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”!



Creating my Research Website

I am in the midst of an exciting project. I am weaving together the long years of my PhD work until this point; my exploration of visuals, my readings, along with my budding knowledge of WordPress as a content management system / website / blog to assemble my multimedia research website. I’ve had a vision for 2 years now, and finally feel that I have enough [access to] information and resources to gather everything into a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole.

I am of course still learning and creating knowledge about my subject, myths of nature within car ads in National Geographic Magazine, however, as an experiential and visual learner, this type of immersion refines my methods, and forces me to write my methods section of my paper.  This semester I am learning more about how to use Final Cut Pro, and it is prompting me to reassess my approach to the archive, my massive data set so that I can actually get at my core idea. The plan is to make short films about them, and massage a couple of publications from writing about what I learn from the process and the data.

think. Feel. Grow! is my mantra, my process and website. The site that I am working on is the storehouse for the public view of my research data, which is of course different from the content contained here and on my tumblr microblog. When the time is right, I will of course début it here on tfg!

Who Me, on TV?

You can find me at minute 6:30, although you should know that the entire segment of this CUNY-TV spotlight “Study With the Best” is  interesting. We filmed this about 8-months ago, and I distinctly remember how the day unfolded for me as I prepared for the interview and chose the visuals to accompany my discussion of my work, which was then, unexplored. My conceptualization of what I have to offer (any) academic discourse was very vague, and I had only just begun to explore visual practices in the most rudimentary of fashions. Today, I have a keener sense of graphic design norms, marketing and advertising ploys, and I now initiate conversations about novel approaches to interdisciplinarity, shaping an academic careers and new technological resources for (self) publishing and promotion.

In this segment, I appear at minute 6:32. I present quick glimpses of my visual projects and discuss why I choose  work in the new media lab. This is my first time seeing myself speaking and just “being” on television, my mannerisms, expressions and body language. At long last, I feel that my interests, expertise, professional network and blogging are converging to shape the beginning of what I intend to be a multi-faceted practice of engaging in new conversations through different media and methods with colleagues and friends in allied fields.

For professional networking, you can follow my Twitter Feed, “think. Feel. Grow!“,  you can check out what the New Media Lab has to say about me and of course, I am on Academia.edu

You can also write me at thinkfeelgrow at gmail dot com!

Shawndel Fraser Haiku #2

Visual Research
BloggingTweeting Leader
and Academic

Shawndel N. Fraser

Second Act: Digital Storytelling

Last week, I presented at the General Meeting in the Graduate Center’s New Media Lab where I work on the visual portion of my PhD research. I excerpted and modified this blog entry from my post on the New Media Lab blog. In the meeting, I shared my experiences using Prezi and critiqued its limitations after praising it’s strengths. During the Q&A /conversation session, I mentioned a well-known lecture named “Killing Us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne, in which she analyzes gender stereotypes in advertising. I led the conversation in the Lab meeting  about the merits of digital and visual storytelling as a means of broadening the audience for our research, so I decided to share Jean Kilbourne’s talk here.

I have no way of knowing at this moment whether she used Powerpoint, Keynote or a film editing program. What matters for me is the way that she wove the technology into the fabric of her talk. As an underlying structure, it indicates that she memorized her talk and only looks to her paper for notes and pacing. She begins her discussion by sharing anecdotal information which the etiology of the project idea and situated herself in relation to the topic of interest.

By being less focused on slide progression, Ms. Kilbourne can be herself. She can interact with and ingratiate the audience in a way that encourages audience participation and investment in the topic. The few statistics she employed were easy to understand bar graphs and bulleted lists. I am firm believer that social, physical and life scientists, philosophers, and even theoretical mathematicians can increase baseline interest in their work by presenting it in ways that are organically enjoyable to hear, see and learn from.

Shawndel Fraser

What am I doing?
What’s on my mind? Nit-Twits

Academic 411
What do I see?
What do I support?

Concept to Content or Vice Versa?

My Dearest Thinkers,

I am currently working on the design concept and information flow for the host website for my research project, Myths of Nature in post-WWII National Geographic Car Ads.  My ultimate goal for this visual project is to create an engaging, jargon-free website to interest regular folk to decode the covert messages in ads they see everyday. The New Media Lab group is academically and technologically diverse, so it was both a boon and a challenge to present a draft of my project during the March 2010 meeting.

In that meeting, I presented elements of the visual project while verbally describing my plans for its future. However, I gleaned from the few comments and puzzled expressions that my presentation and project did not meet my goal to engage non-expert audiences!  This was an important moment that caused me to reconsider the purpose, content and scope of my visual project. The visual project is its own entity! It is NOT a summary of my research findings or methods. It should be a vehicle for my main goal: to encourage the decoding of everyday advertisements.


