ASMCP: The Next Steps

RU busThe main goal of our project thus far has been to research the issues around and the potential remedies of the transportation system at Rutgers University. My personal role has been to reach out to my organization, the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), to see how transportation may have positively or negatively affected our ability to host events for the student body. I have polled my fellow RUPA members, and the general consensus is that the over-crowded and slow busing system at Rutgers makes it difficult to host events on every campus. Most of the members feel that the busing system may deter students from exploring other campuses, and thus reaching diverse events, due to the headache of using the buses, especially on the weekends.

Obviously, this project is still in the early phases of its development, and it certainly needs more research to be done. The first area of research that needs to be focused on is the environmental concern of so many buses on the road. Would more buses, a viable option to fix the overcrowding, harm the environment to an unreasonable extent? Additionally, just how fuel efficient are the buses currently? Many buses sit at student centers for 10 minutes at a time; surely a practice of turning off the bus could save gas and the environment. More research needs to be done to put this part of the documentary into perspective. We should work on contacting professors or graduate students within the University who have done professional research about the environment and the potential harm from bus pollution.

Secondly, research about the safety of the buses needs to be further developed. Overcrowding is more than just a nuisance to students- the amount of people that pack onto buses during peak usage is far from safe. In the event of a bus crashing or breaking down, many students could be severely injured due, in part, to the amount of people on the bus. There is also the issue of crossing College Avenue and other busy New Brunswick streets. Students have be hurt before when crossing, whether they were hit by a car or a bus, and that needs to be addressed. Should we work on the students being educated, or perhaps look into crossing guards or police lookouts during rush hour? These safety issues definitely need more elaboration and research. Contacts could include Public Safety, local police officers, and personal accounts of students.

Finally, more research needs to be conducted on the population management issues. This is where some of my research comes into play. It seems that many students become wary of the transportation system after so many negative encounters that they give up using it almost altogether. Rutgers is a large school, and the fact of the matter is that the tens of thousands of students who attend it need a way to travel between campuses both for class and for leisure activities. Controlling the times of day that students need the bus could be remedied through class time changes, but spreading those out more could be a logistical nightmare. Again, students could be educated about leaving for classes early and learning alternate ways of getting to class (i.e. biking, walking, carpooling with commuters).  In all, the population management issue needs some more research, and certainly some solid quotes from students, to be fully complete.

 

Eastern American Studies Association Conference 2014

Our recent trip to the EASAC was an insightful and interesting experience. While the weather chose not to cooperate with our plans, the group managed to have a fun time while learning about the work of our peers and mentors from the regional area. The conference was held at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and the topics of conversation ranged from photos capturing poverty in the Cold War era, to county music’s place in urban America, to hygiene of the middle class in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I found one topic, however, presented by Bridget O’Keefe of Ramapo College of New Jersey to be the most intriguing. She studied the sexual image of women in the 1950s and 1960s. She presented the idea that women growing up in this time were pulled in two very different directions in regards to their sexuality; on one hand they had the promiscuous Marilyn Monroe and on the other they had the buttoned-up June Cleaver. Even children’s movies of the time confused young women. The villains were old ladies who were mean and husband-less. This taught girls to always be kind, docile, and to find a supportive husband. It was very interesting to hear her insight on this topic, and I would definitely be interested in learning more.

To wrap up our trip, the group made our way to Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the most infamous prisons in the world. The rain and cold weather of the day added an eerie backdrop to the crumbling walls as we toured the grounds. We learned about religious practices among the inmates, the construction of additions, escape attempts, and famous inmates like Al Capone. The penitentiary is certainly a historic building rife with history and the stories of America’s notorious criminals.

Cell Block 12 at Eastern State Penitentiary

Cell Block 12 at Eastern State Penitentiary

Internet Freedom in the Modern World

Surf’s up…on the internet.

The old saying “freedom isn’t free” comes to mind when I contemplate the meaning of internet freedom in today’s modern world. The past two decades have seen an incredible growth in technology and the ability for people to connect thanks to the creation and expansion of the World Wide Web. Popular sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to create profiles at no cost to them, though they may be targeted with eerily specific advertisements. Is the price we pay for the freedom to use the internet with little cost this barrage of advertising? That certainly seems like the case right now according to an article featured on the New York Times detailing the increasing sophistication of advertisements on social media sites.

Aside from the stream of advertisements many internet users face, the United States has a very liberal policy towards internet freedom. The U.S. Department of State’s internet policy (which can be found here) states:

“Our goal is to ensure that any child, born anywhere in the world, has access to the global Internet as an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and express herself free from undue interference or censorship.”

While many Americans take their internet freedom for granted, not all citizens of the world have the same luxury. Internet users in China are experiencing a crackdown on their ability to anonymously surf the web, facing a government that wishes to control all aspects of their internet usage. Though it is difficult for many of us, Americans should strive to pause; to take a moment; to stop hastily scrolling through news feeds, and looking up videos of cats playing the piano, and googling every disease they think they might have contracted. Take some time to appreciate the vast scope of information the internet presents us with and our ability to access it without harsh restrictions.

To help appreciate our freedom to surf the web, please enjoy this video of the Beach Boys’ song “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Digital Humanities and the Rutgers Oral History Archives

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The Digital Humanities include the collection of information via means utilizing modern technology to support the teachings of traditional topics. A site that was discussed in the presentations that supports this idea would be the Guantánamo Public Memory Project. It is a collection of audio, video, and print interviews of people who spent time on Guantánamo base. The site also includes a fairly comprehensive timeline of information about the base from the late 19th century up to the present day. The site allows users to search through these interviews and learn more about history, a process that incorporates and mirrors my working definition of Digital Humanities.

Similar in structure to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, the Rutgers Oral History Archives is another site that incorporates the use of Digital Humanities. This site was established through Rutgers University’s School of Arts and Sciences as a database for approximately 700 interviews with men and women veterans of war. The interviews are conducted orally and then transcribed and published to the site where they can be searched through and accessed for research. My mother’s father, Frank Gimpel, is a graduate of Rutgers University and a veteran of World War II. He was interviewed for this project, and being able to read his interview about his time at Rutgers and his experiences in the Army was an enlightening experience for me. Excerpts from his interview were featured in Tom Kindre’s book The Boys from New Jersey, and his photograph can be seen in the bottom right corner of the photo above.