Two paths diverged in the woods…

There are two projects that I am potentially exploring to develop into my ITP project. Sharing a brief overview of both below:

Project I: A crowd sourced guide to Mental Health and Well Being in India

Young people in India, like their counterparts across the world, face many stressors in their everyday lives. While some are able to navigate them with relative ease, supported by crucial internal and external resources, others are not so lucky. According to WHO estimates, as many 40 % young people could be dealing with depression and anxiety in India. Another worrisome statistic is the increasing rates of death by suicide among those between 16-29 years in India. Unfortunately, even as young people face varying degrees of emotional distress, conversations around mental health remain a taboo in India. Traditionally people have sought recourse through religious collectives during such times of distress, however these may not be adequate or sufficient to address the complex challenges young people face. In my own life, I have found it difficult to find a therapist for myself relying on informal referral networks to guide my decision. Given this lacuna, I would like to work on a website that can be a “go-to” for young people experiencing emotional distress. The website will collate existing resources that are available, usually in a fragmented manner on different Instagram handles/ social media accounts, informal peer networks, nonprofit organizations.  The website will draw from an intersectional approach to healing that is humanistic, underscoring the ways in which mental health is impacted by social and political structures. The design of the website will be interactive, offering users multiple pathways through which to direct their healing journey. Possible architecture of the website



OPTION II: An archive of Feminist Carceral resistance

New York has a rich legacy of feminist organizing and prison abolition and reform. One such event was the hearings on Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice that had been held for an audience of legislators and policy makers at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 1985. This crucial moment in feminist history, birthed out of the collective carceral wisdom of criminalized survivors at Bedford, working in coalition with feminist activists in the Governor’s office, had been swept out of history.  The hearings held 35 years earlier, and the subsequent organizing by women inside and outside the prison, have been crucial for the passage of the Domestic Violence Survivor’s Justice Act (2019).

As part of the Survivor Justice Voice Project, a group of scholars/ activists have been working to chronicle, through oral histories, the 1985 hearings to unpack the courage, complex solidarities and political commitments galvanized then, resonating today.  To date we have conducted interviews with four formerly incarcerated women who testified at the hearings, four high level administrators/lawyers in the Governor’s Office and at the prison, and three advocates/activists who worked with the women to craft narratives for the Hearings. As part of the ITP project, I would probably help in developing some sections of this online Archive. At present, I am developing a timeline that documents events prior to the 1985 hearings and subsequent initiatives that were mobilized as a consequence of it, leading upto the 2019 passage of the DVSJA act.

(Apologies for the delay in posting this!)

Our Collective Fabric

Hi sorry this is massively late, I did not read the instructions carefully enough clearly!

My project for ITP is going to be primarily focusing on science communication and science literacy: how can we make science accessible to all populations? One of the big questions I have had since COVID-19 hit was “how are people denying the science? How is this becoming political? How are people I thought were so smart not following the experts?” I think I found part of the answer during my literature review. When people hear new information, they accept or deny it based on how they perceive it to fit into their belief system and their community’s belief system. It doesn’t matter how “well educated” someone is, because it’s not about intelligence at all, it’s about fitting into your community. The only way to effectively communicate science is to have a diverse team of science communicators and to encourage people to look at data/ideas from different perspectives, and use that to confront their own perspectives.

The Collective Fabric is a project I have been working on for about 7 months. I spoke at a symposium last Saturday at the Civic Art Lab to explain the progress. Essentially, we’ve completed a prototype within my research lab, where we created take-home kits containing agar plates (which grow bacteria), cotton swabs, and instructions on how to plate their microbiome (the community of colonizers living on your skin, in your mouth, in your gut). We also asked them to answer questions of stillness in response to their life changes since the pandemic: what is something that has surprised you? What is something that has challenged you? What is something you miss? From here, we took the images of the grown bacterial plates and generated digital collective fabrics, using the answers to this questions as the thread to pull the plates together. There are three members of my team, one undergraduate Hunter student from Queens, and a African-born Dutch artist who works in residence in my lab. Each of us constructed our own fabric, touching on concepts of the essential role that diversity plays in our microbiomes and in our society, how data is biased by the person interpreting, and how discussing how people answer questions differently gives space for us to confront our own perspectives and question oru belief systems.

