#ISSOTL18 conference: Toward a learning culture

red sign with moose head shape and text "moose shop"

Sarah Calhoun, Janet Russell, and Celeste Sharpe presented a poster (co-authored with Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Iris Jastram, and Kristin Partlo) titled “Perspectives on connecting SoTL across the (co-) curriculum at a small liberal arts college” at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Conference in Bergen, Norway. The poster presented three examples of overlapping initiatives at Carleton, and the ways in which these projects are surfacing gaps and providing critical foundation for a more concerted, campus-wide effort. These findings will also be presented at an LTC presentation winter term. The poster and bibliography are available at http://bit.ly/issotl2018-connecting. An image of the poster is below.

conference poster on eportfolios, information literacy in student writing, and student internships as examples of scholarship of teaching and learning in the co-curriculum
authors: Sarah Calhoun, Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Iris Jastram, Kristin Partlo, Janet Russell, and Celeste Sharpe.

#RiddleMiaThis, Riddle Me That: Trying out a Puzzle Room App

Celeste selfies with small bronze Icarus statue
just pondering Icarus as the last artifact you see in the puzzle #youhaveflowntooclosetothesun

Together with my intrepid colleague Sarah Calhoun, I tried out the new Riddle Mia This app at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). The app is designed by Samantha Porter and Colin McFadden (both employed at the University of Minnesota’s Liberal Arts and Technology Innovation Services) along with collaborators from GLITCH, a “community driven arts and education center for emerging game makers,” and was released on Sept. 14, 2018. It’s available for free download on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

This won’t be a clue-by-clue discussion of the experience (how boring!), but rather will highlight a couple clues to point to some broader points about crafting place-based experiences that employ augmented reality (AR).

What’s in a Clue?

longform white text against a dark background with clue hints
example of a clue in the Riddle MIA This app.

The clues are delivered via a text/email type message through the app, with a body of text giving the main part of the clue. The envelope button takes users to the full list of unlocked clues, and the camera opens up your phone’s camera for the clues that include AR aspects (which is maybe half of the total clues). The point opens the official museum map with floorplans for the 2nd and 3rd floors, which are the relevant floors for the app.

The “?” opens a menu of 3 additional options: Map, Puzzle, and Answer. The Map tab opens a selection of the museum gallery map with a line drawing showing where to go for the next clue. The Puzzle tab often gives you the actual information you need to complete the clue, eg. look for this kind of thing. The Answer tab gives the full answer.

My greatest challenge with the app and the overall experience was the structure of the clues. I know, I know, the puzzle aspect is part of the fun! But, I found the ways the clues were written confusing at times because of either word choice or how the clue text was parsed into the sections of the app. For example, for almost every clue there didn’t seem to be a consistent approach to what information landed in the main clue message and what was included in the Puzzle section. I would have preferred having all the information for the puzzle clue on 1 screen and then toggling over to the Map and Answer on another page, more clearly parsing the clues from the solutions in the interface. More signposting in the clues around when to use the camera and when an AR element was going to factor in would also have been welcome.

Direction and Scale Matters

We successfully completed the game in the estimated time of 1 hour. That hour was dedicated almost entirely to moving through the clues, which encompassed 2 floors and numerous galleries.

From the user perspective, I would suggest some ways to flag distance and movement through spaces between clues. The slices of map shown with each clue aren’t accompanied with a scale for estimated travel time. The graffiti clue is the clearest example of this: it suggests that the object is either on the 2nd or 3rd floor and has a considerable amount of travel time from origin to endpoint, including the level change and in our experience winding around some exhibit construction.


To be sure, the ambition of the app is one of its strengths as is the desire to expose users to a wide swatch of art styles, media, and artists. It moves users through MIA’s rich collections and I thoroughly enjoyed zipping through galleries that I had never ventured through before. A group of young people were also participating in the game and were about 4 clues “behind” so it was fun to hear snippets of their time working through the clues.

As I think about how to take inspiration from RiddleMIAThis, I’m pondering the issue of scale. One wish I have for a future version of the RiddleMIAThis (or other comparable museum gallery app) would be different “levels,” each one focused on 1 floor and/or 1 particular set of galleries, moving users from object to object and room to room on a smaller scale and around a particular theme or iconography. A week or so later, I’m hard pressed to think of a cohesive through-line for the art we saw, and the educator in me is always interested in those ways that technology can open up or reinforce teachable moments around the content.

