Final Project

My final project is complete!

Visit it at


Below is the breakdown of the location of the assignment components.

  • Two or more interactive maps showing substantive geographical data or other geospatial elements related to your topic. (Lifestyle Page)
  • Two or more graphs, charts, or other visualizations that tell a story with data about your topic. (Events Page)
  • Two or more analyses of texts related to your topic using text mining tools.(Awareness Page)
  • A synthetic, cohesive presentation of the first three elements of the assignments using presentation software.(3 PowerPoint slides on the Presentation Page)
  • The equivalent of 3 double-spaced pages of text. This text should consist of a historical argument (Presentation Page) supported by or commenting on your digital materials and putting them into historical context (Sources Page), as well as a plan for the security and preservation of your project over time (This Blog Post). At least this written portion of the project must be posted on your blog.


I put a lot of time and effort into the website that I built, but since it is an electronic source of information, it has many weaknesses.  It has little security, making it vulnerable to hackers.  I use the same username and password for my host site account that I do for most of my other electronic accounts.   The site is free, so if the host, Wix, wanted to charge me for it I would either have to pay money or I would lose the site forever.  I don’t have the html for the webpages I built, so if Wix ever went out of business, the whole site would be lost.  The same can be said for the imbedded applications I used.

Fortunately I do have most of the information stored as notes on my computer.  I also have a copy of the bibliography.  I could take screen shots of the website and print out the information that I feel is important.  Also, since my Wix account is free, I don’t have to worry about the account expiring due to a missed payment.  Many of the charts and graphs are saved as images on my computer.  Since I used outside applications, if Wix shut down I would still have my timeline and other charts.



(also visible on the website)

               The history of the use of poisons in American food dates back further than the existence of the United States itself, but public awareness and concern over resultant health implications has only been a predominant concern since the start of the 21st Century.  Today in America it is commonplace for food producers to add trace amounts of poison to food before selling it to the consumer.  These chemicals are often added to kill microorganisms, but they are harmful to people too.  Some of the more well known poisons commonly found in food today are formaldehyde and sodium cyanide (which are combined to make the ingredient EDTA in Mountain Dew), petroleum (used to make Red 40), and arsenic (commonly added to rice and rice products). But food hasn’t always been this way.  For most of human history food was just made out of, well, food, without dangerous chemicals.  This website explores when poison became such a common ingredient in food, and why.

The perceived need for modern chemical preservatives arose with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, which reached the Americas around the year 1750.  As more and more people left their farms in the countryside to work instead in large factories, cities became more and more crowded.  These new city dwellers had neither the land nor the time to grow their own food.  All of a sudden there was a large demand for food that could be sent to and sold in the cities, and stay “fresh” longer so it wouldn’t rot before the consumer got the chance to eat it.  A hundred years later, the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution answered everyone’s prayers.  New chemical pesticides allowed for higher crop yields in the countryside, which meant farmers were able to meet higher demands for food.  These pesticides and preservatives also prevented the food from rotting during the long journey from the farm to the truck to the city to the market to the consumer’s kitchen to the consumer’s dinner plate.  At first these poisons seemed like a miracle.

Unfortunately, the use of chemicals in food was largely unregulated.  It was common for people to die from eating crops that contained too much pesticide.  In 1903 a group of young men formed the Poison Squad.  These volunteers ate foods treated with different kinds of chemical preservatives and then recorded which ones made them ill and which ones didn’t.  It was around this time that the Food and Drug Administration as we know it really began to take action to protect consumers.  In the following decades the FDA struggled to keep consumers safe without strangling the growth of the agricultural industry.  It began to require chemical companies to prove that their products were safe for human consumption and that their usage be reported on food labels.  The FDA was largely successful in making food safer, but it still had some failings.  In 1925, a family in London was badly poisoned by American apples that had been treated with arsenic.  For a time the British government considered banning American fruit.

For much of the twentieth century the FDA seemed to be doing its best to protect the American people.  In 1958, for example, the Delaney Amendment banned all additives that were found to cause cancer in animals or humans. But as time went on the loyalties and effectiveness of the FDA became increasingly questionable. Despite the Delaney Amendment, many food additives linked to cancer were approved for use.  The FDA and the United States Supreme Court found themselves staffed by former lawyers, chemical engineers, and other employees of major agricultural chemical companies.

These biases resulted in doubious court rulings and suspected bribery.  In 1993 the FDA approved Monsanto’s recumbent bovine growth hormone (rBGH) for use.  FDA official Dr. Margaret Miller participated in the approval process of the drug, despite having previously worked for Monsanto as a chemical engineer.  FDA official Dr. Suzanne Sechen also participated in its approval, despite having previously conducted studies funded by Monsanto and studying under one of Monsanto’s university consultants.  To prove that rBGH was safe, Monsanto conducted an unpublished study on 30 rats for 90 days.  While this laughable study was sufficient for FDA approval, it was not sufficient for Health Canada’s (the Canadian FDA) approval in 1998.  Fearing rejection of their product, Monsanto offered Health Canada a $2 million bribe, which they rejected along with the dangerous artificial hormone.

