Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Individual Research Reflection: 4/30

Final Reflection:

Perhaps my feelings about this project could best be summed up in song:

In all seriousness, this project has been the realization of long held dreams, and even though it is in its infancy, I am thrilled with the process so far. Just as the radicals and idealists of the Sixties believed they were at the dawn of a new era in human peace and equality, so too do I feel as though this ending is merely the dawning of a new age. This is my Digital Age, and even if I am late to the party, I do feel that I have arrived there.

Applications Used:

  • Primarily a WordPress website, I have used the various applications available to me after having the site externally hosted. I have made extensive use of plug-ins and widgets to customize the page. The BuddyPress plug-in has been integral to the community aspect of functionality I wished to achieve. I have became proficient in finding solutions to functionality issues through the use of and adaptation of plug-ins. Most recently I added a plug-in to work around the issue of tagging on pages where my publication issues are as opposed to just being able to tag posts, which I use for project updates.
  • I have been using Acrobat recently to divide my pdf files and will continue to use it going forward to process OCR and possibly allow for readers to comment within the text - especially useful for the author attribution I am seeking.
Rhetorical Requirements:
  • When I started this project, I wanted to create a research tool. I knew very clearly that my audience was made up of scholars, writers, and readers of the underground press. Many who work with the subject have lived through the era in question or participated in it first-hand, while others, like myself, are what Ken Wachsberger calls "intergenerational peers." With that audience in mind, I believe that the process I have begun to tag content to allow for locating points of interest is the best example of meeting the needs of that audience.
  • Additionally, the BuddyPress feature meets an additional purpose behind the project, namely community. I wanted to create a research tool, and that is happening, but I also wanted to create a space for discussion and reconnections. I wanted to preserve and make available this work that holds a significant place in history; however, the nature of these publications was always social. To have a research tool that does not have room for the social aspect of alternative media is lacking. Having groups and forums and places to comment throughout the site is the function that distinguishes this from other digital archives.
Getting Stuck:
  • Getting stuck has become a habit for me (and I've written extensively about that in previous posts), but it is no longer one that causes me stress. I got stuck at pretty much every point along the way, especially figuring out how to get BuddyPress installed (external hosting and domain registration) and figuring out how to divide pdfs and add page tags (free trial download Acrobat X Pro). I discovered that there is a system (yay for my linear brain!) that I can follow whenever these inevitable obstacles pop up. I work my resources:
    • Internet - Someone, somewhere has probably had the same problem. And they probably posted in a forum. While not always easy to wade through, I have often been lead to the solution or answer I was looking for.
    • Humans - My favorite resource of is other people. Whether it's a phone call or online chat with tech support or customer service (Bluehost tech people are amazing) or a friend in person or online, people with expertise are out there and willing to help. I try people after I try to find the solution on my own because it is important to me to learn and not just follow directions without knowing why.
    • Codex - When all else fails, I go to the codex, which is the online manual for WordPress and BuddyPress. It isn't as straight forward as the previous two sources, but with time (and an Internet connection to look up all the words and phrases I don't understand), it can be helpful.
Theoretical Connections:
  • Delagrange: For me, this project has been about overcoming the anxiety of technology creation, learning that I can learn how to make digital products, focusing on process over product (almost converted), and becoming more proficient at techne, which Delagrange defines as producing technology. She advocates repeatedly for increased making of technology by New Media scholars and less talking about it. This project has been something I made, from the ground up, where no website or blank template existed. Her encouragement and call for women especially to take up ground in the field was invaluable in helping me situate myself in the field. 
  • Archive: This key concept resonated with me from the very beginning of class. However, I have come to start using an adjusted term: social archive. For me this is a combination of collective memory building, public archives, social networking, and interactivity. Because the project has both preservation and connection at its heart, I think social archive is a better descriptor of the work.
  • Ecology of Culture: My project is part of the scholarship surrounding the underground press; however, much like Delagrange's calls for an increase in the prestige of New Media products in comparison to print articles, the underground press must also fight for equal footing within the discipline. There is a culture that dismisses the work as the insignificant ramblings of a sex, drugs, and rock n' roll counterculture. I have even heard this voiced in my own interviews with people who participated in the creation of these newspapers.  There is a growing number of scholars who argue for an increased emphasis on alternative media (especially since the role that these sources played in the social movements like Arab Spring and OWS). They, as do I, argue for recognition of the work done by these publications in reflecting and effecting social change, to view them as important historical documents, and to examine them with the same scholarly lens as other canonical texts in an effort to legitimize and increase the study of the underground as a whole. The Ecology of Culture is slowly shifting with new scholarship examining dissent and social media, self-publication and social change, and alternative media's influence in society overall. I feel that my work contributes to shifting the culture, and I look forward to the continuation of the project in the future.

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