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Elena Abou Mrad – Bio and Contributions Statement

Elena Abou Mrad is a graduate student in the Ma in Digital Humanities at The Graduate Center. She holds a MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Turin (Italy), where she graduated with a thesis on geotagged interactive storytelling. She has worked in historical archives in Turin and New York and is currently the Project Coordinator of the Neighborhood Stories Project with the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS). Her research interests include archiving, digital maps, and food justice.

Elena was the Creator and Project Manager of the NYC Community Fridges Archive. She managed the workflow and ensured smooth communications within the group, as well as with project advisors and collaborators. She also contributed to outreach and community engagement by establishing relationships with fridge organizers, activists, and researchers.

Journal Entry 1

We had a good start to our project, NYC Community Fridges Archive. I am very excited to be a part of this project and be working with my teammates on board. First things we discussed were roles and methods of communication. The magic of group work is that there could be a person in the group who is very much interested in doing a task you dread 🙂 Not to mean I dread any task 🙂  (really, I’ll do whatever it takes to get a project done, especially if I am this excited about it) but as is in this case, I would much rather be a developer and researcher (I am also in charge of IRB and Media Lab application) than the writer or social media person. In short, I am very satisfied at the moment with our division of tasks- and I feel like we all are. Not to mention, we are all willing to chip in if and when needed, to help one another out. We  also will soon meet Micki and Digital Fellows, which I think we are all looking forward to. Community spirit and good vibes all around. 

Secondly, we picked our means of communication/organization – we use Trello for scheduling and keeping track of tasks, Slack for instant communication/brainstorming, and email for sharing docs and communication about main tasks, and have scheduled a regular weekly Zoom meeting for brainstorming, tying things up, and making decisions. It has been working well so far. Our project plan has been taking shape and I have a much better idea of what we will need to do in the coming days/weeks. I find creating that schema in your head/solidifying the action plan to be a critical part of any project, so I feel good in that sense. Looking forward to solidifying things more, defining deliverables, and building our beautiful project. 

Personal Journal Entry 1

I’m writing this late but nevertheless, I’m very encouraged by the discussions with my teammates. Last week we had our in-class meeting and our first “Sunday Brunch” meeting! Thanks to our project manager Amanda, we’ve been in total organization mode: scheduling meetings, delegating tasks, and completing our agreement and proposal. It’s encouraging to work with others who value communication and organization.

My position in this project deals with multimedia creation, editing, and management. We are not quite there yet. Our sources, scope, and hosting site, will later determine some of the questions I’m asking from the team including the tool needed to capture video and audio, the length of the final products, and the format (mp4, mp3, etc).

Other questions surrounding the construction of the legal consent form deals with children on film/video, the public aspect of this project, and the partnership we will have with schools and other educational institutions. Since we are still talking about the scope of the project, these questions are still left unanswered. However, I’m confident that as we continue to communicate and bring up great ideas about the possible “talent” / contributors (age and demographic of the student) and audience (student, parents, and educators), we will be able to answer these questions.

During our class meeting, we had the opportunity to meet with Micki who very generously gave us great insight on possible challenges we will face, and possible solutions/paths we could take in this multimedia project.

 

“Project = Process” (personal journal 1~23 Feb)

Not quite sure what, if anything, is necessary for the Tuesday personal journal this week.  I’m completing this late (technically we are 3 minutes into Wednesday), as I just got finished proofing and posting our revised RRW project proposal in my combined role as Project Manager (dreams of grandeur) and Copy Editor (reality of comma insertion).

To try to speed-learn more about what the former job entails, I attended  the ITP Skills Lab/Kimon Keramidas (NYU) Project Management workshop on Monday which was helpful and reassuring.  Kimon K. provided his signature blend of examples of gorgeous and robust projects he’d produced, basic knowledge told in clear and non-patronizing language, and back-end details for those who could handle them.  His comparison of the stages of crafting a project to those of writing a long paper I found apt (having written a number of overly long works myself) and I assume helpful for those unused to large, multiform projects that can take months if not years (!).  While “more fragmented and modular” than a paper, according to him (he obviously hasn’t read my dissertation), a project benefits equally from preplanning, “ideation, iteration, critique,” and repetition (“planning loops”): in short, prepare to “plan, organize, change, replan, reorganize” . . . . and do it all the way through the project (hence “project = process”).

