Riding into the Sunset

When I first began my URT project I had originally intended to make a broad survey of the impact of the High Line and its predecessor, the New York Central Railway, on the urban environment of western Manahattan. However, as my research proceeded, I quickly realized two things: firstly that the volume of potential material available was so large and the remit of my project so wide that it was imperative I delimit and focus its scope; secondly that intriguing avenues of research can open up serendiptiously, which is how the West Side Cowboys became the central topic of my map. As a corollary to the second point I also rapidly discovered both the advantages and drawbacks of digital research, how one resource, site or link leads to the next and the importance of organizing and categorizing all this information to avoid becoming overwhelmed. There are still many research paths I would like to pursue, in particular visiting a physical archive, and enhancements I would like to include such as adding audio narration to the documents.

Regarding my work process I need to thank Professor Mattern for pointing me in the direction of Ian Bogost’s essay on Object-Oriented Ontology and his thoughts on the Dear Photograph website. In a previous post I have discussed the sheer number of decisions and steps required to generate a single ontograph and how this was a revelation. I should also like to thank Christo De Klerk for his suggestion of placing myself into a historic photo of the High Line. This form of “time travel”added a whole new dimension to the project for me personally and, in addition, being photographed dressed as a cowpoke on a Saturday morning surrounded by tourists was a challenging but fun experience. I’ve also been excited to be involved in the implemetation of large scale IT deployment. Providing feedback and seeing the class’s suggestions and ideas incorporated into the ongoing development of the URT platform has been extremely rewarding.

With regard to the class as a whole the breadth of the subjects covered and the different methodologies employed to address them has been fascinating. Three classmates chose to focus on the topic of graffiti yet each of their projects is unique. I believe that the class not only met our own evaluative criteria but made a not insignificant contribution to defining the metrics by which an digital map should be appraised.

A project such as this can never be truly “finished” and I believe this is one of the learnings in the field of digital humanities. Unlike a paper submitted to a print journal a digital project, whether it be a blog post or interactive map, isn’t frozen in a moment; it is always subject to potential revisions and additions. So I look forward to continuing my work with The Last West Side Cowboy in the future. Happy trails!




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