The Runner | KPU History Department Presents Faculty-Student Collaboration “3D-Printing the Past”


Ever since Kyle Jackson, a history professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, began his research career, his focus has always been on challenging the misconceptions, stereotypes and myths created about the Mizo peoples who lived in a mountainous region of northeast India.

In June last year, Jackson and student research assistants Lucas Akai and Birk Zukowsky released ‘3D-Printing the Past’, a project that challenged stereotypes about this region of northeast India. who portrayed it as a remote or isolated region.

“It was referred to by colonial authorities as remote, like a peripheral wilderness at the end of the world,” Jackson explains. “Who defines this as North East when it is a center for the people who actually live there? So my research career so far has tried to challenge that.

KPU’s History Department and Wilson School of Design collaborated to show the project through visuals to showcase the results in an engaging and easy-to-understand way. The project was presented with the BC Historical Federation by Youtube last year, and posted on KPU’s story website a few weeks ago.

Each semester, the university offers research and scholarship Classes work with a faculty member who initiates research projects. Jackson contacted Akai to see if he was interested in working on this project.

“I was very excited to be part of the project,” says Akai. “It was the first time I had done anything like that.”

Jackson and Akai went through a collection of newspapers called Mizo leh Vai Chanchin which were published between 1900 and 1939 and written in the Mizo language. As they read, they began to wonder how global the media coverage was and how readers perceived other places in the world.

Akai then used software to “scrape” the text from the newspapers and break down the 1.6 million words by language and the frequency of specific words like countries and locations used in all documents.

The hardest part was getting the data together and putting it into a readable format, says Akai.

“When we were retrieving our data, it was raw numbers, it was sentences cut in half. Everything was basically just raw information,” he says. “It was basically just a wall of text . So moving from that to presentable, graphically represented information was definitely the hardest part.

After Akai collected the data from the logs, Jackson spoke to the Wilson School of Design to see if a student could show the data visually instead of in a spreadsheet. He applied for innovation in teaching and learning Fundswho financially helps support various learning projects at KPU, and hired Zukowsky soon after.

Zukowsky took Akai’s data and turned it into a 3D map by extruding “the heights of different countries, correlated with the number of times the countries were mentioned”. For example, Germany was referenced 1,232 times in newspapers, so the height of the country would be greater than Canada, which was mentioned 48 times. He says the project took about 60 hours.

Although the project is over, Zukowsky says it’s important to share this project with the KPU community to show what different facilities can do by working together.

“It can show how easy and fun it can be to work interdisciplinary within KPU,” says Zukowsky. “But what you see is a tangible thing that you walk beside, you can see it and you’re so intrigued.”

“Overall, the map should be taken with a grain of salt, admitting that there are always issues with searches like this,” Jackson says. “[But] these inter-faculty collaborations… can enrich both disciplines on a personal level so much that they can enrich your life.


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