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Stories of the Susquehanna: Digital Humanities, Spatial Thinking, and Telling the historia of the Environment
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Stories of the Susquehanna: Digital Humanities, Spatial Thinking, and Telling the historia of the Environment


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Collaborative student-faculty research projects centered in the locale of residential liberal arts colleges let students engage in a variety of learning experiences and high impact practices including …

Collaborative student-faculty research projects centered in the locale of residential liberal arts colleges let students engage in a variety of learning experiences and high impact practices including undergraduate research, civic engagement, and multidisciplinary approaches to complex problems. Students at Bucknell University, as part of the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley Project, gathered stories from the Marcellus Shale region in the Susquehanna watershed of how the boom in natural gas drilling is transforming communities and cultural landscapes. This seminar will explore the possibilities digital humanities offers students to incorporate technologies such as ArcGIS and Google Earth into storytelling of their environment. Focusing on the full length of the Susquehanna River, Katherine Faull, Professor of German and Humanities and Alf Siewers, Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University, will provide examples and lead discussion of how students’ digital learning may foster cooperation between universities, public agencies (local, regional and national) and NGOs in successful efforts to raise environmental awareness.

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  • 1. Stories of the Susquehanna: Digital Humanities, Spatial Thinking, and Telling the historia of the EnvironmentKatherine Faull, Professor of German and the HumanitiesAlf Kentigern Siewers, Associate Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty Member in Environmental Studies Bucknell University NITLE Seminar, October 9, 2012
  • 2. Stories of the Susquehanna• Multiyear, multi-institutional collaborative student/faculty project• Goal— – produce traditional print medium book series that highlights the narratives of place in the Susquehanna – Produce multimedia, interactive sites that complement the print series and also act as stand- alone resources for K-12 and college curricula
  • 3. The problem: How to • Civic engagementengage students in local – Summer Writers Institutegeo-history (2009) • Chesapeake Conservancy—Students commonly write historyas: John Smith Trail Connector Trail (2009-12) A linear temporal narrative imposed on complex • Digital storytelling signifying grids – Stories from Marcellus Shale They employ a univocal (2010) narrative voice • Mellon foundation grant And thus provide a single (2012) perspective • Interdisciplinary course (IP) – 2011, 2012
  • 4. Potential of Digital Humanities• Realization that “The extra dimensions and movements possible in spatial representations compared to linear temporality are crucial in opening up the cartographic imagination to multi-focal, multi-causal, and non-narrative modes of historical representation.”• (Katherine Hayles, p. 50)
  • 5. Summer Writers Institute(2009)
  • 6. John Smith TrailSponsored by the ChesapeakeConservancy, this was a multi-yearresearch project that involvedundergraduate and graduate students,faculty, and local agencies
  • 7. Smith’s 1612 map--detailQuestion remains as to where these locations are today and whetherthey can even be found as John Smith’s map is not isomorphic, that is isnot drawn to scale to represent landscape and location
  • 8. Students georectified Smith’smap according to differentscholarly interpretations1. Clark and Eschleman place allSmith’s sites south of Harrisburg: Sasquesahanough atWashington Boro, Attaock around York, Quadroque near Middletown, Tesinigh around Lebanon, Utchowig around Harrisburg, Cepowig “at the head ofWillowby’s River” (Bush River) inMaryland[produces geographical error ofbetween 10-30 miles]from: H. Frank Eshleman, Lancaster CountyIndians: Annals of the Susquehannocks and OtherIndian Tribes of the Susquehanna Territory fromAbout the Year 1500 to 1763, the Date of theirExtinction (Lititz, Pa.: Express Printing Co., 1909),12-13.
