Digital Place Making: Mapping Hartford Puerto Rican Public Art

  1. Course Description

Beyond Traditional: Contemporary Understandings of Puerto Rican Culture (Spring 2022)

An island uniquely characterized by a liminal political status and a dominant stateside diaspora, the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been the subject of renewed national attention in the wake of the devastating 2017 Hurricane María and the 2019 “Verano Boricua” which saw the ousting of the governor, Ricardo Rosselló. This course interrogates Puerto Rican culture on its own terms – shifting from traditional definitions of identity formation to contemporary critiques centering historically marginalized communities amidst ongoing climate and economic precarity. Students will work hands-on analyzing diverse (im)material cultural productions, originating from the island and stateside diasporas. Students will engage with Puerto Rican cultural workers as they develop new, critical understandings of the island’s cultural legacy and its future.

2. The Role Of StoryMap JS In The Course

The spring 2022 iteration of this course culminated in a final digital storytelling project wherein students created a virtual tour of Puerto Rican diasporic spaces of public art in Hartford, Connecticut (e.g., murals, sculptures).

  1. The class was broken up into small groups (4-5 students) each representing one of the designated public art sites, and individual team members were responsible for creating story maps around one of the following themes:
    • Visual Description
    • Context of Production in Hartford
    • Physical Location and Target Audiences
    • Broader Cultural Significance
  2. Demo Assignment
    • Students were introduced to StoryMap JS in a single class session. Class time was divided between an overview of the platform and the basic features for creating and editing a story map by one of instructional technologist collaborators; and a practice period where students were provided the transcript of an ethnographic interview.
    • The interview was conducted by one of our class speakers, an arts educator and community activist, who curates immersive cultural experiences for the Puerto Rican diaspora. The interview detailed a narration of one Puerto Rican family’s intergenerational experiences of migration and the spaces that impacted them.
    • Students worked individually on their laptops with an Individual Student Google Form Template created by instructional technologist, Cait Kennedy.
      • They were prompted to review the interview and note spaces mentioned.
      • They were instructed to craft (based on past class lessons and the interview content) a theme that would guide their making of virtual tour of the spaces that were mentioned the interview (e.g., schools, churches).
      • As a starting point, students were initially broken up into small groups and provided a space mentioned in the interview as their first virtual tour site.
    • In the following class period, the instructor led a class discussion about the difficulties that they encountered (e.g., timing, deciding on the specificity of virtual tour site locations, locating relevant and related media content) in their first attempt at digital storytelling. The instructor and instructional technologist met to consider next steps for empowering student confidence with StoryMap JS and adapting final project planning to allow for additional feedback support.
  3. Types Of Class Interaction Between Library Staff Collaborators & Students
    • In-Class Training / Introduction to Digital Tool
    • Responding to Student Questions (e.g., email, forum on class website)
    • Check-In Class Visits (review student group progress towards class assignment with Cait Kennedy supervising StoryMap JS work and Dave Tatem supervising Blippar work)
    • Project Presentations (inviting feedback on completed student work)
    • Process Papers (sharing student discussion of design process)
  4. Evaluating Digital Student Work

The following sample checklist offers ideas for the expectations to include in a rubric and for types of associated writing that might be assigned alongside a story map.

The final project checklist for each student in Beyond Traditional consisted of:

  • A link to a published StoryMap JS project
  • A completed and functioning augmented reality design in Blippar (The benefit of using multiple digital tools in one assignment is that the students are exposed to different types of platforms and can better compare the functionality of each digital tool.)
  • Annotated bibliography (description and evaluation of sources consulted for project)
  • Process Paper (critical overview of student design process as digital storytellers – Process Paper Template created by Mary Mahoney, Trinity College Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
  • Reflection Memo / Public Engagement Recommendations (student description of the recommendations of what steps their virtual tour would need to take prior to future public dissemination to intentionally think about the parameters for responsible, ethical storytelling)

This projected is associated with the course: Beyond Traditional: Contemporary Understandings of Puerto Rican Culture

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