Featuring Dr. Brite for CLA-Funded Digital Humanities Project: ESRI’s StoryMap

Recently, a Digital Humanities project created by Dr. Andrew Flachs from the university’s Department of Anthropology was featured by ESRI’s “What We’re Reading” section. Dr. Liz Brite from the Honors College also contributed to this project.

The research project was created in connection with Dr. Flachs’ recent book called Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India.

Dr. Liz Brite, a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Scholarly Project Grants in the Purdue Honors College, contributed to the project. As an archaeologist and educator with almost a decade of experience in university honors education, she works on and directs archaeological research expeditions globally. She also teaches interdisciplinary honors courses that examine the cultural roots of human food, water, and other environmental resource practices.

She was eager to contribute to this project. She states, “My contributions to this project came about from an exciting, unexpected archaeological find during my Ph.D. dissertation research – cotton seeds in a household my team excavated way back in 2009.  It turned out these were some of the earliest direct evidence for cotton agriculture in the region!  I’ve been writing and thinking about cotton in Central Asia (off and on!) ever since then, and I was excited to have this opportunity to contribute to a larger project focused on the spread of cotton globally.”

Dr. Brite says, “Dr. Flachs and I share an interest in research on cotton agriculture, and so I contributed content to the project from my area of expertise and the part of the world where I conduct research.  We also collaborated to reach out to other cotton researchers that we know for contributions.”

Her role is focused on contributing content to the StoryMap “that discusses the prehistory of cotton agriculture in Central Asia (a center of worldwide cotton production today), specifically insights from archaeological research I have done that provided new information on how cotton spread out of its native regions to more temperate climates.”

ESRI’s StoryMap is an online graphic organizing tool that allows you to integrate interactive maps, multimedia content, and text to create geographically-based stories, and to give these stories broad context and time depth.

In this project, Dr. Andrew Flachs (Assistant Professor of Anthropology), created a StoryMap on the “Global Lives of Cotton,” work which is based on his ethnographic research on cotton farmers in India and their experiences with GMO cotton, and described in his recent book on the subject. Currently, Dr. Brite is also using StoryMaps as a centerpiece of a semester-long project for students in her HONR 39900: The Holocene course.

She hopes that the project will serve as a valuable mechanism to connect cotton researchers in different fields to think about how long streams of prehistory and history in the human-plant relationship might be connected and explored. Through this format, students and the public will easily be able to engage in these discussions.

To stay updated, readers can go to the StoryMaps Weekly Waypoint, the weekly newsletter of StoryMaps resources, featured stories, and social media content.

For more information on the project, please visit Dr. Andrew Flachs’ website at www.andrewflachs.com.