This project hits a lot of the goals I have grown to have throughout ITP. For my project, I would like to turn the Collective Fabric into an educational opportunity, focusing on young children (possible within Hunter College’s early education schools). I think the process of streaking bacterial plates helps people become comfortable with scientific concepts in their everyday life, building trust in scientists, and the process of discussion allows them to get comfortable talking about our differences and celebrating them, understanding how we’ve been affected differently, and systems in place that causes those differences. I have to do more work to decide exactly which concepts would be best for different age groups, and then decide which group would be best to focus on. Overall, I think I have a base prototype that I could adapt to a digital humanity project, creating a website to document these fabrics, answers to these questions, and watching bacterial growth.

Early musings on a project

(Sorry this post is late—I accidentally just saved a draft instead of actually publishing. Mea culpa!)

As I’ve said before, I want to stay focused on Shakespeare’s plays and early modernity. That said, I also want to prioritize usability and pedagogy. In other words, I want the final product to be student-focused and simple—a simple, functional resource that teachers and students can use to explore Shakespeare. On that note, I have a lot of big ideas and grand plans for this project, many of which I suspect will be pared down. To keep this post relatively simple, I’m going to outline two fairly nebulous ideas/plans

1. My initial thought was that I wanted to create an annotated version of Shakespeare’s plays—something akin to

This annotated play would be:

a) Clickable: the finished annotated plays would be rife with hyperlinks that connect readers to explanatory research, pictures, and stories that contextualize the lines and play. For example, clicking the witches’ chant in Macbeth might lead to an explanation about James I and his insane obsession with witchcraft, while clicking the flowers that Ophelia describes in Hamlet would lead to a sidebar with pictures and explanations of what those flowers represented in Shakespeare’s time.

b) Interactive: complex or archaic words, terms, and phrases would also be clickable, leading to definitions and explanations. In my dreams, there would also be a personal annotation function (like that allows individuals to highlight/take notes on whatever they choose.

c) Audible: in a perfect world, there would also be a recorded dramatic reading of each annotated play. Playing this recording would help readers get a feel for the emphasis and audio quality of the play itself.

The more I thought about this plan, however, the more unreasonably ambition it seems. Even annotating just one play would be almost absurdly difficult—a Herculean task that might outpace both my abilities and the limits on my time.

2. This, of course, lead me to my second idea: a timeline of adaptations of Shakespearean plays, framed as a resource for teaching Shakespeare. Each play would have its own timeline, mapping the various iterations, interpretations, and versions of the play diachronically. For example Hamlet‘s timeline would includ both Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlets, as well as Disney’s The Lion King. Macbeth would include Mac Beth and Throne of Blood, as well as other adaptions. Each entry would include basic metadata and information about the adaption (writer/producer/director/etc.), as well as thematic context (historical set, fascist set, lions, etc.). Ideally, each adaptation would have searchable tags, so that students or users could seek out specific kinds of adaptions. For example, a student who wanted to research South African adaptations of Shakespearean plays could simple search “South Africa,” and all adaptations from that region would come to the fore (for example, Welcome Msomi’s uMabatha or Pieter-Dirk Uys Macbeki, both adaptations of Macbeth). Making these timelines feels more doable than annotating entire plays; the timeline format consolidates and organizes the adaptations in a coherent way. Further, the cultural hegemony of Shakespeare means that each of his plays, as well as their adaptations, are well established in the scholarly record. Collating and lightly analyzing the adaptations would be work intensive, but not impossibly overwhelming. The major hurdle would be software, but there are many timeline programs online, and I am lucky enough to have a roommate who can code, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

Currently, I’m leaning towards the latter project, not least because of scope. That said, I’m very open to feedback!!

ITP II: Access Hacks for First-Year Writing Teachers

Note: I’ve updated this post.

This project is a resource guide aimed at novice writing teachers. 

First-year writing is a crucial course for CUNY students. A tenth of college students are registered with their campus disability office. Yet, maddeningly, access is still often framed as a compliance issue rather than as a site for pedagogy. If that tenth of our student body is to have a fair shot at success at their public college, first-year writing is an area where this thinking must shift.