Most helpful for me, given my lack of official management background (teaching undergrads and bossing my relatives notwithstanding), he ran through a number of different tools both for project management in its purest form and for citation organization and editing.  He is a big fan of Basecamp (while acknowledging that it’s expensive as a rule–we had a quick discussion about whether Office 365 Planner could serve as a cheap alternative) but also demonstrated Trello (again, the tile-formation vs Basecamp’s “hill” curve led to an interesting conversation about organizational styles and visual inclinations); Redmine (“good for techie back-endy projects”; on a LAMP server; natively digital; what CUNY Grad Center uses for systems admin/bugs & features); and Slack (“envisions everyone working around a table” in real time– this was the tool about which he knew the least).

We then compared Zotero and Endnote for shared citations, images, and bibliographies (while costing $50 a year for advanced features, Endnote “grabs more than Zotero” works well on multiple platforms and constantly syncs–hence it’s his preference).  We also looked briefly at the possibilities of using Wikidot.com/Wikis and Scrivener (plaudits) as alternatives to Google Docs ( a productive if brief gripe session ensued in the chat).

I had to leave before the breakout-room section but I strongly recommend attending this when it’s offered again and, as well, taking the opportunity to attend a Keramidas instructional session of any sort: he’s generous, theoretically sophisticated, responsive, and practical.  And entertaining besides.

Oh, and, I’m more inclined to use at least one of these tools for this or other project(s), although I don’t know which one yet and it’s not my unilateral decision to make in the case of RRW.  TBD Thursday. Stay tuned.

Personal Journal Week 1 – Reebus to Go

I’d like to think that our first week has certainly not gone poorly. I’m both pleased and disappointed in myself to say that I had the most trouble getting on board the project – to clarify, I’m incredibly excited for this project, but the enthusiasm my collaborators are approaching it with is truly admirable. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing how this project goes, especially with a team dynamic like our own.

My greatest fear at the moment is stagnation, but instead of worry about that, I’ve tried and succeeded to think more positively. That is, this project’s final product is something that I wish to actively work towards, and so I try to envision what the project could become rather than clouding my mind with needless worry. It’s certainly going to be a busy semester, as this is going to be one of at least 3 projects that is going to require my active attention – thankfully however, I’ve always found it enjoyable having multiple projects to work on at a time. Often, I end up finding inspiration for one inside another.

Thus far, most of my work has been in the realm of seeking out rebuses and rebus-related content that could be worth using in some manner. Some of my favorite findings include nested rebuses (rebuses in rebuses), an online rebus generator, and information on the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s usage of rebuses. I’m pleased to say that the sheer amount of information that is at least tangentially related to rebuses is so massive that I don’t think our group will have any issues in the realm of running out of material.

For our next meeting, my plan is to present or showcase some of the rebuses I found, along with the analyses and appraisals I’ve been working on. I’m well aware that these rebuses may not be used in the final product, but I found myself wanting to test my skill.

Personal Blog: some disorganized data documentation thoughts

I’m going to use this week’s blog post as an opportunity to try and stay abreast of some data analysis documentation, i.e. what we did on the data side of things. This week saw a few productive screen-share/voice-channel sessions for our group; the two I’ll focus on were 1. Saturday’s data understanding/wrangling session and 2. Sunday’s BeautifulSoup web scraping session.

One of Saturday’s important questions was: what is the scope of our data set? Which cases are in, and which are out? Some answers: we talked (and clicked) through it, and decided to include cases from both the modern and legacy databases, filtering by Issue Area 3 – “First Amendment”. This means there are some extra cases that are First Amendment but not freedom of speech related, but for now a little extra data is preferable to cutting out data that we may later want.

Another important question was: From what source will we gather the SCOTUS decision language? Answer: We chose Justia because it shows the full SCOTUS opinion, including dissent, searchable by the U.S. Citation.

