Mapping Movement: Japanese-Americans and World War II/Internment

My final project is a series of maps on Google Mymaps that maps the movement of three Japanese-Americans as they experienced World War II and internment in unique ways. The goal of this project is to nuance the modern understanding of internment. There was no singular path that Japanese-Americans took or experience of the injustice and opportunity of the twentieth century. I chose this topic because Asian-Americans in general are often overlooked or handled only briefly by American students and I wanted to bring more attention this significant portion of the population during this formative time.

 

For this project I created a WordPress blog which contains general background information about the project and about Japanese-Americans. From this blog there are links available to the map. Once on the map users are able to choose which “layer” of the map to view, each layer being the map of one person’s movement, before, during, and after the war. Each plot point on the map contains important information about how and why that person was in that place at the time. These maps also include insights into the minds of those portrayed, highlighting racial identity issues. The maps proceed chronologically and are also color coded to help provide the macro-perspective of the movement that took place.

 

While working on this project I ran into one main issue. How to present all the necessary information while maintaining an intuitive layout and without getting bogged down in text. Thanks to Google Mymaps I was able to address the first problem as most potential audience members will have familiarity with Google Maps and understand how to navigate the points. In order to address the second issue I had to keep my text blocks as sparse as possible while still conveying the vital information. Building the WordPress blog helped with this problem as I was able to include generalized information in a single place that helped provide context for each person’s experiences.

 

This project gave me the chance to further pursue my interests regarding race and immigration in the United States. It stemmed from my undergraduate capstone project in which I examined the motivations of Japanese-Americans that volunteered for the US Army. Through this project I was able to further consider the immigrant experience and the role that race plays in domestic relations in the United States. My biggest takeaways from this project are the importance of the digital medium as a means to both make history more accessible/interactive, but also to consider non-traditional mediums (not solely text) when conducting research and creating projects.

 

During the poster session I received a wonderful idea that I could transform this project into a crowd-sourced project, enabling friends and family of those affected by internment to map the journeys of those they knew. If I revisit this project or take any inspiration for the future from it I intend to do just that, create a centralized database in which many different people are able to collaborate and share stories. The result would be huge project that demonstrates the varied experiences of Japanese-Americans during this time, further complicating and benefitting our understanding of history.

Japanese-Americans During World War II – Digital Mapping Project

My digital project utilizes Google Mymaps and will track several Japanese-Americans as they moved before, during, and after World War II. I have completed one person’s journey so far as well as much of the contextualization of life in the United States for Japanese immigrants, the outbreak of World War II, and internment. The purpose of this experiment is to bring to light the significantly varied experiences of Japanese-Americans. Many Americans are either ignorant of the internement that took place or believe that internment is the only defining feature of the Japanese-American experience.

 

The project has been more consuming than I had anticipated and therefore I will likely cut down the number of people that I intend to include in my project to three. I have chosen three people whose experiences represent the variety of circumstances under which Japanese-Americans were forced to live during World War II.

 

Here is a link to my map as it currently stands:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1disiceljRn8Nf7ytKuuctV-eF9yMm1lt&usp=sharing

 

I will also include a substantial blog post to accompany these maps that will provide further context that is relevant to the unique experiences of each individual that I follow.

 

Along the way I have had to consider how to make my project more accessible, namely  which information to include and exclude. I have already considerably cut back on the number of points I have included on my map and the information contained within each. Further, I will refine the formatting on the map to include color-coded points and format my map into layers such that each person can be viewed individually. I have also had more difficulty in acquiring relevant photographs to accompany the text and will be unable to include one picture per map point as was my original intention.

Digital Project Proposal: Japanese-Americans during World War II

Nikkei

Minoru Masuda, Hana Masuda, Masayo Duus. Each of these names belong to American citizens who, because of their race, suffered discrimination at the hands of the government as well as at the hands of their neighbors during World War II.

During World War II the United States government pursued policies of relocation and internment of American citizens and residents of Japanese descent. Their stories are not all the same however. While some were sent to internment camps, others volunteered for military service and ended up on the front lines in Europe.

The experiences of Japanese-Americans before, during, and immediately after World War II vary significantly based on age, location, and citizenship status. This project aims to provide valuable insight into these experiences beyond the average American’s understanding that Japanese-Americans were interned during the war.

Mapping

For my project I will create a map that shows the journey of a number of Japanese-Americans, whether born in the United States or in Japan, as they were interned, relocated, deployed, and eventually attempted to return “home” once the war was over.

