Category Archives: Digital Projects

Consider This

Moving to what we called in the last post “completion” might be usefully compared to the final phase in an editorial project. As it happens, I am currently coediting a book of essays on teaching the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In this book project we are at a similar phase: gathering editorial feedback from readers (outside readers, members of a scholarly publication committee, etc.) Similarly, you can benefit from having readers give you perspective on your site and editorial feedback.

Not everyone completed the “completion” post prompt. But we do have some excellent feedback to share that will give you some perspective on how an interested and informed reader is interacting with the project site you have constructed.Below are lists of comments from your peers and your instructors. Do consider having friends or colleagues review your site as well. The more insight you can gather from readers the better your final editing will be.

Over the weekend, all of you should be doing what is in effect a final edit of your site. Because these are public sites, that will persist on the web, you want to get your published work to be as “complete” and as “perfect” as it can be. If you did not complete the peer review, please use email to share your feedback with the project site authors.

Geneseo (Emily and John):

  • The font: Can you make the font bigger and/or double space in the articles and interviews? I can’t read it very well, and my eyes aren’t even that old.
  • Microstyle: The Understanding Empathy and Diversity through the Liberal Arts article heading quote is a little wordy/long.
  • Resources page: I like the resources page. The Resources page subdivisions makes sense (published, archival, online)
  • John: Where’s your picture on the “About the Authors” page? Miles to go, and promises to keep. . . . The head shot or image of you is an important consideration. Work on formatting text and sizing images fro consistency, as we have discussed in our project charrettes
  • The initials on the quotations is awkward for a reader (remember: quotes is a verb) page. It is a pain, but I would expand into at least first initial, last name. Or is there a common convention for published interview transcripts? This might be worth looking up.

UNCA (Casey and Julia):

  • UNCA should be spelled out on “What we’re about.” Most acronyms and abbreviations are writer- as opposed to reader-centered.
  • I would add more description/clarity to the link categories and link names. This can also be done on the categories widgets page. You can easily choose to have “metadata” (date and/or descriptive prose) in a drop down menu
  • I would put interviews first on the top bar, and contributors last (no offense, haha). If this does not work in the theme (if the default is alpha order and you can’t figure out how to make the change, go ahead and add a “Pages” widget at the top of the sidebar and order in a way that will direct the reader to the most relevant and/or important information
  • In the timeline I would put a picture in the “going medieval” section.

Home Page

  • I agree with the comment from class about removing “Continue Reading” and having the entirety of the text on the landing page
  • I would take away the “Read More” on the home page. Go all in and put the whole post, especially because it isn’t that long.
  • Is it possible to make “What We’re About” a page rather than a post without completely disrupting the rest of your layout? It would give the text more permanence (Unless you prefer to have date, name, etc. be included). The other way to do this would be to add a text widget at the top of the sidebar. Then you could use the main space on the landing page for something else. Image(s)? Just a suggestion.
  • Title/tagline: take out “under construction”!! maybe consider adding a little specificity to give a nod towards the narrower focus of the site–what’s currently there isn’t necessarily bad/wrong, but could lead a reader to believe that a wider range of topics will be examined.
  • Echoing the comments about reordering the menu in the header: maybe home, timeline, interviews, map, contributors? Timeline and interviews could be reversed, depending on how much context and history you want to push the reader towards before delving into the interviews.
  • Also consider renaming some of the tabs to give a little more context/specificity–though you would be sacrificing brevity (probably a personal aesthetic call)
  • The further context may also be less necessary once entirety of “What We’re About” is on the landing page
  • The title is a challenge for a reader. Spell out NAPLA acronym somewhere? Could be in a number of places.

Contributors Page

  • Pictures can be more symmetrical, consider different layouts of page, like we talked about in class before Thanksgiving. Crop the larger image and then use text wrap?

Current Campus Map

  • Consider adding some text to further contextualize map with the rest of the site–the title is a good start, but I think the relevance could be further explained
  • Is it possible to also mark the previous locations of the college in the map? It is a cool map but why is there? You don’t want the visitor to your site to be asking this question

Interviews

  • I really like the visual layout of this page
  • Add a date/place of interview to the text of each interview
  • Add pictures to the Ogg/Meyers interview for the sake of symmetry. Center the Hyde / Reeve head shots to be consistent with the Waters image?
  • Consider order interviews are presented in–right now I can’t distinguish any deliberate order. IT would make good sense to have a few sentences to introduce the list and the order. You would also help a reader by perhaps summarizing or highlighting parts of the interview that are significant and that help a reader understand your findings in this project. Much of the material on the site is great but is waiting for you to offer commentary and analysis. What have discovered in the process of building this project? What do we know about UNCA that we might not have known when we started? What is the story?

