Slipping Bye

Somehow it slipped by me to write my post last week–SO get ready for a double-whammy!  I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about, as we are getting ready for data input!  Hopefully by Wednesday we will have all information/media gathered, written up, and ready to upload.  Tierney will then help us actually upload it all.
Last week the Silk Worms met with Tierney and played around with Google My Maps.  It was SO cool!  Very straightforward and easy to use, and very perfect for this project.  In fact, I kind of want to just make a Google My Maps for every trip I’ve ever taken.  It’s that useful of a tool.
My desire to use this database operated by Google makes me think on how we can’t use Google in China  What an enormous barrier!  I don’t usually have to think about censoring or about what information is forbidden.  It all started to seem really real during the break-out session for the abroad trip when we were discussing what reading we had to do while in the U.S. and how we should clean off the documents that we have been reading in class just in case they’re a red flag.  I have so many documents on my computer that I love and cherish and look back on continuously.  It’s like my own little library on here.  I guess I’ll just have to back it up on a hard drive…
Last week was all about maps.  Maps, maps, maps.  I actually really enjoyed it.  When I was younger, I didn’t even no where my own state was on a map, let alone Kuqa, China.  I really had it in my head that geography was something that I could not do–that my brain was not fit for it.  What I’m starting to see with these tests is that I am perfectly fit (then again, I haven’t actually gotten the test back…).  The world actually makes sense!  Borderlines are not arbitrary, they are built to fit the land.  That is why, I am particularly pleased that this map actually involved us drawing the lines, not just marking a dot.  That said, it was shockingly hard to do it.  It was like learning how to draw cartoons–you learn how to draw 1000 perfect circles, and then you’ll know how to draw any cartoon in the world.  But this was more like scribbling.  And I still only know how to draw Central Asia.
Here’s a stupid youtube video of my surprisingly favorite cartoon character to draw–Tazmanian Devil.  You better laugh.


Porcelain & Bread

The timeline for this project is slowly narrowing – 2 weeks now – and the time has come for me to get all of my thoughts and ideas that are floating up in the air, and bring down the few that I can actually finish in two weeks. The two topics that proved the most fruitful in research and the most interesting to me were porcelain and bread (specifically naan/nan).
Porcelain is similar to silk, although not quite so illustrious and famous, in the way it originated in China and spread west on the Silk Road. Porcelain was made out of a very specific type of clay, kaolin clay, that could be found in parts of China. China began firing this clay in cities where kaolin clay was abundant, such as Jingdezhen, and keeping the details of this production secret. The beautiful white, hard, semi-translucent ceramics became coveted in the regions of Persia, but they held neither the means of production nor the knowledge of how to obtain those means. In places such as Iraq, potters began to emulate Chinese porcelain with materials they had access to, but could not recreate the porcelain imported from China along the Silk Road.
In Kashgar, porcelain cups are used for tea in tea houses or within personal homes at meals. These cups may be the simple, white porcelain or the blue and white porcelain that is often thought of as “china” or Chinese porcelain. On the Tongue team’s table of a Kashgar meal, black tea will be served in porcelain cups and we will tear off pieces of our naan and dip them into our tea.
Nan is huge in Kashgar, as I have previously discussed in blog posts. Many associate nan with India, which is not wrong, but it is important to highlight the similarities in bread and the way it is baked and prepared throughout Asia. Nan is traditionally Persian and its connections with China through the Silk Road resulted in the use of the tandoor oven and the baking of this thin, round bread. As Kashgar was a very central location along the Silk Road, and one that  very much connected the East of China and the West of Persia, it is not surprising that nan is a staple in everyday life.
Besides the brief history of nan and tandoor ovens (only as the oven relates to nan, though, as Zack will be going in-depth about tandoor ovens), I will mainly be talking about the preparation of nan and the ways in which it is both cooked and served. The narrative of nan within the Tongue Team’s meal is crucial, because it acts as both a stand alone component of the meal and a utensil in which to eat other parts of the meal.
In the next few days I will be writing out the narratives and the plans for my map/prezi points for these two topics as well as uploading all of my artifacts into SharedShelf.

