Tag Archives: Final Project

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Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

And just like that my very first semester in the DH program is done. While this year of learning was unlike any other, I’m so impressed with how smooth it went and how easy it was to transition to remote learning. I’m thankful we have access to technology that lets us learn and continue with our grad careers. I’m also incredibly thankful to have had such wonderful classmates! Everyone is so intelligent, kind, and thoughtful, and I’m looking forward to working with you next semester!

With this final project I did feel a little overwhelmed when thinking how to piece it all together, but I also felt confident in my abilities to fill in the gaps that I didn’t already know. Because this was my first semester (and it’s been 5 years since I left undergrad) I was feeling a little apprehensive about writing a paper again. However, the final project guidelines that Matt provided were a great roadmap, and I felt better knowing that I had something to follow when getting my thoughts out. As I discovered throughout the whole fall, it was also a challenge balancing full-time work and life responsibilities with classwork. In this area, I’m actually thankful to have saved time commuting and running around the city since there’s not a whole lot we can do these days. But it’s worth acknowledging the emotional and mental stress we’ve all been put through this year, and I’m proud of us for showing up each week to share thoughts and learn while working towards these final projects. Again, I’m inspired of all of you and in awe at the project proposals you came up with. Brianna mentioned this in our last class and I’m reiterating here, I want to work on all of these projects!

For my proposal of a tool to help farmers and community orgs have better access to the food supply chain, I was definitely ambitious. But I thought… hey, why not? I think the majority of the impact here is revealing the gaping issues that exist and prevent farmers from staying in business and struggling families surviving. So even if the problems here are just too large for any single tool to solve, let alone a proposal from only a graduate course and not some major government program, I think it’s worth doing the research to shed some light on the ways these groups are struggling. I learned so much about the complex and byzantine food supply system that currently runs things, and got insight into heartbreaking figures that reflect how many families are struggling to put food on the table. All this to say, it helps to break things into pieces rather than try to bite off everything all at once. Thanks to Matt’s notes when I initially submitted my proposal last month, I broke up the whole project into phases that could be used as stepping stones that would make up one powerful, multi operation tool, or used individually depending on the needs of the user. I think we all stumbled across this over the semester but again, scope creep is real.

Many of us also shared worries about not knowing the full tech requirements and roles to build our projects. And I think that’s OK! I know I only scratched the surface of this area while doing research for this project, and I’m excited to meet new experts and learn more about these roles in future DH classes. It can be frustrating to not know everything or be an immediate expert, but I know the learning is in the journey and we’ve only just begun. Similarly, I’m taking these DH courses only part-time and will slowly work towards the finish line. I’m jealous when I hear about the other classes many of you are taking at the same time. They all sound so interesting! I get antsy and want to bite off more than I could handle with everything else I’m juggling. But then I shift my focus and get excited about the amazing classes coming up. I hope you all feel the same way because this DH program is fascinating.

Thanks again for a great semester! Have a wonderful break and see you in the new year. Feel free to find me on LinkedIn, social media, etc. to connect!

Final Thoughts and a Holiday Rebus

First and foremost, I want to reiterate what others have said – this class has been so enlightening and interesting. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from DH and I’m so glad I decided to join this program. Thank you all (and Prof. Gold) for your ideas and openness!

I’ve been procrastinating writing this final blog post but it’s been the case all semester that after reading what my fellow classmates have to say, I’m inspired to contribute. Perhaps, it’s good that I took some time to reflect on the final proposal process. I’ve just re-read my proposal and am reminded of some of the issues I experienced when writing it. Echoing others’ comments, I had a difficult time navigating between writing a paper and a grant proposal. How much research should I be doing? – I could easily have added more pages and sources just to explain the rebus and its history. Is my writing persuasive enough that someone could theoretically want to give me money to do this project? – my proposal sounds somewhat repetitive because I was probably thinking about this too much. Are the projects mentioned in my environmental scan appropriate and relevant? – remains to be seen. In hindsight, I wish I had started this process much sooner so that I would have time to consult with others like Micki Kaufman, the other fellows or the library (great job Elena and Bri)! But, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to write this proposal as a sort of practice for the future. 

