Proposal #1: Mapping for Humanists
One of the most attractive types of project for humanists interested in experimenting with digital tools is mapping. The software is readily available (the Graduate Center and other CUNY schools provide institutional access to ArcGIS and there are open source versions as well, in addition to accessible online tools) and the end product is has clear use as a research or teaching tool. There is a workshop in the CUNY system on ArcGIS but it assumes that the mapper will be working from existing data files, like census information. However, most humanists are working from information that does not already exist in appropriate file formats, if it available electronically at all. I propose to present a mapping workshop for graduate students in the humanities who have little or no experience with GIS software or online mapping tools. The workshop would cover how to identify the kind of information that is map-able, how to get that information into a format that can be used, and turning that information into a basic map.
1. Jill is a level one Art History student at the Graduate Center. She has no mapping experience and no special computer skills. She has no particular project in mind, but she has heard of digital mapping and is trying to get the lay of the land and see what kinds of research she might be interested in.
2. Alex is a level two student in English at the Graduate Center. He has no mapping experience and but is confident about his computer skills generally. While he doesn’t have a particular mapping project in mind, he has some ideas about research in his area of study that might be interesting to map out. He’s trying to get a sense of how much time and effort mapping would really take.
3. Beth is a level two student in Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center. She has been reading about digital mapping on her own, but has not yet made a serious attempt at mapping anything. She has a definite mapping project in mind and she wants to make sure that she is on the right track before getting started.
4. Kevin is a level three theatre student at the Graduate Center. He is in the process of writing his dissertation. He has no mapping experience but he has some programming experience and considers himself skilled with computers. He is less interested in starting a particular mapping project than in developing skills to that might help in his upcoming job search.
Use Case Scenario
Students attending this workshop would hear about it through the Graduate Center (by email and on flyers in student lounges) and would use it to develop a basic understanding of mapping tools.
In an ideal world, I would present a 2-part workshop in a computer lab at the Graduate Center. Each part would run 2 hours and they would occur on different days. The first part would focus on data preparation for ArcGIS and comparable open source GIS software. In addition to talking about the kind of information that might lend itself to mapping, we would cover creating tables that can be converted into vector files, and finding available maps with georeferencing. The second part of the workshop would take place 1-2 weeks after the first. In it, we would use ArcGIS to create a map from sample data provided by me. This would be a map relating to my own research in theatre, and thus model the mapping of a humanistic research project. Participants would also have the option of working from their own data.
Time Frame (full-fledged)
I anticipate that I could accomplish this project in 8-9 months. At this point I have only made two maps using ArcGIS, both practice projects using data already in the appropriate format. I would need some time to learn how to convert tables into vector files, and some practice building maps from my own data. I would also need to familiarize myself with at least one open source GIS option, probably Quantum GIS. Because of my current obligations I don’t think that I could realistically give skill acquisition enough attention to become an effective teacher until the spring semester is over.
A smaller scale version of this idea would involve a single workshop on mapping, running 2-2 ½ hours. We would cover the kind of research that best lends itself to mapping projects, and talk about how to gather data. Then we would put together a map from sample data provided by me using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables. We would wrap up by discussing more complex mapping tools and where to get help learning them.
Time Frame (small-scale)
I believe that I could put a workshop like this together in 5-6 months. I have not yet used Google Fusion Tables to create a map but I have been through the tutorial on the University of Virginia Library’s page and my experience with other Google products suggests that it wouldn’t be a struggle to achieve sufficient skill to teach. The more time I had to work, of course, the more mastery I could gain. In this case I would like to have completed 4-5 maps as examples, one of which we could use as the workshop example.
Proposal #2: Improving the CUNY Graduate Center Theatre Project
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, in association with the Theatre Department at the Graduate Center, maintains a database of around 10,000 image of theatre for educational use. The database is a great resource for theatre students but even within the department not everyone knows about it, and few actively use it. The site was recently changed over to Omeka, making it a lot more functional, which provides a good opportunity to revisit what it can do and be for GC theatre students. My proposal is to survey use of the database, and also investigate what the Segal Center and the professor overseeing the collection would optimally like to see from it. This would lead to one or more strategies to increase student use and/or improve usability that I could then implement.
Personas (users of the database)
1. Stephanie is level one theatre student at the Graduate Center. She is looking for images of actress Sarah Bernhardt as part of her research for a seminar paper. She plans to attach these images to her paper when she turns it in.
2. Joe is a level two theatre student at the Graduate Center. He is noodling around in the image collection looking for inspiration as he tries to come up with a topic to go with an interesting call for papers for a conference in his area of specialty.
3. Allison is an alumna of the theatre program at the Graduate Center. She is looking for images of Japanese Noh masks to add to a PowerPoint for the Introduction to Theatre class she is teaching.
4. Dr. C is a professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center. He is pulling images for PowerPoint presentations for a class that he teaches on scenic design. He is searching for specific images from a variety of places and periods and they need to be high enough resolution to maintain good detail when projected in class.
Use Case Scenario
Use of the image collection is restricted to current PhD students in theatre and alumni, as well as faculty. Students, alumni, and faculty use the database to find images for research and teaching purposes.
4. Scope (full-fledged)
A fully realized version of this project would have two parts. First would be the usability study. With the permission of the relevant people at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and the professor overseeing the image collection, I would send a questionnaire to current theatre students, alumni (last 8 years), and theatre faculty asking if and how they use it, how they would like to use it, and what improvements they would make to the site. After gathering the data I would choose, in consultation with the Segal Center, one large or two smaller changes to the site to improve usability and execute them.
5. Time Frame (full-fledged)
The major task for this project would be to learn Omeka. I have no experience with it, but from what I’ve read it is fairly intuitive. I have solid HTML and am improving my CSS, so I would guess that in 3-4 months I could learn Omeka pretty thoroughly and in 5-6 months I could get a handle on basic customization. I would also want to research usability studies. I know what kind of information that I am looking for but I don’t have formal experience designing surveys so I would want to make sure that I am asking the right questions in the best possible format. This, plus actually doing the survey, could be done at the same time as learning Omeka. If I chose improvements that would take 2-3 months to execute I anticipate that I could complete this in 9-10 months.
6. Scope (small scale)
The smaller scale version of the project would be very similar, but with more modest ambitions. I would start with a survey of current students, alumni (last 5 years), and theatre faculty. To do this simply, I could use Survey Monkey and email a link to the questionnaire. From the results, I would choose one straightforward change/improvement that I could make to the image collection to improve usability.
7. Time Frame (small scale)
The time frame for the smaller scale project can’t be shortened too much, because I still need to learn Omeka. With a simpler survey, and choosing a simpler project to execute I could likely finish the project in 7-8 months.