Author Archives: alisondeplonty

GPS Tracking Test, Take 2!

On Tuesday, while shopping for AK’s trip to excavate in Hungary, I came up with an idea for how to have participants in my research carry the GPS trackers. I found some colourful carabiners, binder rings, and name tag pouches and thought I could MacGyver something useful. My original plan was to punch a hole through the one front portion of the name tag holder so I could run a binder ring through it and one of the holes that are part of the name tag holders original ‘construction’– I hoped this would keep the pouch closed, I was then going to put the carabiner through the ring so it could be attached to something on the person. Unfortunately, the pouches were slightly too small for that.

The next flaw in my plan was actually being able to open the binder rings. It took a lot of time, pain, and persistence but I was eventually able to open them– one by painful one. Once the ring was opened once it became much easier to open it after that. There was still the slight issue of how to hook this onto the pouch and keep the pouch closed so the tracker wouldn’t fall out.

I noticed that there was ample room to punch a small hole in the pouch to the side of the GPS tracker so I decided this would be the next best course of action. Of course, I didn’t have an actual hole punch so I used a staple remover to cut a small hole through both sides of the pouch. The binder ring fit through the hole easily and I clipped the carabiner on. It was much more secure than I thought it would be, and the plastic didn’t tear at all. And finally, to close the pouch so the GPS tracker wouldn’t fall out, I taped down the top flap of the name tag holder where a lanyard or string would normally be attached– there was only some cheap scotch tape in the apartment so I used that but will need to get some better tape if this is the route I choose to go in the end.

This time I only took two of the trackers with me so I could save the other pouches for when I had an actual hole punch. The route turned out a bit better than last time, but one of the units did a few random off shoots. They didn’t last long at all so I’m not overly worried about it at this point but I’ll keep an eye on it as I do more tests at home and in the field.

This is what I MacGyvered to carry the GPS trackers by clipping it to something instead of having to hold it.
‘Look Ma, no hands!’


GPS Trial Run

Since I am currently at Banting House NHSC, between visitor groups, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little about my (brief) experience testing the GPS Trackers for my MA project so far.

A couple of days ago I decided to test one of my GPS Trackers out when I went on my run, and I was surprised how well it worked. The route was a couple of meters off in places, and when I went through the forest path the signal must have bounced around a bit since my route was off more there, but in all it was fairly accurate. I suspected the trees would decrease the accuracy of the unit but I had hoped it wouldn’t be so bad. So, aside from the tracker suggesting I am Kitty from X-Men and can run through walls I was rather impressed. I used Google Earth to view the map the tracker produced and examined the stats I received about distance and speed from the program associated with the tracker– I was surprised to find I had gone 2.55 miles that morning.

The next day I went for a short walk carrying all four of the trackers, and took waypoints along the way, to test how consistent the set of them are. I went through the forest again and was pleased to discover that the set produced relatively the same route as one another so I am going to need to do more experimenting in there to see what is going on. The rest of the route and the waypoints were generally within a few feet of each other. When I backtracked along the route there were minor differences between the initial and return route but that could also be me misremembering where exactly I had walked.

At the moment I suspect that some of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies are due to the small felt pouches the manufacturer provide to protect the units. I carried the trackers in these in case, by some small chance, I happened to drop one– I didn’t want to scratch the units unnecessarily. Over the next few days I plan to test them again without the felt pouches to see if these had an impact on the results. I am hoping that the accuracy and consistency will be higher during these tests so I will know if it is best to leave the units uncovered. It is also my intention to try different techniques of carrying the units, including having them clipped to a bag or belt loop, if I can find the appropriate item for this task. Hopefully a carabiner and a thin plastic cover will work for this and not impact the results.

I am hoping that the statistics provided by the program associated with the trackers will be able to provide interesting information about how long people spend at the archaeological site museum and how quickly they move throughout the site and on their tour. And, of course, I will be sure to test the accuracy and consistency of the units at the site when I get there so I will have an idea about the reliability of the data logged by the trackers; I will also be marking the units and the memory cards so I can be sure to keep the pairings of these the same during my tests and research.

I was wrong.

So, when I thought I would have more time to post once classes and TA duties were over I was wrong. Over the past month I have moved in with my boyfriend, completed my research proposal ‘defense’, have been working on my Spanish, started getting things together for Peru, and helped my parent’s find a new place.

