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Online system, travel agency among changes to off campus study

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Recently, there have been changes made to the off-campus study program that have affected students’ experiences. Some of these changes include the use of a single travel agency to book tickets for travel and a new system to calculate credit from studying abroad, the latter of which has the most impact on students, especially those seeking credit for off campus study. Pat Martin, director of the Off-Campus Study Office, estimates that over 50 percent of students have study abroad experiences for credit.

According to an e-mail from Martin, other changes include a new domestic off-campus study program, Semester in Hawaii, at the University of Hawaii. In addition to the new domestic option, students studying abroad receive a budget that covers living costs during break periods if their programs or universities do not provide them accommodations during those times.

In that e-mail, Martin also noted that starting last semester, students with a “demonstrated high level of financial need” are able to apply to the Dean’s Office emergency fund if they have uncovered costs such as visas and immunizations but are subject to the emergency fund’s rules.

All of these changes are relevant to the entire off-campus study program, which includes all international student trips, Lang Center-sponsored activities, conferences, debates, athletic competitions, and externships. However, the new changes most prominently affect students who are studying abroad for credit. Students who receive off-campus credit typically do so through end-of-semester courses that have an international field component, summer courses, and a fall or spring semester abroad.

In terms of receiving credit for studying abroad, there is a new online credit evaluation system built by ITS. Students who will study abroad next semester will use this system.

Martin explained that the previous system required that students “go from department to department” to get signatures on a piece of paper in order for their study abroad program to be approved. The new system also replaces a similar “paper-based” system that applied to students who sought credit after returning to campus.

The benefits of the new system, Martin explained, are that it allows all parties involved in the process of transferring and approving credit to see where courses are in the approval process and that students are now able to utilize the system to ask for additional courses to be approved while abroad.

In spring of 2017, a new change was added that guarantees students four credits for “successful completion of coursework that was pre-estimated for at least four Swarthmore credits” during a semester abroad. Before this change, it was possible for students to receive fewer than four credits for that work because the credits were determined by departments.

Molly Murphy ’18 detailed her study abroad experience in the summer of 2016 in Beijing through a Harvard program. Because it was a language-intensive program, she exclusively interacted with the Chinese section at Swarthmore.

“Getting credit coming back was a bit of a process because first, I had to submit all of my study materials  — like my homework, tests, and papers and my textbook and my transcript — to the department office in Chinese. Then I figured they were just going to forward it to the registrar, but they didn’t, and it was getting towards the end of semester, and [the registrar’s office] didn’t receive my transcript … so I had to order a new transcript,” she explained.

She noted that when she studied abroad, the credits were approved by various departments, and the department heads chose what courses counted and for how many credits.

“I didn’t really utilize the study abroad office,” Murphy added. “I thought that [my study abroad program] wasn’t the kind that they deal with … but I was wrong about that, because they do follow up with students going abroad over the summer, especially if they’re intending to get credit, even if it’s not formally through [Swat].”

Professor Jeremy Lefkowitz, who is the faculty advisor for students who will study abroad, says that despite the new online system, students will still have to bring back every paper from their study abroad trip, like Murphy described.

“The important part is that students still have to keep everything that they get, all the work they do. … [It] should come back,” he said.

This requirement exists because students must upload their work to the new system when they return from abroad in order to determine how much credit they have earned.

Lefkowitz also explained the previous process for receiving credit abroad and how the new system from ITS is making that easier.

“Students would have to go around and get signatures from specific departments related to the coursework they plan to do abroad. They have to get signatures before they go, and they have to get signatures when they get back to show that all the work will get credit. And now all that can be done electronically.”

Lefkowitz also said that students abroad this semester are still using the old system. The new system is currently being implemented, so students returning to campus this fall or next spring are still using the old system. The effects of the new system will be clear in fall 2018, when the students abroad during this spring semester return.

Jamie Starr ’19, who is studying in Greece next semester, is using the new online system. She explained that she has uploaded a list of all of the classes she’s interested in taking abroad as well as the syllabi.

“The study abroad office has given me an estimate of how many credits I will likely get for each class,” Starr said.

She then added that once she returns, she will have to upload the work she’s done in order to get approval for the credits by each department.

Though the new system is paperless and intended to ameliorate the process of applying and receiving credits, there are potentially some unintended consequences.

Lefkowitz expressed concern that there might be some problems because there will be less opportunity for students and professors to speak face-to-face.

“[Getting forms signed] meant that, at the very least, there’s a moment of a student and professor talking about the experience. Now, I worry that the moment is threatened,” he said.

He said that though his worry does not outweigh the benefits of a paperless and more streamlined process, his concern of an “unfortunate side effect” still remains.

“I hope that it’s not going to lead to less personal interaction between faculty and students who study abroad,” he said. “It’s not meant to lead to less interaction. It’s meant to save paper and make the process smoother. … It’s not meant to take the place of mentoring.”

However, Valerie Blakeslee ’19, who is planning on studying abroad in Milan next semester, doesn’t think that the lack of interaction is an issue. She belieces that in person communication with the professor is not crucial unless it is important to a student’s particular circumstance, such as if the student is trying to ensure that they receive four credits from studying abroad. Four credits count as “full credit,” and all students who go abroad must get full credit.

