Workbook for Introduction to Digital Humanities: A-State

Aimie Michelle's Visualization

In order to place the changes to Arkansas State University's mascots in context, I have begun to analyze the changes in the use of Native American mascots across the country from 1969 to 2010 using Palladio.  The following network analysis has been generated from "American Indian Mascot and Nickname Changes: A Chronology", compiled by Jay Rosenstein [1].  I have organized the data by institution (University or High School), their state, the year of the change, and the type of action:

NC: A change of sports team name away from a Native American name and mascot
DC: Dropping a caricature-based mascot or marketing symbol while retaining the Native American-related name
DR: Dropping all reference to Native American culture while retaining the name and rebranding to a different symbol
RS: Passing a resolution banning Native American mascot names or imagery, or passing sanctions against schools using them.

The data visualization shows that, for many schools including ASU, the preocess of change took place over several years and several actions, starting with a "updating" of imagery away from offensive caricatures, then making the imagery less specific to Native American culture, and finally, changing the name itself as pressure built from the increase in bans and sanctions, especially the NCAA's 2005 guidelines on the use of offensive imagery or stereotypes in mascots.

As colleges examined and changed their mascot names, secondary schools followed, often as a result of policy decision by local or state school board. 

Here we can see the leap in changes at the high school level occurring in 2001, following the increase in changes at the college level and the growing attention paid to the issues involving the use of Native American mascots in the national media.  A second peak occurs in 2006, following the NCAA's new guidelines.  Unlike the colleges, however, secondary schools spent less time trying to make the mascot more acceptable, and in most cases, simply did a total change of team name and symbol.

Palladio's ability to reorganize and represent data allows the user to look for other relationships and patterns within the data, such as the links between the changes in schools and geographic location:

... or by the type of change made and the year:

This provides users with the opportunity to play with the data and reflect on patterns of larger cultural change.  In this case, highlighting the momentum of administrative decisions recognizing the controversy and harmful aspects of the use of stereotypes and caricatures in Native American mascots by school sports teams helps to put the local argument over the validity of Arkansas State University's decision to change the mascot from Indians to Red Wolves into a greater context.

[1] Jay Rosenstein, "American Indian Mascot and Nickname Changes: A Chronology," in The Native American Mascot Controversy: A Handbook, ed. C. Richard King (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010), 259-263.

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