Recap: Day of DH 2018

3 scholars seated on high chairs with microphones smiling and laughing during discussion.

Image caption: (l-r) Thabiti Willis, Jack Gieseking, Adriana Estill in conversation. Photo by Briannon Carlsen.


Celeste’s Spring 2018 Update

This term I’m drawing inspiration from the presentation and conversations I participated in at Reed College’s Transforming Undergraduate Student Research In The Digital Age conference. I co-presented with Sarah Calhoun and Austin Mason (always a delight!) on deepening connections between curricular and co-curricular research and learning opportunities on our campus. Each institution has its own approach, and it was interesting to see how conversations from disparate institutions (SLAC and research university alike) came back to a couple key points: how we create sustainable processes for managing and preserving research within digital ecosystems, and how we can better support faculty, staff, and students in pursuing collaborative projects.

Keynote speaker Laurie Allen, Director for Digital Scholarship at UPenn Libraries, put her own spin on the oft-cited (and mocked) motto of Facebook and tech at large: rather than “move fast and break things,” she urged us to “move slowly and conserve things.” And that’s an ethos that I think leans into the strengths of liberal arts colleges, where an emphasis on carefully considered interdisciplinary work can thrive.

It also resonates with some of my current interests, like the conversations building out of the Public Works digital curriculum taskforce, the ongoing process/question of turning my dissertation into a publication, and my continuing involvement on a NEH-funded project working with Rick Hill’s Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic and Dr. Tim Powell and Sasha Renninger at UPenn. I’m also excited to see upcoming events like the Future of Publishing initiative’s Data Refuge and Preservation event tackle these questions head on in Spring, and dig in deeper to these readings:

dh2017 Recap

Sarah and Celeste give thumbs up next to their poster for dh2017

This month, Sarah Calhoun and I attended dh2017 in Montreal to present a prototype augmented reality app co-developed with Andrew Wilson and Adam Kral. Our poster and additional resources are linked here, but here’s the synopsis:

Our goal was to create an augmented reality app that could better visualize complex and multiple temporalities AND be an easy reusable resource for classroom use. We chose a mural painted in a Thai Buddhist temple in the UK as our case study because of its layered iconography: the mural depicts the Buddha’s defeat of Mara, but the painter chose to include anachronistic elements including machine guns, Vincent Van Gogh, and a rocket ship. We wanted a way to highlight both the historical references, which could be plotted along a traditional chronological timeline, and the temporality of Buddha’s history which could not.

We got useful and positive feedback from the poster session at dh, as well as additional ideas for refining and extending the app from attending several sessions. Our next steps are to clean up some of the identified bugs and do several rounds of user testing with faculty, staff, and students to clarify how we proceed.  

Kral, a rising sophomore, did the bulk of the development work over the summer: learning Unity and building it out in AR Toolkit. His account of what he built is posted here, and we plan to continue building on Adam’s work and thank him for his efforts!


Demystifying communications for student workers

person types in collaborative Google Doc at conference table

My colleagues Sarah Calhoun, Austin Mason, and I are collaborating on creating 4 new undergraduate internship positions related to front end/back-end development for digital humanities and digital scholarship projects, accessibility and inclusive design, and digital ethics. The DHAs and AT student workers are fabulous, but their job roles are written so that they wear several hats: tech support, triaging reported problems with campus-supported technologies, in-class support, etc. At Carleton, internships are distinguished from student worker positions by their additional expectations of mentorship, professionalization opportunities, and engagement with relevant fields.

Since we’re envisioning these internships as project-oriented, I thought it useful to start to think through some of our expectations for communication both during the internship, but also during projects. It’s likely that the interns will be able to see projects through from start-to-finish, but it’s also likely that they’ll come into a project in-process to contribute to a specific aspect. And in the interest of being explicit about expectations and minimizing the perils of tacit knowledge, I wanted to outline a few preliminary draft guidelines I’ve come up with so far:

Tl;dr: be generous and respectful, always.

