This semester of the Honors Thesis Colloquium is designed to expose you to emerging digital research methods in the humanities and social sciences, provide you with the skills to develop a digital project that expands the reach and scope of your thesis research, and encourage you to think critically about public engagement with scholarly research in the 21st century. Using methodologies culled from digital scholarship across the disciplines, we will collectively and broadly re-orient ourselves in relationship to our own research, seeking a more capacious vision of the ways in which our newly acquired expertise might have the greatest impact. We will then consider how your individual thesis projects might not only feed back into the expansion of those scholarly conversations and communities from which they were first derived, but the strategies by which each of you might most effectively bring your work into the public eye. This process of experimentation and discovery will not only mirror current debates in the academy over best research practices in the technological age, it will also hone your own skills as you prepare to take on the postgraduate world.
You can read our class blog by scrolling below! Or you can check out our syllabus, our weekly schedule, and our list of readings for the semester. You can even find out a little bit more about each of us. And if you’re interested in how we got to this point, you can check out our Fall 2013 archive.
Thanks for stopping by!
I am so grateful for a course that allowed me to become so familiar with a topic that was both foreign and familiar to me. My love of Poe has grown infinitely. I’ve become intrigued by Hitchcock’s methods and have found myself re-watching the films I viewed for this project and looking for new angles, new connections.
Of the two theses I wrote my senior year, I am especially proud of this one because of the positive reaction it has received considering how new everything felt to me. Here, I need to thank Isenberg, Lindsey, Lee, and Jenny for accompanying me on this strenuous journey. I had never endeavored on a writing project of this length, and I was grateful to have a supportive, motivating team behind me.
A great debt of thanks and a ton of sisterly pride go out to my classmates Colby and Kerishma. Thank you ladies! I have learned so much about each of your topics and was so excited to see your projects grow into the marvelous beasts that they have become. You girls were my cheerleaders through such unfamiliar territory. We did it! Thank you for going through it all with me.
Of course, I have to thank the Macaulay administration, including Mary Pearl, Mike Lamb, and Joe Ugoretz, for facilitating each and every concern that arose throughout the year. From finding advisers to presentation tips, we were very lucky to have you around.
I spent three hours today doing job interviews via video conferencing. In one of those meetings, as I was describing this course, I was asked what I would do differently next time to make it even better. My initial thoughts were to reduce the number of readings and try and help facilitate clearer connections between the in-class projects and the final projects. I would be quite surprised if any of you disagreed with me about these things! But even given those caveats, I still think (and I told the people asking me this question) that this pedagogical experiment was largely a success.
One thing I don’t think that the students in this course really knew much of was how this class has evolved over time, or what pieces from Lee’s tenure I chose to keep. There was a sense that we were in uncharted waters all year. While that was true, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t background information grounding my decisions. I was the ITF for this course beginning in 2009-10. The first step was to demonstrate that a technological component to this course had any relevance at all, which is what we did in the first year. From there, each year following, we built up the tech capacities of this course, until this year’s all-digital spring semester. So from a broader perspective of some years’ involvement, this course already had a history. It’s just that it was an institutional history, not an individual one. But believe me, Macaulay wasn’t about to let this experiment happen out of the blue. There were four years of precedent, as well as a growing community interest in re-thinking what a thesis is, what a “Macaulay capstone” should look like.
In that sense, you were all part of the first of those experiments. In the coming years, I know Dean Ugoretz and Jenny and a bunch of other people will be involved in further experiments, and I think that Macaulay will eventually become a very forward-thinking institution, when it comes to how the senior capstone experience is managed. Now, I know being first can be really tough. There’s no clear path to follow sometimes, and that’s frustrating for everyone. For students, who are used to meeting their professor’s expectations, I think those expectations can sometimes seem murky (or even nonexistent) in such situations. That can cause anxiety (please raise your hand if you did NOT have anxiety about some aspect of this course), fear, etcetera. But I also think that every project ended up reflecting what I think of as true learning–that each project taught you more about the process of discovery itself.
It may seem difficult to believe this, but even if this course had been run as a very traditional, completely tech-free experience (which isn’t even truly possible, given the way we do research now), there would still have been moments of deep fear and doubt, of having to dig deep within yourself to find stamina and clarity, of navigating a journey without a map. Yes, there would have been more of a tradition to guide you and surround you than there was in this instance. That’s true. But you would still have walked a solitary path, and it wouldn’t have been terribly smooth.
