Audrey Altman Speaks at PDH4L

Audrey Altman Speaks at PDH4L

SLIS's own Audrey Altman presented at a Public Digital Humanities 4 Lunch (PDH4L) event the Thursday before Thanksgiving. This semester Altman, a current HASTAC scholar, has been working with Omar Valerio-Jiménez's Latina/o Immigration class to help map some of the Latina history here in Iowa.

Altman, who has an MA in American Studies, selected items from Iowa Women's Archives Mujeres Latinas collection that would be interesting to the students and could be easily identified geographically. The students each chose an an item from this selection and assigned it a location on a Goole Maps API designed by Altman, fellow SLIS student Kelly Thompson, and Professor Haowei Hsieh.

At times it was difficult to assign a location to some of the materials from the archives. "For most documents, you don't know where they are, or where they were produced," explained Altman. Many documents are labeled with names and dates but not places.

This tension between the precision and authority of Google Maps locators and the lack of specific location for many of the items was one of the biggest challenges of the project. Events or activities documented often occured in several different places, moved over time, or exerted their influence elsewhere, as in the signing of a bill in the Capitol Building.

However, attaching items to a physical location on a map, according to Altman, "forces students to be aware of place and space and enables the students to claim a space and give it meaning."

Altman pointed out that maps reflect the world view of those in power. They depict government-determined boundaries and names and are referred to as sources of authoritative information. Google Maps especially has because the ultimate resource in mapping today.

For that reason, one of the most significant features of the project was the process of democratization that allowed students to assign new meaning to the authority of place. "It means more to the students when they know someone other than their professor is going to see their project," she explained.

Projects like the Latina/Latino historical mappng may be shared more freely in the future, but the project is currently located on a private site hosted by the University, due to copyright and privacy concerns and is not available to the public.