Such incidents went largely unnoticed by the general public until the very late twentieth century and early twenty-first century.  The Organic Food Movement gained a significant amount of momentum in 1990 with the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act, which laid the framework for organic food as we know it today—food that is most often free of poison.  Since then the organic food industry has been on the rise.  Organic food and FDA decisions became more popular topics for conversation in the 2000 decade than ever before.  As more consumers make informed decisions about what they eat, more and more farmers and companies are responding with healthy products that don’t contain toxic chemicals.  The history of poison in American food is still being written, by us, one day at a time, every time we eat.



(also visible on the website)

Below are lists of sources I used in each part of the website.  Despite my best efforts to supply valid and accurate information, I encourage you to challenge everything you read both on this site and on others.  Do your own research.  Validate the information you find.  Never settle for taking somebody’s word for it.  Everybody has a reason to present information to you with their own particular slant, even if it’s not apparent.

Most of my sources fall into one of three categories: Time Magazine Articles, Government Articles, and Progressive Articles.  Each one presents information from its own perspective.  Here I have shed some light into the present historical context of each group of articles:


TIME Magazine Articles—

The TIME Magazine Articles used in this website were used for the purposes of creating the graphs of public awareness of topics relating to the integrity of American food.  I used a corpus of TIME articles which included all articles published in print since TIME’s beginning in 1923.

For much of the century, the American public saw TIME Magazine as a critical source of information.  Reporting relevant information has been crucial to the success of its sales, which is why I chose to use it to represent hot topics in the previous century.

With the rise in popularity of instantaneous electronic news, many news agencies have sacrificed fact-checking in return for faster headlines and lower costs for on-staff personnel.  Fortunately, for most of TIME Magazine’s existence, print and television broadcast media were the dominant news formats, which allowed for more reliable information than is common today.


Government Articles—

My government sources were all take from electronic articles on the internet.  Since concern for the integrity of fresh food has only seemed to gain mainstream popularity in recent decades, most of my articles were written were within the last decade or so.  Also, most of the articles were written specifically for the web, also indicating that they were written relatively recently.

At this point in time, the public expects transparency from their government.  In this democratic nation, scandals can deadly to the careers of government officials.  The growth of the Organic Movement over the last 20+ years has placed extra pressure on the government to be honest about its controversial practices.  In a day and age where information is constantly being sent to millions of people instantaneously, criticism of the government can be easily distributed to the masses.

This also creates incentive for the government to respond to inquiries about their more controversial decisions.  If the government doesn’t make a case supporting their own actions, then most of the information consumers find will be information that attacks those actions.  It is therefore in the government’s best interest to be honest about the actions it has taken, but to portray those actions in such a way that they appear reasonable.


Progressive Articles—

The progressive articles I read were written in the last 20 years, usually in the last 10, and were written for the internet.  Most of them were published on privately owned websites, which means that there is no guarantee of accuracy or peer review.  The websites openly support causes related to the Organic Movement, which creates a potential for biased information.

To their credit, most of these websites do not contain ads, meaning that they are less likely to have direct financial incentive to only portray issues in a particular light.  They often cited their sources, and when I did my own research to weigh their claims against the information on opposing government websites, their information was consistent with the governments’, only it presented the same facts from a different viewpoint.


I really like this program.  I think it’s really cute.  It reminds me of Kid Pix Studio that I used to play with as a kid.  I’d make videos just like the ones you can make on Scratch, and then make my parents watch ALL OF THEM.  It’s a cute, user friendly technology that could be fun to use in projects.

One thing I will say about scratch is that it doesn’t look to me like anything new, and it doesn’t look to me like a “programming language,” instead it just looks like an interface.  It could be used as a tool to teach the idea of programming languages to children, but it doesn’t look like a language in and of itself.

Essays on History and New Media–Thoughts

I read the “Top Ten Mistakes in Academic Web Design”.  As a Communications major this is a really interesting topic to me.  I have one big component I really liked, and one big component I really didn’t like:

What I liked–I like the attention they draw to download speeds.  As time goes on, the attention span of Americans goes down more and more.  This is especially true on the internet where people often only spend one or two seconds on a webpage.  Like the article said, images take up a lot of memory and can take a long time to load, especially if the files are bigger than they need to be.

What I didn’t like–The irony in this list is that the writer describes the downfalls of “dense text” as he writes his list in dense paragraphs.  Easy to read information on the internet is best written in one-sentence paragraphs.  This can be challenging for writers to adapt to, because it forces the writer to be more concise.  Also, if he’s going to write in large paragraphs anyway, his font should be bigger and the lines should be farther apart.

Homework-Post-Search Engine Algorithms

The most interesting part of this article for me was the connection between search engine algorithms and old-fashioned manual cataloging.  It never occurred to me that they are really the same concept, just that one is used in a real-world format and the other is in an electronic format.  I was alive and doing academic research for school when manual catalogs were still in popular use but I was to young to be expected or taught to use them.  By the time I became old enough the schools I went to wanted to teach the new, up-in-coming electronic cataloguing technology to the exclusion of the manual version.  As a result, I never got real exposure to manual cataloging so I never put much thought into the different ways by which it could be done.