I have mixed feelings about where the projects we created ended up. I like that they are all different, that each of you took your own interests and came up with something unique to your own process. I kind of like the fact that they feel a little raw, a little unfinished. But it also makes me feel desperately uncomfortable–part of my professor self still wants there to be a big sign that says “THE END” at the end. So I’m negotiating that complexity, and I’m learning myself–how to let go and let our end results really reflect that fact that learning is a habit, more than anything else. I think you’ve all witnessed what happens when I hold on tightly, and I swear, I thought I had weaned myself off of most of that before the semester began (obviously not–now just try to imagine how uptight I was when I began teaching, ten years ago!). But every new teaching experience helps me loosen the reins a little more–and this was definitely no exception. When you all asserted authority over your projects, I was always a bit taken aback–and then really proud. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that the fucking point of education to begin with? If we’re not giving you the tools to formulate your intellectual independence, then I don’t know that we’re doing our jobs as teachers.
The other thing I want to point out to you, however, is this: in the absence of many of the traditional rules and expectations of classroom-oriented learning, you didn’t just survive–you thrived. Was it easy? Probably not. But you demonstrated just how capable you were as people, not just as students. And you’re ready to go do whatever the hell you want. So go on! Keep going!
Jenny and Steve and your advisors and I are lifelong contacts for you–you can be in touch with us as much or as little as you like. We’ll support you as best we are able to do. If you would like a formal written evaluation of your final project, I can put one together for you on letterhead, and e-mail that to you–let me know if it would be helpful to have that feedback, and I will send it off right away. Otherwise, enjoy graduation! Congratulations.
The end of the semester is here, and everyone is graduating and moving on to bigger, brighter things…it’s a bit bitter sweet, no?
So first, congratulations, Laura, Colby and Kerishma. All three of you are amazing, talented, intelligent, creative, and strong women, each in your own way. I’ve only known you for a short time, but I’m so proud of your accomplishments and inspired by your work. Colby: your film absolutely floored me. I can’t believe the quality of work you produced, especially given the time and budget restraints. I really respect your passion and ambition, and I know these qualities will take you very far. Laura: I can’t wait to see your final project. As someone who studies gender, literature and film (and loves photography), I am struck by how deep your understanding is of the intersections between Poe and Hitchcock. And Kerishma: Your final project is truly impressive in its scope and sophistication, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what your capable of. You had some tough moments this semester, perhaps partly because you have very high expectations for yourself. That is a great quality, but don’t let it diminish your pride in your accomplishments (which will be many, I’m sure).
I realize this is starting to sound like cheesy entries in a yearbook, but I sincerely mean every word! I also want to encourage all of you to contact me any time for any reason. Just because the class is over does’t mean our relationships are!
Last but not least, a huge thanks to Lindsey for putting together a thoughtful, lively class, and for creating a learning environment that was engaging and creative.
Have a lovely summer, everyone!
Today, at our final class meeting, I’m going to ask each of you to share your final digital thesis projects. Please be prepared to answer the following: how is this project not only a reflection of your written thesis, but a further development of your argument or ideas?
If you want to continue to make edits to your project, that’s fine–as long as all edits are complete by Macaulay graduation day, June 6. At that point your thesis project site must be available to the general public.
Sometime prior to graduation, please also do one more thing: write a final blog post over here. A letter to everyone in the class: me, Steve!, Jenny, your classmates, your advisor, your fellow NCUR attendees, Macaulay in general, whoever you want. Share your thoughts on the semester, whatever they may be. I would welcome suggestions for how to improve, always, but I would also like to hear what worked well for you, as well as anything else you would like to share.
I will do the same (probably next week sometime), and I’ll invite Jenny to do so as well. Let’s wrap up the blog conversation with some reflection on the wonderful small community we’ve built here, and on the lessons we’ll take with us as we all walk new paths.
May 13th is your digital thesis project work day. Come with a list of things to accomplish. Work anywhere in the Macaulay building (the atrium or the back balcony if we can, even!), alone or in a group.
If you need help from Lindsey or Jenny that day, please e-mail to set that up in advance; let us know what you’ll need help with and we’ll triage–what needs to happen first, second, third, etc.
At 5 pm that day, we’ll gather together in the 3rd floor classroom to reflect on and share the day’s accomplishments, make plans for the Macaulay Research Event, and strategize for how best to move forward with each project.
Hey gang! We collected some great presenting tips and tricks from our fellow colleagues at NCUR last month. Some of them even harken back to their Seminar 4 presentations. If you have any other helpful advice, feel free to chime in in the comments!