“Just recently, [the off-campus study office] finally, officially switched to the electronic system but since I was petitioning for my program, I had to know if I would receive credit in advance. So I had to use the handwritten way of doing things by going to different heads of the departments and getting them to sign off on things,” she said.

She added that the process of going to individual professors was troublesome, mainly because of the schedule conflicts between the college and the program abroad. She noted that using an electronic system probably would have been easier.

“When I had to do the paper version, I had to e-mail all the heads of those departments and have a brief meeting with them, which is kind of a hassle. But with the online system, the heads of the departments are just notified by e-mail.”

Another change that has occurred is that students can now book their travel through Key Travel, a travel agency in Philadelphia. Prior to this semester, students were given an allowance in order to arrange their own flight but did not have a travel agent.

Starr said that students are required to contact someone from the agency once they are accepted into the study abroad program and have completed parts of the study abroad application. Students give information about the dates of the program to the travel agency, which then responds with options for travel and will book the flight with the student’s approval.

Starr also noted that Swarthmore pays for the flights as long as the cost doesn’t exceed the price of a flight from Philadelphia to the final destination.

According to Lefkowitz, it can be expensive if students wait to buy plane tickets, so having the booking centralized through a travel agency can minimize the cost.

“[Booking] was pretty easy for me because I looked at specific flights beforehand,” Starr said. “But I have a few friends who had some issues because they were put on some flights where the timing didn’t work for them.”

While explaining the role of the travel agent, Lefkowitz said, “It’s probably going to save money, but we don’t know yet. There’s kind of a hope that it streamlines things and makes things easier to manage. … Pat Martin put a lot of thought and time into this, and she’s been trying to get it to be something we can do for years.”

However, at this point in the implementation of both the online system from ITS and the travel agent, it is still unclear what the consequences will be in fall 2018 and beyond.

Cars on Campus: BMW’s, Ice Racing,and Mailboxes

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I became friends with Mikhal Yudien ’19 through some mutual friends. Essentially, my friends knew I was into cars, and they were like, “Yo, we know this girl who is into cars; you should meet her.” I was like, “Sure, sounds cool.” Little did I know, I was going to meet someone who dresses like Batwoman, drives stick-shift, and races her car for fun. In other words, Yudien’s pretty badass. Okay, pretty damn badass. But don’t let the black leather jackets fool you — Yudien has always been super approachable. Soon enough, I came to realize Yudien drove a BMW E90 335xi. Let’s get some jargon out of the way before we talk about that, though.

The words “E90 335xi” tell you the model, model year, engine option, and the drivetrain of the car, whether it is all-wheel drive or only rear-wheel drive. “E90” was the internal code BMW used for all 2007-2013 model year 3-series models that were 4-door sedans; the 3-series is BMW’s most iconic model, offered in both 2-door and 4-door variants. E92 was the internal code given to the 2-door coupe, and E93 was the internal code given to convertibles. All 3-series model names begin with 3, and then have a suffix, like “-35”, attached to them (i.e. “335”). The -35 suffix tells me that the car comes with an inline, where the cylinders are all in one line, 6-cylinder engine that is turbocharged. Long-story short, turbochargers force more air into the engine, which means the engine can use more fuel to complement the increase in air, which means that the “internal combustion” that goes on in the engine will produce more power.

Finally, the “x” denotes that the car has BMW X-Drive, which is simply BMW’s all-wheel-drive system (drivetrain). Yudien is not a huge fan of the all-wheel-drive, well because, it takes away from the badassery (read: driving like a race-car driver) she aspires to.  

“Although it’s crucial for Vermont winters, the fact that it’s four-wheel drive makes drifting much trickier,” Yudien says.  Oh, and also, it’s a stick-shift. Because driving matters.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the car itself. In all honesty, it’s not too noticeable — its silver color and 4-door format don’t make much of an impression at first glance. Perhaps the only striking things you’ll notice are the studded winter tires Yudien  has on her car (more on this later) However, once Yudien let me drive it, I realized the car was the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As soon as you start driving it, you realize, “My goodness, do the Germans know their shit when it comes to making cars.” The manual transmission feels great, perhaps a little loose, but its (frankly, mind-boggling) ease of use makes up for any slight shortcomings that the car may have. The steering feels heavier than anything I’ve ever driven, but its sublime, man. You feel a direct connection to the front tires, and it gives the driver confidence to place the car where he/she wants to.

Yudien agreed with me, saying “I love the acceleration and how it handles for a stock car; I can take turns really smoothly and still accelerate quickly out of them.”

And what about that engine? Inline, 6 cylinder engines are known to be extremely smooth in their operation, because the engine harmonics are perfectly balanced as a result of the layout of the engine. Mash the gas pedal, and you’re pushed forward by a smooth rush of 300 horsepower that thrusts you all the way to 60 mph in a mere 5.1 seconds. It sounds amazing too, with crackles and burbles and pops coming out of the exhaust frequently. Overall, the driving experience is pure joy. All the parts come together to produce a car that not only is competent, but more importantly, inspires confidence in the driver and puts a smile on your face every time you drive it.