Google My Maps is a perfect fit for my project. With My Maps I am able to plot every significant location that each person passed through or spent time in. I can use the tools that My Maps provides to mark each location according to who was there and through a variety of customizable tools I can attach easily recognizable symbols to each, allowing interested audience members to focus on specific aspects of the journeys or on the stories of specific people.

This project will visualize the experiences of people whose stories have been covered copiously through text. As relocation and movement is central to their stories however, this project will provide a more easily accessible medium by which audiences can understand and interpret the Japanese-American experience.

Through My Maps I am also able to append images and links to each location, building a more holistic understanding of the material. Rather than flipping back and forth between pages to find an image that corresponds to an anecdote about a place through My Maps I will be able to include images, videos, and even audio clips that can more readily convey the immense emotion integral to these stories. The informative textual element will not be lost however, each element; textual, audio, and visual will tie into one another.

Project Goals

Part of the reason that I am using My Maps for the project is that it is accessible to anyone with access to Google Maps. This means that I can reach a wide audience through various social media platforms. This project is aimed to reach non-academic audiences and connect them directly to stories that are often overlooked in American history.

I can evaluate the success of my project through the use of Google Analytics which can monitor interaction with my map. Google Analytics will tell me important information such as how long people spend viewing my map and which stories they interact with.

Print Project Proposal: History on Reddit

For my print project I will evaluate the use of Reddit as a platform for historical discussion regarding the causes of the US Civil War. Reddit is the world’s sixth most popular website and hosts discussions, images, and videos on nearly every conceivable topic, including history. There are three main subreddits on which historical discussion take place through crowd-sourcing; r/history, r/askhistorians, and r/badhistory.

Crowd-Sourcing, Word-Bubbles, and Historiography

I will examine these communities with regards to their handling of the causes of the US Civil War. I will also explore Reddit as a platform for crowdsourcing and how the discussion on this social media platform fits in to greater historiographic context. Using in-built Reddit tools as well as Voyant I can determine levels of user interaction, significance of contributions, and popularity of content. Thanks also to the efforts of users I can examine the demographics of each community to determine education levels, topics of particular interest, as well as age, gender, and several other categorical determinants.

For this project I will also examine how each community approaches the process of creating history. Each subreddit enforces a different set of rules regarding the treatment of source material and historical interpretation. I will compare these subreddits to one another and finally to a sample of academic works on the topic at hand to determine the usefulness of these crowdsourced communities in generating accurate and informational content.

Voyant will allow me to examine the prevalence of different language to describe certain events and historical actors. Voyant is also an excellent tool for creating visualizations of language relationships in different discussion threads, subreddits, and academic works.

Imperfect Tools

There will be several obstacles in conducting this project however. Voyant is an imperfect tool and without significant curation any results are likely to indicate only that repetitive interface controls somehow factor into the discussion. Voyant is also incapable of interpreting context and I will therefore still have to rely on representative samples in gathering certain information.

Reddit also presents several obstacles. Should users choose to self-censor or community moderators choose to delete contributions there is no way to access what was written before edits or deletions were made. This prevents me from establishing with certainty how unpopular facts or popular inaccuracies are perceived by the community at large.

The scope of this project presents the largest obstacle. As with any macroanalytic approach there is simply too much content for any one person to make sense of, at least with current technology. Even narrowing the focus to solely the causes of the Civil War necessitates a reliance on a tiny sample of representative material. Searching the smallest of the three subreddits for threads directly related to the topic yields hundreds of results. Due to the limitations of the tools available to me the time requirement to conduct the analysis that this topic deserves is infeasible. However, even a small analysis of snapshots into these communities and discussions will yield interesting and valuable results regarding crowdsourcing, language analysis, and the role that social media plays in the creation of history content.

Week 4: Macroanalysis, an Analysis

Without looking, who wrote this post? What’s my gender? What decade was this written in?

Ok, you probably know the answer to the last question and as an aspiring historian you are more than likely used to looking for author names before you begin reading. And if you know my name, you should probably know the answer to the second question.

But what if you hadn’t read my name before clicking on the post? Would you be able to guess my gender just by reading this post? WordPress is 14 years old, for all you know this post predates even WordPress and was simply transferred to this blog from elsewhere.

What if a computer could answer each of those questions, and more, simply through a comparative analysis of this text. Well if you have the right data set, it can.

Macroanalysis

Matthew Jockers’ Macroanalysis takes us through the trials and tribulations of literary analysis utilizing digital tools. He outlines his process of analysis, discusses statistics, and reviews the applications, both practical and potential, of computer-assisted data-mining of massive databases of text. His case study of 19th century literature provides insights into how a computer can determine styles, nationalities, themes, and even genders of authors given the proper comparative material.