My move went smoothly, unfortunately the two of us have lots of stuff so we have had a bit of difficulty getting everything put away– particularly my clothes. We are in desperate need of a dresser but have yet to find one (let alone one that we like). My parents have decided to move to L.; when they came down for a family gathering my mom handed out resumes and in turn got a job. We then proceeded to find them a place close to her new job, which she starts next month. They move next week so they have spent the last little while packing and trying to sell things. Hopefully their trip here and unpacking goes smoothly.

My research proposal ‘defense’ led to a few new avenues to consider with my project, which I will flush out a bit more over the next month and a half. I leave a week into July so I have some time to find more articles to bring with me, work out my lines of questioning, and continue improving my Spanish. A friend of mine has also been trying to learn so we plan on talking to one another for practice. In all it is coming together and I have started to buy supplies for my research (including multi-colour pens!).

I’ve also started running again. I have to say I missed going out first thing in the morning, it just seems to set the day up to be more productive and just brighter in general. There is a small little forest path close to where I live so I have worked out a route that allows me to go through it a few times. It beautiful, and I have seen a couple of bunnies and a raccoon while running– and listening to Harry Potter– in Spanish.

End of Courses

I had thought October was crazy last term, was I ever wrong! This whole semester has been go, go, go.

Work for the iPhone app has more or less come to a close. AP and I went with our talent to get the audio recorded last week, and the two of us are going in to help with editing tomorrow afternoon. After that we’ll drop it all off, I’ll hand in my receipt so I can get reimbursed for the cost, and that will be that. It’s taken a lot of work but it has really come together. Everyone in the PHG has done so much and worked so hard. I can hardly wait to see the final product once the app designers have completed inputting our content.

Still haven’t heard anything from the research ethics board. I will have to ask my supervisor if he has heard anything. Which reminds me, I need to charge all my GPS trackers so I can test them soon. Need to make sure they are all tracking properly. The one I tested a few weeks ago worked really well. Need to come up with something for them to be carried in by the participants in my MA research as well.

I posted a link to the article I wrote for my writing for the public assignment a couple weeks ago. I wrote a guest blog post about the lack of history content on History Television and it was published by The History Education Network and Active History. I also handed in the associated write up to my public history prof, so that is all taken care of.

The final paper for the heritage management class is more or less done. I am going to edit it one more time and then I will send it off to be marked. I’m pretty happy about it and it was fairly fun to write– I focused on how archaeologists and archaeology are depicted in films and how that impacts applied archaeologists.

My research proposal defense is coming up in a couple weeks. We did a mock defense with the anthropological methods classes as our final assignment and mine went really well so I am not too worried about the actual thing at this point. I’ve been working on my Spanish a bit the past few days and that is boosting my confidence a bit. Hopefully the Spanish and defense go over well, that way I can stay focused on the Spanish instead of reworking my project.

TAing is coming to an end. The classes exam is on the 25th and once that is over I will blog about my experience with the class.

Ignite Culture TAKE 2

So, at the beginning of April I gave another Ignite Culture talk, this time in London. It was about how to inspire engagement amongst the public. Here is the link, please check it out and feel free to leave comments.

Guest Blog Posts

Just wanted to post the links to the guest blog I wrote about History Television for Active History and The History Education Network (THEN).

Active History:



Time keeps getting away from me.

So, its half way through March. I thought February went by quickly!

This semester has just been one thing after another. Marking for my TA assignment– midterms and essay proposals, work for the iPhone app my public history class is producing the content for, a conference style critique presentation, an essay proposal, coding data about my MA thesis for an assignment, research ethics board proposal, research proposal for the department, and Ignite Culture. Of course, all of these things have been time-consuming, and have made the past month go by ridiculously quickly.

Ignite Culture was AMAZING! Props to all those that presented and helped out, but especially props to Jenn Nelson. The whole event was well executed, the venue was great, the audience was supportive, the networking went well, and I even presented. A basic run down of what Ignite Culture is: speakers have 5 minutes to present on a topic of their choice, they get 20 auto advancing slides that switch every 15 seconds, and that is it! You have to be on the ball because the time goes by extremely quickly. If you aren’t paying attention your slides can get away from you very easily and you have to play catch up, or come up with something on the fly.