So, now that you’ve had enough of me going gaga over Yudien’s car by using some weird terms that nobody cares about, let’s get back to those studded tires on her car. Yudien is from Vermont, and in case you didn’t know, Vermont gets a metric shit-ton of snow. When I asked her about it, she said the studded tires are pretty much necessary for winter driving in Vermont. They also probably help out for when she races on frozen lakes. Yeah, you heard that right, frozen lakes:

“Basically it’s the same as on-land autocross — we set up cones in a winding course and do time trials.  Since we have little to no traction, the real challenge comes with drifting around all the corners and managing to stay on-course.  The part that usually scares people the most is that you can constantly hear the ice cracking beneath the tires, even though the ice is more than a foot thick.”

 

That sounds real wild if you ask me. But it’s all part of the persona, I guess. The love of cars runs in the family, so it’s not surprising what Yudien is willing to do with her car. She explains that her love for cars —and taking them onto frozen lakes — started at an early age.

“My stepdad was always revamping his ’70 Lotus Europa S2 in our basement, so I grew up talking about cars and racing with him.  Before I could drive — I won’t lie — I was obsessed with Mario Kart.” she admitted.

“When I was 11 I insisted that I take the car up and down the road to check the (usually empty) mailbox about five times a day.  When I was a little older I first went out on the [frozen] lake in my stepdad’s car while he did donuts and I loved the adrenaline rush that came with having no traction.”

Which brings me to my final point. In the first edition of my column, I talked about why anyone should give a damn about cars. I described how cars are wonderfully intricate engineering marvels. However, it goes beyond that. Cars are about experiences. Cars are about memories. And most importantly, cars are about people.

They’re about your dad fixing the flat tire on the minivan. They’re about the ML shuttle you take back to your dorm at 2AM. And if you’re anything like Mikhal, they’re about your stepdad taking you out in his ’70 Lotus Europa S2 onto a frozen lake in Vermont.

 

A Little About Me and A Revolutionary New Electric Vehicle

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I’m Yousaf, I’m a junior, and I really really like cars. And by really like cars, I mean I watch videos on how engines work when I want to procrastinate on econ problem sets (sorry Professor Bhanot), to read Car and Driver/Road and Track/Motor Trend articles more than political science ones, daydream about which cars I’d pick if I could only have three, and frequently make F1 car sounds when I get a little carried away. (I also have a YouTube channel about cars; maybe I’ll do a shameless self plug later on in the semester). The point is, I love to drive cars, I love to learn about cars, I love to look at cars, and I love to tell other people about cars and how much I love them. Which is why I’m writing this a few hours before my deadline. What could possibly go wrong, right?

So why do I love cars, and why should you even give a damn about them? From a young age, I had an affinity for cars and for driving. I remember becoming addicted to Gran Turismo 4, a driving simulation video game, at the age of nine years old. I would spend hours trying to get advanced driving licenses and winning races so I could add upgrades to my car, a Honda Prelude. While my free time for videogames decreased as I got older, I retained a general interest in cars. My obsession truly started to develop in high school, when we became old enough to get a driver’s license, and the dream of driving finally became a reality. Around that time, I started watching car videos, mostly Motor Trend videos on YouTube.

From that point on, I quickly became obsessed with the world of cars: zero to 60 mph times, various types of engines, types of transmissions, the fastest cars in the world, world-famous racetracks, and car reviews, just to name a few.

What I realized was that cars are more than just a form of transportation. They are highly intricate, beautiful machines that are composed of thousands of moving parts working together to create movement. And on top of that, automakers have a bunch of other factors to consider too. They have to try to make the car look beautiful while also meeting numerous safety regulations and ensure the car is aerodynamically efficient. The cars must have to meet environmental regulations. Automakers have to make sure the car works in all conditions, from freezing cold to absurdly hot and anything in between. They have to make sure the car can be reliable and run for thousands and thousands of miles without any major problems. And that’s just the “functional” part — the interior, electronics, and other parts are incredibly important as well when it comes to car design. The list goes on and on. Think of all the parts that are either working behind the scenes or that you use only occasionally: windshield wipers, air conditioning, the odometer, and much more. Long story short, even the most humble of cars is a moving marvel of engineering, and when you recognize that, that’s when you see the magic. That’s the magic I’m trying to show you, and that’s why you should care.

Anyhow, I talked to some cool people at the Phoenix and I was like “hey, would it be cool if I write about cars?” and they were like “yeah, dude, totally.” So now I’m writing about cars for the Phoenix. What I plan to do in the very near future is to start a column about cars on campus. I’m super creative, so it’ll probably be called Cars on Campus. It’s like Humans of New York, but for cars. And it’s not New York. I’d like to profile anything from student cars, to the SwatVans, to those little cars that Maintenance drives around campus on the walkways. The owners and drivers of these cars may also be included in the story. A car is nothing without someone to drive it and/or own it. For now though, I’ll tell you about a new, totally bonkers electric car that was released quite recently. Most importantly — it’s not a Tesla.

On Jan. 3, a rather young electric vehicle company, Faraday Future, unveiled its first production-ready vehicle, the FF91, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The much-anticipated launch of the FF91 signaled a new era for the EV market, which up to this point, has been largely been dominated by Tesla. The FF91 showcased a variety of performance and autonomous driving technologies that aim to compete directly with those of Tesla.