Timeline

  • Images are great
  • Make sure tense is consistent through all of the slide–right now some are present, some past. This is really important for professional presentation
  • Think one is necessarily better than the other, but just make sure it’s the same throughout.
  • “The Final Move:” it’s→ its

Keene State College: (Abby)

Welcome

  • Stating title/tagline right at the beginning of the welcome page borders on redundancy. That being said, I really like the title and tagline.
  • I’m not sure about the arrangement of explanation-quote-explanation. I think I’d prefer an image or something more along those lines. I like the newly added (as of Tuesday night) text underneath the quote, but if you’re adding more text, I think more quotes would be better. Maybe have all of the site explanation together and then a few quotes? If you don’t go the image route.
  • An image or images here would be useful and would compliment the minimalist theme aesthetic. Like you said in last class, you are looking for the right image. Good. You could even do a little gallery of images
  • In sidebar: spell out KSC in “KSC Doc” link to mirror link to college website. Or abbreviate both.
  • The social media icons are great. Can they be scaled (smaller)? They do call attention to themselves (the color perhaps more than the size? Or both?)
  • The Categories for the Links is really great. Nice work.
  • Also consider adding links to COPLAC, NAPLA course site
  • In footer: consider adding customized text (maybe name of site)

Personal Narratives

  • From most recent to older graduates is order. That works. Why? The question is not to change it necessarily. The rationale for this order should be clear. It would be good to have a few sentences at the top of this page to give some insight into the interviews. What is story? What do we learn about the history of Keene State College by listening to these women?
  • Definitely Consider adding some sort of image to excerpt of each interview
  • Make sure date of interview is in each text description of interview–don’t necessarily remove “this morning,” etc, just add date parenthetically.
  • Make sure location of each interview is clear

Image Gallery

  • Maybe add more specificity to name of page? This would sacrifice the current brevity of the title, which has its own benefits
  • Scan images if possible–those with text are a little difficult to read without going into full screen
  • Include full images from background collage? It would be cool to see them in their entirety somewhere

About the Author, Acknowledgments

  • Both great
  • Maybe some kind of image for visual interest on Acknowledgments page?
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mise-on-page

This week’s project charrette was exciting to say the least. The post follows up our conversation with some of the design choices and spatial vocabulary that you were exploring, some of the questions we raised, and some of the emergent examples on your project sites.

  • Titles matter: consider Abby’s “kick-ass” title that captures the essence of her project
  • Project description: make a few sentences or a paragraph or two that makes the project crystal clear. This can be done with the title and the tagline, to be sure. But an introduction will in most case be useful as well. Where this appears on the site is another consequential question
  • What about your landing page? All three of the project sites need to sit with and attend to this question. Information now embedded in pages might be the landing or portal: image galleries or sliders, timelines, maps. Perhaps use a “sticky page” post to keep the landing or welcome page stable?
  • Might the landing page be enhanced by an image slider in the header, or perhaps on the main site page? Don’t limit your imagination to the header. Sometimes not having a header creates an opening for alternative ideas. Browse other WP sites.
  • Look for examples. Consider the poet T.S. Eliot’s comment in an essay on the sixteenth century English dramatist Philip Massinger, that “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” Eliot might offer an instructive  gloss of a key term in the open education discourse on  repurposing information in digital domains. We are talking about poeisis here, after all: making, building, constructing.
  • Sidebars and footers: create link categories and assign each link a category. See Abby’s Site for an example of more than one category
  • Using the link category “NAPLA Sites” link to the other NAPLA Project Sites
  • If you have not already, add the creative commons license and social media buttons to facilitate sharing. Ultimate Media Social Icons is a WP Plug in that offers many choices for customizing the icon bar
  • Gallery options. There are many plug-ins. I believe Abby is using Photo Gallery by Supsystic
  • Add metadata to all images and documents in the fields provided when uploading. You do not want the default to be the file name!
  • Timelines: Emily and John’s site has a beautiful example. When adding content to the timeline remember to ask why each moment is being added and make sure to provide the reader with a connection between the item and the timeline, a connection between the micro and the macro, between the item and its context. Consider Timeline JS, Knight Lab Timeline
  • Maps: But to what end? StoryMapJS by Knight Lab is a promising plug in!
  • Integrating parts into the whole. How do the pages work together? Are pages the best way to segregate information?
  • Consider customization options. Feeling adventurous? Go to Appearance > Editor > Footer. So for example, in the footer on the NAPLA blog we changed the default “powered by wordpress” to ‘Copyright © 2016 Public Access and the Liberal Arts: A Narrative History’ Here is the code with the changes:

<a href=”<?php echo esc_url( __( ‘https://wordpress.org/’, ‘twentyfourteen’ ) ); ?>”><?php printf( __( ‘Copyright © 2016 Public Access and the Liberal Arts: A Narrative History’ ), ‘WordPress’ ); ?></a>

  • Work on how to embed in a functional and attractive way the audio files. Use a gallery to include an image or artifact to create balance on the page. A thumbnail caption?

For a more general overview of the relationship between data and design, and to get you thinking in different ways about mis-en-page, you may want to look again at Trina Chiasson and Dyanna Gregory, et al., Data + Design: A Simple Introduction to Preparing and Visualizing Information on the NAPLA Resources page.

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Telling Stories

In her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on A Road, the American anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston writes, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

Our growing archive of Research Reflections on this NAPLA course blog is an example of curiosity finding a shape. Your poking around in course catalogs and yearbooks is fascinating; and is it not interesting to pry open the at times rough-and-tumble curricular histories of your college! Liberal learning and the liberal arts, we are documenting here, is deeply and intimately bound up in the histories of the educational institutions at which we are all at work.

As we embark on the second part of the course, and you each move through the stages outlined in your self-designed project timeline, your purpose is shifting to stories, specifically personal narratives: to the work of collecting and publishing the stories that capture the identities, cultures, histories, and environments related to a public liberal arts education. The personal narratives you are gathering will use stories as a way of knowing the world—of making sense of history through lived experience and memory.

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So here we are. It is week seven of the semester. You have constructed a course blog that is documenting your research process. You have learned to navigate Word Press and are experimenting with tools to customize your site and organize the content. You are thinking about data and design and audience. You have sought out permission to do your interviews following IRB protocols. You have identified interviewees, begun to experiment with the technology you will be using to record oral interviews, and you most likely have in hand a release form for your subjects and drafted the questions for the interviews.

On Thursday this week we will devote our project charrette to the practical questions you have about the process of conducting oral interviews. As you continue to go about your work, we are asking you to be reflective practitioners—that is, you will be doing your research and also writing your weekly reflections on what you are doing, and what you are learning to do. To help with both the practice and the reflection on that practice, we offer some readings for you to situate your work in the methodology, theory, and practice of oral history. This material will help you with your work and will give you thoughts and ideas to incorporate into your weekly research reflections.

Oral History Reading List and Resources from a one-week advanced institute on the methodology, theory, and practice of oral/video history at the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) of The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

A couple of excerpts should suggest the value of these readings. In his essay “Four Paradigm Transformations in Oral History” (The Oral History Review 2007 34: 49-70) Alistair Thomson captures the major shifts in oral history in words that are already dated by emergent technological tools:

We are in the middle of a fourth, dizzying digital revolution in oral history, and its outcomes are impossible to predict. E-mail and the Internet are certainly fostering oral history’s international dialogue. But, more than that, new digital technologies are transforming the ways in which we record, preserve, catalogue, interpret, share and present oral histories. Very soon we will all be recording interviews on computers, and we can already use web-cams to conduct virtual interviews with people on the other side of the world. Audio-visual digital recordings will be readily accessible in their entirety via the Internet, and sophisticated digital indexing and cataloguing tools—perhaps assisted in large projects by artificial intelligence—will enable anyone, anywhere to make extraordinary and unexpected creative connections within and across oral history collections, using sound and image as well as text. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software can already be used to support, extend and refine the interpretation of large sets of oral history interviews, and will, inevitably, become more sophisticated and powerful.

