Digital History is giving me frown lines


So as part of my final project for my Digital History class I created a short video/reflection/un-essay on the project. The video is a compilation of web cam and screen videos showing the evolution of the project. Putting this all together made me reflect on why I had taken the class, what I had learned from collaborating with others, and the potential of projects like this. It also informed me that I have huge frown lines.

Shout out to my amazing project partner, Laurel, who appears often in this.

If you’re intrigued by the video, play the game we made!


I can do that: Women and computer science



This past weekend, I caught part of the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap”, being aired on CBC. CODE explores the female minority in software engineering, and computer programming. The documentary features women employed at some of the top tech companies, including Pinterest, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Reddit etc. The documentary puts a harsh light on the blatant discrimination that goes on in the industry, and the internalized idea that women don’t do science. Evidently, by interviewing women in top positions in the field, they show that this isn’t true. That women are just as good at programming and engineering.

They also discuss how in the history of programming and software engineering, women held key roles in its advancement. For instance Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and admiral in the US Navy. She not only worked as a programmer on the Harvard Mark I (an early “proto computer” designed and built by IBM in 1944), she was the only female. She’s credited as having invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. Even the US Navy named this ship the USS Hopper after her.

Clearly an impressive woman!

CODE made me think about my own experience with programming, and engineering. My dad is an electrical engineer, and works at a company that builds solar chips and panels. My mom is the head of a computer support unit. As a kid, they enrolled me in Virtual Ventures, a summer camp run by Carleton University that taught me how to use basic html coding to build colourful websites. In high school, they signed me up for a year long set of courses that encouraged me to create photo essays using Microsoft PowerPoint, and use html coding in place of traditional essays.

Looking at my history, I can see there is a strong backing for me to do something computer related. But (and this is not a criticism of my parents in any way), I never rely felt that a career in computing was an option. The sign never went on in my head that told me “I can do this.”

Now, maybe this is because I was just “average” when it came to computing. Maybe if I had excelled, I would have been encouraged. Or, maybe it’s because I didn’t really like the camp, or the course (I can’t really remember anymore.) But, even if I was just average or un-interested, I don’t remember anyone else ever coming into my classes, or pulling me aside to talk about careers in programming.

If I start to think of this as connected to gender, I see some patterns. First, there’s the running joke in my family that my dad always wanted an engineer, and that my two male cousins (both of whom did engineering at Queen’s) fulfilled this desire. Knowing my family, I suspect that if one of my female cousins had become an engineer, he’d still be making the joke, considering I have an uncle who complains that I never became a basketball player, despite having 2 nephews and a niece who play competitively (one of whom is “6’7”.)

But in light of CODE, I feel a bit more suspicious about this. If I had been a boy, would I have been pushed more?

A clearer example of this gender bias comes again from my family. Even though my mom has more computer knowledge then my dad, both her family and his family always turn to him for computing advice…in which (after hanging up the phone), he always asks her. They never call and ask for her when there is an issue. This makes her pretty crazy.

All of this is to say that I think there is a lot of truth to what CODE has to say. We (and I’m including myself in this one) have internalized this notion that only men do science. Which is pretty ludicrous, considering there are a ton of women in my life who are interested (and good at) programming and engineering.

And I should include myself in that category! I am by no means an expert, but I shouldn’t downplay what I can do. I do all the tech support at the company I work for. While this most revolves around email and account setup, I can still do it. I still have some of the skills I picked up from my high school course including html coding. And in my Digital History class alone I’ve learned so many great tools that I can use going forward. It’s been difficult, but eventually I got there. And I’m pretty certain that this won’t stop when the class ends.

Anyways, all in all, CODE is well worth the watch!

And I think I’m going to suggest a screening at Carleton. Maybe it’s worth seeing if some of the other women in my class might be interested in holding a working group once a month where we try out different tutorials/programs…

Learn more about CODE here.

“Authentic” Russian Folktale Generator

Take a spin and generator an authentic Russian folktale!

Here’s what I got from these selections:folktale

function 6: antagonist(s) attempts to deceive victim(s) / protagonist(s) in order to take possession of them or their belongings = trickery (eta)

eta3 — use of other forms of deception or coercion

function 7: victim(s) / protagonist(s) accept deception and unwittingly help antagonist(s) = complicity (theta/lamda)
zeta3 — information received by other means

function 8: antagonist(s) causes harm or injury to victim(s)/member of protagonist(s)’s family = villainy (A)
A11 — casting of a spell, transformation

function 8a: one member of family lacks/desires something = lack (a)
a5 — lack of money or means of existence

function 19: initial misfortune or lack is liquidated = liquidation (K)
K8 — breaking of spell on victim

function 19: initial misfortune or lack is liquidated = liquidation (K)
K6 — poverty done away with thru use of magical agent

function 30: false protagonist(s) or antagonist(s) punished = punishment (U)
U — punishment of false protagonist(s) or antagonist(s)

function 31: protagonist(s) marries and ascends throne = wedding (W)
W#* — protagonist(s) weds and ascends throne

dramatis personae:
person sought-for:


A little wordy, but you get the idea!

Make your own here.

Bringing the past to life: “I Was Here” review

This past weekend the script I’ve been writing as part of my graduate research was performed. I’m so grateful that Stacey not only attended, but wrote this wonderful and thoughtful post about it. She makes sense of what I hoped to achieve through the piece (which is no easy task!) Thank you Stacey!

The Pixelated Historian

So guys, tonight I watched a play written by my fellow public historian Emily Keyes, and I’m feeling compelled to fangirl about it because it was Just. That. Good. Bear with me for a moment and let me tell you why it rang true for me in so many ways.

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Deceptive data visualisations

As part of my final project I’ll be using CartoDB to make a map of the movements of a family throughout time and space. So, doing some due diligence, I thought I would read a bit about data visualizations. I came across a paper, “How Deceptive are Deceptive Visualizations?”, and thought I would take a look to see what they found.

They start off the article by explaining how useful visualizations can be, but how with the wrong selection of colours, scaling etc., the data can be misinterpreted.

In a way this questions reminds me of the pictures you can find that show 2 images, such as this one below (which I talked about in an older blog post about an art exhibit I saw.)


“All is Vanity” Charles Allan GIlbert 1892

To see just how deceptive bad visualizations can be, the authors (in connected with an NYU lab class) tested a series of well-known graphical distortions on participants. Below are some examples:

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For the study half of the participants received a deceptive chart, and the other a controlled one. Each were asked the same questions, which were essentially to measure the difference between the two (exp: How much better are the drinking water conditions in Willowtown as compared to Silvatown?) What the tests showed was the the deceptive chart led to more participants answering the questions with a larger/bigger estimate.

So, how can I transfer over some of these ideas into my own final project. It made me think about the options that will be available to me when I create my map. I know that CartoDB features different visualization options, include to change the shapes of makers, make it animated, and change the basemap. Below are some screenshots of the map options.

While absolutely none of the data has changed in any of these maps, at first glance they do appear to be very different.

Variety can be a great thing, but evidently if we don’t think about how the data will be used and who will be using it, we can run into some problems.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian Style

Happy Thanksgiving! If you didn’t see it then, check out Parks Canada app that showcases recipes from across the country. Enjoy!


From Parks Canada-Parcs Canada's new app, Heritage Gourmet. From Parks Canada-Parcs Canada’s new app, Heritage Gourmet.

A cool new app from Parks Canada-Parcs Canada that allows users to discover traditional Canadian recipes other than poutine and beavertails!

Personal Note: It might be time to update the “Canadian” recipe book to include more recipes that reflect our current Canada.

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