In looking back over the past 4 months, I’ve come to realize several things about multi-modal research and scholarship, the most prominent being that this approach to scholarship is thoroughly more complex than just researching a topic and writing a paper. The added element of visualizing and spatializing an argument brought with it numerous other challenges that I did not fully appreciate until it came time to bringing everything together.

Before touching on my shortfalls, I’ll mention the few things I think I did right from the start. My method for collecting data, keeping an insanely compulsive spreadsheet with several tabs and fields to hold every data point I wanted to highlight on the map, was extremely useful and effective because my data was all in one place (for the most part) and I could easily refer to sources because I generally included citation information with every data point. Also, when it came time to upload my data to URT, I found that creating records wasn’t as daunting as I anticipated because all I had to do was transfer information from a spreadsheet into the tool. I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to visit an archive, the New-York Historical Society, and sort through dozens of boxes to find photographs and other ephemera that helped me visualize my arguments and as well as make the project generally more interesting. In some cases, the photographs I collected became primary resources themselves, filling in holes for some arguments where there aren’t any real sources. I think I also did well trying to understand the tool and create my media building records early on so that I could worry about making connections and creating my arguments later.

On the other hand, there are areas in my process and in my project that would benefit from much improvement. In the first place, I regret not having narrowed down my topic earlier in the process. I continued gathering information on a wide variety of buildings until pretty late in the game, thinking that I would have lots of time to put everything together and create a full catalog of almost every major media building in New York City from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Wishful thinking. In the end, I think I’ve brought together a respectable amount of interesting information on a small number of buildings. For example, the reason I wanted to do this project was so that I could examine the Bloomberg, IAC, and the Renzo Piano New York Times buildings, and other media-related buildings that were built over the past 10-20 years. As I began researching and looking for information on the history of media buildings (in order to provide context for the contemporary part of my argument), the 19th century history of skyscrapers and media architecture ended up becoming the main focus of my argument. I’m glad this worked out the way it did because I discovered a lot of interesting historical information about New York City that I might not have encountered otherwise. But even so, I would have liked to discuss the Bloomberg building, or the Reuters and Conde Nast buildings, or online media buildings like IAC.  The Hearst building isn’t even part of a proper argument in my project, but rather, became an after thought since it didn’t quite fit in with any other themes in my argument.

Topic follies aside, in terms of the design and presentation of my project, I believe I have pulled something together that reflects a good portion of my research along a few cogent threads that hang together in a sensible way. One of the hardest parts about visualizing and implementing my project on URT for me was compromising the amount of freedom I would want a visitor to have in my project. As I created more and more records, I realized that my project was in danger of becoming a visual mess like some of the projects we encountered on Hyper Cities. For this reason, I decided to pursue my original idea of writing several mini-essays on some of the more interesting media building histories I documented in my project. In my introduction, I decided to verbally map out how I intend for a visitor to view my project so that they can gain the most out of it, rather than clicking on random points on a map that might not seem related. For all but one of the media companies I plotted on the map, I have created individual arguments that then link to each record showing the different buildings occupied by that media company over time. This also allowed me the opportunity to link to other arguments as well as other projects in URT so that the visitor would have options to explore different topics.

There are still numerous challenges in my project that I wish and hope to fix if possible. The text links that I have embedded in my argument records do not work, despite the fact that I properly coded them with HTML. Additionally, I feel that I should have included a standard navigation throughout my arguments and records to help guide visitors and get them back on track if they somehow venture away from the path I planned for them. Or perhaps there is a better way to present my information without making the visitor jump around to different records, although I haven’t figured that out yet.

This class has been quite an ambitious undertaking. I’m really excited about how far we’ve come with URT and how much I was able to do for my project, but I am still frustrated that I am not able to show more on the map like I had originally intended. I think my expectations for myself have been clouded by the traditional scholarship (i.e. conduct research and then write a long paper) to which I have been accustomed my whole academic life. That said, I am understanding the value of not having a polished and final project, much in the spirit of multimodal scholarship: because of the nature of URT and our projects, I am more willing to admit and accept the things I don’t know, rather than just present the information I do know. Likewise, I think my project reveals a few interesting ways to present the information on a map, but I’m sure there must be easier and better ways to do so. I’d probably be less willing to admit this if I were writing a formal paper.

I guess at the end of the day, the process has been for me what has mattered the most. And by looking at my project as still being in process, I hope that someone in the future will decide to step in and fill in the gaps where my scholarship fell short. Actually, in the true collaborative spirit of multimodal scholarship, I hope that someone someday will make their project exactly that.

Thank you, Shannon, for another thought-provoking class.  Many thanks to Rory for all the incredible URT-ing all semester long.  Congratulations to the class, and all my appreciation for the fascinating map critiques and thoroughly awesome projects.