In a project that takes the form of a public site on CUNY Academic Commons and a more-private CUNY Academic Commons group, I aim to demonstrate:

  • the rhetorical potential of alt-text writing assignments
  • the uses of social reading plug-ins like on the transcripts of long-form audio journalism (Floodlines, Lost Notes: 1980, season 3 of Serial)
  • the application of accessible document design principles for word processing to organizing student essays
  • that smartphone access features such as screenreaders can make literacy practices multimodal
  • the importance of open lesson plans—for ASL-English interpreters, their students, and everybody else 
  • syllabi language that aligns accessibility with other student-centered and equity-minded, care-centered policies (ie: translanguaging, OER, contracts)

This project is guided by thinking on disability studies, open access pedagogies, feminist ethics of care, trauma-informed pedagogy, and cellphone scholarship. It’s also marked by my own experiences in the classroom—teaching as a disabled instructor for 15 years, learning as a disabled student for 25.

As CUNY transitions back to aging and often inaccessible physical campuses, it’s my hope that the conversation about digital access that COVID-19 has forced will continue in this group + site. Ultimately, its goal is to help CUNY produce writing teachers capable of doing what a doctoral student named Margaret Price did for me at my public college: to use reflective, student-centered writing pedagogy to make equitable the student experience of a disabled writer.

ITP II Project Idea: Labor in Academic Libraries

For my ITP project I would like to focus on precarious and contingent labor in higher education,  specifically in academic libraries. In the hierarchy of scholars, academic librarians are marginalized and rendered invisible on multiple levels. Despite the fact that librarians at many institutions of higher education, including CUNY, are faculty members, they are considered second tier faculty members, likely due to their service orientation and to the apparently gendered nature of the profession. During the pandemic, librarians have been asked to continue working while their teaching faculty counterparts were working from home. Librarians have been called “essential workers” and are expected to provide unlimited access to materials, but a significant amount of library labor is done by disposable contingent library workers and libraries are chronically underfunded. This is unfortunately not talked about enough in the broader conversation about labor in higher education.

While there is a dearth of scholarly literature on contingency and precarity in libraries, there has been increasing interest in the topic on social media, at conferences, and in working groups within professional library organizations (including the Digital Library Federation Working Group on Labor in Digital Libraries, Archives, and Museums), so I think it’s a great time to work on this project.

I am not yet sure what form my research on contingent library labor will take, but I have a few ideas (also open to completely new ideas from the group!): 

  1. My first idea is to create concrete guidelines for management and coworkers of contingent workers about best practices when working with and advocating for adjunct librarians. This would be an extension of or supplement  to the Collective Responsibility Labor Advocacy Toolkit put out by the Digital Library Federation (though honestly I’m not sure how much I have to add to this – it’s a pretty great resource).
  2. My second idea would be an organizing resource for contingent library workers. There has been a push from some in the library community to create a national organization for contingent workers in GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). I’d like to investigate what such an organization might look like and how digital tools might be used to spread awareness of the effects of contingent labor in higher education and to build connections with contingent library workers across the United States and with workers outside of the academy. 

  3. My third idea is perhaps slightly less practical than my previous two: a site that hosts oral history interviews of contingent library workers. I have experience with audio recording/editing and with oral history, so I would organize and record the interviews myself. 

Teacher’s Guide to Discord

At the moment, I feel as though my ITP project will most likely take the form of an interactive website on the Commons, dedicated to introducing the pedagogical possibilities available to Discord as a dynamic learning space for instructors teaching in online, blended, and web-enhanced contexts. The content of the website, as I see it now, would include instructional support documentation, student testimonials, server templates, as well as analytical reflections on the affordances of Discord-enabled learning models. Some of these features might include a server setup guide and other technical docs, along with a series of teaching recipes tailored to synch and asynch learning formats. While I’ve considered the prospect of forking off an open-source Discord bot and repurposing it to support class activities, I’m not convinced that doing so would be the best use of my time, since the bots currently active on Discord already appropriately serve that purpose. As far as design practices are concerned, I may choose to develop and showcase a taxonomy of Discord templates for instructors to adopt in support of different pedagogical models. For what it’s worth, here is one such template, entitled “Writing 101 Classroom Server,” which I’ve designed (and used) for the purpose of first-year writing instruction, specifically with an emphasis on writing groups and peer-review activities.