First thing’s first: performance figures. The FF91 is powered by a total of three electric motors that are fed by a 130.0 kWh battery pack. Overall, the electric motors put out an incredible 1,050 horsepower, which according to Faraday Future, gets the car to 60mph in 2.4 seconds, making it the fastest production EV to date. For comparison, a Lamborghini Aventador, which costs near half a million dollars, reaches 60mph in 2.8 seconds. A Tesla Model X P90D does the same in around three seconds. And those blue Tri-Co vans? They do it in a blisteringly fast 11.6 seconds. Clearly, the FF91 is a fast car. More importantly, it is faster than anything Tesla has to offer, at least for now (Tesla is developing a car that they claim will be able to do 0-60 in 2.39 seconds). Perhaps more practically important, however, is that the FF91 far surpasses the range of any Tesla model. Faraday Future claims that the FF91 has a total range of 378 miles, as compared to the Tesla Model S P100D, which has a range of 315 miles.

The FF91 also comes with a host of technologies aimed at completely digitizing the driving experience. The car does not come with a key, and instead, can be unlocked through a smartphone app or facial recognition of one of the car’s many cameras. Once inside the car, the driver is greeted by a large, central touchscreen that is used to control many of the car’s functions, similar to that found in Tesla models. Rear seat passengers need not miss out on screens either — a large screen folds down from the roof for rear-seat entertainment. Perhaps most strikingly, cameras inside the car can detect the driver’s facial expressions and tailor the music, climate controls, seat massager, and aromatherapy settings to the driver’s mood. Following Tesla’s footsteps, the FF91 utilizes a number of sensors and cameras that enable the vehicle to drive autonomously. It can also autonomously find parking spots and self-park itself.

Put bluntly, the FF91 is an absolutely absurd car. Its performance, appearance, and technology make it seem like it’s a car that has time traveled here from the year 2035. The crazy part is, Faraday Future, as well as other automakers, are just getting started. The FF91 is a clear sign of where the automobile is headed: electricity, autonomy, technology, and digitization of everything. Faraday Future is currently taking reservations for the FF91 for $5000 (the actual price of the vehicle will probably be well above $200,000), with production beginning in 2018.

Obituary: SwatNet caused lasting impact on students

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SwatNet, the Swarthmore College WiFi network, passed away this Wednesday after a long, hard-fought struggle with various health complications including poor connection and seemingly non-existent bandwidth, as well as an unexplainable incompatibility with certain wireless devices. As its condition worsened, it became clear that SwatNet was fighting an uphill battle, at which point it was moved into a local assisted living facility. Mark Dumic, Swarthmore’s Director of Networking and Communications, was the palliative care professional who was responsible for SwatNet’s hospice treatment. In a statement released last week, Dumic said, “No new devices will be able to join SwatNet,” and added tearfully, “After January 27, the SwatNet network will be gone.”

SwatNet’s family was not available to comment.

Over the course of its life, SwatNet was known by some as a source of anguish. A byproduct of its faulty reliability, the constant threat of connection being lost — especially during finals week or the night before the due date of a huge paper — was always cause for widespread anxiety. Additionally, regardless of whether or not a wireless router was near, particular dorm rooms’ patchy connectivity often determined whether its tenants would be able to use the Internet on a regular basis.

However torturous its inconsistencies might have been, SwatNet’s faultiness made for an excellent card in a game of “Misery Poker,” and often acted as a common enemy towards which students could express hatred, making it a great source of bonding. It is with some sadness that Swarthmore parts ways with what was once a staple of the Swarthmore student’s plight.

SwatNet’s passing has been met with a variety of responses from students. Although many rejoice in its passing, others acknowledge that their relationships with SwatNet were more complex. Kai Richter ’16 said, “SwatNet and I had a rocky relationship during my first two years. But after dealing with the limited internet connection and censorship while studying abroad in China, I vowed to complain about SwatNet less.” Richter added wistfully, “It saddens me that SwatNet’s time has come to an end just as I was beginning to appreciate all [it] had done for me.”

SwatNet was also known for leaving students feeling deserted, helpless, and hopeless. Salman Safir ’16 stated, “SwatNet. Wow. What an off and on relationship.” He said, “I think it was a timing thing really. We never really got that down,” adding, “I guess though timing is hard when the other is always gone.”

In their struggles with SwatNet, many students were forced to entangle themselves in the bizarre intricacies of the SwatNet, SwatDevice, and SwatGuest realm. Stephanie Chen ’19 explained, “SwatDevice and SwatNet have always failed me, which is why I use the always reliable SwatGuest. I’ve gotten quite good at memorizing the three day passwords.”

The death of SwatNet marks the switch to the new wireless network called Eduroam. This new system will allow students to access wireless internet at more than 386 institutions worldwide (provided that a. SEPTA is running, and b. that Swarthmore students have the time and/or willpower to leave campus). Trying to make light of SwatNet’s death, Dumic offered consolation by stating that Eduroam is “a great service to be part of,” and in an attempt to comfort the grieving student body, wrote, “For existing devices already on SwatNet, an additional week will be available to make the change to Eduroam before it disappears for good.”

Although the switch to Eduroam is said to be a step in the right direction, it has been met with skepticism. Aside from the travesty that is the loss of a somewhat original network name (screaming “F*CK EDUROAM!” at five in the morning doesn’t have quite the same ring to it), students are protesting the fact that they may no longer be able to use the faulty SwatNet connection as a B.S. excuse for late assignments. Additionally, administrators and professors have begun to express concern that Eduroam’s installation could possibly serve to greatly improve wireless connection across campus, which, God forbid, might actually reduce the overall stress level of the student body.

