Fin (etcetera)

I’ve talked about finding a natural stopping point and conclusion multiple times on this blog and in class, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot as the course comes to a close. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life, and especially this semester, in rehearsals for various instrumental ensembles. Rehearsals are an opportunity to develop and refine the music; moments of perfection can be found in rehearsal if only due to pure repetition. Concerts, however, have little room for perfection, because of energy, nerves, human error, and countless other reasons. This is a kind of imperfection I’ve pretty much learned to live with, if only because there’s still half a program left to play or a completely new program to be performed in a couple weeks.

I think it’s partly because of my acceptance of this imperfection that I’ve allowed my perfectionism to run rampant with this project; WordPress’s seemingly endless customization possibilities have also helped. All of these options make it even more difficult to determine when any aspect of the site is finished, as “completed” or “polished.” Currently most of those decisions are about minor details including image placement, font size, and menu order, but sometimes I look at the site and wonder if the larger design features, like the theme, are actually the best out there, and if there’s not better plugins or images than what we’re using. My hesitance to declare the site “complete” extends to the research side of the project, though I’ve resigned myself to what’s on the site already do to the time constraint. There are relevant sources and topics I was barely able to touch on in the site due to lack of time, and conducting interviews about the public liberal has never seemed more important.

To return (sort of) to my original topic, most music has clear and natural endings marked by double barlines that are frequently telegraphed tens of measures in advance by the harmonic structure. Right now, this project has its own double barline approaching in the form of our presentation on Thursday, and I can already hear the crescendo of the V-I cadence. While I have no doubt that the site will be satisfactorily completed by the presentation, there’s a chance I’ll be changing minute, barely visible details until 1:59 on Thursday.

That being said, I’m astonished at how the site has turned out–I never really thought it could be so coherent and professional. This course has taken me farther out of my comfort zone than anything in my academic career, and I’m incredibly grateful.  While the significance of the work this course is doing increases daily, and I hope more students have the opportunity to participate, I need an intermission.

Thanks to anyone who has been following this blog (and actually made it through this post).


What’s the Story?

“There isn’t anyone you wouldn’t learn to love once you knew their story” –Andrew Stanton

As I’ve grown through my experience with higher education, I’ve become a person deeply invested in the ways that the written and spoken word is used to communicate with other people.  As an English major–or to be more specific, as a person who has learned and studied storytelling through words on a page, rather than through music, painting, architecture, dance, or otherwise–I’m trained to think of stories as a sequence of sounds, a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables, syntactical contraptions, connotations and denotations.  This course immediately interested me with its opportunity to “capture […] identities, cultures, histories, and environments” surrounding public higher education and the liberal arts.  I was drawn to the prospect of telling stories–and terrified when I found out that I would have to create a website in order to showcase these stories.  This course definitely took me out of my comfort zone.  Leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone.  As it happens, my cross country coach often tells the team that this space–leaps and bounds out of your comfort zone–“is where the magic happens.”  And I’d have to agree.

Because of this course, I was confronted with a stark reality:  on the world wide web, a sequence of sounds isn’t always the best way to tell a story.  Because of this course, I started to think about things like “mise-en-page” and visual rhetoric as ways of telling stories; I also began thinking about minuscule details like font size and how this can affect a viewers experience of the story.   How are readers used to viewing a page?  What happens when you present a story in a manner that works against the readers expectations, for instance, what happens if information moves from right to left, bottom to top?  It’s not that any of this necessarily enhances storytelling in any way, but rather that considering these changes allows one to contemplate a realm of possible experiences that you haven’t previously encountered.  As this semester comes to a close and I reflect on all the ways a screen can be manipulated to change the way a person experiences the information, the ways that information can be both transparently and rhetorically presented on a screen, I’m reminded of the “sympathetic research imagination.”  And now, I feel like I’ve come full circle as a storyteller in this course.  Like any story, my work was for me, and for someone else.  And after taking this course, I would argue that contemplating the way information can be organized on a page is an exercise in empathy just as much as reading a novel–the experience is simply articulated differently.