  • Communicate information generously: it is better to include too many people than too few. Unless directed otherwise, share information, documents, code, etc. with the entire team and all the internship supervisors. If you are emailing someone on behalf of a small group, include all of the group members names in the closing signature and cc everyone.
  • Address collaborators respectfully and thoughtfully. This includes things like asking for preferred pronouns, and using appropriate titles and names. When interacting with a faculty or staff member for the first time, listen for how they refer to themselves and use what they said. If you’re emailing someone for the first time, use their formal title (Dr., Prof.) if applicable. Which leads us to…
    • Email etiquette: generally, this rundown by Laura Portwood-Stacer covers a lot. In addition, try to keep your emails shorter rather than longer. 4-5 sentences max and try to include all relevant info upfront.
  • Credit your collaborators: be generous and acknowledge contributions from your collaborators. This can be everything from help talking through an idea to a recommendation about where to find a code snippet to a comment someone made in a meeting that stuck with you. This kind of work and support often goes underappreciated–everyone (hopefully) knows it’s important but it’s often forgotten or left unmentioned in favor of a finished product.
  • When dealing with collaborators and “clients,” be sure to show up to all meetings on time, do any follow-up work promptly, and be highly responsive and polite over email. Loop in all relevant people.
  • When things come up at the last minute (because they will!): sometimes you will need to call in a favor from a collaborator to help you get work done rapidly. When this happens, make sure to acknowledge that this is a favor you are asking, give them an easy out, and thank them profusely if they are able to help you.

This is a general outline that will live in some other form TBD. But for now, I’d appreciate and comments/feedback/additions you think would help demystify project communications for students working on collaborative projects!

**huge thanks to Sarah Calhoun for her insights and suggestions!

**cross-posted on Celeste’s site.

proposal accepted for dh2017!

photograph of temple wall with Buddhist art and alter in foreground

I’m thrilled to say that Andrew Wilson, Sarah Calhoun, and I had our poster proposal accepted for dh2017 in Montreal! We’re experimenting with augmented reality for representing complex temporalities in Buddhist temple murals, and creating lower barrier to entry teaching modules using AR.

Our poster will outline our theoretical framework, detail our development process using Vuforia, and provide possible avenues for further lines of inquiry and applications for temporal visualizations. We’ll include static images of the AR experience, as well as ways to access our project remotely.

We identify two main problems that this initial experiment will address. The first is the issue of visualizing multiple temporalities. Our motivating questions are: what are the visual and spatial relationships between the chronological story of the Buddha defeating Mara given how some Buddhists believe that the Buddha is personal and eternal and always present throughout time? How is that expressed in the mural through a wide range of artistic styles and historical references? These questions will be answered through the course of our research.

The second problem is a more practical question of how to use augmented reality to further research and teaching of these complex cultural concepts when both the visual and technical resources are limited. We intend to use the extant low-res photographs available of the Defeat of Mara temple mural and the augmented reality framework Vuforia to create a cross-platform experience of the religious expression. This will allow users to see and select individual elements in the mural (such as the Mona Lisa or the spaceship) and engage with the different ways one can order and make meaning out of the varied chronologies and temporal references. Vuforia allows us to use an existing framework that has the benefit of being accessible on multiple platforms. We believe this is necessary for facilitating the adoption of augmented reality for classroom and preliminary research uses.

Reflections on #budsc16

view from airplane window of small white clouds

On October 26-28, I attended the Bucknell Digital Scholarship Conference with my colleagues Janet Russell and Sarah Calhoun. It was my first time attending that event, and I was struck by how well it was organized and how the size seemed just right to balance presentations and chances for informal conversations. As always, I was happy to see a mix of presenters, from undergraduates to tenured faculty to folks from libraries and technology areas.

Main takeaways:

1. I cannot overstate how thrilled I was that both keynote addresses were given by women of color. Tressie McMillan Cottom and Safiya Noble spoke compellingly about critical issues related to higher education, technology, and society that (in my opinion) are far more urgent than calls to “disrupt,” “break,” and “hack.”

2. I was reminded by Jim Egan and Patrick Rashleigh’s presentation about the power of collaborating in a common environment. Their story about how working together on data in Tableau, rather than jumping straight to d3 or something more hefty, showed the benefits of starting with small tech to build trust in the collaboration.

audio synthesizer sits on table next to monitor showing digital project 3. Thrilled to see that the poster session allowed for digital presentations of work. It’s great to be able to see the digital projects in their native environments, and the conference provided a booklet of abstracts for each presentation that helped provide context. I do wish there were signs or some other visual identification for each project/table, but I enjoyed wandering from end to end hearing and seeing snippets of conversation.

Taken altogether, it was an enjoyable experience and I look forward to next year’s conference!