Requirements + Assignments

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION: We need everyone to show up regularly, on time, and prepared to ensure that we have sufficient time for discussion and hands-on lab work. You will be permitted two excused absences (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) for the semester. Additional excused absences – and any unexcused absences – will negatively affect your grade. More than three absences, excused or unexcused, will result in failure of the course; if you anticipate needing to miss several classes, you are advised to drop the course. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental.

There are various ways to participate: I hope you’ll all contribute regularly to class discussions and take part in our lab workshops, but I also invite you to post relevant resources, project updates, etc., to our class website. Attendance and Participation are worth 20% of your final grade.

ARCHIVAL INTERFACE CRITIQUE: You’ll preset a 10-minute critique in class on April 1 and take notes on the ensuing discussion, and then you’ll have one week – until April 8 at 7pm – to post a 900- to 1200-word critique (containing at least three screenshots) to our class website. The presentation and post are together worth 30% of your final grade.

Choose an exemplary online archival interface or finding aid, or an online exhibition using archival material, and tell us what we can learn from it – either what to do or what not to do. You might consider:

  • the site’s composition, organization, and aesthetics;
  • how it structures the user’s experience and navigation, and how intuitive and “seamless” that interaction is;
  • furthermore, how desirable would “seamless” interaction be in this instance (perhaps it would be helpful and instructive to show some seams?);
  • how the site contextualizes the archival material (e.g., does it provide or link to robust metadata, does it “animate” the material?);
  • how the site “hierarchizes” the presentation of information (e.g., does it allow users to “dig deeper” for more data if they want it?);
  • the availability of documentation and help for users who want or need it.

Consider the needs of various user groups and user scenarios, and try to put yourself in their positions as you navigate through your site. Think also about the other critical criteria addressed in our “Interface Critique” readings.

FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL: I’ve mapped out three possible trajectories for your final project; we’ll discuss these in class on Week 7. These options were developed in consultation with TNS’s archivists and librarians and several faculty, who proposed that these three “deliverables” would be not only useful and enjoyable (we hope!) for you, but also of value to the Archives, the University, and the School of Media Studies. That said, if you have your own ideas for a culminating project, we can talk.

Before our class on March 18 you’ll need to submit via Google Drive a formal 600- to 900-word project proposal (you’ll then post your revised proposal to our course blog). This proposal must address:

  1. which project option you’ve chosen, or, if you’ve designed your own project, what form it’ll take (if the latter, you’ll need to speak with me in advance);
  2. the theme(s), topic(s), program(s), people, etc., you plan to focus on;
  3. why you’ve chosen to highlight these themes, topics, or entities – i.e., what do we gain by calling attention to their presence within the archives?;
  4. relevant collection(s) in the New School Archives, and any particular materials within those collections, that you plan to consult;
  5. relevant resources from outside the archive that you might weave into your project – e.g., resources in other archives, published research material, primary research material you’ll create yourself (e.g., oral histories, interviews, field recordings, etc., in various formats: photographs, videos, audio recordings, etc.); and
  6. the platform(s) you’ll likely use (e.g., WordPress, Omeka, etc.) to execute your project.
  7. Your proposal should also include a tentative bibliography of at least five published resources (the majority of which should be scholarly sources or publications from reputable presses/production companies) pertaining to your subject matter, which will help you provide necessary historical, cultural, political, etc., context.

You’ll be expected to deliver a short, informal presentation in class on March 18. You’ll have an opportunity to revise and resubmit the proposal if necessary. Your proposal is worth 10% of your final grade.

FINAL PROJECT: Ideally, one of these three options will appeal to you, but you’re welcome to discuss other possibilities with me. You’re also encouraged to team up and develop expanded group projects (in which case I’d ask you to complete a group evaluation at the end of the semester). Your final project is worth 40% of your final grade.

Option 1: Mapping the History of Media Studies @ TNS and Building an Online Exhibition

  • Media study and media-making have a rich history at The New School – yet as historian Julia Foulkes, whose own students have contributed to the creation of the New School History website points out, our media history hasn’t been a major part of our dominant institutional narratives.
    The Archives have recently acquired a number of records documenting that history, and several faculty who played key foundational roles in media-focused programs are still present at The New School. Your goal is to take advantage of these primary resources in order to put our media history into proper context, and to present this history in a dynamic way. Your work might involve the digitization of recently acquired archival materials; conducting interviews with and collecting oral histories from “legacy” faculty, students, and administrators; highlighting past and present student and faculty research and creative productions, etc.
  • Then, ideally, after having developed a platform to contextualize this archival material, you’ll be able to reflect on your research and design processes and translate your insights into “finding-aid logic.” What have you learned through your own archival research-and-design process that might shed light on how we might design more effective and responsive finding aids?

Option 2: Building a Custom-Themed Online Exhibition Using Archival Material

  • Through your own encounters with The New School’s archive, you might have uncovered and traced various thematic or topical threads through the institution’s history. Ideally, for the purposes of this class, those themes and topics would be in some way related to media/information/cultural studies. You could devise an online exhibition that allows others – a variety of potential user groups – to follow your lead in tracing those threads through the archive and The New School’s various other “digital assets.”
  • Then, ideally, after having developed a platform to contextualize this archival material, you’ll be able to reflect on your research and design processes and translate your insights into “finding-aid logic.” What have you learned through your own archival research-and-design process that might shed light on how we might design more effective and responsive finding aids?

Option 3: Mapping the Evolution of TNS’s Institutional Structure and “Brand”

  • If you’ve been at The New School for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed the renaming and merging of divisions, the splitting of departments, the emergence of new programs, etc. This evolving institutional structure complicates the archival process. Sometimes name changes reflect a fundamental shift in the nature or composition of an entity – but sometimes they simply reflect a cosmetic “rebranding.” Michelle Light asks, “When does one corporate body become another, or, stated another way, how much change has to occur before we understand that a corporate body is substantially different than a previous one?” The New School’s archivists have been maintaining a timeline of these name changes, and they’d like your help in fleshing it out – and understanding what this institutional evolution means for their work in the archives. The specific format of your project can be determined in consultation with the archivists.
  • Skim Patricia Harpring, “Relationships in Controlled Vocabularies” In Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies: Terminology for Art, Architecture, and Other Cultural Works, online ed. (Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2010): see in particular “Historical Name Changes”
  • Skim Michelle Light, “Moving Beyond the Name: Defining Corporate Entities to Support Provenance-Based Access” Journal of Archival Organization 5:1/2 (2007): 49-74.

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Spring 2014 Studio @ The New School. With Shannon Mattern