Imitation Blue-and-white Bowl, 17th century Islamic, Safavid period (1501–1722) Stonepaste; painted in blue under transparent glaze; 7 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (19.1 x 36.2 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Nellie Kuh, by exchange, Louis V. Bell Fund, and funds from various donors, 1967 (67.108)
Imitation Blue-and-white Bowl, 17th century
Islamic, Safavid period (1501–1722)
Stonepaste; painted in blue under transparent glaze; 7 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (19.1 x 36.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Nellie Kuh, by exchange, Louis V. Bell Fund, and funds from various donors, 1967 (67.108)

The Process: 7

Permits have been received. Our team is officially building a Tandyr Oven on Guilford’s campus by the farm. We’re excited for the potential of this project not only in the bounds of our class but for its future application as well. We hope, of the few things that Guilford can do splendidly, that one of them is making naan bread in our oven. Thoughts president Fernandes?
At this point in time, we are looking to create our whole meal using the oven. Currently on the table are the following dishes: Naan bread, Polu (Lamb Pilaf), Lamb Kebabs and Tea. We’ll be cooking this meal next weekend and using it as the photograph for our canvas online. The photo will include all elements of the meal and focus in on each to highlight the history or specifics about the particular dish.
Speaking of history, Eric recently unleashed an infamous map test upon us in which we were tasked with memorizing the political, geographic and historical landscapes of central Asia. Despite the strenuous nature of the assignment and the entire notebook of redrawn maps I now own, the test helped me better place our project work as a whole. Knowing the geography of a location, and establishing a sense of place is (not so surprisingly) valuable when creating story maps of food and spices. Connecting our ideas to a place and knowing the geography, cities and other landmasses around it adds a new dimension to research that is often ignored when looking for specifics.
Specifics are what we’ve been looking at so far. And I’m particularly excited about figuring out how to display our meal, the photographic elements and the video that we’ll compile of our experience. This is pretty much the center piece in our prezi presentation, so no pressure. I’m quite thrilled at how our project is coming along and can’t wait to present consume it. I am already feeling slightly disappointed that the final project is due in less than three weeks. While we’ve done immense amounts of research and narrowing down of topics and group meetings, I really think this could have been a year-long course with the first semester focused on research, the silk road and its geography while the second half would be solely a project based class. It’s just really hard to do justice to the silk road…

Chugging Along

At this point, I am so proud of how my group is working. This week, members of my group actually stopped to ask our professor whether they could continue to add to the project after the due date just for fun because they are so interested in the topic. They are every TA’s dream. I feel really good about where they are in their individual research, their planning of the digital synthesizing of their ideas, and the personal dynamics between team members. I think that they have done a great job creating deadlines and sticking to them. I’ve also been very impressed at how well they’ve coordinated this one single topic to showcase each individual person’s strengths. I am honestly shocked at smoothly this process is going. If I worry about anything with my team, it is that I worry they are biting off more than they can chew (Tongue group…ha…ha…) with building the Tandoor oven, but they are planning to get the first round of cooking done this weekend after building it this weekend so I do think they can stay on track. I admire that they have been trying to go so above and beyond and have really embraced how much they care about this project. I have tried to push them to remember to start drawing the lines on what is going to be too much to cover and just focus on completing the tasks that they have already started.
The TAs started working with Tierney this week about creating our project in the Google MyMap section. I am a little nervous to see how my group’s project comes together to create my part, since my group has chosen to mostly abandon the StoryMap program and are focusing considerably more on tracing things through time, rather than a linear geographical narrative. I think it will definitely be doable to translate it into points that will work on our Google MyMap, but I think it will take a bit more digging and decoding for me to find the points—making sure that I pick out the locations within their narrative. I also think that I may have a lot more use of individual points with icons and without connections than other groups.
Below, I am attaching a view that explores the idea of digital humanities. We will be presenting the findings of our class at a faculty development program in the near future, so I have been thinking more and more about the concept of digital humanities and how that can be integrated into the future of education.