So what is macroanalysis anyways?

For decades scholars have relied upon interpretations of representative works to build understandings of periods, genres, and historical patterns but the digitization of large quantities of written works allows them the opportunity to draw from entire libraries instead of just small samples. Rather than “close reading” which limits scholars to consuming only one book at a time “distant reading” entails the analysis of hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of books simultaneously. This “macro”-analysis takes the big picture, the one with the rolling hills and endless sea in the background, instead of the small picture, the close-up, the selfie if you will.

Macroanalysis is not intended to replace its micro counterpart but to complement it. Where microanalysis is necessary for scholars to develop interpretations of works and to get into the nitty gritty, macroanalysis provides less specific but broader information.

What is it good for?

Macroanalysis has a variety of uses in the ever evolving academia of the 21st century. Maybe you are interested in the Irish-American experience of the 19th century and want to know more about patterns of self-identification and societal perception of the Irish in America. Thanks to macroanalysis Jockers is able to tell us quite a bit about how Irish authors as a whole approached their ethnic and cultural heritage instead of trying to extrapolate from one or two authors deemed representative.

Or, perhaps you would like to conduct a comparative cultural analysis through the use of language. Jockers is able to use macroanalysis for this purpose as well. For example, Jockers compares the language usage of Irish authors and English authors during the time period to determine that the collective English conscious was more confident as evident through more frequent usage of “absolute” and “determinant” words whereas the Irish used more words that indicated imprecision and indeterminacy.

Finally, computers are quite good at paying attention to the things that humans subconsciously, and incorrectly, determine inconsequential. How many times in this post have I written “the”? Have I used it any more or any less frequently than the average writer? You probably would have trouble determining but with a computer this kind of attention to detail is trivial. And yes, “the” can matter a great deal when analyzing language and culture. Jockers uses “the” to differentiate American from British writers.

What can’t we do with it?

Jockers is careful throughout his book to maintain that macro and micro analysis must work in tandem, not that macro should replace micro. And he provides good reason for it.

Computers lack human interpretative abilities. Computers are incapable of comprehending underlying themes or piecing together the context in which the words extracted exist. In this sense macroanalysis is little better than a glorified word cloud generator. The information that it does provide allows us to uncover new evidence for theories and to approach old material in new ways but computers do not understand the information so much as relay it.

Additionally, we are not going to blow anyone’s minds with the evidence gathered through macroanalysis. This tool excels in providing evidence for what most people already believe to be true. Until there is significant advancement in the technology available to us macroanalysis is not going to be responsible for the next major shift in how we do History.

Why isn’t everyone doing it yet?

Now that our eyes have been opened to this great new tool for conducting analysis we’re left wondering, “why isn’t everyone doing this yet?” Well, there are several reasons.

First, there are inaccuracies. Although this method is right more than it is wrong (assuming a proper database is provided), it still can be wrong. Macroanalysis struggles to make sense of transitionary literature and literature that is indistinct. These two categories are often lumped together by computers due to their not belonging to any strict category.

Second, it is as subject to bias as traditional analysis and interpretation, just because the data is presented as numbers does not mean that humans were not responsible for the selection of texts drawn from. Throughout his book Jockers conducts in-depth analysis of Irish-American writers but clearly states in his introduction that he has excluded popular writers because their work does not directly address their Irishness.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, using macroanalysis for any topic within the past century is not only difficult but impossible in many cases. You can thank Disney and what’s called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act for this. Copyright laws in the United States are essentially endless which means that the vast majority of literature is locked behind physical or digital paywalls.

Also worth noting is that classified material presents complications for many historians. The information contained within classified government documents would undoubtedly provide an entire generation of graduate students with dissertations but for better or worse all we can do is wait and hope that information valuable to historians eventually becomes worthless in the eyes of the government.

So now what?

If you are lucky enough to pursue a research topic with a significant amount of digitized material, then get to it. Don’t be afraid to use computers for more than searching texts for key words and phrases, use them to compile sets of data drawn from an entire libraries’ worth of books.

For the rest of us we have to pick up the fight to make as much information accessible and digital as possible. In the meantime we have to make do with the data that we have, constructing data sets without the missing source material.

Macroanalysis and you.

If you had access to the kind of database that Jockers had, how would you use it?

Jockers is a literary historian and as such is focused primarily on english literature, what unique benefits does this method of analysis provide historians of other persuasions?

In a world of ever increasing material to work with despite legal obstacles, how do you determine what should be included and what not (social media, email communications, blog posts, etc)?