I sort of expected this process + web-scraping to take just one meeting, but it took a long time (for me at least) to make myself familiar with the actual language of the dataset. I went back and forth a lot between the WashU Law code book and our .csv file as we began just by understanding what information is available in the data and how/from where we would scrape the SCOTUS decision language for each case.

Once we had decided on Justia, we spend time on Sunday examining the Justia website. In order to scrape our content, we needed to know 1. the URL for each case’s webpage and 2. where on the webpage the actual case content is (“where” means figuring out how the relevant HTML containers are labeled/classed).

Figuring out part 1 wasn’t too hard. All the Justia SCOTUS cases have the same format, as determined by the U.S. Citation– ex: 391 U.S. 367 corresponds to: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/391/367/. A minor data detail — accessing each number independently required separating the single citation column into two distinct columns.

Part 2 was a little more challenging, but Joanne and I bascially… hacked it out until it worked! Sometimes it’s like that.

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that Martin and Kevin both joined Joanne and I for the first session, and Kevin chose not to join for the second. Martin did join, and listened/observed for over 2 hours with only a few sentences of input as Joanne and I mostly just worked through the questions we had. This reflects exactly the kind of group dynamic I want to be in– that group members feel comfortable both opting in AND opting out of  meetings as makes sense for their roles and personal goals. Fully online collaboration sometimes makes it feel like everyone is invited to every meeting and therefore obligated to attend every meeting and… I hate that. I’m all in for setting boundaries and protecting personal time as a key ingredient to successful collaborative relationships, at the same time that we create an environment where all feel welcome and invited to participate in satisfying ways.

Reading Rebus Writing: Revised Project Proposal

The ubiquity of emojis in our digital chat conversations invites interrogation into rebus writing as a predecessor to the emoji and an interdisciplinary area of study, intersecting many aspects of digital humanities. By definition, an emoji is a pictogram representing an object; an ideogram representing an abstract concept; or an emoticon representing human emotion. Pre-dating emojis, a rebus uses a symbol to represent a sound, syllable, part of a word, or whole word, regardless of its meaning. Rebus writing combines visual elements with letters, words, and phonics to create puzzles which need to be deciphered and translated in order to understand their meaning. Coinciding with France’s invasion of Egypt and subsequent discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, rebus writing enjoyed a resurgence as a form of playful and satirical expression in late 18th– early 19th-century Europe and America. Circulating in printed broadsides, advertisements, letters, reading exercises, bibles, picture puzzles, and newspaper games, rebus writing became distinct from its ancient origins and early modern functions, entering more expansively into the daily lives of children and adults as visual vernacular.

Reading Rebus Writing (RRW) is an online, visual archive of late 18th– early 19th-century European and American rebus ephemera, that includes research into their history and cultural uses.  While focusing predominantly on this period, the project leaves open possibilities to expand its temporal and geographical scope through additional visual artifacts, historical research, and multilingual examples. The project aims to make a core group of historical rebus ephemera accessible in an engaging, collaborative, and interactive format to scholars in diverse fields such as linguistics, history, education, communications, design studies, and visual arts, as well as members of the general public – opening up new possibilities for discovering how we see and interpret visual information. Each rebus puzzle will be treated as an interface of inquiry to conduct close reading experimentations, translations, and ambiguous interpretations by audience participants. RRW challenges the notion of traditional texts by using humanistic qualitative analysis, while also contributing to the history of language, visual literacy, and visual communication, connecting cuneiform and hieroglyphs to contemporary, digital emojis.

19th century Rebus Valentine Letter.

Left: 19th century Rebus Valentine Letter. John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

Right: Detail with my interpretation. Does the meaning of the content change if the observer interprets the pictograms differently?

