One of the major research and pedagogy focuses of the inaugural 2014-2015 year of the Futures Initiative was mapping and geographic information systems (GIS). For a deeper look at some of this work, you can see the collaborative project of our Mapping the Futures cohort here, and Futures Initiative Fellow Michael Dorsch‘s Sociodemographic Maps of NYC here.
Thinking of this FI topic, filtered through my background in computer programming and web development, I became interested in a different kind of map — a network map — that tied together all the users and child sites of our futuresinitiative.org website in its first iteration. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, technology, when put to best use, can drive equity, and I wanted to investigate whether this was being reflected within our site.
As I further thought through this topic and became better familiar with the burgeoning networks of the Mapping the Futures course, I added some additional network visualizations. Being multi-disciplinary myself, and part of the wonderfully interdisciplinary HASTAC community, I looked at the discipline network of the Mapping the Futures grad students and the undergraduate courses they taught. I also was interested in some more traditional mapping components, that is, the geography that lies underneath our network (in this case, this meant which CUNY campus(es) users of our site were affiliated with).
A screengrab of a discipline network of the Mapping the Futures graduate course and its affiliated undergraduate courses, done in R
While developing this inquiry, I sent a proposal to DH2015: Global Digital Humanities, the annual conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, which was peer reviewed and accepted as part of the poster session. (You can read my abstract, as well as those of the other delegates here.) This was my first poster session and I found it to be an engaging format, especially since I could bring my laptop to allow others to interact with my network diagrams in the RStudio IDE that I used for programming the visualizations.
Working on a DH research project based on a DH-minded pedagogy initiative was of interest to many I spoke to at the conference, as the topic was a bit underrepresented this year (there was a strong representation of text analysis and GLAM [galleries, libraries, archives, museums], and a decrease in teaching and pedagogy from past DH conferences). As the majority of academics are engaged with pedagogy to some extent, I have found many are excited to talk about it (this past year was the first year I have presented on pedagogy as part of my research, and it has been a rewarding experience).
My poster for DH2015, click image to embiggen
It was important to me to make connections between what was happening in our network and what could be replicated in other universities. As I talked with delegates and attendees, I emphasized how the multi-site structure of futuresinitiative.org fostered outside learning in unexpected ways, which I found to be the most interesting aspect of a great mass of SQL queries I threw at this site’s database. That is, people from outside of the course (and the college campuses affiliated with the course) joined our site and child sites, and undergraduate students wandered into the course sites of courses they were not enrolled in.
Developing connected learning can prove to be most useful to other institutions, as well as for the Futures Initiative itself going forward. Looking at the data and the visualizations of that data can guide us to further promote exchange between various courses and geographically distant campuses. This is how students, and all learners, can benefit from technology and the interconnections that can be more readily accessed through networks and (the biggest net of all) the Internet. With 53 new users so far this semester, I am looking forward to continuing this project throughout the 2015-2016 year, as our site becomes more robust with activity and student-centered learning.
Colleges are in dark blue, users are in light blue, and graduate students/teachers are in orange
The parent site is in dark blue, official FI child sites are in light blue, course child sites are in dark orange, personal sites are in light orange, and users are in green