Mapping Jazz Venues in Pittsburgh’s Hill District
Duquesne University, United States of America
The speaker will present a 5-minute Lightning Talk on his ongoing digital mapping project which visualizes the dense concentration of entertainment infrastructure of the Hill District, a predominately-African American neighborhood situated next to downtown Pittsburgh.
From the 1920s to the 1970s, the density of the neighborhood’s entertainment infrastructure resulted in a thriving cultural hub where an abundance of home-grown jazz artists could gain access to opportunities for professional experience and invaluable networking opportunities. The history of Pittsburgh’s Hill District consists of a black experience riddled with radiant triumph and bitter tragedy. Despite the diverse experiences of its black residents, most contemporary conceptions of the neighborhood’s history suffer from a strong focus on what Laurence Glasco calls “the Narrative;” the tendency of black history written since the civil rights movement to focus primarily on black struggle and white oppression, often at the expense of appreciating the scope of black achievement. The goal of this visualization project is to present a direct challenge to “the Narrative’s” continued hold on current perceptions of the Hill District.
The project, currently in development for a final project assignment in a Digital Humanities and the Historian course, will utilize Northwestern University’s Knightlab StorymapsJS program to visualize the dense concentration of nightclubs, theatres, and bars that made up the Hill District’s entertainment infrastructure. Each venue will be plotted at its original location complete with original photos and a description which will link to further reading. These points will be plotted on a reconstructed map depicting the area as it existed before Pittsburgh’s Urban Renewal strategy decimated the Hill’s cultural district. This process will produce a visualization depicting the high density of entertainment infrastructure which will effectively communicate the neighborhood’s cultural significance in a way that written narratives can’t. The use of photographs for each plot point will also contextualize vast quantitates of digitally available primary sources in one centralized location which currently does not exist. And ultimately, this visualization will seek to distill and synthesize current scholarship on the neighborhood’s jazz venues into smaller, more transparent narratives while providing references that can point interested readers towards more detailed sources should they want to know more.
Mashers and Street Harassment in Progressive Era Pittsburgh, 1880s to 1930s
Carnegie Mellon University/Saint Vincent College, United States of America
My proposed paper focuses on issues of street harassment between 1880 and 1940 in the city of Pittsburgh. During this time, police targeted offenders known as mashers and arrested them under disorderly conduct laws. While I do not suggest that all disorderly conduct cases are mashing cases, street harassment did fall within the accepted definition of disorderly conduct. This project looks at the demographic and spatial patterns regarding street harassment in respect to the stereotypical male masher found within urban public space in Pittsburgh from 1884 until 1939. Other studies have defined the male masher in purely cultural terms and have argued that men who bothered women on the streets came from a background of affluence. They have concluded that these fashionable men were the primary threats to female mobility within urban space. Using police records, my study adds to this picture an entire class of men previously unrecognized in the scholarship: white, working-class men. These men made up 94% off the men arrested in Pittsburgh for disorderly conduct, the offense under which mashing was prosecuted. This discovery add to previous studies’ conclusions about the identity of the masher and thereby reveals that the annoyance of women was an action shared across class lines and thus much more widely practiced and experienced by women than previously recognized.
Additionally, the use of a geographic information system (GIS) mapping framework allows for the investigation of spatial patterns of disorderly conduct arrest within the city of Pittsburgh. Using a QGIS model, I am in the process of exploring visual patterns that look at when men were arrested and uncover popular locations of arrest or where concentrations of disorderly conduct occurred. Such an analysis will help to explore patterns of behavior and reveal places within the city that police identified as “problem areas” for offensive behavior against women. While my project is historical in nature, current day law enforcement use GIS to examine many of the same issues about the spatial relationships of crime. Digital maps “are the quickest means of visualizing the entire crime scenario” and provide a simple means to convey a multiplicity of information about a crime. Additionally, GIS allows for the integration of community characteristics that can be used to interpret relationships between urban environment and crimes. Examining street-harassment and trying to account for patterns of behavior among groups of men is critical to understanding how Progressive Era women experienced being in public space and exercised autonomy within the metropolis. In order to understand what mashing meant for women’s experiences, we must discern how widespread it was.
 C.P. Johnson, “Crime Mapping and Analysis Using GIS,” Geomatics 2000: Conference on Geomatics in Electronic Governance, January 2000, Pune, accessed February 15, 2018, http://fac.ksu.edu.sa/sites/default/files/crim_mapping.pdf.
Building a Digital Public Space with (not for) Pittsburgh's Music Communities
1Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; 2Rabble LLC
Join us for a conversation between a public librarian working at the intersection of digital learning, collections, and engagement, and a humanities scholar turned software executive. We're working together to build STACKS, an ongoing document of the Pittsburgh region’s vital, evolving music scene. Powered by the open-source platform MUSICat, STACKS shares artist profiles, streaming, and downloads with the community. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh uses MUSICat to run open submission rounds, license albums from local artists, and work with community leaders to curate the STACKS collection.
Built outside of academia with contemporary rather than historic material, local music collections like STACKS are outstanding examples of how public librarians are engaging with critical issues facing the field of digital humanities, including copyright (Allan Liu, 2011), critical stances toward digital tools (Jamie Skye Bianco, 2012), and ethical engagement with communities (Deb Verhoeven, 2015). Collections like STACKS—built "with not for" communities (Laurenellen McCann, 2015)—in public and civic digital spaces offer digital humanists productive frameworks for building ethical and just relationships in many kinds of projects.
Together, we'll walk through how we apply this "with not for" ethic to our work, sharing how the library collaborates with its community and how the MUSICat team works with librarians to build digital public spaces that center the concerns of musicians and communities.
For the library, STACKS is a critical component in a feedback loop of community engagement that cycles through inspiration (the spark that leads to creative activity), interaction (person-to-person connections that foster learning and discovery), transaction (resources being shared and used), and, finally, reflection (when community members share their work with the library and community). Built in collaboration with leaders from local music communities, STACKS draws energy and inspiration from existing library practices, programs, and places that have community engagement at their core. By creating connective tissue between all four of these stages, this loop serves as a virtuous cycle in facilitating creative community output.
The developers building the MUSICat platform strive to work with the librarians and musicians who use the platform to create ethical digital tools that respect privacy and enable inclusive and fair licensing and curating practices. Our track record is not perfect; we will speak to the real-world process of making mistakes and compromises, educating our less technical partners and ourselves, and continually working toward better practices and tools.
Initiatives like STACKS break down the boundaries between library collections and library communities by involving users in the aggregation of materials they themselves create. Empowerment is at the heart of our work: we aim to amplify work by local creatives that is often unheard, while ensuring everyone involved can make meaningful contributions and reap concrete benefits. This is the process of working “with not for” in practice.