Enhancing the Humanities through Innovation

As a digital archive developed with WordPress, RRW will use existing digital repositories and institutional library holdings (example one, two, three) to curate a small selection of British and American rebus writing ephemera published in the late-18th and early-19th century for interpretation, translation, discourse, and experimentation. RRW will be based predominantly on the materials found in special collections and archives; these rebuses will have been unearthed during research performed specifically for this project and therefore will be previously unknown to a larger audience, in effect, having remained essentially hidden and undiscovered.  The goal is not to gather every example but to provide a digital playground for close reading experimentations and translations. Each rebus will be treated as an interface, a point where visual systems, typographic systems and interpretation meet. As one hovers a mouse over areas of the rebus, translated English words will appear, aiding in the interpretation of the content. If there are multiple interpretations, all possible words will appear. Since interpretations are based on humanistic analysis of the visual, a participant will be prompted to submit their interpretation, offer their point of view, leading to alternate meanings. There may also be instances where a pictogram cannot be identified by the project team, so audience submission will be encouraged: interested users might find a rebus that has not been solved and offer their own provisional solution for it. Their explanatory texts will then be published on the platform–this way the platform will continue to be a place for ongoing activities even after our course involvement ends.

Additionally, essays on the history of the rebus, cultural impact and its placement between the origin of writing and current-day smartphone emojis will be provided for context.

  • Can a visual vernacular be established for people of late 18th–early 19th-century Europe or America and if so, what is its cultural significance?
  • Does the appropriation of minority cultures by a dominant group impact the reading of the rebuses or their subject matter? And how does this cultural, visual appropriation affect the history and development of language and communication?
  • What conclusions about late 18th–early 19th-century European and American society can be posited from the way rebuses were drawn and where/how they were printed?
  • Can rebus writing, with its use of visual symbols and ambiguous interpretations, be considered a “text”? [“What makes a text a text—its susceptibility to varying levels of address—is a feature of book culture and the flexibility of the textual imagination” (Witmore)]
  • Does the mind’s conceptualization of image to phonology factor into both the difficulty and the ludic aspects of a rebus’s visual wordplay?

Environment Scan

RRW differs from a typical digital archive due to its reliance on the integration between the visual and textual qualities of the rebus artifacts – a visual symbol and its reading exist in a symbiotic relationship. Here are a few projects that share similar theoretical and physical, interactive characteristics:

  • The Global Medieval Sourcebook at Stanford University – for each artifact, a participant can see a parallel panel view for English language translations, side-by-side, line-by-line.
  • The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid – Presents the text, in a format similar to the printed publication, with shapes that highlight areas of an accompanying diagram when clicked on.
  • Fabricus by Google Arts & Culture – Related to this field of inquiry, however, RRW is not interested in employing sophisticated machine-learning technology which may have biases present in their algorithms. Instead, the project will emphasize the “human” aspect of the digital humanities. While this method may yield inaccurate or inconsistent results, it is important to recognize that different users may interpret rebus writing in different ways. The variation of rebus puzzle solutions may reveal alternative ways users see visual symbols and make them aware of their own knowledge production as observer co-dependent and interpretative, actively constructed from the user’s observation and experience (Drucker).

Audiences

The first iteration of RRW will be disseminated through various channels related to the different audiences. The project team will reach out to departments at universities (linguistics, art history, communications, art and design, history, etc.) to attract academics and students who may be interested in the project for research or teaching.

To reach public general audiences, as well as some scholars, information about the project, along with images of the rebus ephemera will be posted on social media networks, along with a call to action to help us solve the puzzles by submitting translations. Project team members may also have access to mailing lists within their specialties.

Efforts will be made during the design and development phase to ensure the content is accessible, such as providing descriptive alt-text labels for all images and following to the greatest extent possible the 2021 ADA & WCAG accessibility standards and requirements. (ADA/WCAG)

Team / Skills

For the first iteration of the WordPress website (completed this semester) team members will establish criteria for the curation of rebus examples, decide how many are shown, offer interpretations, design and develop the website, perform outreach to audiences, and write essays for context.