Michael Frisch argues that the digitization of sound and image will challenge the current dominance of transcription and return aurality to oral history, as digital technology makes it easier to navigate audio (and video) material, and as we extend our text-based literacy to new forms of literacy with sound and image. Furthermore, non-text-reliant digital index and search mechanisms will enable users to find and hear the extracts they are looking for in their own interviews—and across countless interviews from other projects—and will enable imaginative, unforeseen interpretations.

And Valerie Yow, in her “Introduction to the In-Depth Interview,” Recording Oral History (Altamira Press, 2005: 1-34) offers insight into what she calls “The Use of Narrative as a Research Strategy”:

But even before the narrative form of research became acceptable, many oral historians and humanist psychologists and sociologists sought in the individual life story a specificity and a richness of experience that general accounts did not offer. Anthropologist Ruth Behar says that life histories give us the information that general studies, supposed to be typical accounts, obscure: “Rather than looking at social and cultural systems solely as they impinge on a life, shape it, and tum it into an object, a life history should allow one to see how an actor makes culturally meaningful history, how history is produced in action and in the actor’s retrospective reflections on that action.” Even if scholars in the past regarded work based on narrative as simple, many believe now that narratives are not simple and they are not innocent either because there is always an agenda. Bruner asks, “Why do we naturally portray ourselves through story, so naturally indeed that selfhood itself seems like a product of our own story making?” He argues that narrative expresses our deepest reasonings about ourselves and our experience.

Oral history is inevitably subjective: its subjectivity is at once inescapable and crucial to an understanding of the meanings we give our past and present. To reveal the meanings of lived experience is the great task of qualitative research and specifically oral history interviews. The in-depth interview offers the benefit of seeing in its full complexity the world of another. And in collating in-depth interviews and using the insights to be gained from them as well as different kinds of information from other kinds of records, we can come to some understanding of the process by which we got to be the way we are.

Yow’s reference to the work of the psychologist Jerome Bruner is worth elaboration. For over the next few weeks you will be doing what Bruner calls the Narrative Construction of Reality. Surely professors and students of literature will recognize the correlations between the stories we tell to make sense of our lives and the stories that are handed down over time that fall under the term literature, perhaps by having read the work of the sociolinguist William Labov (Language in the Inner City 1972), the linguist and literary critic Mary Louise Pratt (A Speech-Act Theory of Literary Discourse 1975), or Bruner (Actual Minds, Possible Worlds 1985) or, more recently, Mark Turner’s The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. Turner’s book, in particular, reminds us that stories are a basic principle of mind. “Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories.” And, indeed, stories help us make sense of other stories, including codified or accepted stories, including institutional histories.

Please have a look at the Resources page for links to oral history resources on the web that will most likely be useful for your work.

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Setting Up Shop

Due Sunday, September 4nd

Once you have logged in to you Word Press site, and changed your password, your job is to become comfortable navigating Word Press by working on configuring and personalizing your blog.

When you log in you will have access to your WP dashboard. In the top navigation bar you can click on “My Blog” to go to your site and view the changes you make.

Here is what we would like you to do:

  • Change the title and tagline (subtitle): Go to Settings > General. Add your own title and tagline. Think about what you are doing or consult the Century America blogs for examples. Remember, you can change the title or tagline later;
  • Add a page or pages: On the dashboard go to Pages > Add New. Pages are one way to organize information on a blog. Create and compose a brief biographical statement (100 words) on an “About” page. Add an image of yourself, if available, by clicking the media icon. We will also use the bio and the image on the main course page as well. Remember, you can add additional pages or change the title of the page or pages later;
  • Add a couple of links to your blog: Go to links > add new. Add the COPLAC site: www.coplac.org. Add our Course Site. And consider adding additional links as the course unfolds;
  • Add a Widget: Go to Appearance > Widgets. Add “Recent Posts” and save the addition. The widgets you add will appear in the sidebar of the “Twenty Sixteen” theme. Recent Posts will in effect create a table of contents for readers of your blog. Note well the need to create brief and descriptive titles for your blog posts.

The following steps are optional

  • Go to appearance > customize and add a header image
  • Consider changing the WP Theme: This is optional. But some of you may want to play around with the visual elements and content configuration on your blog. Go to appearance > themes. While there is no need to change your blog theme from the default “Twenty-Sixteen” some of you may want to modify sidebars, where you can add or subtract “widgets” such as “recent posts” or “text” or “categories”). Add background image, if you would like; create a static front page, such as a description or a welcome note; or add a search or tag cloud “widget” to your sidebar.

