Tag Archives: project ideas

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Anke Geertsma

Apologies for the late posting, and, even though I would never accept such an excuse from my students (there are plenty of computers in the library of course), I just need to share that my macbook crashed a few days ago. It’s a devastating experience. Maybe I expect to find some sympathy here. Everything was backed up, but it’s still hard to have to give your dearest companion to a genius at a bar hoping he will be able to resuscitate it.

About myself: I was born and raised in Friesland, a small province in the north of the Netherlands, famous for its Frisian horses, black-and-white cows, open skies and lakes, islands, and for the strange language we speak, Frisian. This is now mostly a spoken language (I was never taught how to write it and can barely read it), but is one of the oldest European languages which closely resembles Old English with a bit of German and Dutch thrown in. Frisians are officially the tallest people on the planet, but I am clearly an exception.

I have a BA and MA in American Studies and am now a fourth-year PhD student in Comparative Literature, where I work in German, French, but mostly contemporary American literature. I have been teaching World Humanities Gen Ed classes for the past few years and went to the Institute of World Literature at Harvard, where I became interested in “world literature” as a field, and in questions concerning translation, circulation, and canonization in multicultural and multilingual classroom such as those I teach in at CUNY. One of my goals for this course is to come up with a way to teach literature so that student can see (literally, on a digital map of the world) how a text can change over time (different translations), and where and when it sees publication for the first time. Knowing I have to be careful not to want to do too much, I want to limit and link it to for example a Nobel Prize winning book, showing its “origin” on a map, and its reach before and after the moment it wins the Nobel Prize, with possibly links to reviews, selections of translations, and dates of publication in various parts of the world. I really don’t know if this would be at all possible, but it comes out of course I am designing on Nobel Prize novels, which is set up in such a way that student are exposed to the (politics of the) selection process and hopefully start to see a book or text not as a stable, finished product but as something that is always in the making, and always responding to the local culture in which it “lands.”

Jeffrey’s project ideas: text manipulations

Here are some ideas I had for my project this semester.

  1. One idea would be to try to develop a way of visualizing the establishment of clichés over time—especially ones that originate in quotations from literary texts. It would be possible to track the histories of relatively short clichés using the Google Ngrams data set, although that would require Big Data-level computing. I could also do this on a smaller scale (and with a lot more flexibility) using the just-released EEBO-TCP corpus, which includes manually transcribed versions of over 25,000 early modern English books.
  1. I might try to do something with computerized outlining tools. The work that I’ve done so far is way on the complicated side, so in the spirit of this class it might be useful to try to come up with a minimal viable product. In an ordinary outline, one line might be indented beneath another for any number of reasons—it might expand on an idea, provide an example, give a possible counterargument, etc. By including symbols that make these relationships explicit, it is possible to manipulate the structure using a computer—something that can be used, for instance, to play around with different possible structures for a paper in an interactive way.
  1. I’ve been toying around with the idea of developing a programming environment specifically designed for working with texts. There was an attempt to create a programming language for humanists way back in 1970, but nothing this century as far as I know. We have mostly picked up general-purpose languages like Python. But some of the basic operations that we have to do in manipulating texts—stripping tags, parsing document structures, tokenizing—can be awkward in these systems, and it can be difficult to the user to tell whether these operations are working right with a particular body of text. It would be much easier to work in an environment with immediate feedback. Imagine having your code on one side of the screen and a visualization of a text on the other, with annotations that indicate how the text is being chopped up, and that change immediately when you change the code. This project would constitute a desktop application along with either an interpreter for a new programming language or a library for an existing one that includes functions for the interactive manipulation of texts.

Joseph Paul Hill’s Thoughts on Technology Projects for College Theatre Classrooms

1. A student/youth rush and discounted ticket app for Broadway and Off-Broadway

Theatre teachers require their undergraduate students to see performances. There are many good websites that have information about discounted tickets for various Broadway theatres, but no website that takes into account both Broadway and Off-Broadway (or even the few significant Off-Off) theatre houses. Every venue and every show has different policies about discounted tickets, and frankly, it’s often difficult to find the information online. An app that compiled rush and discounted ticket information along with performance schedules of each major theatre could prove extremely beneficial for students of all levels seeking quality, affordable theatre in the city.

