Kahdeidra’s Preliminary Project Brief

Religion plays a central role in the lives of many New Yorkers. According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study of the Pew Research Center, 56% of adults in New York state believe in God with absolute certainty, 45% believe that religion is very important in their lives, and 48% pray at least once daily. While religion and spirituality are important to New Yorkers, African diasporic religions (ADRs) are often marginalized, misrepresented, or left out altogether. There is a need for a unified space where people can find multimedia presentations covering a range of ADRs that are practiced in NY state, and in NYC in particular.

In doing preliminary research, I found a website devoted to NYC religions, “A Journey Through NYC Religions,” but not surprisingly, African diasporic religions are otherized. They literally fall under the category of “Other.” As an afterschool program coordinator, I attended trainings by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. They were truly inclusive of world religions. The problem is that only a small, self-selecting group of schools and youth development programs will access their trainings. What about the teacher who identifies bullying of students that is rooted in both racism and religious prejudice? What about the youth whose families practice one or more ADRs, but they are scared to mention it in school, hiding a critical aspect of their identities? We need tools that are universally accessible and that can support individuals in navigating complex conversations.

I want to create an internet space that promotes faces, voices, and geographic locations from these communities.  My target audience is teachers, adolescent youth, and college level students. It would include the following:

  • short written articles with links
  • religious songs and music videos
  • video footage of interviews with religious leaders and heads of cultural institutions in each borough
  • data visualization and mapping to illustrate where populations and places of worship are in each borough
  • Interactive educational games based on the content of the website

I envision that the website will be designed for both desktop and mobile access. Users can be at home, in school, at the library, or anywhere where internet access is available. I intend to use Commons software to design the website because WordPress is a common platform. Another alternative platform would be Wix, as it allows for a more engaging interface. I currently maintain a website my own website that was designed on Wix and am somewhat familiar with the tools. I would pay for the yearly hosting of the site through my publishing company, Dimonet Connect Publishing LLC. I would need to look into sponsorships as a possibility.

For the educational games, I am not yet sure of which software to use or websites to use as a model. I will build the basic design for the website and will need to enlist the help of a videographer to record interviews. I had originally planned to produce all of the content, but someone suggested to me that I could find a way to invite community members to submit content, as well. I will need to give this more thought.

Filipa’s Project Brief: Social Annotation

As any English teacher knows, a student’s personal engagement with literature is very difficult to track. In higher education especially, students are expected to complete the reading by themselves and come to class prepared to discuss the texts. But how can teachers gauge the student’s reading experience? And how can they encourage active reading strategies at home? The fact is that reading consists of largely isolated and invisible work, which remains inaccessible to teachers and other students. Furthermore, the habit of responding to text requires thoughtful cultivation through practice and modeling. Many students do not know how to close-read a text, much less to think critically about their responses and questions. How can teachers stimulate the student’s reading process, the moments of insight and questioning that occurs during the act of reading? Building the skills of active and critical reading calls for extensive dialogue between teachers and students, which is difficult to facilitate outside the face-to-face interaction of the classroom.

This proposal explores digital annotation as a solution to making solitary reading practices more visible, and accordingly, social. I aim to modify an existing annotation tool to use in my English 220: Introduction to Writing about Literature class at Hunter College. In general, annotation tools allow students to comment directly on the reading by highlighting the text and typing in their own response. The comments are then indicated to other users by highlighted text, to which they can respond. This tool will be implemented with careful consideration to the intended user, who is a CUNY student in an English class. Living in New York City, this student must make the most of the work spaces available to her, from the library to the subway car. The tool will function on all devices, especially cell phones, to allow accessibility for students on the move. Besides being used to guide independent reading, the tool will also facilitate less vocal students’ responses to texts in the classroom. Overall, the tool will maximize participation from CUNY students, fostering a social reading environment inside and outside the classroom. It will be deployed online, as a plugin for WordPress so that students can use it across all devices (without having to download or configure it) anywhere they have wifi service. Additionally, I hope to make it compatible with the CUNY Academic Commons, which I currently use to teach my English course at Hunter. To build this tool, I will borrow from the existing, open source annotation tools, Annotator.js and Hypothes.is. Though they look slightly different, both tools allow users to comment directly on digital text and to read each others’ comments. The complete code for both projects is on Github, and both Annotator.js and Hypothes.is encourage extension of their work, showcasing how others have customized the tool.

