Decolonizing, Indigenizing, and Examining the Patriarchy: 2018 ACA Student Colloquium: Archives and Activism

By Nicole Gavreau

How can archives be activists? What archival institutions are already being activists? These were the most basic questions of the 2018 ACA Colloquium on Friday, March 16. The answers came from Katherine Kasirer of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB); Camille Callison—a member of the Tsesk iye clan of the Tahlatan Nation, Indigenous Services Librarian at the University of Manitoba, and member of the NFB Indigenous Advisory Board; Beth Greenhorn of Library and Archives Canada (LAC), and François Dansereau, archivist for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

Katherine and Camille gave a joint presentation, with Camille joining via video link, on decolonizing and indigenizing subject access to the NFB indigenous collection. The effort is part of a three year plan in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s report and includes over 33 action to transform the NFB, redefine its relationship with the indigenous peoples it has historically viewed through a European lens, and to re-write their descriptions to meet today’s standards. A large part of this is a new indigenous cinema page, which employs the Brian Deer Classification System and uses tribes and nations names for themselves. The NFB would like to eventual decolonize the entire “ethnographic” film collection.

Beth Greenhorn spoke of her long-time involvement with Project Naming, LAC’s effort to correct the historical record and past wrongs in relation to images of indigenous peoples. The project started with a collection of 500 photos of people from what is now Nunavut and has grown from there to include pictures of people from a variety First Nations, Inuit, and Métis groups. Once photos are identified through events in communities or in Ottawa, through social media, through the LAC website, or through the “Do you know your elders?” series that has been run in Nunavut newspapers, new caption are made for the photos. A general caption is kept, and information on the person or people in the photo is added in brackets. The LAC is also currently working to change location information to indigenous names, though they are retaining the English names from the time the photos were taken for the historical record. Finally, the materials can be made available to communities to tell their own stories. Social tagging and transcription tools should be available soon.

The end of the colloquium brought François Dansereau and his presentation “Power Dynamic and Institutional Archives: Masculine Authority and the Modern Hospital”, which looked at the representation of women in the MUHC archives. Women were drastically under represented in the hospital archive; often the only early appearances were nurses and nuns in group pictures with male doctors. This changed as time went on, with women appearing more alone and using technology as nurses, technicians, and doctors, but still at a lower rate than male doctors. How do you solve the problem? For existing archives the role of women needs to be highlighted; for materials to be added records from women must be taken as well.

Overview of Programming Languages for Beginners

By Tyler Kolody

DISCLAIMER: Though I’ve tried to stick with the facts, I’m primarily a Python programmer interested in data science/AI, so opinions expressed come from that perspective.

 

C

Pros: Faster than pretty much anything else, OG modern language with most other languages inheriting syntax from it, will let you do anything you want even if you shouldn’t.

Cons: Lacks the versatility of the object-oriented paradigm, doesn’t do anything for you; everything must be explicitly built, will let you do anything you want even if you shouldn’t

Summary: The grandfather of modern programming languages, except this grandpa is Usain Bolt and none of its kids or grandkids can keep up with it in a straight race. Like most geriatrics, it’s not very flexible, but despite being over 40 years old, it is still in active use for many applications. It isn’t as popular as C++ or Java, but is useful when writing code that must be extremely fast and light weight, while still being executable on multiple system architectures. Different compilers can read and convert it into machine code for many different system architectures without changing the code itself. It epitomizes the old adage “Easy to learn, hard to master” as the codebase itself is extremely small, but true understanding is something that could take decades to reach.

Hello World!:

 

C++

Pros: Very fast, has modern language features, won’t let you access memory willy-nilly so is safer than C

Cons: Difficult to learn, suffers from readability issues as it is literally just C with a bunch of things added retroactively and some of it can get messy

Summary: Much of what has been said about C can be said about C++, and you can technically run C++ as C. However, they are not the same language and C++ adds many modern features; most notably the concept of classes and objects is central to C. It is still a low-level language and abstracts very little, but it will not allow you to do whatever you want the way C does. For example, it will prevent you from accessing memory memory you shouldn’t, making it safer. These attributes, in addition to its efficiency make it ideal for large applications that still need to run quickly, making it very popular for game engines and cryptocurrency protocols.