What would be even more useful than having all of this information available in one place would be the interactive functionality of a live map, like Waze. Students and other theatre-goers could share real-time information about various theatres and the status of rush tickets on any given morning. For example, I wake up at 7 o’clock on a Thursday morning and think about heading down to Studio 54 in the hopes of getting a rush ticket to Cabaret. I open up my rush ticket app and see that someone has already been by Studio 54 that morning and posted to the app that Cabaret is not offering rush tickets to the performance that night. However, there’s a message from someone at Gentlemen’s Guide that there are only two people currently in line for rush tickets at the Walter Kerr Theatre. I don’t have to waste my time traveling to a theatre that doesn’t have available discounted tickets.

Such an app would be a wonderful tool for theatre students who are required to see productions for class, but the app could also appeal to avid theatre-goers who weekly encounter the difficulties and unpleasantness of rushing shows.

2. Database (and discussion forum) of useful online educational videos

There are a plethora of videos available online, many on YouTube, that could be useful for instructors of any given subject, but when it comes to finding useful videos and/or clips, it seems that every instructor is on her or his own. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way for instructors to share, categorize, tag, and comment about online videos that they have found useful. The ability to categorize and comment is key because it would allow teachers to discuss how or why a particular video is useful. For instance, some videos might provide succinct summaries of textbook reading, while others might be beneficial for providing social and historical context for a given event.

Although YouTube has an Education Channel, YouTube does not easily allow for users to comment about the usefulness of videos in education. In fact, any critical, insightful comments made about a video are likely to end up buried beneath uncritical, judgmental comments provided by everyday users.

Perhaps an even simpler (but still extremely useful) tool would be a database of video databases. This would be extremely useful for theatre in particular where types and styles of performance are more easily explained through video than text. Over the last twenty years there has been an exponential growth in the use of video to document and archive performances, and if such videos are available online, theatre instructors and their students should know where they are.

3. Play adaptation/translation commentary and analysis interface

There are many different ways to analyze a play text, but one of the most useful approaches is to compare a particular adaptation or translation of a script to its source material or source text. Of course there are many ways to annotate a document (although perhaps not an easy way for thirty students to simultaneously annotate the same document), but within theatre it would be useful to be able to annotate multiple documents in a side-by-side format.

As an example, I offer up Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. If teaching the play in a theatre class, it could be useful for students to practice thinking intertextually by creating parallels between The Comedy of Errors and its various source materials, such as Menaechmi and Amphitryon. Portions of these two plays by Plautus could be taken and parsed out next to corresponding (or disparate) portions of Shakespeare’s play to see how the Bard borrowed and adapted the works of his predecessors. Likewise, such an interface could be useful for having students apply certain theatrical theories to playtexts. The Comedy of Errors could be taught in relationship to Aristotle, Horace, and the 18th century neoclassicists, with students pulling quotations from neoclassical texts and placing them beside Shakespeare’s play in order to show how the work reflects and/or adheres to certain theatrical theories.

If such an interface could be used and edited in real time online (such as in a Google Doc), then students would be able to see the work of their classmates and comment upon others’ insights.

4. Web of people, places, and ideas

An interesting project over the course of a semester might be to have students create a web of relations and connections between the various playwrights, producers, designers, theorists, theatres, plays, artistic movements, etc. The objective of such a project would be to have students visualize the complexity of artistic tradition and inspiration.

A decision would have to be made about how the connections are displayed visually. Does it make sense to plot points on a world map and see how different artistic cultures interact, or does it make sense to assemble an asymmetrical web of names, titles, and terms that progress in time historically with the earliest words being closest to the center of the system and branching outwards with the progression of time? The visual representation will dictate the possibilities of the project. Connections could be made like points between lines, but connections could also be labeled. Ultimately the web is a challenge for the students, daring them to find connections between seemingly disparate items in the field, such as musical writers Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kathakali Indian dance-drama, and Torelli’s chariot and pole system. It could almost function like an academic re-imagining of 7 degrees of separation.