With this said, I think I’m most grateful for the opportunity to write playfully in this course.  I’m grateful for the chance to play with my form, to quote Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, and Pixar animators; to (pathetically) attempt to write like Michael Chabon, utilize epigrams, make silly, half-baked allusions to philosophical ideas I clearly don’t understand; to share things that excite me as if they excite others as well and to express these ideas in ways that traditional college courses don’t allow; to write long sentences with a dozen semicolons; to tell stories.  My posts in this course (including this one) were always long because I loved writing them.

I’ll sign off from this course with a quote from David Zuckerman, mostly because I love his essay and want to share it with people, but also because its (almost) relevant.  In an essay that is at once a love letter to the show and an elegy for its demise, David Zuckerman, executive producer and showrunner of my favorite TV show, Wilfred has this to say about exploring the experience of a man who sees his neighbor’s dog as a man in a fuzzy suit:  “how terrifying and lonely it would be to live with that kind of secret. Such a man might be so afraid of what people would think if they learned the truth that he’d likely become even more isolated and unable to make meaningful connections with others. His only choice would be to pretend he’s normal, to hide his authentic self from the world.”  That part isn’t relevant, but its beautiful.  Here’s the relevant part:  “sadly that’s another thing good shows and good dogs have in common: Neither lives as long as you’d like them to.  Fortunately, both leave you with wonderful memories to cherish. I am grateful I had Wilfred in my life.”

This course has been a wild ride.  This semester has been the most physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting semester of my undergraduate career, and although I wish I could continue with the work of this course, I’m in need of a break.  I’ll return hungry for the digital humanities and its potential for storytelling. Until then, I beat on, boat against the current, excited to return to DH to tell stories for me, and for someone else.


So Long and Thanks for all the Feedback

Well, this is it.  In just over a week, Julia and I will present our final version of the UNCA site.  I know Abby presents tomorrow, so I wish her the best of luck.  I honestly feel invested in not just my own, but everyone’s projects at this point.  After spending so many weeks looking at each other’s sites, I feel a genuine excitement when I see how far they’ve come now, and am excited to see them present this week.  It’ll be a weird feeling after next Tuesday when I won’t be meeting with everyone to discuss changes to all of our sites.  I expressed a lot of this in my previous post, but I am very happy that Julia and I finally got our project into a nice working order, and am hopeful that our work will be apparent when we present.  For some closing thoughts, I just wanted to reflect on the impact our interviews had on me.  Beyond just giving us content for our project, I genuinely learned a substantial amount about our campus and had a rejuvenation in my interest of public history for the first time in a while.  I spoke to a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t have, and learned so much, and for that, I am very thankful.  I just wanted to give a final “thank you” to Abby, John, and Emily for feedback throughout the life of the project, Mark and Cole for dealing with us for a whole semester, Julia for being contractually obligated to be my groupmate, and anyone out there who has actually kept up with my project blog.  Thanks, everyone.  

Research Reflection: Nervously Approaching the End

So I’m presenting tomorrow and I’m very nervous. I don’t usually have stage fright or anything like that, so this is a new experience for me. I think it’s because I’m so emotionally connected to this project. I don’t want to mess up, especially because I don’t know most of the people for whom I am presenting.

I have the interview and film clips to show, and I’m basically done formatting the presentation itself. I just have to make sure that I don’t get too nervous…but that’s easier said than done.

I’m glad I was able to change my image gallery. I’m very happy with those ten images. They really contribute to my story. Watching the film again and seeing some of the images I found in the archives was so funny. I love seeing my project connect with other sources.

I can’t believe this is the end. If my abstract isn’t accepted by the Academic Excellence Conference, I will end my project here. If it is…well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Over and out.

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


  • 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?


  • 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)


  • 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?


We are almost there!