The more you become comfortable navigating WP at the outset of the course the better off you will be as we use more advanced features of Word Press on your project sites.

In addition, we encourage you browse the Word Press Tutorials. The sixth page of the WP tutorial is about making posts. It will likely be the most useful to you at the beginning of this course. If you would like to add images to your site or to your post, read on to learn how simple this is. The eleventh tutorial, titled “Insider Tips,” is helpful as well. The “kitchen sink” icon in the post/page editor, to take one example, reveals formatting options, enabling you to create headings and indent text, or to use the “paste from word” button that will carry over formatting from a word document.

And don’t worry. If this is all new, as the course gets going, we will talk about the difference between pages (as opposed to posts) and widgets (such as a tag cloud or a list of links that you can use to customize your page and make it easier for a reader to navigate). We will tinker and try and try again as we play with the powerful digital tools. You will come away with a working knowledge of a widely-used and powerful digital platform that will be useful in your college coursework and in your life beyond school.

We will spend some time during our first class meetings responding to any questions, troubleshooting, finding solutions. We will also, of course, be offering support and tutorials on more advanced WP features and the use of WP plugins as the course develops.

For now, the goal is to have fun. Learn by doing what you need to get done.

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Blogs and Blogging

As you set up your own Word Press shop we would like you to have a look at one earlier instance of a comparable digital project: Century America. This project site provides a link to the Century America course site where you will find student blogs.

A few selected student blogs from the Century America site offer examples of blogs that have been customized by the user:

Musings on Ink and Type
Heart of the Blue Ridge

While you are browsing these sites, you  might want to read a few of the blog posts by the students. Think about the voice of these reflections on intellectual work, the rhetorical challenge of writing engaging and professional prose–and remember here that your writing will be syndicated on our primary NAPLA course blog. Consider the post “Creating Meaning in a Sea of Information” by a student at UNC-Asheville in Western North Carolina in her sophomore-junior-ish year, Ashley McGhee, or a post by Britta, in Morris, Minnesota, “Weather Setbacks and Research Advances” and “Research Musings and Updates.” Note well that in the second two examples the author has created categories and tags to organize the posts on the blog. (Britta has also included an awesome tag cloud widget at the bottom that helps to organize the content on the blog.) We will talk more about the advantages of using these WP features when posting on your blog.

If you would like to look ahead, take a glimpse at the awesome Century America Student Project Sites

University of Maine Farmington
New College of Florida
Midwestern State University

Why a Blog? E-mail, web pages, wikis, blogs, Facebook, social networks, twitter—much of the writing we now do takes place in a digital format. And while all of us are still working out the conceptual implications of these new technologies, the advent of digital writing has created pedagogical opportunities to think about (and with) the digital tools that we use to represent and understand ourselves, and the world.

Blogging offers significant opportunities for student writers:

  • Designing and managing a blog offers experience using one of the digital technologies used by readers and writers. Digital writing requires all of the knowledge and skill writers use in other formats in addition to the new ways digital writing blends modes of representation (visual and verbal) and creates opportunities for fresh conceptual and material connections;
  • A blog allows teachers to shift the motivation for writing from the assignment to the writer. In fact we might argue that one of the obstacles to becoming a more effective writer in school is the writing assignment itself: for more often than not, writing assignments motivate writing for a purpose other than one’s own. Your blog posts will therefore be more focused on questions and problems and less on assignments, on thoughtful (and creative) exploration of ideas as opposed to more mechanistic forms of response to proscribed questions, pre-assigned topics, or readings
  • The relatively short form of the blog entry encourages concise and purposive writing. Managing to say exactly what you need to say in fewer words will challenge you as a writer
  • The likelihood that the blog will actually be read will help you become more rhetorically aware—of the conceptual, linguistic, social, emotional and ethical concerns a writer must address to be effective with any audience
  • Writing in a digital format (a web log, or blog) enacts (and represents) the complex process of thinking and writing that takes place in a college-level course; and we will use your writing experiences, and the archive of writing that we create, to reflect on your learning process, and the role of writing in that process

 

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