Speaking Engagement: New Media and the Academy

On Friday December 2, 2011, I will be presenting at the City University of New York Information Technology Conference at  John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019 from 9:30-11:00 am, Room TBD

One view of Dallas "Giving Face"!

I am very excited to travel to my hometown to connect with my colleagues and friends, after two months away in Dallas, Texas (city of rainbows!). Technically I will play part in two panel discussions by preparing comments and visuals, however I will only be able to *physically attend one because unfortunately, the sessions were scheduled concurrently. Both panels will discuss highly innovative, student-focused digital ventures at the Graduate Center, and I feel honored that my vision, work  and enthusiasm warranted the invitations to present and take part. And I have enjoyed preparing the slides and thinking about various approaches to the two projects.

I worked in the CUNY New Media Lab for two and a half years on digital project to supplement my doctoral research. I continue to put finishing touches on the project – such as filling in the digital archive or car ads, and upgrading the website template once the New Media Lab installs the newest version of WordPress. Over the years, I’ve cultivate a unique expertise which allows me to conceptualize digital and visual interventions for academic research, presentations and pedagogy. As a result, my role in the New Media Lab morphed to allow me to share my knowledge with incoming and fellow College Assistants within the lab. I have been fortunate that Managing Director Andrea Vasquez and Project Advisor Aaron Knoll respect and support my creative ventures and solid knowledge base in the practical digital humanities.

This panel is scheduled for December 2 at 9:30am – 11:00am at John Jay College 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019, room TBD

Digital Technologies and Academic Research: The New Media Lab a Dozen Years Later
A roundtable of CUNY Graduate Center doctoral students, faculty members and administrators will reflect on the changes in digital technologies and the impact they have had on academic scholarship that has been developed and nurtured at the Lab. A series of short presentations, copiously illustrated, will explore such topics as building digital tools, the relationship between pedagogy and technology, the effect of new technologies on academic careers and what we envision for the Lab’s future.

Andrea Ades Vásquez, NML Managing Director, CUNY Graduate Center
Aaron Knoll, NML Student Advisor, CUNY Graduate Center
Shawndel Fraser, NML Doctoral Student Researcher, CUNY Graduate Center
Claire Fontaine, NML Digital Research Fellow /and Doctoral Student, CUNY Graduate Center
Wendy Luttrel, Professor of Urban Education and Social Personality Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center

The Second (concurrent) panel presentation offers a look at Student-led initiatives, specifically through the Doctoral Students Council (DSC). The Doctoral Students Council is a dynamic, highly participatory and forward thinking, policy-making body which represents all the graduate students at the CUNY Graduate Center. Three years ago, the DSC implemented the WordPress based system OpenCUNY, of which I was an early adopter for my research blog. Later I adapted it to publicize the highly regarded, annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium, for which I was co-organizer. Back then, we were unable to get access to the original domain and host server assigned to us by CUNY. The lack of access stemmed from the lack of a methodical methods for passing on institutional knowledge, and the steep learning curve for html and other coding languages, which that particular website required. The WordPress-based OpenCUNY site was the first of many steps toward a more democratic group website and group functioning.

The panel will consist of student group representatives who will discuss the ways they use OpenCUNY. The purpose, all toward a deeper conversation about the strengths and growth opportunities inherent in student-led digital initiatives.

Fostering Student-based Media: A Look at The OpenCUNY.org Academic Medium
For three years OpenCUNY has worked with Graduate Center students to develop open-source environments for their courses, conferences, research, organizations, initiatives and activism. This roundtable brings together the coordinators and participants of OpenCUNY to explore the benefits and challenges of fostering student-based participatory media. An overview of OpenCUNY’s development, participatory governance, technological configuration and plans will be provided. A sample of participants’ media projects will also be discussed.

John D. Boy, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/gcsoc
Morgan Buck, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/hmny
Gregory Donovan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
*Shawndel N. Fraser, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/nature
Margaret Galvan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
Keirsten Greene, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/mediated
Keith Miyake, 2010-11 Board Member, OpenCUNY
Monique Whitaker, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/dschealth

*Since I won’t be able to present in this panel, fellow Nature Ecology Society Co-Organizers Bijan Kimiagar and Jennifer Pipitone will present our opencuny.org/nature website, innovations and challenges.