SwatNet is survived by all members of the Swarthmore community; it will be remembered fondly as a frequent topic of discussion on Yik Yak and a consistent source of angst over which students enjoyed standing together in solidarity. Despite the agony and panic that it caused many a member of the Swarthmore community, SwatNet’s death is a mournful occasion. As one anonymous sophomore so eloquently put it, “It was always good enough to watch porn and, in the end, that’s what really matters.”

Rest in peace, SwatNet. You will be missed.

 

College improves technology, setting high hopes

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

With the start of the new year often come noble resolutions that usually go unfulfilled, and lofty goals that remain unachieved. However, we at The Phoenix find it heartening to see that the college appears to be acting on its commitment to staying up to date with the best technology in an effort to ensure ease of use and efficiency for students and faculty alike.

The replacement of Swatnet with Eduroam was initially welcomed with open arms, but the instability of the network has left students across campus wondering if our old foe has simply undergone a name change. As with most instances of large scale implementation, we do not expect a flawless roll out as new technologies are adapted; Obamacare’s tumultuous initial difficulties serve as a humble reminder of the fallibilities of even the most expensive and highest quality modern technology. Nevertheless, we appreciate the versatility of the network in that students can theoretically travel to any campus affiliated with Eduroam and be able to access the network there, ensuring widespread Internet access for Swatties at several schools across the nation. The concept itself is great, and we hope that with time, any difficulties with the network are worked out to allow the actualization of this vision.

We are also very pleased to see that Swarthmore expects to be switching over to Google in place of Zimbra this coming fall. The cohesion of Google’s system, from Drive to Gmail, will allow for a far more integrative system that should make students’ lives far easier. The slow yet steady adoption of the OneCard system accomplishes this same purpose, by allowing students to use their ID for access to all buildings — he hope is that within the next few years, every dorm will be equipped with this capability.

The active pursuit of initiatives of this nature demonstrates the college’s respect of and attentive listening to student’s desires and concerns. We at The Phoenix are optimistic that campuswide technology will only become better and more streamlined as adjustments are made in due time, and applaud the college for its work thus far.

 

The adventures of Zena, ultimate internet girl

in Campus Journal/Columns/To Serve by

The way we use technology, and certainly social media, is focused on a stylized and curated presentation of the self. Because the self we present via technology has time and space in which to form before it arrives at our audience, it can be controlled more actively than our physical selves. Imagine, here, a girl named Zena: you will probably at this point dress her up in your head a certain way, maybe give her attributes that come from associations with similar sounding names. She will appear throughout this article, though, increasingly in her own terms as we follow her through her various social media platforms. And get ready: she’s really fun.

Before we get to her internet presence, let me mention the way Zena texts, because that will give you a more “intimate” view into her self presentation — this is a more vulnerable Zena, because it is one exposed only to that exclusive sanctum of people who she communicates with privately and probably sees in real life. This is a screenshot of a text she sent:

 

 

You can see she has a particular style: lots of abbreviations, enthusiastic punctuation, sound effects, attention to “mistakes” only when they compromise meaning. Perhaps more distinctive is her use of lots of separate messages to express very short segments of thought. The casual nature of the text is probably a result of the person she is texting, but remember: when texting, we can adopt particular styles of language fairly at will, a curation harder to manage in speech — what comes out in conversation comes out. You can’t edit a few characters here, a word there. While you can certainly assume certain speech affects, the process is slower and more difficult than the same changes would be in text, particularly if they are to be consistent. And Zena has probably, more or less consciously, adopted a fairly seamless style of texting that remains consistent whether she is texting quickly or slowly, casually or more self-consciously. But this is only the beginning of the way she uses technology to curate her persona.

Just as we curate our language via text, we curate Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. Note this word “curate,” which comes to me automatically when I talk about social media. With its art world associations, we think of creation: but that’s not exactly what the word refers to. Curation involves choosing pieces that “work together” in the hope that a collection of disparate elements can compose a meaningful whole, in the hope that a unifying story can emerge from myriad references. This, then, is what I mean by curating style: taking a collection of references and using them to gesture towards some ostensible gestalt whole. Zena has a Facebook, a Twitter, and a Tumblr — she’s off Instagram at the moment — and the way she uses each of these technologies draws on cultural references to help illustrate what she wants to present as her “identity,” something which these technologies purport to gesture towards, but, perhaps, actually create.

Whether or not such a gestalt-whole identity exists, or whether or not any whole can be revealed/created through style alone (even with style conceptualized in the broadest terms), is irrelevant here. It is enough to note that in the context of a society in which we use and read style in this way, as a meaningful representation of identity, individuals constantly engage in the process of pulling together fragments of reference into new combinations. Whether or not Zena believes her technological avatars represent “her,” whether or not they actually do, whether or not these avatars are actually creating a new Zena that didn’t exist without them are not questions this column can or will tackle. It is enough to note, for the purposes of following our model internet girl, that she does, like you and me and all our friends, see her identity as reflected in social media and work to make that reflection one that she likes; she curates it.

