I’m posting this a few months after the fact, but I think about this project often, so I thought it would be worthwhile to write about. Maybe I’ll even inspire some others to use their digital humanities skills for an immediately meaningful and useful purpose.
I took a course last semester that taught me how to use ARCgis and its online StoryBuilder component to create maps for projects in the humanities. The actual title of the course was “Geospatial Narratives: Deep Mapping for Humanities and Social Sciences.” As a first assignment that would help students learn the basic skills of digital cartography, we were given a handful of research subjects to choose from. I, along with three other students, chose Stony Brook’s sustainability efforts on campus. Our task was to find all the ways that Stony Brook was working to become cleaner and greener. I’m proud to say that the campus does an admirable job at reducing waste, increasing energy efficiency, recycling, and promoting bicycling (among other things). Our team, of which I was the facilitator, then selected the items that were able to be mapped: small recycling bins (with separate units for bottles, cans, paper, printer toner, ink cartridges, batteries, cell phones, and e-waste), large recycling bins (essentially the size of dumpsters), solar powered trash compactors, water bottle refill stations, energy efficient lights, and the new freight farm (a year-round hydroponic vegetable garden).
Only a month into the semester, our map was published. In fact, it was displayed at the SUNY Sustainability Conference on October 6, 2015. It was a great feeling of accomplishment and gratification to see my own work being broadcast before a variety of people from across New York State. This was one of the best projects I’d ever worked on. It was a true “authentic learning experience.” I genuinely cared about my research, composition, and publication. I’ve often thought about this assignment since. When I give my own students assignments, I want them to be just as engaged as I was with my sustainability map. To see the map, follow the link below.