I spoke about the importance of storytelling and you can watch my talk here. I do have to say it was nerve-wracking once I was up there, PowerPoint was finicky at first and flustered me but it got sorted. I hit a snag in the middle, but it all worked out in the end.

I also attended Ignite London this past week. The speakers were wonderful as well, and my team for the opening activity won third in the duct tape fashion contest (hurray!).

As I mentioned above I was working on my research ethics board proposal for my MA thesis over the past couple months and handed it in last Wednesday. It was from my research ethics board proposal and my SSHRC proposal (which was handed in this fall) that I came up with the first draft of my research proposal for the Anthropology department. MA candidates have to hand in and defend a research proposal in late March to early April so that members of the department and their advisers can get an idea of the direction the candidates project is taking. It also is used to make sure that the proposed project is feasible. It includes details about what your project entails, your hypotheses, the methods you plan to use, your site selection, a reference list, and any other information you think might be important in explaining the reasons for your current direction. I emailed my supervisor my second draft today. I am really hoping that the defense goes well.

Otherwise, I am mostly plugging away on course work, TA duties, and thesis prep. There is always so much to do. Luckily classes are almost over and I will be able to devote more time to assignments and getting things ready for my trip to Peru. Almost unfortunately the weather has been amazing, making it very difficult to stay inside and work. I don’t want to say I hope the weather takes a turn for the worse, because I really don’t care for all the rain London tends to get in the spring, but cooler weather would at least make it more appealing to be inside where it is warm.

Rolling Right Along… How is it February?

This term has been going by really quickly, and is only going to get more hectic than it already has been. I’ve done a presentation and handed in an assignment about writing for popular audiences/newspapers so far, doing assignments that will help with the completing of my thesis proposal/defense which will take place later in the term, and have been working on my ethics proposal so I can get it approved as soon as possible. TAing has also been going very well.

I have helped lead two discussion classes in the Introduction to Sociocultural class I TA for this term. The first dealt with the modes of (agricultural) production used by different groups, and the second dealt with indigenous knowledge. We went over these areas, watched some Youtube videos, and asked the students questions. They were very responsive, which I was happy to see. I had been afraid that they would just sit and stare back at myself and the other TA leading the class and expect us to give them the answers. My only qualm with it is how reliant students seem to be on PowerPoint these days. I much preferred classes where the prof. would just put up key words and dates, and just expect us to listen and take notes. The PowerPoint always seemed like a hindrance to me. Spent too much time focusing on them and copying the text rather than focusing on the prof., who has the real answers. In our case we had just taken the content from the textbook, they could have gotten it from there and listened to the discussion/took notes on what was said instead of worrying about if we were going to post the slides online. I’m also, only slightly, sad about the fact no one has come to my office hours, though I suppose that gives me more time to work on other things.

For my Heritage and Society class I had to present two readings the third week of class, the presentation went really well, leading to an interesting conversation about what applied archaeology is and its role in society compared to academic archaeology. Later in the term I will have to complete a review of an internet source, I’ve chosen four twitter accounts that tweet archaeology news, complete a ‘conference’ paper and presentation for class, and complete a final essay—as well as completing another presentation on a reading. I am excited for the internet review, and I enjoy the topics I have selected from the papers, but I am unsure how to go about them still. I suppose it will take a lot of puttering and figuring out.

The popular writing assignment is the article I posted previously. In the future, on a similar vein, I will need to write another article and find somewhere to submit it to for possible publication—this is also an assignment. At the moment I have a couple of ideas that may be viable, including the War of 1812 in Northern Ontario and the start of Dr. Banting’s insulin research (to go along with the 91st anniversary of its start). If anyone has other suggests regarding this I would be more than happy for them.

As for my thesis, related ethics protocol and proposal, strides have been made toward narrowing down my project idea. As mentioned previously, I will be spending two months at Huaca de la Luna in Peru to study and analyze how people experience the archaeological site museum. I will be examining how people interact with their environment and other individuals at the site, and how they are influenced by the contested narratives that are being portrayed to them. To get at this I will be conducting survey like and unstructured interviews, using GPS tracking technology to see how people move about the site, and conducting participant observation. The ethics protocol forms have been progressing well but there are a few things left to do for it, and I am going to be meeting with Janet Loebach from the geography department later this week to discuss GPS techniques, ethics, and consent forms. The thesis proposal is a little further off in my mind but weekly exercises for my sociocultural anthropology methods class have gotten me thinking about it, and making the first steps towards its completion.

