Hey gang! We collected some great presenting tips and tricks from our fellow colleagues at NCUR last month. Some of them even harken back to their Seminar 4 presentations. If you have any other helpful advice, feel free to chime in in the comments!
Emily Paolillo, Brooklyn College: “For Seminar 4, my class was required to make video public service announcements. My group did ours on safer sex. Making a video was so interactive and fun that everyone in my class was completely immersed in their projects. Some did theirs on smoking and the obesity epidemic. I think it’s a pretty good sign that I can still remember their projects two years later. We also had to incorporate useful PSA tactics like using comedy or scary facts (mostly everyone used comedy), which made it very entertaining. When we presented at the Macaulay building, our videos had everyone hooked. Seminar 4 should be a FUN learning experience that incorporates using research skills to produce something that we will remember in the years to come.
Also, NCUR was a great experience! It was awesome to meet so many different undergraduate students from around the country and see how diverse everyone’s fields of study are.”
Jenna Peet, Brooklyn College: “One thing that really helped my presentation for NCUR was rehearsing my presentation with Macaulay students who normally would not see my work. When I prepared my thesis at BC, I was practicing with mostly education and physics majors, and so I wasn’t getting a sense of what would be clear or confusing to the average listener. Practice with Macaulay students made me reevaluate what my presentation needed to focus on, and the feedback they gave also made me think more seriously about what my research represented as a whole. The questions they asked in practice (and actual) presentations were more thoughtful and insightful than what I was used to, and made my presentation that much better.”
Jamie Mallette, City College: “My suggestion for seminar 4 students is to not take the conference too seriously. Yes it is at the Macaulay building and it is academic but if they just relax and feel confident in what they are presenting they will do great! I think the conference experience would be greatly enhanced if people stayed for one another’s presentations and listening rather than ducking out after their own or their friends. Seminar 4 students, and all other Macaulay classes, should take the time to get to know students from other campuses and begin to explore outside their comfort zone. My personal presenting style is to make note cards with a few bullet points. I don’t write out my whole speech because it actually makes me more nervous and I am not as engaging or as varied when I plan too much. I usually just get up there and talk informally (but still appropriately!).My general experience at NCUR was positive. I had a lot of fun, and met interesting people. I would recommend students go to conferences, even just local ones, even if they are not presenting just to get a feel for the style, and networking.”
Vartan Pahalyants, Hunter College: “NCUR was a great opportunity to see research from different perspectives. When you attend conferences in your field, you do not get to see the amazing variety of research that goes on in other spheres. I was particularly impressed with the presentations of my classmates in the fields of Civil Engineering, English and Physics was. Overall, it was an enriching experience and I am really glad I was given the opportunity to attend this year’s conference.”
Our Intersectionality and DH Flashcards were made on Flashcard Machine, and can be found here!
Our audiences for our multiple projects and events for the thesis colloquium are quite varied, but overlap in many areas. We visualized this using Gliffy to create a graphic representation of who we believe constitutes our audience.
*Kerishma was left out of the bubble with the members of the class. This was Kerishma’s mistake.
I have decided for the digital portion of my thesis to do a mapping project–location and travel are a huge part of the novels, and I would like to track the movement of the women I examine in my paper. Obviously, this project demands that I pay close attention to detail, so for now, I’m focusing on two major characters: Arya (who serves as a link between Westeros and Essos, east and west, two continents, etc.) and Daenerys, who also does a significant amount of traveling. The other characters–Cersei, Catelyn, and Sansa–stay within Westeros, with less significant travel (Cersei hardly leaves King’s Landing; Catelyn never leaves Westeros, though with the Lady Stoneheart storyline coming up, who knows what’ll happen; and Sansa does some substantial travel within Westeros). Most of what I’ve done so far is starting to plan out Arya and Dany’s travels–going through their chapters, starting from the first novel, and tracking their movement (and how it is significant to their storylines, their characterizations, etc.).
My highest priority would be figuring out what medium to use to do my maps–choosing the mapping software that allows me to use maps of the (fictional) Westeros and Essos, as well as what website platform I would want to use. I think that–and this is partially thanks to the Game of Thrones TV show–explaining my project to other people wouldn’t be difficult. Mapping and epic fantasy also have had a strong connection since Lord of the Rings, so my project isn’t too far out (I think).
The completed digital thesis project that I looked at was “Ellen White’s Benevolent Millennialism” by Kaitlyn O’Hagan. The chief visual element used on the website is an interactive digital timeline that provides historical context to Ellen White’s life, as well as her own achievements. Another visual element that is incorporated is a wordle.net word cloud, which highlights key terms in the written thesis, such as “health,” “reform,” “Church,” and Methodist. Looking at that alongside the timeline provides the viewer with a fairly clear idea (at least of the background) of Kaitlyn’s written project.
