As I dive into readings for my “architecture of media” project, I find that I am facing challenges in the way I conduct my research. As I was taught years ago, I read and take notes in outline or bullet-point form for each individual source.  This worked in the past when I wrote linear, or “traditional,” papers.  For a multi-modal project like URT, this is proving to be a bit archaic and restrictive as a method for organizing a visualization of my research.
I imagine the URT tool as a project in three-dimensions: first there is the research/informational organization dimension (data), then there is the writing/essayistic dimension (verbal argument), and then there is the visualization/mapping dimension (visual argument).  Since I have experience with traditional written compositions, I feel I have the first two dimensions covered.  With that in mind, I figured I could slap on the last dimension and it would fit right into place on top of the foundation I had developed with the other two.  Unfortunately, much like building a house, when you add a new element to the structure, inevitably other elements will need to be adjusted to accommodate the new piece. The tricky part may not even be adding the new element, but rather, modifying the other areas so that all the building blocks fit together. The introduction of a visual argument to my project has precipitated a slew of other changes I need to make in order to proceed with my multimodal research. Therefore, the question I find myself asking this week is: how can I adjust my research habits of traditional scholarship in order to accommodate the latitude and flexibility required of multimodal scholarship?  I’m not sure I’ve figured out the best method yet, but it got me thinking about different ways of organizing information.
In thinking of URT as a large database, I decided that maybe creating my own database could help me with visualizing my research. As an Excel junkie, I find that one of the most useful functions in the program is the use of pivot tables.  By pivoting information on data tables, you can view a massive amount of information in a number of different ways that can create arguments through data analysis.
I’ve still not narrowed down my topic much, but I do know that as part of my ‘argument’ I want to make a skeletal map of some of the major media buildings throughout New York City since the mid-nineteenth century.  This proves particularly difficult to write about with my usual bullet-point format.  Using a database, however, can help solve these challenges. The database is simple enough: the rows are organized by media company and date of a chronological “event” (i.e. building construction, demolition, etc.); and columns are organized by the nature of data (i.e. name of publisher, name of building, height of building, number of square feet, number of stories, name of architects, address in New York City, number of publications housed in the building, building proprietor, construction material, a photo, and any other information that seems factual and not directly argumentative).  The idea is to create a consistent way of storing the basic building information in the database so that when put into a pivot table, the data can be viewed from several different perspectives, for example, as a comparison of various buildings (by construction date, by height, by building type, by architect, etc.) or as an exploration of one building or media company over time (19th century NY Times buildings vs. 20th century NY Times buildings).  Over time, I plan to incorporate my  discursive/argumentative research into this database as well.  In this way, I will create a visually organized framework for my gathered information, while also having an efficient way of storing the information I plan to upload into URT.