Emily Paolillo, Brooklyn College: “For Seminar 4, my class was required to make video public service announcements. My group did ours on safer sex. Making a video was so interactive and fun that everyone in my class was completely immersed in their projects. Some did theirs on smoking and the obesity epidemic. I think it’s a pretty good sign that I can still remember their projects two years later. We also had to incorporate useful PSA tactics like using comedy or scary facts (mostly everyone used comedy), which made it very entertaining. When we presented at the Macaulay building, our videos had everyone hooked. Seminar 4 should be a FUN learning experience that incorporates using research skills to produce something that we will remember in the years to come.
Also, NCUR was a great experience! It was awesome to meet so many different undergraduate students from around the country and see how diverse everyone’s fields of study are.”
Jenna Peet, Brooklyn College: “One thing that really helped my presentation for NCUR was rehearsing my presentation with Macaulay students who normally would not see my work. When I prepared my thesis at BC, I was practicing with mostly education and physics majors, and so I wasn’t getting a sense of what would be clear or confusing to the average listener. Practice with Macaulay students made me reevaluate what my presentation needed to focus on, and the feedback they gave also made me think more seriously about what my research represented as a whole. The questions they asked in practice (and actual) presentations were more thoughtful and insightful than what I was used to, and made my presentation that much better.”
Jamie Mallette, City College: “My suggestion for seminar 4 students is to not take the conference too seriously. Yes it is at the Macaulay building and it is academic but if they just relax and feel confident in what they are presenting they will do great! I think the conference experience would be greatly enhanced if people stayed for one another’s presentations and listening rather than ducking out after their own or their friends. Seminar 4 students, and all other Macaulay classes, should take the time to get to know students from other campuses and begin to explore outside their comfort zone. My personal presenting style is to make note cards with a few bullet points. I don’t write out my whole speech because it actually makes me more nervous and I am not as engaging or as varied when I plan too much. I usually just get up there and talk informally (but still appropriately!).My general experience at NCUR was positive. I had a lot of fun, and met interesting people. I would recommend students go to conferences, even just local ones, even if they are not presenting just to get a feel for the style, and networking.”
Vartan Pahalyants, Hunter College: “NCUR was a great opportunity to see research from different perspectives. When you attend conferences in your field, you do not get to see the amazing variety of research that goes on in other spheres. I was particularly impressed with the presentations of my classmates in the fields of Civil Engineering, English and Physics was. Overall, it was an enriching experience and I am really glad I was given the opportunity to attend this year’s conference.”
Our revised plan for May 6th is as follows:
- Meet up at 21st & 10th at 3 PM for a visit to EYEBEAM, where we will have a look at “The New Romantics”
- Head on up to the High Line, discuss the exhibit, and have a feedback session on everyone’s thesis projects–everyone brings something to “show and tell”
- Make a final decision on the really darn cool dance performance for which we have tickets
Looking forward! In the meantime, please please please remember that Jenny and I are always available via e-mail. Do not hesitate to be in touch.
Our Intersectionality and DH Flashcards were made on Flashcard Machine, and can be found here!
Growing up in the digital age, it is always interesting to read about the time before computers. Technology has drastically changed the way people think, act, and work. In their article “Digital Labor is the New Killer App,” Adam Fish and Ramesh Srinivasan analyze a digital labor outsourcing firm and a television network that relies (or relied at some point) on user- submitted content. The two men attempt to describe what a digital economy means and how digital labor is valued. In the case of Samasource, the outsourcing group, digital labor is outsourced to the poverty-stricken third world. For well-below living wages, a Pakistani woman can perform anything from the simplest clerical tasks to graphic design. The problem is that they label this as “empowering” and “dignified labor,” when the value of the content they produce is so low on their end.
Julia Flanders’ article “Time, Labor, and “Alternate Careers” in Digital Humanities Knowledge Work” actually fits in pretty well with the arguments laid out above. She talks about alternate careers, thrown together with other para-academic fields, that include aspects of digital labor. Where the critics come together is the discussion regarding the value of labor. As a grad student, Flanders realized that aspects of her professional career, such as research and preparing and attending academic conferences, were not as billable as working at an organization although they were important to her personal and professional growth (research is pretty important when working towards a Ph.D!).
Both articles made me think about 1) the value of the digital content other social media users like me freely submit in the form of blogs, video, pictures, etc. as well as 2) what all of this user-generated content is worth to corporations.
This makes me think of Karen Greogory’s article “The Teaching of Labor.” Maybe I should just go off the grid.