Moreover, I hesitate to frame Discord against the limited backdrop of distance education, since doing so may pigeonhole the project, inviting a false equivalency between Discord-enabled classrooms and the emergency-response pedagogy of distance learning in 2020/21. I’d rather dig into the pedagogical affordances of Discord as an fluid learning environment whose community-driven design fosters student agency, group cohesion, and peer-interactive pedagogy across multiple learning formats. In other words, I would like to explore the various ways in which Discord can support online learning environments not only during our stint with distance learning, but also as a web-enhanced extension of face-to-face instruction following the pandemic. Doing so may reinforce the social ecosystem in which college students find connection and belonging alongside their peers, forming online communities of practice that then enrich face-to-face learning encounters.

In my experience, for instance, Discord has enacted as an interstitial space in which my first-year students have linked up and developed social connections, building for themselves a broader sense of community than is available simply within the formal confines of (online) educational contexts. I think Discord class servers may in turn operate as a “digital third place,” where community life may casually unfold with students having easy, transparent access to one another both within and outside the online learning environment. This prospect is heightened when students friend each other on Discord and voluntarily communicate through direct messages and additional student-led Discord servers. I’ve also found Discord to offer affordances in establishing clear lines of communication between myself and my students, streamlining the extra steps required to send emails by enabling a self-contained domain for communication via direct messages and engagement with different text/video channels. On that note, since Discord collapses the text-video divide, I also find the platform to be especially attuned to one-on-one conferences (via office hours), which may support students in futures times who feel the need to meet temporarily but would rather not commute 30-60 minutes to do so.

Since I also serve as an admin for the English Student Association’s Discord server, I’ve also toyed with the prospect of collaborating with Baruch folks to help build out a server tailored to instructors in the first-year writing program. In this regard, my goal would be create a collaborative academic space for first-year writing instructors to communicate and pool their resources, staying in touch by means of both text and video. Such opportunities testify to the fact that strategic uses of Discord may foster connectivity between an array of teaching and learning models, as well as broader academic communities among the CUNY system. Whether or not such a prospect might be feasible, I see my ITP project as expressly defined by this community-driven ethos, one in which my efforts would involve articulating how and why Discord may effectively serve as a collaborative online ecosystem for instructors and learners alike. There are more granular pedagogical details and features related to Discord that I would like to explore in pursuit of these goals, but for now I’ll conclude in the interest of brevity and of seeking feedback from the class.

Thank you for reading!!

Project Photo/Public Pedagogy

My goal for my project is grounded around ideas about placemaking. I am interested in using photography and other art mediums to co-construct knowledge and create alternate representations of minoritized communities through their eyes. The ‘written word’ used in academia in inaccessible to everyone especially the people who are used as ‘subjects’ in scholarly research. Photography and art is an accessible way to communicate. My hope is to create an art project that is co-constructed with people in minoritized communities, possibly including students too, since they are usually left out decision making processes. An example of a project I have been thinking about is giving participants or colleagues, disposable cameras so they can take pictures of what ‘place’ means to them. As well as the possibility of creating a mural with people living in gentrified neighborhoods. The premise of both ideas is to highlight ways marginalized communities can create a photo or mural project to combat injustices. These projects promote democratic participation as well as a form of resistance against the rhetoric that they are just bystanders during the process of gentrification for instance. I hope to learn more about critical media literacy and public pedagogy to help me create a mural project or memory project using photo collages. I am also considering a website to showcase the project/s. My overall goal is to utilize. I believe images can represent how we read and record our worlds, and highlight surface knowledge that may be overlooked or not understood by outsiders.

Strategic Planning in A Role-Playing Game to Train Executive Functions

Map of the Magical World Abita
Map of the Magical World Abita

The academic work by the CREATE Lab at NYU on the effectiveness and the efficacy of using Computer games to train adolescents’ executive functions (a set of cognitive abilities that help people inhibit impulses, hold information temporarily in working memory, and switch between different rules or tasks) inspired me to work on EF games, though several meta-analyses provided contradictive evidence regarding the training effects of the EF games.

There are plenty of EF games on the market, however, many of them are the gamified version of some popular EF measurements, and the distinction between game-based training and gamified training tasks is not clear. Adding game elements (e.g., background story, incentives, cartoon-like UI, etc.) to existed or modified EF tests doesn’t necessarily turn the tests into games. With an intention of making real games for EF training, I try to find or create compelling game mechanics that are different from the existed EF measurements, which can also effectively enhance students’ executive functions. Regarding the target population of my game, young adults like undergraduates will be good since I am more familiar with this age group, and more studies are needed to investigate the EF development during young adulthood.