Otherwise, the app content that is being written by my Public History class is progressing. We handed in our 2nd report today and the first draft of the text is due in early March. I am looking forward to seeing the final product as everyone has put in a lot of work for it.

I also have been at Banting House the past two weekends to volunteer, and am glad that so many interesting and interested people have been coming in, I love being able to talk to them.
Hopefully the rest of the term continues to go well, and my thesis proposal and ethics protocol are excepted without too much trouble.

I am really looking forward to the summer and getting to spend so much time at Huaca de la Luna, I am interested to see what I find there and am excited to see my project really coming into its own.

CMHR’s Valient Pursuits Hidden By Controversy

This is an article written for a popular writing workshop held in my Public History class about the forthcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I have edited it a tad (grammar rather than content) after receiving comments in class but wanted to post it more or less as is here.

CHMR’s valiant pursuits hidden by controversy
The forthcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), announced in 2008, has striven to become one of Canada’s most morally aware museums. Though the CMHR’s possibly hierarchical treatment of the Holocaust, in relation to other genocides, has resulted in controversy, there may be practical reasons behind the chosen interpretive design.

Human Rights issues have come to the fore since World War II. Similar atrocities have occurred in various countries, including Soviet Ukraine, however few stir the public as vigorously as the Holocaust. Because the Holocaust holds a central position in society’s collective consciousness it serves as an effective means to discuss Human Rights violations and serves as a draw for visitors. People know something about the Holocaust, but are still curious and can always learn more. If space devoted to the Holocaust exhibit is also used to display information about Human Rights advances since WWII (of which Canada is a leader) and WWII’s stimulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the exhibit will have served a dual purpose, rather than representing a single event.

While at the museum visitors are exposed to information about other atrocities—regardless of if it was the Holocaust exhibit that brought them through the doors. Exposure to these events and other human rights issues can influence visitors to learn more, effectively spreading awareness about the Human Rights violations that have occurred throughout history—and still occur today.

What is perhaps more important is the attempts of the CMHR to gather stories about everyday forms of Human Rights violations as well: dehumanization, criminalization, and the invisibility of hardship; rights issues faced by women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, the LGBT community, and indigenous populations; and economic, environmental, and social justice problems—not just genocides. Through efforts to shed light on a range of Human Rights issues the CMHR feared they would come up against attempts by contemporary governments to dictate content. So efforts have been made to protect the museum’s independence, and safeguard its ability to evolve, think reflexively about, and critique Human Rights violations in Canada and around the world. This is a valiant pursuit for the CMHR, which is aptly being built at The Forks in Winnipeg, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet—a historic gathering place, which will now serve as a location for Human Rights enlightenment and an examination of Canada’s role in this evolving field.

On to Term Two

So, the holidays are over, as is the first week back to class, and it seems that this semester will be just as hectic as the last, perhaps more so. I have two new classes—Heritage and Society, and Socio-Cultural Methods (both Anthropology classes)—and am continuing with my (technically two-part) public history class. This semester I will need to work on my thesis proposal and present it, do primary research for the War of 1812 iPhone App and write my portion of the content, as well as various other assignments/essays.

Now that my GRA is done I have moved onto a GTA contract. I will be TAing an introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology class. This will involve attending classes and doing the readings, holding office hours, leading some in-class discussions, as well as marking reflection pieces, essays, midterms, and final exams. I’m interested to see how this experience will go as I had never really considered teaching, at least not in a school, as a profession, but I am really excited to try it.

This term I am also hoping to take up recreational skating and squash. Hopefully these will become continuous healthy leisure activities that will also work off stress from classes. I am also hoping to start learning more Spanish as I received the complete Spanish edition of Living Language for Christmas from my parents.

In the next couple of days I am hoping to meet with Dr. Gilliland from the Geography department to discuss the possibility of utilizing GPS and GIS in order to track the movement of visitors at Huaca de la Luna for my thesis project. If I haven’t mentioned so previously I have decided to restrict my research to only one archaeological site museum now so that I will really be able to get an in-depth grasp of what is occurring there.

Here is hoping for another good term, and a wonderful beginning to 2012!