I hope to see you there! If you attend, do come by and say “hello”!



The Culture of Climate Change

One year in the making, my colleagues and I present the two-day colloquium and celebration of Ten Years of the Nature Ecology Society. Join us for performance, lively discussion, fresh sustainable food and good cheer!

How’s about People Control instead of Animal Control?

My Feeling Friends,

Laughter is the key! It sounds (and looks like) Palm Beach County Department of Animal Control should petition the County for more funds to do a concentrated campaign of “People Control”. Florida wildlife is of the most intense sort (think gators), so concerted public education (outside of their offices) about area wildlife, safety risks and overall fuzziness quotient would really benefit animals, tourists and potential “attackees” alike.

Once upon a time, I was an Animal Caretaker at the Millbrook School’s Trevor Zoo , where I cared for Otters (as well as other animals). From the first moment when Mr. Meigs introduced us during morning feeding time, I noted their water-slicked,  lithe little frames, and heard their grunting, fussy voices as they fed. Oh, dear baby Buddha, how to describe it? Think of a hairy version of a piranha “feeding frenzy”, on land – seemingly chaotic yet completely ordered, replete with sharp needle teeth and the need to get the heck outta the way when it’s not your turn!

Well, the fuzzy imaginings I’d previously held, all completely melted away when I inadvertently stepped back, tripped over my surpise at their Otter intensity. I then unwittingly zapped myself on the previously unnoticed electrified fence (not fun) which was there to protect us from each other and other unwelcome or unfortunate interactions. Suffice it to say, I learned VERY quickly to not get too close and promptly let go of my dreams of snuggling an otter like a wet pet ferret.

Otters, however cute , are strong-willed animals, and are best observed from afar while they frolic in the water, away from exposed, vulnerable human fleshy parts.

Looks like our amateur cameraman learned this lesson harder than I did! He shouldn’t feel too bad, he’s now a member of an elite” club! 🙂

If you survived it, you can laugh about it!

Laughter is the Best Medicine!


Shawndel Frasera Haiku:
Visual Research

Why do academics “em-boring” things?

Dear Thinker-Feelers,   

 How many of you attend classes, conferences, artist talks, readings and the link, only to be distracted by the rumpled, mismatched dress of the presenter while being bored senseless by the lackluster powerpoint presentation and lack of engaging verbiage and audiovisual accompaniment. These avoidable faux pas only serves to distract our audiences from our content and visually undermine the expert standing  that we work so hard to attain within our respective fields.  I say that this is a condition of academic adulthood. We have forgotten how to have fun, and we do a great job training students to do the same.   

I wonder, how can we challenge ourselves

Stylish Dress while leading an multidisciplinary, interactive multimedia Conference Day

Stylish Professional


How can we challenge ourselves to craft conferences, lectures and presentations that would be interesting to our students, or friends and family and colleagues in different academic disciplines? One suggestion I have is to shape craft research questions that are amenable to data collection and analysis using technologies and methods and collection sites that engage more than the visual cortex.   Let us not fear different approaches to interesting ideas. What about the Dance Your PhD  contest from Science Magazine? Why aren’t there more unique programs like Brooklyn College’s Borough as a Classroom  which demonstrates the real world applicability of lectures and reading via field trips for experiential learning and group bonding?  And why the heck don’t we academics dress elegantly and stylish when teaching, or attending and presenting at conferences?      

Academics and other professionals who take themselves and their work too seriously, are ADULT adults. 

The reality is that most of us have become proficient at “de-funning” this life long process we embarked on – the privilege of seeking answers and inventing new ways of delving into THE most intriguing questions that we can think of; the honor of spending our days, nights, weekends and summer vacations engaged in conversation with people who are similarly enraptured with and “expertised” in related topics. People with whom we can explore topics at levels of theoretical abstraction  or scientific precision, conversations that are not ‘par for the course with our loved ones’.  Is this a sign that we should aim for general understandability? Should we be able to talk passionately about of favorite subjects while being understandable to the greater majority? I offer a resounding (((YES!))).  I think that our sometimes masturbatory use of abstract concepts and scientific terminologies prevent us from sharing ideas or discussing our work with people outside of our discipline or education level.    

