When we were told that the CHI was going completely online I realized how different fellowship would look completely virtual. Throughout the semester we do rapid development projects which allow us to work in small groups with other fellows. These projects include a project vision document, creating a project pitch website based on the vision document, and making an interactive data visualization website.

Our first and second rapid development projects, Lillian Young (MFA Studio Art), Sari Saba-Sadiya (Computer Science and Neuroscience), and I (Biological Anthropology) created a vision document and then the pitch website for a project called “Curation to Context: A Map of Your Own Backyard”. The vision document was fun to think about all of the ways that we could bring this project to life, each bringing our own experiences and background to the project and quickly getting overzealous with what we could do for this website. When creating the pitch website we soon realized our different levels of experience in coding. I have to thank Sari, a PhD candidate in computer science, for hanging with Lillian and me as we wrapped our brains around GitHub pages, HTML, and CSS. While Sari could have made aspects of the website in a fourth of the time that Lillian and I worked through issues, he stuck through it with us and let us fix our technical issues after we (inevitably) would break something. The team effort made this project 100% better than if we would have worked alone. Sure, we could have all made our own pitch websites and would have been able to figure things out on our own but between Lillian’s artistic eye, Sari’s technical expertise, my attention to detail, and all of our passion for the project, we were able to make something we were all proud of creating building on each other’s technical and cultural knowledge.

Our third challenge, the data visualization website, included Juan Carlos Rico Noguera (Socio-cultural Anthropology), Sari, and myself. We aimed to visualized changes throughout UNESCO through the World Heritage milestones throughout the years (UNESCO: Changes through the Ages). Using a JavaScript library, we were able to build a few visualizations designed to represent the sites by year of inception, the frequency of cultural versus natural criteria when deciding on the creation of a world heritage site, and the frequency of endangered sites by these criteria. Figuring out how to extract all of the types of data from web pages, clean the data, and then structure it for our visualizations was a challenge until Sari found a Wiki to CSV converted which definitely streamlined the process. After getting comfortable with HTML and CSS from the previous challenge, and still working within GitHub pages, the mindset shift of adding JavaScript took a bit of getting used to at first. We finally got the hang of it but I am sure the next challenge of geospatial web mapping will push us even further.

Besides learning the technical features of the projects, one of my biggest personal challenges in these rapid development projects is the emphasis on rapid. As I said before, my attention to visual detail is one of the traits that I think I bring to the teams. The “rapid” aspect of these projects has made me realize that maybe some details can wait and at some point, you have to be done. These projects test our skills using GitHub pages, HTML, JavaScript libraries, but most importantly, they push us to work quickly through a project working together to understand the inner workings of building our projects but also learning how to work with one another balancing each other’s knowledge and supporting one another throughout the process.