The field of references Zena can reach towards in curating this online persona is endless because of the amount of cultural information she has access to through the internet and other media. This may be why she chooses to be a part of particular subcommunities which span across her internet engagement and her physical, “real” world life. With their own distinctive images, these subcommunities provide a narrowed aesthetic field from which Zena and other members can sub-curate their image. They allow another layer of group meaning and identity to permeate those choices, and help Zena from getting lost in her sea of options. This is certainly a reiteration of the limited aesthetic fields defined by other group identities. Probably, Bourdieu would say this endless fragmented world of reference I have identified doesn’t actually exist to Zena or any individual, because they are already consigned by class, gender, race, etc. to certain narrowed fields.

But in conceptualizing the world of aesthetic references as endlessly full of options to which individuals have more or less access provides an interesting starting point for thinking about the way style changes and evolves. When we conceptualize the stylistic options of certain individuals as necessarily limited we tend to forget that what we are talking about is not a delivered, whole, static aesthetic. And it is also worth remembering that any individual might be part of several different groups, each with individual, distinctive style. Zena, for example, is part of a group of tweeters that focus on an ironic hatred of Selena Gomez while valorizing Lindsay Lohan; this same group includes funny commentary on ridiculous sexist goings-on in the media. They type their tweets in a certain style: a style that above even content has given Zena an aesthetic field to play in, and one that she transposes onto her other social media platforms. But she also follows, on tumblr, a group of young “emo” teenagers, and her high school is a distinctive art-imbued community that follows the contemporary art world. These different fields seep across one another and give Zena a set of stylistic references to draw on as she sub-curates her own distinctive presence through all her avatars.

At the level of an individual non-Zena Swarthmore student trying to get dressed and choose a new profile picture or browse a few tumblrs, maybe even post a tweet commenting on annoying peers or events in the media, it is easy to forget that this process of sub-curation can be fun and creative and generative. Something I have always considered paramount in thinking about style is accepting both its superficiality and its deeply meaningful presence in daily life — when we accept those things, we can play. The idea of consistency especially is one that feels so arbitrary to me, and thus extra-specially fun to play with: taking it to the extreme, across your internet and real world presences, would be one way to play — imagine, here, that Zena decides to take the emo aesthetic she is exposed to on Tumblr and transpose it across her Twitter, her Facebook, and even her texting style. Such a consistency, in its extremity and also in the different social meanings of the emo aesthetic on different platforms, might create an absurd and thought-provoking effect. The opposite direction of play would lead to completely and deliberately rejecting consistency across different avatars: Zena doesn’t allow her art world school community, her ironic feminist celeb appreciation community, and her emo community to mix at all. Each of her avatars takes an extreme, complete cue from the group style it is associated most directly with and subsumes itself in that, without any outside references.

But play doesn’t need to be a big, deliberate, perhaps difficult experiment. It can mean the preservation of some spaces for certain styles of expression and appreciation for the fact that we get to jump back and forth between those spaces while still validating all of them as real. This is where style owes a special thank you to technology: it allows us discrete, perhaps anonymous spaces to create and play with identity and aesthetic.

Technology, like curation, is floating around here, not just as a source of new references, but as a source of new spaces for references. That’s where this column really starts and ends: references feeding into platforms creating communities and possibilities of communities and identities and possibilities of identities. Take to your platforms, Swatties, and manipulate them — nothing comes of nothing, matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make something new out of stuff other people have made.

Going beyond Google Maps and Yelp to explore Philly

in Campus Journal/Columns/Philly Beat by

It is unbelievable how quickly technology develops for our convenience, making travel faster, cheaper, and more enjoyable. Think about it —  when was the last time you went somewhere and had to carry a map? iPhone and Android apps such as Google Maps, Opentable, Yelp, Uber, Lyft, and Expedia have made our travels significantly more efficient, putting all this information at our fingertips.

Out of every travel-enhancing app I have ever used, Citymapper is definitely the most informative, helping users to navigate major cities as efficiently as possible. Type in a starting point and a final destination, and Citymapper will compile all the different routes using public transportation (usually between 7 and 8), a car or cab, biking and walking. The app will then give a relatively accurate approximation of the time, distance, and even how many calories you would burn through each form of transportation. In my own Citymapper experience, I have rarely found inaccurate data or an estimate more than a few minutes off the approximated value.

Two weeks ago on a pleasant day in Philly, the thought of biking around the city was incredibly appealing. Through my exact location, Citymapper was able to determine the closest station for bike rentals (Bike Share), the number of bikes available at the respective station, as well as the closest bike parking station to my destination. Once I had finished exploring the city on the bike, I put in Swarthmore as my destination, and Citymapper proceeded to tell me the weather there. It seems that Citymapper is a transport app unlike any other, functioning on all forms of transportation, taking all instances into account such as weather, traffic, and road blocks. Available in 29 cities throughout the USA as well as internationally, Citymapper allows you to maximize your time exploring cities by recommending the most efficient and enjoyable travel methods.

