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Exhibit Explores Raleigh's Public Memory

Posted on April 15, 2014 6:49 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

History Exhibit Raleigh City MuseumApril is Raleigh History Month. To mark it, the City of Raleigh Museum turned to graduate students in NC State's Public History program. Museum director Ernest Dollar, a 2006 NC State Public History alum, invited grad students in Judy Kertész's Material Culture class to submit proposals that would use materials held at the museum to create an exhibit. He reviewed their three proposals and chose Communicating Communities.

The exhibit explores the power of memory and technology, and the ways both have been used to forge identities and connections to the many communities that make up the city of Raleigh.

"Over time, Raleigh's communication technologies have allowed for public memory that is both local and global in its connections," Kertész explains. "The exhibit reveals the many ways by which 20th century Raleighites connected, from hand-written letters, postcards, and yearbooks, to social media."

Kertész says the project was a first for the university's public history students, who researched, designed and executed the exhibit. "We had two previous student cohorts that did considerable research and exhibit work for the Lebanese in North Carolina exhibit on display at the North Carolina Museum of History," she says, "but this project gave students complete ownership, from concept through execution."

History Exhibit at Raleigh City Museum 2Kertész and her students had roughly nine weeks to design and execute the exhibit -- a timeframe that Kertész says is no time at all, in museum exhibit speak. "The challenges were enormous for nine graduate students who needed to grope their way through lots of primary and secondary source material, complete other course work, and learn to work cooperatively to come up with an exhibit idea based on the small, rather quirky body of materials housed at the City of Raleigh Museum," she says.

She and her students hope the results of their labors "will enable viewers to consider the importance of local as well as global memory, and the ways in which advances in technology both foster as well as trouble our abilities to communicate with people within Raleigh as well as throughout the world."

"The partnership between NC State and the City of Raleigh Museum gave the students a place where they can demonstrate the skills they learn in the classroom in a real museum setting," Dollar says. "The students involved in the Communicating Communities exhibit worked hard to develop an idea and bring it to life."

The exhibit opened during the city's First Friday celebration April 4 and will run until April 20. For hours, admission information, and directions, check the City of Raleigh Museum website.

Where Credit is Due: How Acknowledging Expertise Can Help Conservation Efforts

Posted on April 14, 2014 7:33 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Photo courtesy of Nora Haenn.

Photo courtesy of Nora Haenn.

Scientists know that tapping into local expertise is key to conservation efforts aimed at protecting biodiversity – but researchers rarely give credit to these local experts. Now some scientists are saying that’s a problem, both for the local experts and for the science itself.

To address the problem, a group of scientists is calling for conservation researchers to do a better job of publicly acknowledging the role of local experts and other non-scientists in conservation biology.

“For example, in the rainforests of the Yucatán, scientists couldn’t even begin to do any conservation research without local guides – between snakebites and getting lost, it would be too dangerous for outsiders to venture in alone,” says NC State anthropologist Nora Haenn, lead author of a paper in Conservation Biology on the subject. “In fact, biologists doing fieldwork there entrust part of their graduate students’ training to guides who understand the region and its wildlife.”

According to the paper, the Mexican government itself relies on local guides to collect information on biodiversity in the region of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the country’s largest protected area for tropical ecosystems.

“Even if they’re referring to academic literature, reserve officials are looking at papers that were written by scientists who relied on guides,” says Haenn, an associate professor of anthropology and international studies at NC State. “The guides are essential to this work.”

However, academic papers and other scientific publications rarely give local guides full credit for their expertise. For example, guides are almost never listed as co-authors, even when they played a primary role in data collection, and often are not listed in a paper’s acknowledgements.

“This is because local experts are campesinos, not members of the middle class,” Haenn says. “To protect the perceived value of their research findings, and their related status in the field, scientists are hesitant to highlight the important role of local experts, because local experts don’t have the social and educational pedigrees that are expected in the scientific community. Ultimately, this hurts everybody.”

By failing to highlight the role of local people in conservation research, Haenn and her co-authors argue, outside observers get a skewed perspective on the relationship between local people and conservation efforts. Because locals are not acknowledged as being part of the conservation effort, they are perceived as obstacles to conservation. This makes it more difficult to identify local partners for conservation efforts, since outsiders are often unaware that locals already play a crucial role in conservation.

By the same token, if a scientist hasn’t acknowledged the role of local guides in collecting data on a specific subject, it is much more difficult for other researchers to find relevant information to assist in future research endeavors. Certain kinds of conservation challenges, especially involving large geographical areas or poorly documented species, require significant amounts of data collection. Because local experts interact with their environments in a more long-term way than visiting researchers, they often have the kind of detailed knowledge needed for this kind of work.

But failure to fully acknowledge the role of expert guides also has serious repercussions for the guides themselves.

“A lack of formal credit in the science community means that these guides don’t get the status – or the salary – that comes with being a recognized expert ,” Haenn says. “And campesinos make about $10 a day, or half of what would be a middle-class salary in the region, so this has a significant impact on their quality of life.

“And while our focus was on tropical Mexico, we think our conclusions are likely relevant for conservation biologists doing fieldwork around the world,” Haenn says.

By Matt Shipman, NC State News Services.

The paper, “Improving Conservation Outcomes with Insights from Local Experts and Bureaucracies,” is a peer-reviewed essay, published online in the journal Conservation Biology. The paper was co-authored by Birgit Schmook and Yol Reyes of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Mexico, and Sophie Calmé of the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada. The research was supported, in part, by Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología.

Acclaimed Poet Li-Young Lee Reads, Announces NC State Poetry Winners

Posted on April 11, 2014 7:07 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Li-Young LeeCritically acclaimed poet Li-Young Lee visited NC State to announce the winners of the NC State 2014 poetry contest and to read from his own award-winning poetry. Lee, who judged the 2014 NC State Poetry Contest, read to a packed house in Caldwell Lounge Thursday evening.