Roles:

Patricia: Designer/Developer

Matt: Researcher / Analyst

Ostap: Researcher/Institutional Outreach

Bianca: Project Manager / Copy editor~fact checker

Rachel: Researcher / Developer

Captain’s log, stardate 2263.02. Our destination is…Digital Utopia

Tuesday evening, February 23rd, 2021.  It’s not quite clear yet how these personal journal entries are meant to be structured, what they should address, or what value they will provide.  Given that there is often a method to digital madness, they could conceivably become useful as the project unfolds, tasks are completed, and the path to the finish line begins to appear on the horizon.

One option would be to document retrospectives along the lines of the SCRUM retrospective, in which the team “identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness”.  Or the entries might simply follow the spirit of the science fiction tech log tradition, as in “Captain’s log, stardate 2263.02. Our destination is Digital Utopia: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship DHUM-70002-COVID-Archive…..”. Or along the lines of Andy Weir’s popular story of an expedition to Mars in The Martian: “LOG ENTRY: SOL 6. I’m pretty much f**ked. That’s my considered opinion. F**ked. Six days in to what should be a greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned in to a nightmare. I don’t even know who’l read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.”  Perhaps a DH borrowing of the journal as a praxis device (and as a conceptualization of the archive) might confirm Walter Benjamin’s famous statement: “All future is past. The past of things is the future of the ‘I’ time. But past things have futurity.”

As it stands both the roles of the team and the team’s basic mission have begun to coalesce.  There are still at least 70%-90% uncertainties, i.e. the “unknown unknowns” (unfortunately popularized by former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq War), and those that Slavoj Zizek identified as the more important “unknown knowns”, most notably the atrocities taking place in the Abu Ghraib prison unbeknownst to the American people and the global community.  In our first two meetings we began to consider some of the watch-outs, and the ways and means to avoid potential show stoppers, including the questions of content contributor consent and privacy for minors, and technologies that can dovetail with long-term institutional sponsorship.

In terms of the implications surfacing for DH knowledge, questions are percolating as to the larger role and purpose of the “archive” in what might be understood as a powerful public commons of the Internet.  As mentioned previously in other DH contexts, an inspiring precedent and model can be the work of the Colored Conventions Project begun by Dr. Grabrielle Forman and now maintained at the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State University.  The Colored Conventions Project maintains five project principles:

#1 CCP seeks to enact collective organizing principles and values that were modeled by the Colored Conventions Movement.

#2 The Colored Conventions Project affirms Black women’s centrality to nineteenth-century Black organizing even as official records erase and anonymize the very contributions, labor and infrastructure that made the Colored Conventions movement possible. We pledge to account for Black women’s labor and leadership in our own historical work and in our own project practices.

#3 Like the Colored Conventions Movement, our project aims to highlight and center Black lives. By this we mean Black communities, Black intellectual production, including Black scholars/hip and Black collections.

#4 Mirroring the Colored Conventions’s focus on labor rights and Black economic health, our project seeks structures and support that honor the work members bring to the project through equitable compensation, acknowledgement, and attribution.

#5 We affirm the role of Black people as data creators and elevate the ways in which Black conventions generated data and statistics to advance, affirm and advocate for Black economic and organizational success and access. We also recognize that data has long served in the processes and recording of the destruction and devaluation of Black lives and communities. We seek to avoid exploiting Black subjects as data and to account for the contexts out of which Black subjects as data arise. We seek to name Black people and communities as an affirmation of the Black humanity inherent in Black data/curation. We remind ourselves that all data and datasets are shaped by decisions about whose histories are recorded, remembered, and valued.

These principles were themselves inspired by the “Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing” adopted in 1996 by the  Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ).  The Jemez Principles are worth mentioning as well:

#1 Be Inclusive

#2 Emphasis on Bottom-Up Organizing

#3 Let People Speak for Themselves

#4 Work Together In Solidarity and Mutuality

#5 Build Just Relationships Among Ourselves

#6 Commitment to Self-Transformation

How might an engagement with teenagers around the world effectively and appropriately emulate the engagement of the Colored Conventions Project with the experiences of Black communities whether in the past or in the present?

