resiliency plan. With this “full resiliency” plan there will obviously be challenges. Time waits on no man, with passing days the next atlantic hurricane season approaches. Our little island has no where near the amount of money needed to follow through with a plan like this on our own. For example, Bertilia McKenzie, managing director of Domlec, said to put all its wires underground would cost $1.3 billion, about $17,000 per resident. Also the government has no absolute control over residents of the island, all their efforts would be futile if the citizens do not comply with rules put in place to build a resilient nation.

I personally believe that we should work towards being resilient so that we are less impacted by events like these and maybe worse in the future. Although things are only getting worse, if people work together, a bright future for Dominica and even the world by extension is possible.

DH Review – “Building Communities 1838-1938”

By Shalian Shaw

“Building Communities 1838-1938” is a project created in 2016 by The Dominica History web resource which is a collaboration between the Division of Culture in Dominica and Create Caribbean Research Institute. The project deals with how the former slaves of Dominica obtained their freedom in the year 1838 and subsequently created a life for themselves. The physical building of villages and towns is not the main focus, it also focuses on the building of relationships and uniting as a people. From what i understand, the major research question is ‘How has Dominica’s villages and towns have been formed and developed and how was solidarity and unity created among our people?’.

The researchers went about answering this question in different ways. One of which was by talking about the communities and the different events which led to their names. Also in timelines, pivotal actions of the people and governing bodies which lead to changes made in the ways of life of the formerly enslaved, were displayed.

The bright colours and interesting pictures all throughout the project entices the viewer to read and look for more.  By including both a primary school and secondary school section students off various ages can easily navigate the project and understand the information presented. The primary school section contains fun facts about the communities where the students can learn about the villages in Dominica and also a short story which presents the information in an interesting way for their young minds. Under the secondary school section three timelines are presented, one being important dates in Dominica from 1838-1938, the second being important dates in the caribbean for that same time period and the last, a timeline of the Catholic Church in Dominica. These present the important information in an interesting way displaying pictures with the dates as well. Besides the primary and secondary school categories, the project also has a home page, community bulletin, archive, credits and a link to another project by Create Caribbean from the previous year, 2015.  

Some digital humanities tools utilised in this project are, short and long form text and storytelling.

I think that some more history about slavery in the caribbean could be included into the project. Anyone is able to visit the site and they may not be that knowledgeable of the topic of slavery. This would give them an insight and background information to better understand slavery in the caribbean and even specifically, Dominica.  

The Create Carribean project was both informative and enjoyable. I personally would have liked to see more pictures in the project “A tale of two plantations” which i reviewed earlier. Maybe some pictures of the plantation and slave life for example. Pictures are known to capture the attention of any audience, with more picture more people will be interested in the information being presented.

DH Review “A tale of two plantations”

By Shalian Shaw

“A tale of two plantations” is a digital Humanities project which presents information about a group of enslaved people across seven generations of families at Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica and Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. The main purpose of this project is to compare the lives of slaves on the plantation in jamaica and that of the Mount Airy Plantation in Virginia. It was observed in Jamaica that more slaves died than were born and planters had to import many slaves from Africa to replace them. In Virginia however the slave population was said to have doubled every twenty-five years, and the planters even sold huge numbers of ‘extra’ slaves, or moved them around to different plantations. The major research question of this project can be interpreted as “what was the difference in conditions which created the difference in mortality on the two  plantations?”.

The researchers went about answering this question by The lives of over 2000 slaves are somewhat brought to life through family trees, family diagrams and family lists. The biographies of these families were examined and the mortality rates were mainly as a result of their treatment by the respective slaveholders.

The website http://www.twoplantations.com/ is simple and efficient in displaying the information and still pleasing to the eyes with its blue and black theme/aesthetic.The website has a sleek look which I personally like. Upon opening the site there is an introduction to the purpose of the project and if the right arrows are clicked, some background information is given and also the reason why the creator Richard Dunn looked into this specifically. The information is quite easily accessible and the website is easily maneuverable. The different sections of the project are made visible and can be found by clicking the page section at the top or simply scrolling through the page. Besides the introduction the other sections available in this project are the family trees, family diagrams, family lists, an analysis and an about the author.

In this project, some digital humanities tools used are topic modelling and long form text.

To improve the effectiveness of this project, I think an appendix or photo album of some sort could be included. It would be beneficial to see the plantations and the conditions the slaves lived in on these plantations to better understand what Mr Dunn is presenting. Also, a side by side comparisons of the two plantations/estates could even help with a viewer’s personal analysis.

Children of men; The human race and the future

By Shalian Shaw

‘Children of men’ is quite an interesting film based on the 1992 novel of the same name. The film takes place in the future, in 2027 Brittain and tells the story of an infertility crisis that threatens the human race. Women are no longer able to get pregnant and furthermore increase the population. The world is plagued by chaos and with Britain being the only civilized place remaining world wide and many try to migrate there.

Former activist, Theo Faron, is kidnapped by a militia group called ‘ The Fishes’, a group led by his ex-wife, for his help to get a young girl named kee, to the coast, to a group aimed at curing this fertility crisis. After his ex-wife and leader of the group, Julian, had been killed, it was revealed that Kee was pregnant. He also then finds out that ‘The Fishes’ were the ones who killed Julian and they planned to kill him too. Towards the end of the film Kee’s baby is born and this child represents the hope of humankind.

‘Children of Men’ comments on issues present in the world today and in the year the film was created, 2006. The refugee crisis is illustrated and as many of us should know, places like syria and afghanistan have the highest numbers of displaced populations in the world. War is also presented and is rather important as countries such as north korea and all over the middle east are affected by wars which continue to take place and worsen today.

It can be said that one of the main messages that viewers of the film should think about is the effect of human activity on the earth. It is seen in the film how the circumstances that they live in is a result of past behaviours and attitudes. It shows us that if we do not change what we do now and how we live, those conditions may just become our reality.

The conditions of the future of the earth is totally dependent on the actions of the human race today.