2018 Summer Collaborative Grants

The People’s Weather Map and Social Media: Iowans Talking about Weather Hazards 

Barbara Eckstein – Professor of English, University of Iowa

Casey Oberlin – Assistant Professor of Sociology, Grinnell College

Caglar Koylu – Assistant Professor of Geographic & Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa)

In collaboration with:

Liz Rodrigues – Faculty Member, Library, Grinnell College

Muhammed Sit – Graduate Student, Computer Science, University of Iowa

During the 2016 Digital Bridges Summer Workshop— a collaboration between Grinnell College and The University of Iowa funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—Casey Oberlin and Barbara Eckstein identified a common interest in the role social media might play in conveying public attitudes and stories about science. Barbara already had started a project, The Peoples’ Weather Map (PWM), which housed severe weather stories in Iowa and was designed as a climate change education project. We arranged to focus our exploration of social media on the topic of severe weather and climate change in Iowa. The PWM is a county-searchable website of weather hazards in Iowa—past, recent, and predicted. We are undergoing a significant website makeover to make it more accessible and interactive.

The Peoples’ Weather Map will also be partnering with the Iowa Watershed Approach IWA, a multi-institution flood resilience project in 9 watersheds in Iowa funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. While much of the project is about engineering, the Flood Resilience Program includes a broader human social understanding of what resilience might look like. The PWM’s histories of local, severe weather, together with our new proposal to gather contemporary severe weather narratives from social media will, we hope, enhance efforts to engage citizens as story-tellers, writers, photographers. A key focus for our collaboration is the opportunity to explore digital strategies for gathering and representing people’s understanding, feeling, and expression of how severe weather shapes their lives, as expressed in their own words.

In an era when scientific information about climate change is contested, misunderstood, or simply ignored, we seek to broaden the understanding of how severe weather relates to climate change and ground these discussions within our own lives. Storytelling that relies on multiple narratives and different types of data is how we reach more people and strengthen our shared commitment to address climate change as a community since it affects us all. We want to listen, educate, and mobilize.


Colored Conventions Project: Iowa Satellite

Leslie Schwalm – Professor of History, University of Iowa

Katrina Sanders – Associate Professor of Educational, Policy, and Leadership Studies and Schools, Culture, and Society, University of Iowa

Miriam Thaggert – Associate Professor of African American Studies, English, and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa

Stephanie Jones – Assistant Professor of Education, Grinnell College

This group plans to organize an Iowa satellite to the Colored Conventions Project (CCP), a digital humanities project that brings the history of nineteenth-century African American political organizing to digital life. Part archive, part scholarly interpretation, and part curriculum-building, the project’s core lies in the published and unpublished record of black conventions held over the course of the 19th century across the nation. This collaboration will focus on four of the CCP’s main initiatives: Community and Historic Church Outreach; Digital Archives; Exhibits; and Minute Transcription.

Iowa’s 19th-century conventions—beginning in 1857—offer an important window into the history of Midwestern black communities and their political activism, and the conventions are a subject ripe for the development of publicly-engaged scholarship and teaching.  The group’s primary goal is to use the development of an Iowa satellite for the CCP project as an opportunity to create an accessible (digital) archive in Midwestern black history; connect that archive with several of Iowa’s historical black communities; advance scholarship on the 19th-century black Midwest; develop an “Iowa Exhibit” on the CCP website; and create new courses and teaching opportunities using the CCP-Iowa material. The group hopes to advance significantly the Midwestern component of the CCP Project as well as public engagement with African American history in Iowa by recuperating, digitizing, studying and teaching the record of Iowa’s documented conventions (1857, 1865, 1868) as well as its poorly documented conventions (1871, 1876). They are especially interested in creating a project that will build enduring partnerships within and beyond the University community; this will be one of our central priorities as we meet this summer.


Applications of Digital Storytelling

Elana Buch – Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Iowa

Carolyn Colvin – Associate Professor of Education, University of Iowa

Leslie Locke – Assistant Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership, University of Iowa

Corinne Peek-Asa – Associate Dean for Research, College of Public Health, University of Iowa

Denise Szecsei – Lecturer of Computer Science, University of Iowa

Rachel Young – Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Iowa

This group will be holding Skype conversations with a number of national experts on their practices in using digital storytelling in research and teaching. They are also interested in approaches to evaluating digital storytelling projects. They are reading Aline Gubrium’s Participatory Visual and Digital Methods (Developing Qualitative Inquiry), and Professor Gubrium will be one of the experts whom they interview by Skype. They also plan to meet with experts from StoryCenter, the organization that led summer Digital Bridges institutes in 2017 and 2018 for Grinnell and University of Iowa faculty, staff, and graduate students.