The site itself if fairly simple and uncomplicated–the homepage is the timeline, and the other three pages provide a brief “About the paper,” acknowledgments, contact, and the written paper itself. I think the simplicity and the straightforwardness of the site make it accessible to a fairly large audience (one doesn’t need to know a great deal about American history or health reform or the Seventh-Day Adventists to understand it). The site is largely informational and educational about Ellen White.
Something that I was stuck on in McKinney’s post is his mention of Marxist theory early on in the post. In the 19th century, when Marx was writing and theorizing, labor was quite clearly defined; in this day and age that includes the digital world, what exactly constitutes “labor”? McKinney, of course, moves on to argue that the real value is in “presence” (which he defines as “attention,” as “being there” and being recognized), not necessarily in labor itself, but it was an interesting thinking point for me. I can’t decide whether I fully agree with the amount of importance he places on presence–partially because I’m not sure I 100% understood his complete argument, and partially because I think he perhaps overstates the value of presence for companies that have websites (like page hits or clicks or whatever–I suppose you could say it’s good for ads, but most people I know avoid ads by installing ad-blocking extensions or programs).
Deciding what I want to do for the digital presentation component of my thesis project has been a bit difficult for me—I really want to engage with the visual nature of the assignment, and coming up with something interactive and engaging has been a bit of a struggle.
After receiving (very helpful and constructive!) feedback on my thesis from Jenny and Lindsey, I’ve realized that I need to better solidify my thesis (that is, my core argument) before proceeding full speed ahead on the digital presentation.
Something that we discussed last semester as a possibility for the presentation was incorporating the TV show Game of Thrones, as it didn’t really make it into my paper and the show is such a huge part of the books’ recent mainstream popularity. I was thinking about comparing the books to the TV show, and looking into the process of adaptation, and any major character/story changes that happened in book-to-TV. Jenny also suggested a discussion of audience (niche, sci-fi/fantasy readers vs. the mainstream TV-watching population) in my digital presentation, and how that could affect adaptation changes and decisions.
Sorry this is so short and nebulous, but I’m trying to better grasp what I want to say before I settle completely on a project!
The two projects I compared were “Anna Karenina,” a literature-based project by Lev Manovich, and “filmhistory.viz,” a film-based project. Though the subject matter of each project is different–the first is a computer-generated visualization of the full text of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the latter is a series of charts and graphs mapping the lengths and shot numbers of various films dating as far back as 1900–both rely on the aspect of visualization as their main focus. As opposed to reading Anna Karenina, looking at a full chart; instead of staring at numbers and figures about film, viewing a graph or a chart as a guide.
Visualizing word frequency in each thesis draft netted the following results:
As a second step, we used Wordle to generate data about word frequency in source texts related to each project:
Reading Ben Blatt’s textual analysis of The Hunger Games, I was immediately reminded of the opening lines of a piece Kurt Vonnegut wrote in 1966 about the Random House English Dictionary: “I wonder now what Ernest Hemingway’s dictionary looked like, since he got along so well with dinky words that everybody can spell and truly understand.” Hemingway, considered widely to be one of the greats of English-language literature (though I personally agree more with Kat Stratford), didn’t exactly whip out the five-dollar words or sentences in his writing. As Blatt points out in the end of his piece, Hemingway himself was pretty repetitive in his sentence structure. This got me thinking about the nature of textual analysis in general, and how it would apply to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Though I haven’t done any sort of official word count of the ASOIAF series–I both pity and applaud the soul who would undertake that mission–there are definitely a series of words or phrases that are repeated throughout the novels for great effect. The words of the Great Houses (“Winter is Coming,” “Fire and Blood,” “A Lannister Always Pays His Debts”), cultural and religious refrains (“Valar Morghulis/Valar Dohaeris,” “The night is dark and full of terrors,” “What is dead may never die,” “It is known”), personal vengeance (Arya’s list of names, Oberyn Martell’s refrain of “Elia of Dorne: you raped her, you murdered her, you killed her sister” to Gregor Clegane), the many songs that are song (and related to the plot in some way), and the fan-favorite, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” There is a huge emphasis on “remembering words” and repeating them. What gets repeated says a lot about the series: it reveals the medieval fantasy setting (and the social hierarchies within it), the political nature of the grander storyline, and the themes of war, violence, and Jon Snow being a generally boring and dumb little goon (who we love anyway). And even though my thesis does focus on (what we’ll call) a positive feminist analysis of the representation of female characters, the sheer amount of times Martin has Daenerys thinking about her “small breasts moving freely beneath her leathers” might point otherwise. I may not be an expert on epic high fantasy writing, but I am an expert on people with small breasts (being one myself), and I do not think of them at all nearly as much as Martin seems to imagine.