Bright Idea, Shawndel!Eureka! I think I’ve got it!

As I blog this right now, I realize that my project is streamlining itself!!! I love experiencing, reading and writing about the process of process; That is, letting moments, ideas and experiences work on and through me. For that reason I must share that blogging this entry, right now, has caused me to realize that in order to engage people in decoding ads, then I should create that opportunity and space for them to do so! Brilliant simplicity! I just need to reinterpret the methods that I will use for my research to web-friendly text and images.  Within a nicely designed website, I will provide sample car ads with a brief “tutorial” of sorts. Site visitors will be free to explore!

Recent Inspiration

Tutorial: Blue Velvet

Wading through the sea of visual research, my Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff introduced my class to Vectors Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular. Vectors in an E-journal that unites schorlars, technologists and designers on projects to create technological projects which embody a newly envisioned relationship between form and content in academic research.


David Theo Goldberg on BLUE VELVET from Andrew Jakubowicz on Vimeo.

In the current issue, we viewed the project Blue Velvet which blew my mind! The website is BRILLIANTLY interpretive of original research by David Theo Goldberg and Stefka Hristova.  The design / form by Erik Loyer – that is the colors, iconography, interface functionality, animations and navigation ALL match the content and topic: Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005.

Symmetry of form, content, intent and poetics.

The attractive design, engaging navigation rules and animations, and video interview with David Theo Goldberg has caused me to hone in on the idea of an aesthetically pleasing, functional, form and content appropriate website which allows INTERPRETIVE opportunities for users.

The Revised Form of My Project

To ground this blog entry, Blue Velvet was a multi-year collaborative project with technical experts and professional web designers; Even the range of projects available in the Vectors Journal is of varied levels of beauty, technical expertise and symmetry of content to form. So, I am now purposed with creating a beautiful, simply designed website using Adobe Dreamweaver cs4,  OR www.squarespace.com in conjunction with PowerPoint or Adobe Flash and Illustrator to present sample ads with tutorial to make available the opportunity:

  • to learn a few visual analysis techniques
  • for visitors to decode a few ads
  • to share their thoughts on the ads
  • to send ads to me or to friends / colleagues

Additional functionality will ensue after this portion of the project:

  • I will create a personal brain to be used as a web navigation tool / website index that shows relationships between the web content
  • The ads will be linkable to the Personal Brain and Dipity Timeline

Thanks for reading!


Shawndel N. Fraser

“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

Food Wrapper Coating Found in Human Blood

Keeps Out the Grease, But...

Keeps Out the Grease, But...


Hello Thinkers!

I chanced upon this quick article on Discovery.com wherein Emily Sohn discusses recent findings that the plastic coating placed on fast food wrappers actually breaks down and enters our bloodstream. Worse still, it mutates into a carcinogen in the body, and is likely linked to cancer. The icing on the proverbial cake is the fact that these wrappers, through our poor waste management actually enters our waterways in such quantities that the very same carcinogens that are found in human blood over here in the “civilized world”, has also been found in similar concentrations in the blood of Polar Bears all the way across the earth. I mean, really? Really really?

Someone please tell me where the surprise is? Because I missed it. Manufacture only cares about protecting the public enough so that they are not vulnerable to lawsuit. R&D, or research and development is ultimately aimed at producing inexpensive technologies that seemingly add value to the goods being sold so that higher charges result in greater profits. The fact that the long term effects of these chemicals is unknown, just as its leeching potential was unexpected and unstudied only serves to reinforce my grim understanding of the production rationale that corporations abide by.

The last line of this article quotes a scientist who says he doesn’t know if we should be concerned yet…Tell me really, at what point does one try to put out a fire in ones home? Do you wait until the fire singes you to be sure that it is actually hot, or do you spring to action as soon as you smell smoke  so as to prevent major losses.

Ah Science. If any one ever wonders why i chose environmental psychology, a social science that remains pretty uncorrupted / co-opted by industry, it is for this reason. In the physical sciences (and some of the social sciences) your funding determines just how much common sense and morality you can weave to your research. Being beholden to private interests for your wages means that you are immediately co-opted, despite your best intentions otherwise. That co-optation leads to short-sighted, fretful assertions like :

“I don’t know if it’s time to panic, and I doubt it is,” he said. “But we really don’t know what it’s doing. It’s something we need to worry about. It’s something we need to find out about.”