Memory Box

For alumni and current students, the campus of Davidson College holds many memories, and, for my final project, I would like to present those memories and thoughts on a map of campus. As suggested in the “Ten rules for humanities scholars new to project management,” it is important when starting any creative process to ask, “What contribution/important intervention is this project making?” In mapping the memories of Davidson College campus, I aim to archive the student experience and how that has changed overtime–including positive and negative, social and academic experiences. Having locational memories of Davidson’s buildings could potentially inform administrative decisions about the necessity of the current slue of renovations and building projects on campus, inform the college about the mental health of its students, highlight current and historic problem areas on campus, or merely be an interesting record of the time spent at Davidson.

The culmination of this project is an interactive website (or mobile app) that will allow users to zoom and tag places on campus and anonymously insert memories. In addition to engaging current students to insert their memories, I aim to contact alumni or use the resources in the Davidson Library archives to bring in a historical perspective on what students used to do and what has happened on campus. The memories presented on the website will entirely depend on what users bring to the site: memories of going out during Frolics or memories of studying during finals. Potentially, as Nedra Reynolds found in “Maps of the Everyday: Habitual Pathways and Contested Places,” user input may reveal spatial boundaries between certain groups on campus, similar to the Leeds students who were afraid to walk through certain parks or neighborhoods or the anonymous interface may serve as a sounding board for current  issues (similar to YikYak). Ultimately, my role in the project will be to create a design that is easily accessible and fun to use.

The first and most important step in the methodology for creating the website will be to decide which tool could create a simple and clean design for users. Second, I will ask people to post memories to the map and to share the website in order to gather data and create as holistic of a picture of Davidson as possible. Thus, as I move forward, I will need to keep the user of the website in mind, since user input is the crux of my project. Although I will be working alone on this project, I think that some of the goals outlined by Stan Ruecker and Milena Radzikowska in “The Iterative Design of a Project Charter for Interdisciplinary Research” are applicable to my own project. Specifically, their goal to “move forward at a steady pace” is an admirable goal for any project; however, I believe it is important to keep in mind, as they do, that creative projects can often pass through many phases before the final version and creativity should not be hindered by deadlines. As I mentioned above, the user will be the critical component of this project and I will need to test and revise the interface of the website in order for design a website that not only works but also inspires people to use it.

As I develop the website, I may find that there are limitations to what I can achieve. For example, in many in-class discussions, the topic of exclusion has been a primary focus–who has access to the map, whose view does it represent, are maps accurately representing the truth? In making a repository of memories of the Davidson College campus, I may also have this bias and may have to limit which memories can be included. For example, while Chambers should obviously be included on the map, I may not be able to include places that are important for certain groups, such as the backstage of the theatre or the varsity athlete’s weight room. I also may not be able to include places that are not marked by physical structures. This limitation is summarized by Henri LeFebvre, who raises the question about the relative importance of the built versus the natural environment in a landscape–i.e. are the freshman dorms more important than the tree behind Commons?

In conclusion, through Omeka or a mobile app, I aim to design a map that serves as a memory box for Davidson College that will not only serve as diary of the student body, but may also reveal something new about the current situation or history of campus.

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