Although we still have a couple of weeks left of the Summer Studio Fellowship experience, I’d like to use this blog post to think through some of my overall takeaways from my time working on my project, which is a series of data visualizations and video essays on the racial and gender politics of the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Granted, I’m still very much in the process of working on my project, so I’m grateful that the summer isn’t over quite yet!
First, I’d like to pick up on where my last blog post left off, which was a reflection on the notion of “data” and how this concept is used (or avoided) in various academic fields. Looking back at this post today, it screams “DATA ANXIETY!” While I was certainly working with and organizing my data at this point, I was avoiding using Excel due to my lack of experience with the program and a general aversion to numbers – I haven’t taken a math class since high school and I’m pretty loyal to my “scholarly identity” as a humanist. After meeting with my Studio point-of-contact, Ethan DeGross, and discussing the best way to go about data visualization, it became pretty clear that Excel was going to be necessary. So, I took the plunge, and through some helpful Google tutorials, I was able to organize my data in a logical way on a spreadsheet and generate some pretty cool graphs, pie charts, and visualizations. This leads me to one of my key takeaways from my fellowship experience, which is the importance of going outside of your methodological comfort zone. This project simply wouldn’t be possible if I stuck only to the tools and methods that I am used to using in my research.
Second, I’m really grateful to Studio staff for stressing the importance of realistic, incremental goals. Even back in February, when I applied for this fellowship, the staff emphasized that the fellowship was meant to be an “experience” rather than a “one-and-done” sort of process, where we are expected to finish the summer with a completed project. When I met with Dr. Whaley at the beginning of the summer, she recommended setting a goal of completing 3 video essays by the end of the fellowship, and suggested that these should be on the shorter side (close to 3 minutes each) so that they are easily accessible for viewers. While I have found it difficult to keep the length down to 3 minutes, I’ve found this goal to be the perfect stopping point for the summer. Of course, there are a million different directions this project could take after the summer is over, but I’m really pleased with this milestone. Check back in with me in a couple weeks, and hopefully those 3 videos have been published to my website!
Lastly, I think all of us Summer Fellows deserve a round of applause for the work that we’ve accomplished while in the middle of a global pandemic! I’m sure I’m not the only one who was disappointed when I realized that this experience would need to be completely done remotely. For me, this meant that productivity was more difficult to come by, as I’m stuck in my own apartment most of the time where it’s easy to get distracted. While the work that we’re doing this summer would be impressive regardless, I commend everyone for getting it done in these bizarre conditions!