My project will build on either Annotator.js or Hypothes.is, modifying their tool for more flexibility and visibility. Annotator.js is a javascript library that can be added to virtually any webpage. To use the tool, users highlight the desired text and type their response in a simple text box that appears. After saving the response, the original text now appears highlighted, and users may view the annotation by hovering the mouse over the highlighted text. By clicking on this text, users then can add their own annotations, which will appear below the previous annotation. Annotator.js is made to be easily extensible, and Hypothes.is is one of its more popular developments, which is also extensible. Hypothes.is works similarly to Annotator.js, but it includes options for different reading modes and group reading. Users can control the visibility of their annotations by working in “public”,  “private” or “group” mode, as well as making all annotations temporarily invisible, to display a clean interface. Additionally, rather than rendering or “floating” the annotations over the text, Hypothes.is stores them in a sidebar, which can be expanded or minimized by the user. The sidebar allows for threaded conversations, where users can respond to specific comments. Hypothes.is, unlike Annotator.js, is also integrated as a wordpress plugin on the CUNY Academic Commons, and I am currently using Hypothes.is in my English 220 class at Hunter. Using this tool in my classroom has opened my eyes to its drawbacks and potential. My ideal version of the tool would make annotations more visible and interactive. In this version, the only formatting options are for bold or italicized text. My implementation would offer more extensive formatting options, allowing for different sizes and colors, so that students can read the annotations from a projected screen (in a classroom) and use color-coding to indicate different kinds of responses. Also, I would include more social features, such as voting or “liking” buttons, to encourage students to respond to their classmates’ comments.

To build this tool, I will have to familiarize myself with the existing codebase for Annotator.js and/or Hypothes.is, and be comfortable enough with several coding languages to make changes. Though I have implemented both Hypothes.is and Annotator.js in my past teaching and research, I have never built or customized anything with this level of complexity, and I’ve certainly never written code from scratch. From browsing the documentation and Github repositories for these tools, I sense that I would need proficiency in (at least) HTML, CSS, Javascript, and perhaps Python. I feel comfortable enough with HTML and CSS, and have a working knowledge of Javascript and Python. At this point, I anticipate that I would need to focus on strengthening my CSS and Javascript ability in order to carry out this project. I also anticipate that I will be borrowing from existing open source projects and implementations of Annotator.js. In that case, much of my preparation will also be spent researching other annotation tools, and familiarizing myself with the open annotation community.

Zohra Intro

Zohra here! I’m excited about this class!

I’m currently assistant prof at Bard Early College in Queens. I am interested in learning more about social reading and how to use interactive ways to get everyone in the classroom engaged in the text. I’m also interested in getting students to use games to develop critical reading skills.

I am working with a colleague to develop a Film & Media Lab. We will be working on a grant and on a proposal. This class will be a great way to keep me focused and to give me a strong foundation in interactive pedagogy.

I’m also finishing up edits before depositing my dissertation on Langston Hughes in Central Asia from 1932-1933. I hope to create a digital map of his journey in Central Asia/Turkestan (a project for my DH course this semester).

Zach’s Project Idea

My project idea is still rather foggy , but I know I would like to focus on gaming/game design and how it might be applied to the classroom.  Thinking about this practically, there are a few initial hurdles I’d need to figure out: when using videogames in class, should the class 1) make their own game, 2) play an existing commercial title, or 3) play one that I design myself? I am thinking that, for my project at least, I would like to design my own; I would like it to be a game that could be used in multiple subjects and disciplines, and that attempts to set up a good balance between playing and learning.

I’m not sure exactly which software I’d use at this point; that’ll probably depend heavily on just what type of game it is.  At this point I’m thinking I will more than likely use Unity or GameMaker Studio, as I have experience working with and coding for both of these programs. I am envisioning the project as a 16 bit 2D game, and there are a few drawing/animating programs I am already comfortable with for spriting 2D characters and backgrounds: GraphicsGale, PyxelEdit, and SpriterPro.

All in all, I am most concerned about making this project manageable for myself in the short time allotted, and to check my tendency to get overly ambitious. Considering that I’ve found drawing the artwork for videogames to be the most time-consuming aspect of their design, I am thinking I might (at first at least) keep the graphics fairly primitive and just work on setting up the core gameplay/story. Hopefully, throughout the semester, I’ll learn other strategies I might take to make this project feasible as well.

Kyueun’s Project Idea

I am still at an initial stage of designing my project and thinking about what kinds of choices that I can make.