“Mapping” Cemeteries: Revised Proposal

Team Members and Roles

Name: Brianna Caszatt
Primary Role: Project Manager
Secondary Role: Web Development, Mapping
Cemetery: Cemetery that was repurposed as a public park

Name: lane vineyard
Primary Role: Outreach, Social Media
Secondary Role: Design
Cemetery: Cemetery that was repurposed and later rediscovered and exists again as such

Name: Lisa
Primary Role: Design, Testing
Secondary Role: Documentation and research
Cemetery: War memorial

Name: Asma N.
Primary Role: Audio, Text Analysis
Secondary Role: Accessibility, Data Storage
Cemetery: Cemetery that was repurposed for private development

Name: Nadia El Mouldi
Primary Role: Web Development, Mapping
Secondary Role: Social Media, Outreach
Cemetery: Historical cemetery that still exists as such

Abstract

Death is an inescapable and universal part of being human, but the rituals and care provided by the living to their dead are shaped by many changing factors, including emotional, physical, financial, societal, and spiritual/religious. Cemeteries are one type of designated space created by the living for the care of the dead. War memorials, at least in part, also represent an act of care, although they are less often tied to the resting place of physical bodies. There’s an inherent tension between remembering and forgetting that happens in these places, with human memory and markers both subject to erosion. Within a city like New York, a large population confined by a definite geographical area adds to this tension. A population of this size necessarily requires the care of a larger number of dead, and it also means that the physical space allotted for the dead competes with the space allotted for the varied activities of the living.

This multisensory project aims to explore cemeteries and memorials as part of the infrastructure of the city, creating a dialogue between the city of the living and the city of the dead and the spaces in between. To facilitate this dialogue we will offer our audience multiple access points, through an interactive timeline, a scrolling narrative, audio storytelling, mapping, and other data visualizations. As a proof of concept, we are focusing on five different types of cemeteries and memorials that we feel showcase different facets of the “deathscape”–a landscape both physically represented by burial sites and monuments and notionally represented by the practices of care related to death and memorialization. These five types are as follows:

  • a historical cemetery that still exists as such
  • a cemetery that was repurposed for private development
  • a cemetery that was repurposed as a public park
  • a cemetery that was repurposed and later rediscovered and exists again as such
  • a war memorial

Building this project now and exploring our ever-evolving relationship with the deathscape both past and present holds great significance as we are still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to understand how it is reshaping New York City.

Intended Audiences

The intended audiences for this project are scholars and the general public interested in the following:

  • cemetery studies
  • memory studies
  • necropolitics
  • urban planning
  • New York City history, especially of the forgotten or overlooked variety
  • walking tours and alternative forms of tourism

Contribution to Digital Humanities

This project will help humanities scholars, cemetery studies scholars, local historians, and all interested New Yorkers explore questions related to urban planning and sustainability and also questions about belonging, community building, and how power structures determine who “deserves” to be remembered and the impact these decisions have on living populations. The story portion of the project seeks to explore changes in the deathscape as they relate to the history of the city. For the locations that have changed, we want to explore what considerations went into repurposing the land from cemeteries to other uses. How were these proposals first brought forward, and by who? City design is a type of infrastructure, and the decisions on how to build it and how to alter it are necessarily political (Star 1999). As much as infrastructures are built to be of service to people, they also impose limitations on how we interact with and experience them (Gil 2016). How people live and die in the city affects and—perhaps more so—is affected by its landscape.

This initial phase of the project also seeks to find a basis for possible trends comparing cemeteries that were preserved and the ones that were obliterated. How does the repurposing of these spaces reflect both historical and current power structures, and what are the implications for the surrounding neighborhoods? In the case of cemeteries being converted to public parks, even if a public park could be argued to enrich the public at large, its creation likely also substantially increased the private wealth of those who bought and developed the land around it. So what ultimately is the public good—how is it defined and by whom? This project will help users explore these land use transitions and the relationships between private and public spaces further. In addition, there are repurposed cemeteries where the bodies have not been moved and the sites remain unmarked. What does this collective forgetting—in some cases purposeful—of a cemetery mean for living descendants, and how do cemeteries and memorials contribute to our understanding and claims of belonging to certain communities and specific locations?

