Thesis Defense: A Board Game

With this workshop project, my friends and I sought to find a way to turn the codes of academia–often a source of stress for graduate students and faculty alike–into a space for play. We focused our efforts on the thesis defense, perhaps the most anxiety-inducing of academic rituals. Our hope was that we could create a new iteration of that ritual that would allow participants to play both with the textual layer of a defense–the thesis titles and theoretical concepts that mark it–and, importantly, with its emotional valences.  

Participants rotate between the roles of ‘thesis defendant’ and ‘committee member.’ In each round, the participant deemed the thesis defendant selects a fictional thesis title from a pile of title cards, designed to be absurd and open-ended (e.g. Food Chams: Competitive Eating in the Chameleon Disapora; Das Kapitalization: a case against Anglophone titular conventions; Stop Socra-teasing me: Pitfalls of the Socratic Method; Whence the Stapler?). Participants deemed the ‘committee members’ select a theoretical concept (e.g. Debord’s ‘spectacle,’ Foucault’s ‘governmentality,’ and Zuckerman’s ‘digital cosmopolitanism.’) Committee members remain committed to their theoretical orientations, thesis defendants try to please everyone, and all participants attempt to build their academic empires. Rather than putting forth a rigid set of rules, we wanted to offer up a variety of options for players to experiment within this frame.

If you would like to play yourself or just check out our concept, you can find all of the necessary materials here:



stacks+ : Augmenting Serendipitous Discovery in the Library

For our workshop class in Fall of 2014, my peers and I were given the challenge of designing an experience for Google Glass. My group was most interested in doing something within the space of the library and information gathering. stacks+ was born out of that assignment.

stacks+ is an application designed for mobile and wearable platforms which augments the stack-browsing experience by showing titles missing from the shelves and making other kinds of connections between resources visible in order to encourage serendipitous discovery

Researchers and other library users rely on the stacks, along with reference librarians and electronic search tools, to help them find new resources and avenues for exploration—when a patron retrieves a book, a host of relevant titles are laid out for her in its vicinity. But what about when that perfect neighboring book happens to be checked out or in offsite storage? What if other types of information could be added to the stacks’ interface? Leveraging immersive, lightweight technology and designed with input from librarians and researchers, the stacks+ application addresses common frustrations and missed opportunities in the library browsing experience.

Library patrons often have difficulty finding not only the books they are looking for but also those that could be useful if the patron were only aware of them. Indeed, library browsing can be unwieldy, with long call numbers spread across stacks on multiple floors or in multiple wings, which further exacerbates problems in conducting library-based research. Thus, we hope to facilitate library browsing in order to make research more seamless, more serendipitous, and thus more productive.

Thus far our team has prototyped the design of the stacks+ application for Google Glass. We have in this pursuit explored design precedents and problems of both the technology and the unique context of libraries, particularly when in terms of research. This process included some ethnographic research involving librarians and library users. We look forward to working on this project again soon.

Transmedia Star Wars

Photo Dec 05, 10 43 39 PMTransmedia Star Wars was an immersive learning project at Ball State University. A group of students from different disciplines created a tablet application to accompany the Science of Star Wars exhibition at the Indiana State Museum. The app, intended to inform and educate, featured six groups of Hoosiers who were inspired by the Star Wars films to create something in their fields. A variety of groups were represented, ranging from filmmakers to prosthetic experts.

I was the writer for the filmmaker’s portion of the app. I also assisted in the planning for our section, and I participated in usability evaluations and prototyping for the app as a whole.

Below are some screenshots from the app.

Mad Men Client Book

MadMenFor the Interactive Design course for the Digital Media minor, we were given a three days to create a short prototype of a mobile interactive experience based off of an already existing narrative. The goal of the assignment was to introduce us to prototyping software, like Balsamiq, and to animation software, like Adobe Edge Animate.

I created a prototype of a “client book” where fans of Mad Men could go to find a summary about the clients from the show. The idea was to give users a look into the “private” files of the advertising firm, and to allow users to refresh on the background of the clients for each new season.

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Immersive Project

Home page.
Home page.

This seven month immersive project, made possible by Ball State University, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, and community donors, had five parts:

  • Digital Archive Exhibit
  • Digital Film Exhibit
  • Traveling Exhibit
  • Gift Shop Merchandise
  • Marketing Plan

Though every student assisted in the creation of all of these assets, we were each assigned a team. I was assigned to the digital archive exhibit team, which was tasked with creating an extensive interactive exhibit encompassing Vonnegut’s roles as author, artist, activist, and Hoosier. On the archive exhibit team, I primarily served as the coordinator for the team. I made sure that we were meeting our deadlines, organized all of the assets that we collected, and communicated with the designer. I also served as document photographer on each of our research trips to the archive of Vonnegut’s work at the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington. By the end of the project, I edited 600+ images of Vonnegut’s personal papers, and I wrote 50+ blurbs and selected the photos to accompany them. The final exhibit was loaded onto a 27″ iMac and gifted to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. A condensed version of this exhibit accompanies the traveling exhibit on two iPads.

I also assisted with the marketing portion of the project. I designed an intensive marketing survey with the assistance of my professor and disseminated the survey to the Library’s patrons via email and social media. 448 people completed the survey. Then, my professor and I analyzed the data and constructed a list of adjustments to their current marketing plan. I was elected to present the findings of the survey to the Library’s board of directors.

Below are some screenshots from the exhibit.

Update: In the Fall of 2013, I was given the opportunity to resume work on this project through an independent study with Professor Rai Peterson which culminated in a lecture tour about Kurt Vonnegut alongside the traveling exhibit in Germany in February 2014. We gave a workshop on teaching Vonnegut’s work to university and high school educators, and we spoke about Vonnegut’s heritage to an audience which, to our surprise, included some of Vonnegut’s relatives. For me, the highlight of the trip was getting to see Dresden, to learn about Dresden before and after the bombing and most importantly to visit Slaughterhouse Five where Vonnegut was held as a prisoner of war during the bombing of Dresden in WWII.


Transmedia Indiana

426116_234938209927485_1137004727_nTransmedia Indiana was an immersive learning project at Ball State University. In partnership with the Indiana State Museum and the Town of New Harmony, a group of twenty-six students worked together to create a 45,000 word interactive ebook based upon actual artifacts from Indiana’s history. For more information about the project, please visit these links:

For this project, my partner and I planned and executed a two day live event at the museum in 1,500 square feet of exhibit space. The event featured a few of the real artifacts mentioned within the narrative, a fictional “case file” bulletin board full of clues and coordinates central to the story, a collection of easels featuring images of New Harmony, a SCVNGR challenge, and computers and tablets from which visitors could visit the fictional and nonfictional websites and preview the book. Here is footage from the event:

My partner and I were also responsible for all social media and email marketing campaigns for the project. Over the course of one semester, we reached ~1,000 people via Twitter, Facebook, and ExactTarget.