First, I apologize for how late this is, I had some trouble understanding the more technical aspects of the material.
The first article, Social Media and Academic Surveillance was an incredibly interesting read. Dorothy Kim describes how in the digital age, the issue of privacy, how ethical it is to use data that researchers do not have explicit permission to access, and how women of color are treated in the digital world. She begins her article by talking about Twitter as being similar to the panopticon, but it’s her description of Twitter as being inhabited by digital bodies, and thus, being afforded the same freedoms as people would be afforded in the physical public that is compelling, and I agree that data ethics needs to be addressed. In talking about these ethical dilemmas, Kim uses a few examples.
The first couple of cases are more recent. The study on “Black Twitter” at USC Annenberg, was troubling in how the researchers, rather than informing students involved with the study that their Twitter feeds were being examined, declined telling them. This led to obvious backlash, and a response from the students who had their information taken. The next case, which involves a website being plagiarized by students attending the California College of Arts. In this instance, the students claimed that the project, developed by the Save Wiyabi Mapping Project, was their own, when it really wasn’t. While the group that originally created the project was able to get the CCA work taken down, it was still able to win an award.
The third case relates to a woman named Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who had cells harvested from her while she was battling cervical cancer. The cells, which were harvested in 1951, eventually became the basis for many advances in medicine (including the polio vaccine). This information was hidden from Lacks’s family until the 1970s, as the harvesting was done without the consent of Lacks or any of her relatives. The resulting controversy eventually led to a change in the NIH’s rules and guidelines, adopting an “informed consent” model.
Kim concludes her article by going back to the earlier parts of her piece, stating that while Twitter is still a digital panopticon, it has the ability to respond.
The second set of articles are about creating connections between people through the use of metadata, in this case, Paul Revere. Writing from the position of a data analyst in the 18th century, Kieran Healy, an associate professor of sociology at Duke. This is where things started to get confusing, at least for me. It seems that, instead of creating a social “networke” in a more traditional way, Healy worked with colonial membership rosters as a way of creating connections. This led to him finding Paul Revere, who bridged a number of various groups when the data was compiled. This shows that while connections may be difficult to find, they exist if one knows where to look.
The next set of articles relates to the program Gephi, and they provide tutorials on how to use it.First, as way of visualizing data, Gephi is pretty interesting. It takes spreadsheets and makes them into colorful diagrams, which can be hard to decipher (if I’m being honest). Seeing the connections as a visual is also useful, and much easier than sifting through data. The tutorials were helpful for starting the program, but I did run into problems finding certain functions on my end. If I can get over these issues, I’m sure Gephi will be useful in the near future.
The final set of articles deals with information similar to the previous groups. In the case of Dr. Kane’s “A Company of These Women”, she examines the interactions between female members of the Iroquois and other Native Americans and European settlers. She begins by giving some background on how Native history is presented, especially as it relates to families, and how the structure of family changed after colonial settlers arrived. She then goes on to describe the difficulties in studying indigenous history, which is the lack of significant data. What follows is a reclamation of Native history from a settler narrative that barely acknowledged it.
The first of three sets of data that she uses provide a glance into how important Iroquois women were to connections between different groups of people. While the author, Evert Wendell, declined giving women much agency (either leaving them unnamed, or being the wife of someone), this doesn’t affect the connections between the women and others, and in fact, they are central to different networks. The second set, the Ulster Network, is similar to the Wendell network, except that women (with the exception of one) don’t occupy roles as bridges between groups like they do with Wendell’s. It’s actually the opposite, with husbands being more influential than their wives. The final data set, taken from an Anglican Church register, is the largest of the three. There are problems with this data, as the narrow scope can be both enlightening and limiting. Women have similar amounts of influence, but they occupy a larger variety of positions.
The final article examines data relating to the marriage of Etienne Hebert, a French immigrant to America, and Elisabeth Philipe, the half-French, half-Native American daughter of an established farmer. What follows is an interesting examination of the different kinds of connections that were made when these two people got married. Much of the article is about the debate about the true use of social network analysis. Morrissey, the article’s author informs the reader that rather than being used for understanding an individual, SNA relates more to the actual network it represents.
1. Why are actions on Twitter more likely to be used against academics than actions in the physical world? Is posting a tweet that might be controversial any different from attending a protest or rally that deals with a similar issue?
2. As seen in the USC Annenberg case, where is the line drawn in how far we should go to get information that may be relevant to a project?
3. Obviously, metadata can be a useful tool for an historian, but it is not without faults. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using metadata?
4. How useful is a program like Gephi in organizing and displaying data? Are there any drawbacks to the program that might cause issues (other than the technical ones that I mentioned)?
5.How can digital history be used to remedy gaps in historical narratives, especially as they relate to women of color?