Initial project ideas – Cailean

1) I would like to study the adoption of OERs in courses at City Tech from the students’ and instructors’ point of view. This would include designing the research/qualitative study including survey questions and methodology and submitting for IRB approval. I would also be looking into different digital publishing platforms for options to display the research findings.
2) There are a number of course sites on City Tech’s OpenLab site, a CMS based on WordPress (similar to the CUNY Academic Commons and Blogs at Baruch), and I’d like to think of ways to promote embedded librarianess through those course sites. I think it would be an interesting approach based on the potential for this platform to afford learners a more seamless academic experience, from students in traditional to hybrid, or online learning environments. Perhaps this could be achieved through creating or modifying an existing plugin/widget that could replicate something like the “ask a librarian” format. A less technical approach would be to supply the code and instructions for professors to add a tab in their WordPress theme with library information tailored to the discipline of study but then there are concerns like link rot and currency.
3) The librarian’s collection development responsibilities can include a lot of rote work- sifting through vendor lists and academic reviews; selections are not made off of approval plans. I know there already exist methods to automate these processes but they require knowledge I’m not yet knowledgeable with: specific engagement with programming languages, perhaps text mining processes as well. Another aim would be to scrutinize existing methods and adopt them. This could be advantageous not only as a workflow for collection development, but also has potential in the realm of marketing new acquisitions to instructors and students in discipline specific areas.

Project ideas: Rachel

Project ideas: there are several and they are a bit scattered, but this is where I am right now…

*Develop a digital repository (collective space) for sociological information for GC students

Problem: Lack of institutional memory for Sociology theory exam and orals lists. In Sociology, we have two exams: a written theory exam most of us take after our first or second year and a set of 3 oral exams. When I first started in the program, students had to take two theory exams: a classical and a contemporary exam. A file of notes from 10+ years was passed around to some students (via older cohorts). We now take only one exam and the old set of notes is no longer relevant. In addition, most students in their third or fourth years take their oral exams. The department has two binders full of past orals lists–however, the binders are messy, pages are often missing, and they are not accessible to all students (need to be at the GC during ‘business hours’ to read/copy them). The binders are also not updated—there are more old(er) lists than current one. Creation: To create a digital repository for all this information. New theory exam notes/orals lists can be uploaded and accessed by all GC sociology students (maybe make this public?). I image orals lists separated by topic and committee member and theory exam materials separated in a similar manner. There will also be a space for dialogue–where students can ask questions about the exam or orals. Two preliminary questions — who is going to monitor this from year to year and how do we get students to contribute? —>Do I make this into a bigger space for collaboration with other students outside of CUNY? Are students in other programs looking for a tool like this?

*Twitter data mining project to help me investigate how Twitter can be used as a productive space for social movements. Use Twitter API. Thinking specifically about trans* communities/murders of trans* women of color and/or Michael Brown/Eric Gardner/police violence against non-white communities. I’m specifically thinking about mining for hashtags, like  #allblacklivesmatter or #blacklivesmatter.

*Create an (interactive) mapping project that maps NYC supermarkets/bodegas/other retail food outlets and subway/bus stops–creating a product that is accessible & available for people to add items. A take off on http://veganfoodiseverywhere.com….but different, as this will be localized to NY and also map public transportation. What I like about the vegan website is that anyone can add a dish to the map.

*Develop an app that provides recipes for healthy meals for low-income communities. A take off on what eatfresh.org is doing in California–texting recipes to people (and these are recipes that can be cooked on a stove or on a hotpot). Maybe work with NYC Common Food Pantry to get recipes?

*Develop a set of technology classes for small business owners: twitter, website, blog/wiki development. I know this is needed as many of the small business owners at the Intersect Fund needed this type of help. I found that people often have a product/service/idea to sell, but they need help marketing their brand/events/etc.

*Develop a model for an online conference. I can’t remember where I read about this–only that one academic professional organization was thinking about doing this because the theme of their conference was the environment and they conference organizer wanted to reduce conference attendees’ carbon footprint. Why I like this: ASA (sociology’s annual shin dig) has  (recently) received criticism from members for a variety of reasons including cost, location and timing. While I cannot imagine making a digital ASA, I do wonder if a small-scale conference could effectively be hosted in a virtual space. Creating a virtual conference space is not an in-person conference space–but there are benefits: a more global participation/flow of information and fewer or low costs for participants. I’m not exactly sure what a space like this would look like. Would there be google hangouts? Videos of work(s)? Tweets/hashtags for comments?