  • 9. Smith’s map geo-rectifiedaccording to Guss andDonehooGuss and Donehoo suggest a more northernlocation for the Susquehannock villages:• Attaock in the region of the Juniata river• Quadroque at the confluence at Sunbury• Tesinigh on the North Branch in the region of Wyoming• Utchowig on the West Branch in the vicinity of Lock HavenTaking the “Northern view” producesgeographical error of up to 30 miles againCepowig is off the map, however.From: A.L. Guss, Early Indian History on the Susquehanna (Harrisburg, Pa.:Lane S. Hart, Printer, 1883), 5-6.Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico,Bulletin 30, Part 2, edited by Frederick WebbHodge (Washington, D.C.: Government PrintingOffice, 1910), 655.George P. Donehoo, A History of the IndianVillages and Place Names in Pennsylvania,(Lewisburg, Pa.: Wennawoods Publishing, 1999),142.
  • 10. The John Smith TrailLower Susquehanna River (Havre deGrace –Harrisburg)Main Branch (Harrisburg-Sunbury)West Branch (Sunbury-Lock Haven)North Branch (Sunbury-Cooperstown)
  • 11. Washington Borough SitesEmily Bitely ’11 ArcMap and GIS
  • 12. Primary Resources: 18th – 19th Century colonialsurveys designating propertyboundaries with “witness markers”(e.g. trees, posts, and stones) 18th – 19th Century accounts byexplorers such as botanists JohnBartram & Frederick Pursh provideadditional descriptions of contact-era landscapes Details of manmade & naturalfeatures from unpublished 18thCentury manuscript mapsCompleted areas of focus: Washington Boro, Sunburyconfluence, Tioga, and theWyoming Valley Emily Bitely ‘11
  • 13. Incorporating Modern GIS Data Layers:  American Indian sites, Wallace’s Indian Paths, and streams  Georeferenced German North Branch map  Oil and Gas Wells (DEP GIS dataset, 2006) categorized by site status—Active, Inactive, Abandoned, Proposed but Never Materialized
  • 14. Mapping Moravians and Native Americans• Faull’s research into Moravian and Native peoples’ interactions in the 18th century• Initially supported by NEH Collaborative Research grant;• Development of student expertise – Chesapeake Conservancy summer grants to students – Degenstein Foundation grants for student stipends for summer research – John Ben Snow Foundation grant for summer writers’ workshop
  • 15. Fenimore Cooper and Joseph Priestley• Siewers led student research on mapping of late 18th c./early 19th c. literature of region• Connections with James Fenimore Cooper• Landholdings of Joseph Priestley• Grants from John Ben Snow foundation, Bucknell Scadden fellowship, Degenstein foundation and Mellon foundation to support student summer research• Students using GIS and ArcMap, and Google Earth
  • 16. Map of Susan Fenimore Cooper’s world
  • 17. Teaching new courses: learning new skills• Importance of a LONG TERM mentor/mentee relationship—e.g. Presidential Fellow, Steffany Meredyk• Allows for collaborative learning of new skills• Allows for complementary learning and application of skills• Student skills transferable between GIS, History, Humanities, English, Environmental Studies courses
  • 18. Historical GIS mapping
  • 19. Google Earth mapping Bethany Dunn ‘14
  • 20. Conclusions• What are we learning/ teaching? – New ways of thinking about representation – -New ways of studying and experiencing landscape as symbolic narrative – New ways of thinking about cause/effect relationships – New ways of thinking about dominant/subaltern power relationships and their representations – Valuable transferable skills
  • 21. Bibliography1. Environmental phenomenology, layers of stories aslandscape:• The Fate of Place, Edward Casey (California UP 1998)• The Embers and the Stars, Erazim Kohák (Chicago UP, 1987)• “Cyberpunks in Cyberspace,” Paul Edwards in Cultures of Computing, ed. Susan Star (Keele UP, 1995)• “Ecosemiotics,” Winfried Nöth, Sign System Studies, vol. 26 (1998) – (and other articles online that can be found by Googling the term)
  • 22. Bibliography (cont.)2. Cultural Landscape and mapping• Radical Hope, Jonathan Lear (Harvard, 2006)• Margaret Wickins Pearce and Renée Pualani Louis, “Mapping Indigenous Depth of Place” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, (2008)