 Questioning our choices and thinking about options:

  • If we be schlubby dressers, who  lecture AT students without the benefit of the dynamic multimedia of their everyday life, doesn’t this in effect show that we already do not care about them, their  world outside of our disciplines, our classrooms, the world in which our students live when they are not in our classes?
  • How then to interest students in what you have to offer? Even if it is to refute the accuracy claims of commonly used opensource media such as Wikipedia, etc., we must incorporate those things which are relevant and interesting to students. If we make the conversation accessible and participation will likely follow. The world  has changed. The privileged mediums for transmitting information now includes Twitter feeds from favorite and Facebook posts of NYT Online , news articles.   Wikipedia is the choice du jour for quick research projects and many of us likely receive term papers with Wikipedia citations. What to do then? Is the use of Wikipedia information sub-par research or is the student’s vetting of the information more the concern. Either way, it is a conversation that is grist for the mill, WITH our students.

 Any other ideas? A couple of my esteemed colleagues and I discuss these and other issues at length. In our everyday, travels, we strive to spread the message both verbally and by  example. You can visit their blogs via the links below. I also wonder how many of you made it to the end of this posting…hmmm 🙂     



“Womanifesta” for the Future of Environmental Psychology and Geography

My thanks to Adeola Enigbokan for the color highlighting idea, which I have imitated in this post. As they say, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. Therein lay the entirety of what is not my own original inspiration within this post.  This was written originally for a workshop in which we are re-envisioning the fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography, or Psychogeography..hold the jokes, please.  I’ve edited this to be a standalone post for this blog, as it is removed from its original context, a larger, ongoing conversation with my colleagues. Onward!      

My overarching research interests involve interrogating “American” popular culture for perpetuation and sometimes creation of otherwise hidden social and systemic norms. From gender roles and associated /expected life-choice trajectories to cultural ideas, ideals, images and understandings and methods of producing nature and our relation to / with  it.  My current research uses visual analysis techniques to discern the underlying myths of nature portrayed in post–WWII car ads in National Geographic Magazine. Here is a link to a more detailed project description.     

 The Visual and The Creative 

My research , and conversations and collaborations with fellow researchers aims to expand our current bevy of methods by which we engage with the visual (analysis and methodology), and to encourage acceptance of the creative. To add the visual, is to create, assemble or find  an information base for the fields of Environmental Psychology and [Cultural] Geography (Imagined Geographies or Visual Geography) to accomplish two things:           

  1. Supports and encourages the exploration and use of visual analysis techniques to interrogate images and other material cultural artifacts for their contextual and storied content, rather than solely categorizing and counting their elements a la content analysis or adapted quantitative survey measures
  2. Allows for the dynamic presentation and sharing of said information so as to be maximally interesting, sensorially engaging and technologically relevant beyond the academy, or at least beyond one specific discipline.

3…2…1…CARE!!! OR Emoting can increase readability and interest

My second goal for the field is to advocate for storytelling techniques and/or interpretive methods that allow exploration of the sensorial aspects of our physical, cultural and social environments. This is to say that students and PhD’s alike need some exposure to publications of interest wherein language is used expressively, with all attendant emotion and individual personality. This can only serve to enrich the texture of the analysis, discussion and presentation. It is time for us to release the imposed rational objectivity of the physical sciences which often stifles the potential for brilliant insights and inspired research inquiries in our interdisciplinary and subjective fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography.            

Technology is our friend

Lastly, I sense an opportunity for Environmental Psychology and Geography to seize the opportunity to step ahead of the curve and make our fields relevant and popularly appealing again by encouraging the use of current technology in data collection, analysis, presentation and distribution. There is but a small window of time in which we can be “the first” and still have the luxury of our lead time to become “the best” at producing researchers whose methods and mediums reflect the current array of possible information flows, storage, presentation and technological advancements. The [written] word is no longer enough in a world where people read few books and “learn” from TV and the Internet.           

Signed, Shawndel N. Fraser
Static [written] Dissertations behind Dynamic PhD Student

Signed, Shawndel