Hello World!:

 

Python

Pros: Easy to read, beginner friendly, very wide range of applications particularly in data science

Cons: Slower than other general-purpose languages, not as scalable for very large projects

Summary: Python is a high-level language that abstracts away much of what is going on in the code, allowing for very fast prototyping and leading to extremely easy to read syntax. This stems from the fact that it does not require explicit type declarations, nor does it require programmers to understand memory management. This is helpful when trying to introduce concepts to beginners, but by ignoring these concepts it can make it more difficult to move to other languages later on. Underneath it’s simple syntax, Python combines many different features and paradigms, making it extremely flexible. For example, it is an interpreted language meaning that each statement is read and translated into machine code at run time, but can also be compiled if desired. This, makes it a popular language at all levels of programming experience. Even it’s notable performance issues can be circumvented in some cases using libraries that allow other languages to run within its code (notably C, the fastest modern language). Python has commonly used versions, 2.7x and 3.x, commonly referred to simply as Python 2 and 3. Python 2.7x is the older version which traditionally has had better library support. However, Python 3 is the future, and has more or less caught up to it’s predecessor. While there are many differences under the hood, practically speaking the syntax differences are fairly minimal.

Hello World!:

Python 2

print “Hello World!”

Python 3

print(“Hello World!”)

 

Java

Pros: Very portable across different platforms without needing to be compiled multiple times, substantial community support, no need for memory management unlike C++

Cons: Some security issues, purely OOP (literally everything has to be an object) can be difficult to get used to for those coming from mixed paradigms

Summary: Java is the most ubiquitous of the Big Three general purpose languages, being extremely portable and having many features that make it very compatible with web development in addition to app development and general use. It has been the dominant language for two decades, and although it has lost ground to others, it is still enormously popular. It’s as versatile as Python, almost as fast as C++ and more portable than pretty much anything; essentially a jack of all trades. It’s also the main language used to write Android apps, making ‘Java developer’ a very high demand position. However, since everything must be an object, the syntax can get extremely long and unwieldy.

Hello World!

 

JavaScript

Pros: Hahahaha no…Fine, I’ve been informed that this is supposed to be informative and not a platform for my biases so I’ll try. It is fairly simple, if not very nice, syntactically speaking. It’s fast. Its popularity means there’s a lot of documentation and support for troubleshooting.

Cons: You don’t have a choice if you want to do web development; it’s the primary client-side language used. It is a security nightmare; most web exploits are rooted in JS. It’s not browser agnostic.

Summary: JavaScript is the most popular client-side web language in existence, and is responsible for much of the modern internet’s look and functionality. It handles everything on your computer when you browse, hence why it is ‘client-side’, as opposed to server-side languages such as PHP that handle the back end of web development. Most things that move on a website and anything you can interact with is the result of JavaScript. It is entirely web-focused, but can technically be used more generally. The wide array of frameworks such as jQuery, Angular and React allow for a diverse approach to web and application development. Its prevalence across the web ensure that it isn’t going anywhere, and the variety of frameworks and active community help cover up some of it’s numerous issues. On the topic of its name and relation to other languages: Java is to JavaScript as car is to carpet.

Hello World!:

To print to browser:

alert(“Hello World!”)

To print to console:

console.log(“Hello World!”)

 

Assembly

Pros: You can’t get any closer to the metal, very clearly (relatively speaking) corresponds with CPU instructions.

Cons: The metal is cold, hard and frequently shocks you. Made worse if your tears of frustration and despair short out the keyboard.

Summary: This is functionally machine code, where each line or instruction roughly corresponds to an instruction executed by the CPU. Assembly is not an actual language but an umbrella term; each CPU architecture has a different language specific to it. It is typically used for embedded systems, devices with little computing power and need to be absurdly lightweight. It is the interface between hardware and software that eventually, every other language is compiled to or interpreted as. Primarily the realm of hardcore engineering nerds who should get out more, but no judgement if this is your thing.

Hello World! (NASM x64 assembly):

 

 

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