Traveling across the books of the silk road

Our group had a meeting at the Hub this evening, and it was very productive. The members of Team Earth were on track, creating a new deadline for all of our projects before the actual one. In the meeting we jotted down new ideas such as what to add into the earth group page. One of which included music from the silk road such as Mongolian Throat Music, playing automatically as the reader is scrolling through our page. This was very stressful and actually getting the codes to work for the automatic audio loop took around 30+ minutes. However, once executed properly, it was beautiful. We planned on creating a file that was invisible, hidden within the code, and would play as soon as the reader clicked on the earth page, playing, for example, Mongolian throat music and going on an audio loop (which you are listening to right now, and if you aren’t, turn that volume up!). Hopefully the reader does not become annoyed, but we doubt they would be on the page for numerous hours as well as not have a volume control button on their laptop/computer. However, there will be talks concerning how we will dead with audio playback, seeing if it really is necessary to prevent readers from turning it off on the youtube clip/soundcloud clip itself.

Further into the meeting one of the members, Austin, is bringing in a book concerning the travels of marco polo, called “marco polo: from venice to xanadu”. The great part about this novel is that it also includes a sort of commentary from a well-known author, Laurence Belgreen, whom in which will be explaining the travels more thoroughly. This would very much help Austin in his part on Marco Polo’s travels.
Also, Sam added valuable input such as a possible voice-over of the readings that would be on the earth page. And pertaining to what I mentioned earlier, concerning the automatic audio-loop, an automatic play of Sam’s voice narrating the story is also highly possible. On another note, his work is in track and has started to create a story map that will be based on his email so that they can contribute their works in that single file, due to sharing not being possible for story map.
Lastly, but important as well, Jake. He too is on track with the project. With his side project concerning the secret history of Mongolians, Jake has contributed a lot of great thoughts into the hub meeting and were all excited to see what the page will turn out to be in the end of our custom deadline (which is around november 9th).

The Silken Android

In the past two days the Earth Group has had two incredibly successful meetings and I can’t wait to keep moving forward with the projects. Not only have the projects been big in terms of the kind of information that different members were able to share about their projects but also because of the ideas we came up with together. Our first team meeting we had two big planning breakthroughs that I think will be really exciting for our final project. One of them was more logistical and involved us sketching out some ideas for what we wanted our story map to look like and how our pieces would all look together as one. After working on that for a while we had a very successful conversation with Tierney about different resources we could work with which has really taken us down an exciting path.
One facet of our webpage which I’m excited for is that as a group we discussed doing something similar to additional information pages. The idea behind them was that we have a lot of incredibly important and useful information that doesn’t quite fit into our story map but that we know people would want to learn more about. The idea we’ve been tossing around about that issue now is to implement a sort of side bar or tabs in order to organize these ideas. While that idea is really exciting and I hope it works out we had an even more exciting breakthrough in our team meeting tonight.
We got music to play on our page
It may not sound exciting, but Brian through a painstaking process of  forum post reading and youtube watching was able to embed music into our blog page that begins playing as soon as the page is opened. Likening himself to a hacker or an android he managed to save the day.  So far we can only use youtube videos but the fact that our page has a unique and awesome element to it already really has me excited for our final outcome. On a more logistical note we had a great meeting in terms of planning and I think that the ideas we came up with are going to really help us. Not only did we plan concrete meeting times for the rest of the assignment but we also put in place some really helpful deadlines and drafts to help encourage us all and keep us focused throughout the next few weeks of working on the project.
Additionally I’ve been getting better at finding images that may be useful to me like this one of Kublai Khan.