With Swarthmore’s small student body, finding people who actually grew up in Philadelphia can prove challenging, especially when in need of a good recommendation. If suggestions from others do not seem appealing or you are looking for something more specific, Yelp is the way to go. Whatever you need —  from a shoe-repair shop to the closest frozen yogurt joint, Yelp will give you an overall customer star rating for each locale, the exact distance in miles, hours of operation, and customer reviews. Although Yelp can be used for almost anything, its most prominent use seems to be for dining services. For all of you foodies out there, Yelp will give you lists and categories of absolutely any type of cuisine: from the top 10 Mexican restaurants to the best cheap dinner options in Philadelphia. I definitely recommend exploring the latter, they all have amazing reviews and the ones I have tried have far exceeded expectations.

Again for the foodies, Eater should be permanently bookmarked for the duration of your time in the Philadelphia area. With articles such as ‘Epic Philly Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die’, ‘Philly Cheap Eats 2015’ and ‘The 38 Essential Philadelphia Restaurants,’ Eater features reviews and recommendations by some of Philly’s best critics. Currently my favorite app, Eater has a mapping option that will pull up a series of pinpoints around your location, specific to what you are looking for, whether that’s just a sandwich or the best french fries in the city

Last week when heading out for fall break, I found myself around 30th Street Station significantly earlier than I needed to be. It was around brunch time, and using Eater’s map of ‘The 13 Hottest Brunches in Philly,’ I found a highly recommended place in the area called ‘Tria Fitler Square’. Eater’s synopsis included a recommendation of brioche french toast with candied hazelnut butter which ended up being a gastronomical experience beyond my expectations. The convenience of the maps as well as the quality of recommendations from true Philadelphia natives will give you an experience far above par, with incredible restaurants that otherwise may have escaped your knowledge. Make the most of your time anywhere in Philadelphia with Citymapper and simultaneously satisfy your culinary cravings using Eater Philly. Download both of these apps and venture out into the city for an incredible outing!

Digital Humanities spread in classroom and beyond

in Campus Journal by

Computer science and the humanities don’t have anything to do with each other, do they? Code belongs in Sci, and books stay in the seminar room, right? Wrong! The two disciplines come together in digital humanities, a set of research methods that takes computer-assisted approaches to disciplines of the humanities. At Swarthmore, the college’s small size and liberal arts focus have produced a rich variety of digital humanities work spanning various departments and have positioned community members to make serious contributions to the digital humanities, even beyond campus.

Associate Professor of English Literature Rachel Buurma ’99 integrates digital humanities approaches in her classroom, as well as in her own research and published work. In Buurma’s “Rise of the Novel” course, which is taking place this fall, upwards of thirty students spend part of each week learning how to use data visualization tools, text mining, and digital mapping, among other computational methods, to analyze individual eighteenth-century novels.

One assignment, for instance, asked students to run a computer program which would extract all mentions of geographical locations from a digital version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, create a map of these locations using Google’s MyMaps, and compare this map to one included by eighteenth century printers in early editions of the novel.

Now, Buurma’s students are applying text analysis to a wider set of novels in order to situate the smaller set of books read in the class within their greater literary context.

“This is a very canonical history and theory class, so I’ve tried to conceptualize how DH approaches can open it up so that we can test and look at the canonical novels against a bigger world of what people actually read and what printers actually published in the eighteenth century,” Buurma explained.

Buurma noted that she has been impressed with how interested students have seemed and how responsive they have been to her assignments.

“I’m getting more than I’m asking for from many students,” Buurma said. “That’s always true at Swarthmore, but it feels especially true here.”

Assistant Professor of English Literature Lara Cohen’s students, meanwhile, had great success with a digital archiving project in her Early African American Print Culture class two years ago. The project centered on one of the Philadelphia Library Company’s most-requested items, a friendship album kept by a woman named Amy Matilda Cassey. The album was one of several kept by women at the heart of the Black activist community in Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and includes inscriptions from Cassey’s friends — including Frederick Douglass and other prominent anti-slavery activists — along with original writing and art and material copied out from other sources.

The project culminated in a digital version of the album. For each page, users can view a digital facsimile, a transcription of the text, and a student’s close-reading of that particular page. Cohen’s students also tagged the pages, so users can track different themes across the album.

Cohen explained that the original impetus for creating a digital version was to both reduce stress on the original object and increase the accessibility of the album.

“Scholars are aware of and curious about it, but so few people have access to it, so it seemed as though it would be really valuable to try and make it as easily accessible as possible,” Cohen said.

Cohen described herself as an amateur in terms of digital humanities but said that her interest in digital humanities methods and questions grew as the project continued.

“As we were working on it, the relationships between the kinds of reading practices that the digital makes possible and the types of readings that the album makes possible became increasingly clear to me,” Cohen said.

She explained that the album is at its core about a social network, and much of the text copied from other sources into the album was rewritten in a way to forge social bonds. The creation of a digital version of the album enables a somewhat more historical way of reading it, helping users contextualize its material and understand its references, Cohen said. Readers can click through on the digital version of the album and be linked to newspapers where an original clipping appeared.

Thus, Cohen explained, readers gain a sense of the interconnected and intertextual nature of the album in a way which is not necessarily available if one picks up the album in the library and views it as a singular object.

“That’s what I think is really interesting about the digital: repositioning the album in these networks that would have been much more visible to its contemporary readers than they are to us now…I like that ability to disrupt the kinds of reading processes that we’ve settled into,” Cohen said.

