Monthly Archives: January 2015


About Gwen Shaw

I’m a fourth year student in the art history doctoral program at the GC. My areas of interest and research include violence, race, and gender in 20th and 21st century art. I’m currently working on a couple of projects: on avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren’s Haiti project and the representation of Haitian Vodoun; intersections (and lacunae) in the art history of the 1960s, especially Minimalism,  African-American artists, and the Civil Rights Movement; and the representation of disabled veterans in contemporary art (versus visual culture).

In addition to the PhD, I’m earning 6 (yes, 6) doctoral certificates: Instructional Technology and Pedagogy, Women’s Studies, Film Studies, American Studies, Africana Studies, and Critical Theory.

I think 2015 will be my last year of coursework, and look forward to this class and all the others I am taking this semester.

Provocation: Contexts and Practicalities

Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in getting this up on the site. I had some technical difficulties. -GS

Throughout “Contexts and Practicalities,” Christopher Stein runs through the importance of environmental factors and access to resources for a software (or ITP or digital) project. Throughout the text he highlights the importance of context (for him: Why, What, Who, Where, When, and How) and the practicalities of how the (software) project will the realized, which he outlines through the snazzy foursome of Build, Buy, Beg, or Borrow.

Through the 5 W’s and one H, Stein points out the essential, but perhaps overlooked, aspects of a digital project that should be worked through before beginning: Why is this being made: What is it? Where will it roll out and through what hardware? When will the production take place and how long will it take? And How will people implement it and take advantage of its function?

The 4 B’s, by contrast, discuss not the planning but the process of making the product and the means through which it will be realized: building your own custom platform/software; buying something off the shelf, using free; “begging” by using free, already developed tools, such as those offered by Google; or “borrowing” someone else’s work in the form of open source programs already in existence that one can customize to suit the project’s needs.

Stein concludes by highlighting user-centered design and embracing a process-oriented form of project management, where contingency and change is built in to the mindset and execution of the project, and, like a good academic assignment, future work is scaffolded on top of previous work completed and given flexibility to change per the exigencies of the project.

Although catchy to the point of self-help or how-to cliché, these alliterative groupings highlight ways of thinking, and planning, through the material conditions of a digital product and the contingencies of process. Also vital, to both Stein and many of the articles he links to, like Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, is the role of the user, on whom discussions of good design focus. Another feature of the content Stein mentions , including Jason Santa Maria’s A Real Web Design Application, is the need for better design tools that more accurately simulate the digital medium of the Internet, since many apps that are in current use are tethered to an analog model of display and final product (i.e. graphic design and a material, paper (or something like it) medium). Essential to both the user-centered design and the aesthetic and functional flexibility of the web as medium is the notion of responsiveness—a rather radical acceptance of contingency and failure—even to the point of dialogue or relationship between user and product—that is more akin to laboratory work and the scientific method than it is to other design fields like architecture or typesetting. Perhaps this has to do with the relatively low-stakes nature of how we use some technology—for entertainment or to make our lives easier—rather than liveable (as in, our computer is not going to cave in and fall on us, like a roof, or collapse, like a suspension bridge). Not sure how much I actually mean that last sentence, but it might be worth thinking about.

This piece got me to thinking about the power of creation and design, and the ways technology is tethered through its materiality and origins in typesetting and graphic design to a past that sets the boundaries for what the final product is, or can be. Programming (and coding new software) and its design corollary are bound up in the creation of new worlds–new realms of existence and representation–whose appearance is not mandated by the materiality of the world, even if it is very deeply tied to the materiality through which the software could be displayed and used. A web page doesn’t need to look like a “page” at all—it could be something entirely different, if we could unhinge our minds enough to think about the function, purpose, and effectiveness of what we are trying to do, make, or convey.

Or, on the other hand, what if the materiality of display and hardware really does limit what kinds of software we can make and how we use it. What if the unlimited imagination of the Internet is actually quite bounded with our sensory experience of the world, the phenomenology of being (and/or using a computer).Would this be an instance of not as free as we think we are? Or too limited by the preconceived notions of our daily lives to be able to create a freer, more open design and aesthetic? And are these two things at odds? A story on WNYC a few weeks ago discussed the way reading on a screen changes our ability to read on the page—to the extent that our endurance to read for an extended period of time is impaired? This is not to say that reading on the internet makes you illiterate, but that it does change how our brains and eyes take in information, at the expense of other media and technologies if we don’t practice those, as well.

Bio ~ Rachel Bogan

I’m a doctoral student in the Graduate Center’s Sociology Program. Before studying to be a sociologist, I was a women and gender studies student at Rutgers–and my interests (and heart) lie at the intersection of these two fields.