I think it’s interesting that keyword-in-context indexing is based on the same logic of manual cataloging systems.  I think its incredible how complex cataloging has become now that we have computers that can process mass amounts of data.  The complexity of the algorithms is really astounding and its something I rarely think about when I enter a search-word into Google.

Maps in Blogs

I have to say, after making my own timeline and viewing all examples of maps provided in the syllabus, I have a much better understanding of how much they really do lend to a deeper understanding of the content of the webpage. They were actually really cool. I liked how user friendly and interactive they were.

The page about slavery was a little overwhelming because there was so much information on the site, but they did do a good job of breaking it up into smaller pieces. My favorite website was  It was very user friendly and the map was so simple to understand.  I like that they put a lot of interesting details into their map locations without it feeling overwhelming.

Hackers and Security

The article “How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking” was really impactful.  It’s amazing how easy it was for this guy to get targeted and hacked.  The sad thing is that he’s lucky that it was just a couple teenagers trying to wake people up.  In a way he should be thankful to them.  Their whole purpose was to make people aware of electronic security risks and hackers.  Had they not targeted him, he may have just gone about his life for a while and then been hacked by somebody whose purpose was to steel his financial and/or medical information.  Had the hackers been theives they could have completely ruined his life in a way that could take decades to recover from, if at all.

And P.S., never save your credit card number in a website that’s not your bank.  I don’t care how often you shop there.  Just don’t do it.

I liked that this article detailed exactly how it was done.  It made it hit home a lot more for me.  Calling Amazon to add a new credit card was genious.  I never would have thought of that.  I’m definitely going to start rethinking my own accounts now.

My dad works in the computer security world, so I like to think that my accounts are a little more secure than this guy’s.  I certainly avoid linking any accounts I have at all costs.  Also, I’m pretty sure that my emails that are linked to my bank accounts are different from and unlinked to the emails that are linked to my social and miscellaneous accounts.  Nontheless, after reading this article I think it’s important that I go back and double check all that.  I think I’ll actually start a new email account that is only for use with secure accounts, and is never linked to random websites.

One last note; a lot of people seem to think that apple products are safe from cyber threats.  This is soooo far from true.  When I used to write computer security articles for VeriSign, any recent viruses or security flaws with Apple products were so common that they weren’t even worth pitching as story ideas, even when they effected hundreds of thousands of people.  Apple computers didn’t used to get a lot of viruses back when it seemed like nobody important used Mac’s.  But times have changed.  Now everybody uses some kind of Apple product, which means it’s worth the energy now to write viruses for them and hack them.  The company pushes out products so quickly that they don’t have time to make them really secure before they hit the market.  And for goodness sake don’t link your accounts.  The only people it benefits are hackers and marketers.  The marketers tell you that it benefits you, but the truth is it doesn’t, so just don’t do it.

Wikipedia Analysis–Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

I am judging Wikipedia’s entry for the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion ( based on its quality and transparency.

All of the hundreds of contributors to this page were listed with their contributions.  I found that I could email many of them if I wanted to.  For those who had profiles, I could read about who they were and what other articles they worked on.  I could even compair any two different versions of the page.  The page has been around since 2005, so it has had a very long reveiw process and has been heavily edited.  It was last updated on April 12, 2012, meaning that its content is most likely up to date.  Government websites and pdf documents cited in the article were available at the bottom of the page, and links within the article are all functional.  I feel comfortable that I know where the information on this page came from.


Wikipedia Pages

I thought that the Jon Udell video was pretty interesting. I like how he recorded his voice and used screen shots instead of traditional video. I thought it make it cleaner and easier to understand. Using the screen shots also meant that he was constantly citing primary sources for his information, which greatly increased his credibility.

I thought that the content of Udell’s message was interesting too. I was very impressed by how quickly the graffiti was cleaned up. It’s reassuring to know that the articles are checked and edited constantly. On the flip side, how do any of us know that the information on the page wasn’t just someone’s best guess instead of actual research?

Research Question

Is the American-government-endoursed definition of a healthy/balanced diet based more heavily on science or on commercial merketing campaigns?

Much of our understanding of nutrition comes from marketing and a need to boost consumption of certain commertial products. Nutrition is also a very new science. So what are the facts? Do we really need bacon and eggs and pancakes and fruit and milk and orange juice every morning to be healthy, or would an apple and a piece of toast have been enough? Are the government-set nutrition standards even acheivable without supplements if shopping at a traditional grocery store?

I would like to research this topic because I personally strive to eat healthy on a daily basis. Over the past year or so I have begun to question my own ideas about nutrition and the government’s ideas about nutrition just as I challenge ideas in other aspects of my life. Since the FDA has approved small amounts of formaldehyde and sodium cayanide for human consumption (it’s an ingredient in Mountain Dew) I feel like maybe my idea of “good to eat” might be different from the government’s.