Environmental Scan

There is much interest in cemetery studies as it relates to personal genealogies and family histories. This project will view cemeteries on a larger scale and view them in relation to and as part of the urban landscape in New York City.

The New York City Cemetery Project, created by anthropologist and museums and archives specialist Mary French, comprises archival research and a narrative snapshot for each cemetery, accompanied by historical images, newspaper clips, and snippets of maps, for approximately 350 cemeteries in the city dating from the colonial period onward. It is a tremendous project offering a wealth of knowledge on the cemeteries she has researched; however, the blog-like presentation of the information doesn’t easily allow for examination of the cemeteries in comparison with one another or an understanding of the physical spaces they occupy or occupied in relation to the city as a whole.

In her anthropology PhD dissertation for The Graduate Center, City University of New York, Elizabeth Meade sets about providing the most complete record of historical cemeteries in the five boroughs. She admits that her study is incomplete as it includes only cemeteries that were intentionally built and recognized as such. It is also based on the historical records available from the colonial period onward, and so excludes the burial activities of indigenous people pre-contact. Furthermore, as record-keeping and preservation are timely and not without significant costs, much of the available records likely skew toward cemeteries and groups of European descent with means. Her dissertation presents the maps in segments (as a limitation of the size of the page), but she also has built a website with the full map. It is an impressive undertaking to be sure, but the user experience of the deathscape is currently limited to a traditional, aerial-view map that includes little else of the city. Our project seeks to create a fuller user experience by sharing the deathscape through an interactive timeline, story scrolling, and audio narrative. As much as we may incorporate maps, we also want to challenge the ways in which we can visualize and experience the deathscape in relationship to the rest of the New York City landscape.

We’re also expanding on the projects listed above by including a war memorial as a way to further explore the notional aspects of the deathscape. Although these memorials are physically part of the landscape, they often memorialize bodies that died elsewhere; they are spaces imbued with death without having served as a home for the dead.

Work Plan

We have established a collaborators agreement, which outlines the roles we have taken on and the ways we will work together. As much as possible we are using a private group in the CUNY Academic Commons for our communications, with organized forum threads, and we’re also using the built-in calendar to keep track of major deadlines and the library to organize and archive all of our documentation. We also have a Zoom chat, our Discord channel, and email if more urgent communications are needed. In addition to using our class for synchronous working time, we are also meeting on Tuesday evenings.

We are determining what aspects of our chosen cemetery/memorial we are most excited about, and how we can create a narrative from there.

Technologies Used

We have moved away from mapping as the main objective of our visualization. We are investigating interactive timelines (e.g., Tiki-Toki and TimelineJS), as well as scrollytext and audio tools to create written and oral/aural narrative. We may still include some mapping component (e.g., Mapbox or StoryMapJS), and we are also investigating ways we could incorporate our work into a walking tour (e.g., Clio). We are also investigating where our website will live (e.g., as a WordPress site on the Commons, on GitHub, or a different hosting site).

Final Product and Dissemination

The team will present and demo our final project on May 13 as part of The Graduate Center’s Virtual Digital Showcase. Team members will also share links to the final project via our various social media streams, namely, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We will reach out to those in charge of the social media accounts within the GC community to share our posts, including professors within the MA in Digital Humanities and MS in Data Visualization programs, the CUNY GC Digital Initiatives team, and GC Digital Fellows team.

Pertaining to New York City history, we will also reach out to local media outlets such as Gothamist, New York Daily News, WNYC, The City, and The Gotham Center for New York City History to provide coverage of our project, or at least share the social media posts to a wider audience. Given their special interest in creating maps and previous coverage on cemeteries, the outreach lead will write up a post summarizing the mapping project to share with Atlas Obscura for them to share on their site and via their social media channels. The outreach lead will also share write-ups with the websites Untapped New York and 6sqft as they have also previously posted content about New York City cemeteries.

To engage the tourist economy, participants will also reach out to companies that give tours of New York and local businesses around the test sites.

*Posted by lane, Lisa, Asma, Nadia, and Bri*