I currently work as an Institution Research Fellow at Macaulay Honors College where I work on a variety of projects, including the assessment of Science Forward, an undergraduate seminar that utilizes innovative techniques to teach students science. I am also working with the New York Food Policy Center on a project that assesses how East Harlem food environments have changed over the past decade.

Prior to coming to the Graduate Center I worked for Whole Foods Market as a Whole Body team leader and a marketing director. I helped to open new stores in New Jersey and New York, created partnerships and events with community organizations and led store tours and food education/cooking classes for children and adults. I also worked with the Intersect Fund and helped small business owners write business plans, develop products and grow their businesses.

My research interests include gender, sexualities, queer theory, food access in NYC, medical sociology, embodiment, undocumented immigrants and digital technology. I’m especially interested in studying how identities shift–and how these identities become enmeshed in (and are effected by) larger systems of power. I’ve always been keen on food–eating, cooking and working with it–and my dissertation project allows me to continue my work in this area.

My dissertation project is (tentatively) to study the effects of food environments in (East?) Harlem on low-income residents. I want to use two events–the closing of Pathmark on 125th Street in East Harlem and the opening of Whole Food Market, also on 125th Street in Central Harlem–as ways to ground my research in the Harlem community.  I’m interested in questions such as: How do racialized food systems work and how do they effect the reproduction of (un)healthy bodies? How does power circulate through food systems (supermarkets, restaurants, bodegas, school lunch programs), bodies and low-income communities? Can Whole Foods Market change/influence the way low-income communities eat? How does the closing of a local institution (Pathmark) influence the way a community not only eats, but also lives, communicates and works.

I also do lots of yoga, rescue dogs, and always wish I was swimming. You can also find me following the Cinnamon Snail around the city.


Students, Holly Fancher

Imagine a veteran, home for six months, in a crowded supermarket, trapped in a long line.  Anxiety and frustration are mounting, the front door is a distance away, and there is no escape short of pushing through the crowd and getting to the door.  However, on this individual’s phone is an app with a module designed to diffuse the growing internal pressure before it erupts into dysfunctional behavior.  Many thought processes and behaviors are changeable; what is missing are accessible tools that can foster the desired change at the appropriate moment.

My project is the development of a mobile app that will serve as a new model of mental health care for veterans by expanding the current PTSD treatment paradigm to include self-directed, self-motivated discovery of a new civilian identity.  A mobile app has the potential to provide an immediate way for a veteran to navigate through negative feelings before being overcome.  It represents a psycho-educational approach to transition rather than a medically-oriented intervention framework based on illness, diagnosis and treatment.

Combat soldiers do not come home and simply turn off their combat personalities.  Transitioning back into civilian life does not mean veterans no longer carry the values of combat soldiers.  Rather, it means learning to integrate combat survival skills into new, less-threatening situations.  Many service members returning home face reintegration challenges that lie outside a PTSD diagnosis, and the differing kinds and degrees of their distress are often a consequence of particular difficulties encountered during their personal efforts to readjust to civilian settings.

Currently, there is little recognition of the developmental trajectory confronting veterans returning from war.  Instead, a single treatment model is considered sufficient to capture the wide range of emotional and behavioral issues confronting soldiers postdeployment.  The use of an app may provide a meaningful way for veterans to move beyond personal vulnerabilities as they struggle to fit themselves into a non-combative environment.

I believe that using technology to strengthen psychosocial functioning is natural for today’s veterans because as battle parameters have continued to disappear, new technologies have emerged.  They therefore arrive home with technical skills that past generations of soldiers did not possess.  However, they also arrive home carrying the burden of readjustment shared by earlier generations.  A digital therapeutic tool may provide a means for connecting new skills with old struggles, thereby enhancing resilience and leading to a smoother transition home.


Overview of Assignments

This semester we will be working on three major assignments, with continuous blog writing throughout.

Provocations and responses: We will continue the practice of having several students write provocations on the blog on the reading/subject of the week, and carrying on a conversation on the blog in advance of class. Those who write provocations, will lead off the discussion of that reading in class. Because we meet a day earlier than in the past, we need the provocations to be up by Saturday  by 5PM, so that discussion can start Sunday, with enough time to bear fruit. Several of the provocation assignments will scaffold towards the three larger assignments below.

Project Abstracts/Short Proposals: Your midterm assignment is to create at least two different project proposals that each have at least two scope variations: one full and a reduced version.

Collaboration and Wikipedia:  Collaboratively write a Wikipedia article on one of the readings from last semester.

Final Project Proposal and Proof of Concept: Your final project is to turn in a proposal for a larger project, that includes a proof of concept. Your goal is to convince us that your proposal is relevant and productive AND that you can actually pull it off. The details will be discussed on when we discuss the short proposals, and will be due at the end of the semester. We will have three days of presentations, and the written proposal will be due during finals period.