I wanted to share some interesting things  I uncovered about the perceptions of beauty and body images on the Silk Road.  I ran across many current events that are very relevant to my topic but I digress in my attempt to include those subjects. Here’s why. I’ve come to realize there is a tremendous amount of tension between the Chinese government and Uighur societies on the topic of beauty and body images. Apparently, the Chinese government has pushed forth their notions of beauty through a series of beautification campaigns.  They call it ‘Project Beauty’. The idea behind the campaign is to promote unveiling the faces of Muslim women, especially in the Uighur society. In some provinces it is a civil offense to wear a veil.  See, Uighur’s trace their ancestry back to the Turkish dynasty on Tarim Basin. It wasn’t until after the death of Genghis Khan in the late 16th century that Uighur populations converted to Islam, thus the majority of Uighur women in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China are Muslim. Although not mandatory, wearing a hijab (veil) is customary in the Islamic faith.  This project directly targets Uighur Muslim women. On the other hand, the Chinese government defends its motives for Project Beauty as an aim to put a stop to forced veiling. The government also contends that in the wake of so many Islamic extremist uprisings, veils (or covering the face in general) may become synonymous with terrorism. So, once again I am setting parameters for what I will and will not discuss in my narrative about beauty and body images in the Uighur society. Don’t get me wrong, typically I would be very vocal about where I stand with this issue but, I’ve decided that it’s best to approach this in a different way. The ramifications of my outspokenness could possibly result in more tension as our Silk Road website will be available worldwide. At the same time, it’s interesting to make of note this debate as it adds context to the images that I am uncovering for research. Now my analysis will be centered around how these differences in opinion perpetuate a hegemony of what it means to be beautiful.  Today, as more Han Chinese relocate to urbanized areas in Uighur communities, the overall idea of beauty is imminent all over the place. Fashion shows, beauty pageants, talent competitions along with anti-veil signs and anti-veil security checkpoints,  all reveal this much noted controversy. This is a big deal however; in this circumstance I’ll remain silent on this discussion. Peace folks.

Plunking Along… On Prezi

Last weekend, as timekeeper, I roughly outlined a schedule for the Tongue team and then as a team we went through it to make it our official timeline for the rest of the project. While organizing and scheduling usually takes away some anxiety and stress this seemed to take my vague anxieties for the project and solidify them into very real and scary due dates and approaching deadlines. We are too close to finishing this…
What I love about my team is our ambition and our passion; however, the requirements for this project have downscaled and we are still moving ahead on our fairly elaborate goals. I think we have a chance of pulling them off, because we have been working pretty hard from the beginning with research and planning, but it’s still extremely daunting. I can’t tell if I think we are being slightly unrealistic or if I am just really stressed about the amount of work it will require. Hopefully I am overthinking it and it will be more doable that I am expecting.
We have definitely gotten all our ideas in order, though, and have concrete goals and ideas. One of the questions we have been having is how we will be a part of the storymap since our project is different from the standard idea. Our team is writing the narrative of a meal in Kashgar and had hoped early on to have an image on the class’ map set in Kashgar of our scene (a table with each component of the meal). We have been trying to come up with ways to do this with the technology we have been given, but have found it extremely restricting instead of inspiring, which is the whole point of the class’ focus on digitalization. Our most recent idea has been to link a Prezi presentation of an image of our meal and each of our separate research on each component. I gave it a quick try during our last team meeting with a randomly chosen image from google images of a table with multiple dishes on it and it is very similar to what we had hoped for! We think this might be our best option, despite the fact that Prezi is a pretty horrible system to work with – it is extremely frustrating and arduous in regards to the technology/site’s abilities and parameters.
I kept working on that example Prezi of what our project might look like for the sake of demonstrating our group’s end goal as well as tinkering around on Prezi to get familiarized with it. Here it is:
Side note:
I contacted a photographer, Ramdas Iyer, who has a whole page on his site dedicated to magnificent open markets along the Silk Road, including Kashgar ( He said we would be able to use all and any of his images free of charge because they will be used for educational purposes. Here is one photo I think is incredible… because I love bagels!

