Last Wednesday, Maureen and I delivered our final presentation of our website. We both felt pleased with the final site and our experiences throughout the semester.
At a point in the semester when I’m looking back on all of my classes (and paying the bill for the next set), I think it’s useful to reflect on what I’ve learned. While we have covered a great deal in this course, my two biggest takeaways are improved digital skills and new connections to LEF and its members.
This course was my capstone project for my digital studies minor. Through it, I learned how to participate in a course online through Zoom and Slack, strengthened my skills in website design and audio publishing, and learned how to use Google My Maps and TimelineJS. I’m particularly looking forward to exploring how Google My Maps can be useful for other projects and personal interests.
The other aspect of the project I feel most grateful for was the opportunity to visit LEF and meet its members. Maureen and I share a passion for sustainability, and it was eye-opening to meet a community of people who fully devote themselves to that ideal and manage to live fairly comfortably. Being involved with environmental activism in Virginia, it was refreshing and hopeful to learn about a different possible approach to the climate crisis.
This past month (November) has been a very busy one. Through the constant contact with LEF we were able to plan a visit in the early weeks of the month. Our first visit was amazing. It was extremely eye-opening, not only because it was the first intentional community we had ever been to, but becuase it was so neat to meet the families, interact with the children, receive a full tour, and have lunch with them. During our first visit we took some notes/pictures on the tour but towards the end of the day we had already began discussing the next possible time we could come back. The following week the interviews were conducted the interviews. I loved this part because it was so personal and very interesting to hear the different thoughts people had about the community. After the interviews the children gave a tour of the ducks and their home. It was an extremely wonderful experience to feel so included within the community. As we finish up our project in the coming weeks I hope we are able to really open the eyes of others to this unique way of life. I think the areas we have within the website work to section off the different information and allow for people to fully understand the desire for this community.
This week, Savannah and I will be editing the project website by adding information for each of our pages; “Home Page”, “About the Authors”, “History”, “Interviews”, “Life and Responsibilities”, “Photographs”,”Principles of the Community”, and “Programs Offered”. We currently don’t have enough information to supply some of the pages like “Life and Resposibilites”, “Photographs”, and “Principles of the Community”, but we will add more as we get interviews from its members and founders.
We have to figure out how to re-order the list of pages on out project website, so that they aren’t alphabetical and so that the home page pops up when arriving at the site.
I spent last week into the weekend applying for an IRB review of my future visit to MorningSun, and it should be getting approved today. I will visit MorningSun by the end of the week, most likely on Sunday. I’m very eager and excited to go to MorningSun in order to fill in all the gaps in my understanding of their community. I know that there are only 9 members of MorningSun, according to the website, and I really want to know if they live there full time or not, and how much of their resources that they’re able to get from their own land and work.
This past weekend, we finally got a chance to visit the Living Energy Farm. Getting there was challenging, from finding the right address to walking the half-mile path from the end of the driveway to the main building.
When we first arrived, we found two young adults sitting in a warm living room with four kids running around and playing happily with toys. The two young people turned out to be visiting for a couple of weeks through a national tour of different intentional communities. Then we met Debbie Piesen and Alexis Zeigler, who showed us around the Farm and talked to us about our project.
On the tour, I was struck by the amount of powerful and simple technology that LEF members made from scratch. One example I particularly admired was the heating system, which collects hot air from the roof and blows it underneath the house using a solar powered pump.
While I was somewhat concerned by the possibility that the members of LEF might view a website as an unnecessary extension of the industrial world, Alexis seemed excited by the idea that our project might help outsiders better understand the mission of the Farm.
My Keene Project Sight designed to be easily navigated. Right now, the contract is up as the “home” page when you visit. This is going to remain on the front of the website until it is finished. This ensures that if anyone visits the sight that they will understand that it is being built. The different tabs on the side of the page include About the Authors, History, Home Page, Interviews, Life and Responsibilities, Photo’s, Principles of the Community, and Programs Offered. These are going to be reorganized in a different order (If I can ever figure it out, someone told me and I forgot already!). I have deleted an “analysis” page that I originally intended on having to extend my thoughts in the community, however, I will integrate this information in with the rest of the website.
I plan on having many links embedded into the website that can take the reader to new places to continue their learning of communities. Soon we will have pictures and quotes integrated into our website to add to the presentation.
<Shout out to Dana for knowing things about computers>
This was my first experience building a website in my life. My experience was not so much as building it as it was of helping Dana create the website as I was next to her and tried to give ideas about how to get the website to look good and work.
Our main thinking about the website was to make it simple to readers and to show them what the monks did at the Abbey through our pictures. We also wanted to set up the website so we can easily put our documents in places that combine with our analysis and differing opinions.
I finally published my website – or, at least the outlines of it! If you go and visit it, you’ll see my contract and then an about the author page. There are options in the menu, but nothing in those options as of right now. I plan on adding some more to it tomorrow.
I don’t have much news on my front, as I’m still waiting to have another interview. While I wrote down the previous interview, I did not record it in any way. I hope to conduct the interview in a different way this time so that I can either record it or videotape it. Hopefully I will hear back from Quinn soon.
Since Dr. Schact and Dr. Schleef always ask us if we have or had any problems with WordPress, I’ll say that what I posted today included a learning process. Most of the work I did today was just messing with the options on WordPress and looking back at the website to see if I liked its appearance. There weren’t any problems, though I did have to make some notes (i.e. this button will do this). But I think WordPress is not as daunting now.
There’s still some things I don’t know how to do with WordPress (and inevitably, other things that I’ll have to learn), but I think I like the way my website looks right now.
We all know that navigating unfamiliar sites is hard enough, but navigating our own was a really interesting task. Cody and I met up on Sunday night to look over our extremely bare-bones project website and get to work. We pulled from other students’ course websites to get some inspiration for “Pages” we could make to allow site visitors to easily access our project’s conclusions.
Cody and I settled on pages titled “About Us”, “Our Contract,” “Media,” “Differing Perspectives,” and “Our Conclusion,” while agreeing we may add more depending on the sort of data we collect along the way. I think it’s important for site visitors to know a little bit about our personal interests in the course, and it helps build a relationship even if it may be a virtual one. We think of this section as more colloquial and friendly. Our contract still needs editing but we can’t work on that until we’ve talked to the monks one-on-one. “Media” will include photographs and videos obtained from the visits to the abbey, as well as archived photos and videos. “Differing Perspectives” will allow us to further explore our conclusion but in a more personal sense where both Cody and I can write about our experience with the project and our differing interpretations of the collected data. Our conclusion will be a comprehensive collection of both Cody and my work and will be less separated than the aforementioned page.
Today we applied to be exempt from review by the Institutional Review Board and hopefully will hear back soon. I don’t think Cody and I knew what we were getting into; the process is tricky and it seems like they’re looking for very precise responses from us. In general, I hope that we are accepted as exempt because it’s a shorter wait process. As soon as we have the OK, we will begin interviewing the monks.
Sarah and I spent the morning going over how we want to design our archive. Our goal is to focus on specific aspects of the community and using those topics as the main features on the site. This would allow for visitors who are navigating the sight to use the visuals as a tool in order to understand the main areas of the archives. When they click on a specific picture they will be taken to a new page that will hold all the information collected regarding it. I think this will allow for both a very well-functioning site that people can learn a lot from and also be very pleasing to the eye. We were also planning to have a bar that have a few sections such as about us and our contract. This will allow for a little background information on how we created the archives and why.