Coordinator Digital Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Hub
California Polytechnic State University
One of the challenges posed by traditional memoir is its heavy reliance on salient, poignant memories to shape a compelling narrative. Repetitive, entrenched rehearsals of such outsized events can obscure clearer remembrance of larger and potentially more interesting patterns. We are all, in a sense, blind to both our past and present. This presentation explores how spreadsheets, maps, and data visualization tools both substantively altered the construction of a book-length memoir and led to the creation of an assignment on racial mapping for a large-section undergraduate class. In the memoir’s deliberate engagement with topology and topography, the use of digital tools helped chart friendships, racial ambiguities, and violence across a contested Seattle neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s. The assignment that evolved with this work provides a lightweight way for undergraduates from any discipline to use digital tools in exploring race in the neighborhood where they grew up. Students often spend more time on the assignment than they are required to because they find it so interesting. This presentation is designed to encourage everyone to engage in alternate tools for thinking about where they grew up and to showcase the assignment that introduces even tech-wary students to the value of digital visualization tools.