I teach speech communication course at Baruch College which is a mandatory course for all students. In the course, students have an opportunity to deliver four to five public speeches. My role as an instructor is not much about teaching “skills” like a speech consultant, but more about fostering students critical thinking and academic research. I consider public speaking as a form of power. Thus I emphasize the ethical responsibilities as we know what happens when the power is abused. I want my speech communication course can help students empowerment beyond the classroom, and I am thinking about how digital technology can help this process. By delivering several speeches in class, students engage in the process of production and circulation of knowledge rather than remain as a passive learner. Can students engage in the production of knowledge beyond the classroom and can digital platform help it? VOCAT is a good assessment tool to document and analyze students speeches, but can we go one step further? All the Baruch students are taking or will take the speech communication course. How about creating a web/archive of topics that the students chose to present on in their classes to see what their interests are and to potentially take actions with the group of students with similar interest? But my question is: do students need this kind of platform? If there were willing to do so, students have an option to upload it to other social media platforms. Would the educational platform different from it? What are the risks of this idea? Unlike writing in digital platforms, the stake of uploading the recording of one’s vulnerable self is different. I also thought about social annotation for speeches, not for the evaluation/assessment of speech skills, but more about the ideas/contents of the speeches.

On a different note, I have been thinking about what “public speaking” means in the digital age. One of my research fields for the Theatre Program’s Second Exam is about the notions of the public (regarding space and people), and my interest in public or publicness also drives me to think about what “public” means in my speech communication course as well as for the ITP project. Is the traditional definition of public speaking from textbooks or from guidelines of the department (which is speaking in front of public and sharing ideas) still valid in the twenty-first century when almost everything is technologically mediated? Can I create a different public speaking assignment that is on the digital platform, speaking to the air, but still to public? If public speaking means sharing your ideas public, what kinds of public/digital activities students can engage with? After all, is public (regarding information and openness) always good?

I am also thinking about how I can make this project more towards my research. As I am still developing three distinct fields of study for the Second Exam (I can think about dissertation only upon completing it), I hope I can get clearer ideas later. One rough idea is to visually historicize how our perception of the body on theatrical stages has changed with the new technological developments (i.e. printing press, photography, interactive media, etc.) and how that change (if any) complicated our notions of what is corporeal-natural-biological and what is mechanical-artificial. I plan to delve more into the premodern perception of the body (as opposed to the modern notion of it) and thinking how the different epistemology can help understand discussions around the posthuman.

Filipa’s Project Idea

My aim in designing a project is to explore the potential of reading literature in the digital age. While there are many amazing projects centered around literary works and tools, there is still so much work to be done. I came into my studies at the GC thinking that I was going to build a digital edition of a literary work as part of my dissertation. Since then, I’ve gone back and forth on the idea, mostly thinking through questions of scope and feasibility. Do I want to make my entire dissertation a digital project, like Amanda Visconti did with her “participatory edition” of Ulysses? Or should I work with material that is less complex, like poems or short stories (for example, “Comparing Marks: A Versioning Edition of Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Mark on the Wall’”), which can be incorporated as a digital component (or chapter) of my dissertation? More recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of making some kind of text analysis tool, like the ones used for Voyant Tools (here’s a comprehensive list of them).

Overall, my goal is to make a digital tool or edition that changes the way students engage with literature. I want to create something that encourages and facilitates critical responses to reading, whether that be through a social reading component (like annotation) or through a tool that deforms a familiar text into new instatiations. There are several open source plugins and programs that facilitate annotation, such as Annotator and Hypothesis, which can be incorporated into the reading interface of virtually any website. One possibility would be to use this open software to create something more personalized for my purposes, like including alternate readings for a single line or text, maybe an up-voting system (like the one used on Rap Genius), or to create a more expansive space for online debates about textual meaning. Another idea would be to embed the annotation tool with text analysis tools, or have them running side by side (though I’m not sure what that would look like).

As I make my project, I have a broad set of questions that will guide my thinking and implementation. First and foremost, which I’ve already mentioned, is how social reading or text analysis tools enhance reading as an inherently critical act. In other words, how is transforming the text into digital formats, and commenting on it, an act of criticism? Second, how does reading online engage the embodiment of the reader, or the materiality of the text? Here, I’m interested in the visual and haptic experience of reading, where the user swipes, clicks, or otherwise navigates her way through a text, as well as what happens to a text’s physical materiality when we put it online. Finally, I’m interested in questions about online freedom and control. How do issues of copyright, intellectual property, and the public domain stifle and prevent our use and experience of the digital? I realize that these questions are wide-ranging, but one of my goals for building a digital project is to see how they might intersect and engage.