Lee faced a challenging task as this year's guest judge: 413 poems were submitted. The contest, sponsored by the NC State Creative Writing program and supported by the Barnhardt Family Fund, is the one of the largest literary competitions in the region.

Winner of the 2014 Poetry Prize:
Betty Ritz Rogers, “The Singing Bowl”  (Greensboro, NC)

Honorable Mentions:
Helena Bell, “The Slough Ages While We Stand Still”  (Raleigh, NC)
Carlene Kucharczyk, “Song”  (Raleigh, NC)
Kelly Michels, “Learning”  (Raleigh, NC)
Jennifer Whitaker, “Mother’s Foxes” (Greensboro, NC)

Don Ball, “Heliosheath”  (Chapel Hill, NC)
Aaron Ballance, “Sugarfoot”  (Greensboro, NC)
Gabrielle Freeman, “Brief History of a Town” (Greenville, NC)
Elizabeth Jackson, “For the Soldier Who Left the Army But Lives Ten Miles from Base”  (Raleigh, NC)
Dee Lalley, “Perspectives”  (Raleigh, NC)
Jerred Metts, “What Dad Said”  (Raleigh, NC)
Elizabeth Purvis, “Eight-Ball”  (Elon, NC)
A Kat Reece, “Thanksgiving”  (Raleigh, NC)
Jen Suchanec, “Symanski and Sons”  (Raleigh, NC)
Matthew Valades, “Old Couple Talking”  (Pittsboro, NC)
Matt Wimberley, “Elegy Where the Snow Speaks its Own Name” (Beech Mountain, NC)

Winner of the 2014 Undergraduate Poetry Prize
Tyree Daye, "Croker"  (Youngsville, NC)

The American Academy of Poets Prize (for graduate students)
Heather Bowlan, "A Great City"   (Raleigh, NC)

Lee’s great-grandfather was China’s first republican president, and his father, a devout Christian, was physician to Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Lee’s parents escaped to Indonesia, where Lee was born in 1957. Lee’s father spent a year as a political prisoner in Indonesian jails, and in 1959 the family fled Indonesia and embarked on a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau and Japan. Lee’s family settled in the United States in 1964.

Lee is the author of four books of poems, his most recent being “Behind My Eyes,” and a memoir, “The Winged Seed.” Poet Gerald Stern has praised Lee’s poetry for “the large vision, the deep seriousness and the almost heroic ideal” it embodies, and Publishers Weekly extolls the “ringing clarity” Lee uses to excavate and confront his memories.

Lee has won fellowships from the American Academy of Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as the William Carlos Williams Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award.

Portions of this article appeared earlier in the NC State Bulletin.

Study Finds Gaming Augments Players' Social Lives

Posted on April 10, 2014 7:56 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Image courtesy of Nick Taylor.

Image courtesy of Nick Taylor.

New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at NC State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

“Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”

Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.

The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of social behavior at the gaming events.

“We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.

“This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline.”

The researchers also found that gamers didn’t distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.

“It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity,” Taylor says.

Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he’s interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.

The paper, “Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings,” is published online in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Jennifer Jenson and Barry Dilouya of York University, and Dr. Suzanne de Castell of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The work was supported by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

By Matt Shipman, NC State News Services

Student's Time Travel Research Explores Notions of Possibility

Posted on April 8, 2014 2:48 pm by dlleeder

Philosophy major Gray Maddrey.

Philosophy major Gray Maddrey.

Research can deepen students' passion for a subject, challenging them to search for answers to complex questions.  It permits students to be creators of knowledge, and not simply recipients of past ideas.  This Q&A explores the role research can play for CHASS undergraduates.

Gray Maddrey is a senior who is majoring in philosophy. He was intrigued by the concept of time travel, and set out to explore it more in depth. 

What or who sparked your interest in this research?

Last Spring I took PHI 330 (Metaphysics) with John Carroll. At the end of the course, the class was given the opportunity to comment on one of John’s projects relevant to the course. He liked my comments and asked whether I would like to work on the project with him. I was excited by the prospect and eagerly agreed.

Could you describe the research?

The project is concerned with the possibility of backwards time travel. While physicists may one day discover whether backwards time travel is actual, we are left in the meantime to conduct, as it were, thought experiments—to tease out the logical consequences of our ideas to see whether they make any sense. I’ve been a part of this project for almost a year, the results of which are forthcoming. As part of a long philosophical tradition, they will be available in the form of a dialogue.

How does your research relate to your major, career goals, and personal interests?  

In general, I’m interested in the notion of possibility, the relationship between possibility and conceivability, as well as the limits of the imagination. These are things with which I struggle and will continue to struggle, especially as I begin my PhD next semester. Taking them on in the context of time travel has been particularly difficult and fruitful.

What are some things you have learned?

Doing philosophy often has its way of making one come to terms with inconclusiveness. Even on the eve of the dialogue’s publication, I don’t have any established views on the possibility of backwards time travel. But that’s okay. Broadly construed, philosophy is concerned with making sense of ourselves, the world, and our relationship with the world. It’s not the kind of thing that can be finished, and we shouldn’t wish that it were.

What have some of the challenges been?

Writing a philosophical dialogue is no walk in the park. One tries to create characters with realistic personalities who have believable conversations, as well as to write with an irregular clarity about things rarely discussed. These are hard enough to do separately.

What have some of the rewards been?

As the above may have suggested, philosophy is a quintessentially human activity. In my experience, it’s its own reward. Also, time travel is just a lot of fun. (Check out, especially the “must-see movies” section, to see for yourself.)