This website began as an assignment as I was trying to define the rationale and parameters of my project. I stumbled upon the International River Boundaries Database (IRBD) and realized
its significance. But it has taken five years to articulate and realize my vision. In making this website I realized a few things:
First, I realized that an endeavor like this is continuous and iterative. While the IRBD has been an invaluable resource, I have realized that I will need to do more research to produce more granular information and histories. Such granular data and stories would help me accentuate the environmental and ecological contexts of border rivers. When I had first conceived of the project, I hadn’t factored for an iterative and continuously evolving website. Understanding the long-term commitment has actually been liberating, as I now see this website as an extension of my doctoral research.
Second, the importance of design. When I first conceived of this project, I had a very simple design in mind. In trying to design this website, I realized that I should have spent more time thinking about the design not just for aesthetics but also about site navigation. While I am currently happy with what the site does, I am also thinking about additional layers/changes I would want to make in time to add more depth to the website and user experience.
Third, breaking and building never gets easier but it does get less stressful. Having been a CHI fellow before, I thought I would break lesser. Of course, that was not the case. Given that the map was the centerpiece of the website, I really wanted to make sure it looked great. However, every time I did, it would kind of freeze the map. It took looking for many solutions till I finally fixed some of the issues. Some remained, for which thankfully my CHI colleagues helped. A positive realization though was that every break did not stress me out as much as it did the first time around.
Fourth, making a website has created more questions about digital pedagogy, ones that I plan to wade through while adding to the website. I really wanted to create a pedagogical project through my senior fellowship. During this year, I have thought more closely about digital pedagogy, specifically, thinking about design, usability, scalability, and of course content. In building this website, I have tried to work with these questions constructively, fueling my design and content accordingly. This is not to say, I have answered the questions but more so realizing that this is an iterative process. The particular historical moment we are in i.e. the current pandemic is only further asking questions about digital pedagogy and its place in knowledge creation and dissemination. I think there are more questions than answers, which is perhaps an important point of germination.
Fifth, as much as it feels out of body every time I do it, coding is fun! For the longest time I didn’t think of myself as someone who could code. It was daunting. Thus being a CHI fellow twice has been an immense learning experience. Coding isn’t that scary anymore, even if it is still frustrating. CHI has been such an immense learning experience. But more than that I genuinely value the camaraderie that the fellowship fosters. We meet once a week for eight hours and by the end of the year are a cohort. Even in the middle of a pandemic, with only Zoom meetings for over six weeks, I still feel a part of a cohort and have learned so much from my colleagues.