I am in the process of acquiring the better quality photographs from Iyer, but here is an example of his work.
I am in the process of acquiring the better quality photographs from Iyer, but here is an example of his work.

The Process: 6

With less than a month left of work, our group has turned up the heat. Not only is this in relation to researching and creating our Kashgar food map, but also we’re planning to make a Tandyr (Tandoor) oven.
This is no small feat. However, we believe we have the tenacity to take this on, and definitely the stomach to eat whatever comes out of it. Our current plan of action involves the following steps:

  1. Getting permission to create the oven
  2. Creating the oven
  3. Cooking the food
    1. this will most likely be a traditional Kashgar naan bread and kebabs if we get adventurous.
    2. Fellow tongue teammate and chef Zach is spearheading this effort. And it’s safe to say that we have full confidence in his culinary expertise
  4. Eating the food.

Depending on how this works, we will include a meal as part of our presentation of the final project. Incorporating it as part of the digital map in itself will be more challenging. However, we’ve thrown around the idea of creating a short video explaining the building experience.
After meeting as a group on Thursday, we revised our timeline and set out clear goals for completing parts of our project. As we have solidified our project and responsibilities, we are feeling that storymaps may be deterring out creativity. After speaking with Tierney—Who provided some solid advice—Our group might be looking at alternative documentation methods, provided they can coexist with the work of the other teams.
One of these forms is using the digital tool Prezi. Fifty percent of our group, including myself, has a not-so-positive view of the program because of past interactions with it. Despite this, we’ve come to find that our Kashgar food customs might look killer if presented on the canvas-like layout that Prezi offers. We have yet to confirm whether or not we are able to use this program. More news next week.
On the completed side of things, I was able to finish a historical timeline on the diffusion of Cumin around the world. The Timeline JS program was especially useful to highlight years and provide a short narrative surrounding each location featured. The timeline crosses 5 continents and over 4000 years, following Cumin and its uses in all sorts of civilizations. I found a wealth of information surrounding the spice as I mentioned in a post before, but what was really interesting was how each culture used the plant in its own special ways.
Quote from group member Zach,
“I just want to cook food!”

Still Moving Forward

Snow-capped Tian Shan Mountains in the background with a green field in the foreground
Tian Shan Mountains, Malcom Manners, 2007

The Sky Team met this past week and we set down definite dates that the group will need to have certain things finished by in order to get the project done on time. Among other things, we set dates for having drafts completed, for setting outlines for the Story Maps, and for inputting information into the website and Story Map. However, I worry that the team is really behind overall. The research is not completely done yet, and we are still unsure how to construct a narrative. I believe that the team should have been more proactive about the project, and the team should have been meeting more often and talking much more often than what has been going on up until this point. We have until November 15 to get everything done by, which is rapidly approaching. My hope is that having set deadlines for each part of the project will get the group to turn it into high gear. At this point, the project will take dedicated time pretty much every day in order to have a finished project that is ready to be seen by the public eye. In order to be proactive and make sure we make the official deadline, we set a deadline for the whole project our on November 11. This will hopefully make sure we really have everything done and give us some elbowroom if something goes wrong and we need those extra three days to fix up the project.
Other Worries:
The biggest roadblock right now seems to be the language barrier. It is hard researching the fashion and beauty ideals of a culture that uses a language (or languages) that you do not understand. The team is using all of the resources that we have available, such as Google translations (which can be problematic) and one of our professors who is Chinese and can help us translate some of our artifacts.
Lastly, something that sort of bothers me as the deadline for the project approaches is that the team has not reached out to me for help. I know that they are having some difficulties, but if they do not come and talk to me, there is only so much that I can do in regards to leading them and nudging them along to get stuff done. I am doing the best I can when we meet as a team, but ultimately I cannot force them to do their research, or meet up more, or communicate more.