Buurma said that many to most of her fellow English department faculty already integrate or are working towards integrating types of text analysis, digital archiving, or contemporary electronic writing, among other digital humanities approaches, into their curriculum. This process has been mostly informal, but Buurma believes that in the spring the department will begin to think in a more concerted and formal fashion about ways in which to integrate, support, and make sustainable these types of computational approaches. Buurma is also hopeful that new classes in the future might be more fully focused on the digital humanities or adjacent fields such as digital methods, and that a newly formed, informal digital humanities student reading group might serve as a resource for thinking about upcoming curricula.

Digital humanities-inflected work at the college goes beyond the English department. Students in Professor of History Allison Dorsey’s class Black Liberation 1969: Black Studies in History Theory and Praxis created a digital archive of the college’s Black protest movement. The archive “challenges visitors to reconsider the stories that have previously constituted the official narrative and to engage with the black experience of Swarthmore in this critical period,” according to the project website, and includes information from college archives, interviews, personal collections of photographs and other documents, and newspaper records. Creative projects on the site feature an interactive map of the the 1969 sit-in spearheaded by students in the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society and a visualization of Black student enrollment data. (See the February 12, 2015 edition of the Phoenix for more articles on the class and archive.)

The college’s contributions to digital humanities work are not limited to campus, however. Since 2009, Buurma has worked with collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania on the Early Novels Database, which aims to make eighteenth-century novels more discoverable and searchable by compiling tables of contents and indexes, careful descriptions of prefaces, introductions, and dedications, title-page genre terms, and footnotes from within the texts.

One of the END’s guiding ideas, Buurma explained, is that eighteenth century novels created multiple methods of telling readers about their content, much as the database seeks to do.

        “They gave readers access to their contents in multiple ways, they thought of literature as a form of knowledge that could be discontinuously accessed or accessed for particular reasons,” Buurma said. The END seeks to reanimate this kind of access, making data about the novels more aggregable and searchable.

In this way, the END highlights the relationships between digital and historical reading practices, similar to the relationship Cohen pointed out in discussing the advantages and dynamism of a digital version of Cassey’s friendship album.

        Though the END is a digital initiative, Buurma said, it is a deeply humanistic project at its heart. It is about collecting a specific, controlled set of data which machines can read, but it is also about students creating personal descriptions of early novels.

“It’s not just that we are using digital tools to do something to or with literature but that there’s a kind of poetics of the bibliographic data that’s at the core of the project.” Buurma and her collaborators are currently working to start up a summer node for the project at Columbia University, and that she and professors from Penn and Columbia are all integrating END data into their courses.

Beyond the END project, Buurma, Anna Levine ’10, and Professor and Chair of History Timothy Burke will all be published in the upcoming issue of Debates in the Digital Humanities, an annual publication which seeks to capture and critique current digital humanities issues. Buurma and Levine’s article looks at the relationship between the digital humanities and liberal arts, using Dorsey’s project as a case study of the ways in which undergraduate digital research can be tremendously useful for audiences both within the college and beyond. Burke’s piece focuses on “The Humane Digital.”

Finally, Tri-Co Digital Humanities, a research and teaching collaboration between Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges, funds faculty research, training in new methods and practices, curricula development, and undergraduate internships and research fellowships. On March 31 and April 1, Tri-co Digital Humanities will host “Re:Humanities,” at Bryn Mawr.  This is the sixth year that the conference — which is the first national digital humanities conference of, for, and by undergraduates, according to the initiative’s website — will be held.

Of course, both challenges and enormous generative possibilities are created in the process of bringing digital approaches and humanistic methods of inquiry to bear upon one another.

With Cohen’s project, making the move from physical object to digital version is necessary work but cannot entirely capture the friendship album’s materiality. The current online version, Cohen said, points to an effort to approximate as closely as possible the original object, though a perfect digital surrogate is not possible.

“When I look at the 3D rendering, all I want to do is hold it, particularly because it was passed from hand to hand and because it’s so affectively rich, I feel like the intimacy of holding the object matters a great deal,” Cohen said. “Digital humanities is cool and valuable and interesting, but it’s always going to be for me tinged with some sadness.”

At the same time, Cohen feels that the album itself predicts its digital future and that the process of digitizing it brings out this very theme.

“So many of the entries are about the slim chances people had of seeing one another again…because mortality rates were higher and the presence of death is always hovering over this album,” Cohen said. “So, so many of the entries are about how writing is an insufficient approximation of physical presence, so there’s a way in which the album itself anticipates the kinds of losses of its own digitization.”

For Buurma, one of the largest challenges posed by digital humanities work is seeing not only the problems but also the advantages.

“A digital facsimile of a text can show you things that holding it in your hands or reading it with your eyes can’t show you,” Buurma said. “There are all kinds of things we can learn about old books and old literature by looking at it in digital form.”

The college may be a uniquely fertile environment for work in the digital humanities.

“Swarthmore people seem very excited about DH and computational approaches to humanities studies,” Buurma said. She explained that the college’s computer science department has expressed tremendous interest in the digital humanities and has been quite open to collaboration.

“That’s a very small liberal arts thing…that’s a great opportunity for me and for teaching and research here that many places don’t have,” Buurma said. “You think of research universities as having the big research resources, you don’t think of liberal arts colleges as the place where new exciting work in fields happens, but of course that happens across Swarthmore, and especially here, we have the conditions to be doing really exciting new work.”

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