Anyway, here is part of my abstract to refresh your memory: Reading the Rebus is an online, visual archive of 19th century British and American rebus ephemera. The project aims to make a select group of historical rebus ephemera accessible in an engaging, collaborative and interactive format to scholars in diverse fields such as linguistics, history, education, communications, design studies, and visual arts, as well as members of the general public – opening up new possibilities for discovering how we see and interpret visual information. Each rebus puzzle will be treated as an interface of inquiry to conduct close reading experimentations, translations and interpretations by audience participants. Reading the Rebus challenges the notion of traditional texts by using humanistic qualitative analysis, while also contributing to the history of language and visual communication from cuneiform and hieroglyphs to contemporary, digital emojis. 

And so in the spirit of the rebus, I leave you with Xmas holiday greeting!

An End, but Mostly a Beginning

I really didn’t know what to expect when I joined our first Zoom class in August—a mere 4 months ago in calendar time and closer to 40 years ago in experienced time. How would I adjust to being in school after being so long away from it; how would grad school be different from college; how would remote learning even work? I was stumbling every time I even tried to describe what Digital Humanities (DH) was when people asked me what I was studying. “You know, like humanities, but digital.” Little did I know…

The vast scope of our readings, our care-full and engaging conversations, the most amazing and thoughtful and socially justice–minded project presentations everyone gave—I’m in awe of all of us and what we accomplished together. Thank you doesn’t fully cover it, but THANK YOU so much for everything. I can’t imagine a better introduction to the program, and I am beyond excited to start building our projects together next semester.

As others have mentioned, this final project felt very daunting. What do I know? I’m a little into the macabre, and I just wanted to map a few cemeteries, and I don’t even know that much about mapping. Am I really adding to the field at large? So I admit I called on my old friend procrastination, and I procrastinated. And then procrastinated a little more, for good measure. But even as I was putting off actually writing, ideas were stewing in my head.

And I’m so grateful to Prof. Gold for introducing me to a student further along in the program who is also interested in cemetery studies. She was so supportive and encouraging in our conversation, and she helped me realize there is indeed a place for my mapping idea in DH. And she led me to a recent anthropology dissertation from a Graduate Center alum about the historical deathscape of New York City from the colonial period onward. And that got me thinking, maybe it’s not too late, there really are a wealth of resources available within the GC. The mapping part of my mapping project was throwing me for a loop, and I remembered that Olivia Ildefonso led an intro to ArcGIS workshop, and as a digital fellow she offers consultations. And I’m so grateful to her for fitting me in last-minute at the end of the semester. She really helped me think about what my data set could look like and helped me reign in my scope creep. (At least I think she did; Matt, if scope creep is still an issue in my final proposal, just know that it was WAY worse in earlier drafts.)

So my final proposal is about creating an ArcGIS StoryMap of the cemeteries in Manhattan in 1820 compared with 2020. I’m most interested in capturing the obliterated cemeteries—which are in all five boroughs, but the most documented ones are in Manhattan—as I find it very exciting to be mapping things that don’t quite exist anymore. In addition to providing great numerical symmetry, I think these years are also significant within the scope of my project. New York City was the largest city in the country by 1800 (then just Manhattan), and the population more than doubled between the 1800 and 1820 Census. And the most significant legislature on burial bans in Manhattan wasn’t passed until 1823 and after, so I think 1820 captures a time of great growth (and death), and it predates laws that greatly altered the deathscape. Many of these laws were passed in direct response to outbreaks (namely of cholera and yellow fever), and I think it will be very interesting to visualize how they affected the landscape of the city at a time when we’re still understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us in the present (or very recent past, as the case will be next semester).

As I was working, I was so entrenched in reading about cemeteries and finding out how my project would relate to/expand on other work in this area that I almost completely forgot about our course readings. Matt’s sage advice on rereading the proposal prompt saved the day, and I had a mini breakthrough once I started thinking about the landscape of New York in relation to our readings on infrastructure. I knew that it bothered me that there has been so much cemetery obliteration—even as part of my brain thinks that it’s not an environmentally sustainable practice and I have many complicated and contradictory questions about it being the “best” use of space—and I knew that at least some of the obliteration was purposeful, and not just because of financial interests. There are power structures that made these choices, who have built up and altered the way we live in and experience this city. And this infrastructure necessarily limits those experiences as much as it may enable them. So in mapping what has been removed, I dare to hope that my project is both an act of care and of disobedience.

Again, thank you all. It has been an utmost privilege to be in this class with you and share this experience. See you next semester!