I am also interested in learning how strategic planning is related to the EF construct since when I play Clash Royale (a real-time strategy game), I found myself constantly suppressing my impulse of destroying the opponents’ troops for later advantages, remembering my opponents’ cards temporarily, and switching between different strategies. There is also some research evidence supporting the tight association between strategic planning and EF. Thus, I would like to design a game incorporating both strategic planning and EF training to see whether it can enhance young adults’ EF abilities well, which will also allow me to investigate the relationship between strategic planning and EF development.

Though I will shrink the scale of my original project, the major idea is to design a role-playing game with an adventure background story, and there will be several magical places involved in the story. Each magical place corresponds to one mini-game to train one EF component. I am thinking about making 6 EF mini-games instead of 12 considering the scale of this project. Each mini-game will have three difficulty levels, and the harder the level, the more magic points a player can earn. Players will also have limited moves in the game, and they need to strategically plan their moves to get the most magic points while finishing the storyline. Possibly, I will use this game for my dissertation, and by then, hopefully, I can make three versions of the game: one without moves and a risk-reward mechanic, one with moves but not the risk-reward mechanic, and one with both moves and the risk-reward mechanic. So, I can investigate the effect of the game mechanic which fosters strategic planning in training young adults’ EF. I am afraid this will be too complex for implementation. Hopefully, I can think of a better design that addresses my research interests as well as keeps the game makeable and playable after this semester.

Weeding Out Weed-outs

The ultimate goal of my final project is to bring attention to the consequences weed-out-style courses have on student performance (and student retention) in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Weed-out courses are normally very large (in Biology, mine had around 750 students) and are often a student’s first experience with an undergraduate-level course. It is common for many students to fail and this poor performance is almost always attributed to the student, when outdated course formats built to serve “traditional” students should likely bear more of the weight.

Currently I am planning to write a paper that reviews the known consequences of weed-out courses, provides tested examples of more inclusive/successful STEM course formats, and serves as a call to action for more STEM departments to make the change.

Originally I wanted to work with the Biology Department at CCNY to apply some of the ideas published by scientists working in early STEM education, but have decided that it may be of greater use to try to spend my energy casting a wider net. I hope this paper helps influence academic administrators to start making changes to better serve students, even if they are small.

First Musings on an ITP Project

All of my potential project ideas have centered around fostering more interactivity between the history discipline and technology. In leveraging these tools’ power, the profession can continue the field’s storytelling aspect in ways that will reach audiences that are more likely to gain information from interactive technology than the more traditional learning methods. The generational divide in learning practices often creates a barrier to innovation. Traditional methods once popular for their teaching effectiveness must evolve to teach the first generation of students who have not lived in a world without the internet. 

The project idea has undergone several build design. The project is currently centered on leveraging data visualization’s power to tell a heavy data story that individuals can interact with. At a minimum, a cleaned data set that could be used by any would be ideal. The difficulty in projects such as these is trying to find a properly formatted set of data. My MVP (Minimum Viable Project) would be obtaining, formatting, and using the data to demonstrate that technology is not the bain of storytelling. Hopefully, the site can be used by others augmenting the data set to generate a digital repository of archival material that exists in a useable format. 

This link directs you to a site made by Robert Darnton, one of the great historians on the book trade, particularly in France. I first came across this site five years ago during my undergraduate Intro to History Writing course. I was impressed at the presentation of sources and facts. It seemed that this was a far better way to present information than in a paper format. True, it was more labor-intensive, but it did allow the user to navigate through the story in their way. The map is of particular interest as clicking on each town will give you information about that particular location. Robert Darnton said it best when explaining his rationale for the website, “I have accumulated so much information during nearly a half-century that I might overwhelm my readers with details or bore them to death. It cannot be compressed within the covers of a printed book. Therefore, with the help of research assistants and professional technicians, I am presenting it on this open-access.” I do not have the encyclopedic knowledge on any subject that Darnton has brought to bear. What I do have is an idea inspired by this work. To create a site where data is gathered and presented so that any individual who wants to can add or interact in a collaborative process. My project aims to generate the first, of what I hope is many, contributions that can harness technology in an egalitarian intellectual way.

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