As we said once again the project sites (to borrow John’s word) are beautiful. They each reflect significant intellectual work. As we enter the final weeks of the semester here is what you need to do:

  1. Before Thursday December 1: immerse yourself in the work of your peer’s project sites. Take notes. Then send your notes, in the form of a letter, to Mark, no later than 8 AM on Thursday. Mark will compile the notes and forward them to each project site team
  2. Work on your site. This work may pick up a bit once you have more written feedback from your readers
  3. Compose and post on your course blog a final “Research Reflection” by Tuesday the 6th at noon.

Public presentations of projects begin next week. The presentations may be “attended” by faculty and administrators from other COPLAC institutions:

Tuesday December 6 Presentation by Abby Shepherd, Keene State College, “The Women of Keene State: An Exploration through Personal Narratives”

Thursday December 8 Presentation by Emily Buckley-Crist and John Panus, SUNY Geneseo, “Foundations of Knowledge at SUNY Geneseo: Narrating the Public Liberal Arts: An Exploration of General Education and the Humanities Sequence”

Tuesday December 13 Presentation by Casey Brown and Julia Bone, UNC Asheville, “An Educational Narrative on the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the Liberal Arts”

On Thursday this week we will talk about preparing for and the logistics of the presentations. Please be in touch if you have any questions.

A Grand Finale

It’s hard to believe we’re all at the end of the course so soon.  Our blog  is nearly done, our last few interviews are rolling in and being uploaded, and I still feel like there is so much to do.  I’m honestly not too sure after this is all said and done if I’ll be able to get out of the mindset of looking for stories to tell every time I hear something about our campus mentioned in the classroom or community, but perhaps that is a good thing.  This has been a phenomenal experience, one which I can wholeheartedly say has helped me as a student in more ways than I would have initially thought.  WordPress, Timeline JS, and Blue Jeans are all technologies I feel comfortable with now, not even mentioning the enjoyment and learning that these interviews have brought.  I’m very happy with the strides Julia and I have made in these last few weeks.  I felt we may have been floundering initially, but I believe we now have a site that I can show my peers with pride.  I’m excited yet a bit nervous for the looming presentation day, but I’m still taking things one step at a time.

Research Reflection: Insecurity (and lots of crying)

Now that everyone is finishing up their project sites, I’m starting to get nervous. Am I doing a good enough job? Does my project site look okay?

Not only am I the youngest in the course, I am also the only team of one. I’m trying to remind myself of both, especially the latter, as I draw my project to a close. However, I still feel inferior and anxious about being satisfactory in the eyes of those who will see my project. I’m a perfectionist, and it’s hard for me to ever feel like I succeeded at something. I actually started crying in the research technician’s office this morning when she told me that my site looked great.

I want this project to be the best it can possibly be. These stories are so vital to me and this school has an immense handprint on my heart. I have to find a balance between pushing myself to succeed and overexerting myself to the point of exhaustion.

Time for class to start. I’ll continue this later.

Tracking Shots and Uncovering Hidden Work

In Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon wrote a 12-page sentence.  When asked about the sentence, Chabon responded that he wanted to give the readers a tracking shot so readers understood what was going on.  For my readers who want to know where I am, here’s my tracking shot:  

