Semester Projects

Semester Project: The Ecologies of Lexington/UK

Throughout the semester, you will take part in several assignments individually and collaboratively that ultimately contribute to a documentary project about Lexington/UK. Your goal is represent your chosen place in a way that pushes beyond what people already know or think they know about that place. In short, you will be documenting a deeper, more complex story for your chosen location. You will accomplish this goal by using a combination of fieldwork and secondary research to produce a digital documentary. The project will include at least one mapping component, but not a map in the traditional sense. Instead, you will make a more comprehensive map of your chosen location. Some approaches that you may want to consider are political, physical, historical, social, visual, personal, cultural, culinary, behavioral, architectural, occupational, and biological. Mediums for the mapping component could include web-texts with hypertext, videos, Google Map Maker, Tagcrowd, or Many Eyes. Keep in mind that any attempt to document a place can be only partial—never the whole picture—but in doing so you are contributing to how that place is shaped. Therefore, you must represent your chosen place in a way that is fair and ethical.

Since you all will be working in groups for most of the semester, it is important to choose your groups carefully. You will neither be able to change groups once the groups are chosen, nor change topics once proposals have been approved. I expect all group members to equally divide up all work and to treat each other respectfully. To those ends, each group will draft and sign its own group contract, as well as periodically submit group dynamics reports. Collaborative work does not mean that everyone in a group receives the same grade. Although each overall assignment will receive a group grade, individual members will have their grades adjusted based upon whether or not they have been meeting their obligations to the group.


Breakdown of Project Components

Digital Journal (20%)

You will be required to keep a web journal or blog for the entire semester. This will be used for a variety of writing assignments, including projects or field notes, smaller pieces that will be developed and worked into the projects, research summaries, and reflections. This will provide one way of sharing information and serve as a record for your work. By the end of the course, your journal will be a testament to your own credibility that you have built through critical inquiry. A note on privacy: your journal settings do not have to be public, but it should be sharable so that you can share it with me for grading. You may then also share it with classmates, including group members.

Introduction Speeches (5%)

An important component of understanding place is how places affect and shape us. In this formal speech, you will introduce yourself to the class by sharing your own sense of place and how it has shaped you. Some ideas you might want to consider are family, friends, population, region, food, local culture, rural/urban/suburban, demographics, landscape, biodiversity, and infrastructure. This speech will be 4-6 minutes and must include at least four visuals. You may use no more than five 3×5 inch note cards (one side only). Attire is snappy-casual. You must cite any information that you get from secondary resources.

Proposal (15%)

This proposal will consist of two parts. The first is a collaboratively written document (2100 words) that will be submitted to the instructor and contain at least four sources (10%). The proposal has three components: 1) an audience analysis explaining how you anticipate your chosen project connecting with your intended audience, 2) a detailed description of the artifact you intend to produce, and 3) a project plan with tasks, deadlines, and individual responsibilities. The group will then present an overview for their project in a semi-formal group speech (5%). Your proposals will help you all get your ideas together long before you all start trying to create your digital documentaries and will provide an opportunity for each group to receive feedback from me and other peer-groups.

Since the proposal will be collaboratively written, each group will need to make sure that the document feels like a cohesive piece of writing—instead of a document that was produced in sections. This is one of the most important skills or professional composition collaboration. With this goal in mind, remember to use third person and first person plural when referring to individual group members or the collective.

Descriptive Web-Text (15%)

One of the most basic, but often undervalued types of inquiry is using observation analytically. Essential to mastering this skill is your power of description, which is an important type of fieldwork. When you take the time to thoroughly describe a place, you must develop your abilities to focus, pursue observations, ask questions, and look for the answers. In short, the more you describe a place and pay attention to it, the more you will realize how little you know about it and what else you would like to learn. Sometimes, your method of inquiry will be as simple as observing a place further, while at others you will need to conduct secondary research.

In this formal writing assignment, you will draw from homework and field notes that you have accumulated in your digital journals to write a short, 900 words informative web-text describing a place on UK’s campus. You must include at least two images and three hypertexts. The goals of this assignment are two-fold: 1) You will gain practice using observation and description as a method of inquiry, and 2) your observations will form part of the foundational fieldwork for your digital documentaries. Your writing will include a mixture of physical description and your research about your chosen place—information that cannot be known through observation alone. Each group member must write about a different place relevant to the overall project theme.

Digital Documentary (25%)

This grade will be for the final product that your semester project shapes into, but the grade is divided into two parts. The larger portion, 20%, is for the finished documentary. Think of this project like giving an in-depth tour of your chosen place that shares what you have learned during the semester with an audience that may know little-to-nothing about your location. The smaller portion, 10%, will be for a group “tour” in which your group will present its project to the class.

Your goal in this project is to present your audience with a new way of seeing the subject of your documentary. You are essentially documenting complexity, revealing information about your subject that most people would not necessarily perceive. Therefore, you must think about how a place is shaped, how it can exert its own shaping influence, the artificiality of borders and boundaries for places, and how knowledge about places is constructed and shared—that is, how threads and networks of discourse circulate to form places in the ways that we access them. To these ends, your group will choose a theme that will form the foundational direction for your inquiry. You will then conduct a combination of fieldwork and more traditional primary and secondary research. Your research should eventually lead you to a more specific purpose for your digital project. What is it that your project is doing? What are your goals as a group? How will your project achieve those goals? Since any attempt to represent a place can be only partial, how will your group ensure that it does so ethically? What part(s) is your group presenting, and why? Examples of how your projects may take shape include websites, videos, audio-visual essays, and interactive maps. For example, you may decide to create a video with a combination of dubbed narration and recorded footage, or you may decide to make an interactive website with short videos and images. Regardless of your chosen medium or combination of mediums, you must create a website for housing and sharing your project, even if it is merely a basic one. At the very least, this site will have an introduction to your project and brief biographical information about the group members, including links to each member’s research blog.

Your project must integrate at least one map that visually represents a place(s) that are important to your chosen project theme. Think about how the place has been represented visually and what your specific goals are for your project; then, create a map or series of maps that help your group achieve those goals. You may wish to consider a more interactive mapping option like Google Map Maker, a data map such as geospatial time, or a more stripped down map such as one created through a program like Microsoft Paint. What type of map works best for representing your information and sharing it with your audience in order to achieve your goals?