by Jessica Slentz
It’s a steamy June day in Washington, D.C. The air is hot and damp, and outside my garden-level apartment hovers the chatter of a bustling DuPont Circle work week. As I type, I am surrounded by notebooks, folders of articles, books on conducting qualitative research projects and final drafts of the interview questions I am using to collect ethnographic data for my dissertation. I am in D.C. studying visitors’ experiences with the touch-table instillation currently on exhibit in the National Archives’ David M. Rubenstein Gallery, and I am here thanks to the English Department’s Dean’s Fellowship, which I was awarded at the end of my first year at Case.
The Dean’s Fellows program asks students to envision and propose interdisciplinary and inter-institutional projects that foster connections between cultural institutions and organizations close to Case and others nationally or internationally. The project that I proposed for my Dean’s Fellows application has, over the past two years, grown and narrowed into my dissertation project. My dissertation investigates the rhetorical experiences composed by and through interaction with digital haptic interfaces in spaces of cultural exhibition, examining how and why such interfaces persuade the visitor to take up particular interpretive positions. Due to the innovative nature of their recent installation of exhibition technologies, which invite visitors to participate in previously institutional activities in ways that are unique to these institutions, and with the support of the Dean’s Fellowship, I am conducting this ethnographic study within the Cleveland Museum of Art, in Cleveland, Ohio, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Being a Dean’s Fellow has been a fun and exciting endeavor, in addition to being incredibly intellectually stimulating and productive. I have learned so much about myself as a scholar, as well as gained practical experience in identifying research sites, applying for external grants, learning new research methods, applying for IRB approval, collaborating with outside institutions, and being open to new questions that arise in the course of my work. In subsequent blog posts in this series I will expand on these different parts of my experience; my next post will focus on how the very process of applying for the fellowship helped hone and direct my research ever since.
Being a Dean’s Fellow has been such an invigorating and fulfilling process to date, and I cannot wait for the next phase of seeing my idea’s to fruition.
To that end … it’s time to get back to work. Until next time!