Trump was elected president (I stayed up till the bitter end); Emily and I conducted two interviews and got about an hour’s worth of usable conversation; my cat killed a snake, brought it in the house, and hid it under my housemate’s bed for safekeeping;  Emily and I made some major changes to the blog that should be functional and aesthetic improvements; most of these changes–especially changing our theme–made obsolete all of the work I did last week; I’m annoyed that a lot of my work seems to be for naught, but excited every time I learn a new way of making something accessible, every time I learn a new technology of visual rhetoric; we had really great conversations about the uniqueness and importance of liberal arts, as well as the future of higher education; it turns out my housemate is terrified of snakes, and the snake wasn’t completely dead; incredible dialogues began on campus regarding the importance of liberal arts institutions as enclaves of resistance and protection; I found some great sources that will contribute to our project; Emily’s timeline blew my mind; I didn’t have time to start either of the essays I have due tomorrow (Monday the 14th) until 1Pm today (Sunday the 13th); I’m excited that I get to blog for this course and have the opportunity to take risks like this post; starting at 4Pm on Friday, 50 of my teammates and I drove six hours to New Jersey, slept at the house of the TCNJ tracksters (who we had never met before), woke up and drove to Rowan college to support our top-7 men and women competing at the Atlantic Region cross country championship, painted our bodies and sprinted back and forth through a broccoli field to catch the runners as many times as possible (both teams won handily and qualified for the NCAA championship), we drove six hours home and returned at 4Pm on Saturday; I had serious writer’s block on my senior thesis; I was forced to re-evaluate my plan for the next several years in anticipation of cuts to higher-education spending; while writing a paper about Autism, I was fascinated by the ways other cultures approach the disorder; I continued to transcribe interviews and research SUNY general education requirements; I mapped the route to drive to Louisville, Kentucky to support my teammates at the NCAA championship this Friday–the men are ranked 2nd in the country and the women are ranked 3rd; a swastika with the word “trump” above it was found graffiti’d in a dorm on Geneseo’s campus.

I’m having trouble distinguishing between the difficulties of this project and the rhetoric surrounding the treatment of humans in this country:  most of a person’s labor is hidden from sight, and hidden labor is so often considered a lack of labor.  Which isn’t to say I think the difficulties of this project are equivalent to the plight of so many people in this country, but that this election has consumed all of my thoughts and emotional resources (and I recognize my incredibly privileged status).  So in the spirit of uncovering hidden labor, I’m going to use pictures (and a few words) to illustrate the potentially trivial changes I made to our project website in pursuit of some thing called excellence.  (I can only imagine what Derrida–in all his confounded genius that borders on idiocy–would have to say about this “thing”).  Hopefully, allowing these pictures to “speak” will achieve some symbolic act of removing my voice so that another “voice” can gain access to the conversation.

Screenshot (8)–this was the guiding website.

Screenshot (11) Screenshot (12)–here’s where we started.

Screenshot (20)–after testing some themes, this is what I got.  I think the picture of Geneseo works extraordinarily with this theme, but we’ll have to do some editing with the font, colors, and menu.

Screenshot (29)–here’s a template of how I thought the theme would work.

Screenshot (21)–that didn’t happen.  When you add pictures to the home page, the site works differently.  Obvious issues.

Screenshot (22)–the hover aspect is nice.  But this theme does it automatically–whereas I spent hours working with plugins to get this affect on the other theme.

Screenshot (23)   –and when you click on the site, it takes you to this page (which will later be filled with information).  I had to do some editing to get here, and didn’t take all the picture to prove it.

Screenshot (27)–this small change from the original hover effect is the change I’m most impressed with.  I had to do some SERIOUS coding:

Screenshot (25)–changing font size and color.  Putting in a line break so there’s a primary title (the quote) and a secondary title (the question).

Screenshot (28)–and I seriously appreciate the people who paved the way before me.


More interviews this week.  And I’m hoping to dump a ton of information on the blog.  Ideally, in a coherent manner.


Research Reflections: Finding Reasons

I, as I can imagine many of you are, am dismayed at the results of the election. For the last few days, I’ve been struggling to find reasons to keep trying to work on my schoolwork. Is it worth it? Am I doing any good? It’s hard to feel this way, and I hate falling behind like this.

Mark sent me a supportive email on Thursday, and I appreciated our course discussion the same day. As much as I want to reject this project and hide from the world, these narratives don’t give me that option. I have an interview on Tuesday with a woman who lived in the barracks built by the college to house World War II veterans while they (and the occasional wife) studied at Keene Teacher’s College. That’s the type of story I want and need to tell at this point. I rely on these stories to keep chipping away at my project despite depression.

Donald Trump is going to be President, and I’m scared. I don’t know what will happen to our country. I do know that this is the time for me to be telling stories about tough women and their access to education…now more than ever.

So, if you are reading this months or years from now, know that we are hurting this week. I’m hurting, but I’m not giving up.