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Introducing our Undergraduate Research Fellows

Adnan Islam, "2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa - We Own It (Fast & Furious)" CC BY 2013

We’re thrilled to announce this year’s undergraduate research fellows! Each year, the BCNM selects four graduate student projects that we believe will both interest and prove engaging to undergraduates. Undergraduates apply to be a research fellow for these projects. Once selected, they have the opportunity to work on high-level research in concert with our graduates, who mentor them on research methods and tools. Congratulations all!

Carmen Zheng is working with Ritwik Banerji on Music, Improvisation, and Ethnography. Carmen is responsible for transcribing field recordings of conversations between the researcher and ethnographic subjects, collected during fieldwork over the past several years. The recordings are conversations that occur in the context of the researcher asking musicians to play with an interactive music system designed to listen, respond, and play like a human musician and subsequently asking the musician to evaluate and offer critical feedback on how the system behaves. The transcription task allows the assistant to become well-versed in the techniques of conversation analysis (CA) research, a research tradition widely used in the fields of sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and related fields. For each recording, the assistant is to produce two texts: 1) a transcription according to CA conventions, notating pauses, simultaneous speech, and other typical features of conversation, and 2) a “legible” text, one without the CA conventions and more easily readable for a typical scholarly audience unfamiliar with the conventions of CA. This project also allows Carmen to become familiar with research in human-computer, musical, and social interaction research. Carmen is a perfect Fellow, having worked with transcriptions and text-editing as an RA at Haas. She’s excited to work ethnographic communities and music in particular. She’s looking forward to developing these skills for her own thesis, which is on the coverage of war in Afghanistan.

Jenny Jiang will be mentored by Jenni Higgs, who is researching Digital Talk in Education — the interactive written communication that occurs in networked online spaces—in K-12 classrooms nationwide. While a well-established body of research has shown that classroom discussion can support student learning, less is known about digital talk as a mediating tool for learning. With the popularity of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in classrooms and the increasing traction of digital talk in schools, the project studies not only discourse features of digital talk, but also the afforded communicative possibilities for learning and the ways in which its use is organized. Using Subtext/AR360, a popular interactive e-reader application designed to support classroom talk around texts, used by approximately 3,600 teachers throughout the US, Jenni will apply computation text analysis to explore digital talk on an unprecedented scale. Studying Subtext/AR360 use in classrooms holds the potential to yield particularly rich insights due to this combination of widespread adoption, unscripted support of various types of classroom talk, and digitized data access. Jenny is a Media Studies and Statistics double major with a minor in Education, so was a perfect fit for this project! With a strong interest in data science, she is excited to apply her data analytics skills to develop new visualizations.

Seth Lu is teaming up with Juliana Friend on Many to Many: Building an Interactive Ethnographic Archive. Many to Many is an interactive online archive of ethnographic conversations recorded around the world. A collaboration between the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM) and the Department of Anthropology, Many-to-Many harnesses new media tools to trace global connections and probe the possibilities of collaborative ethnography. Seth will work collaboratively with anthropology students to create this online interface that allows users to easily upload audio, video, or text-only conversations to the website and trace connections between conversations recorded across the globe. In particular, Seth will be building an app allowing users with limited internet access to record and upload conversations to the site. He will also be exploring innovative ways to connect conversations by theme, region, and/or shared linguistic content, and will develop strategies to visualize these connections on the page. A freshman at UC Berkeley, Seth has already served as a freelance programmer for several companies, and is fluent in all the major programming languages, making him a real asset to the Many to Many team!

Canyon Perry is joining Yairamaren Roman Maldonado on her work on Literary and Digital Avant-Gardes in Post-National Puerto Rico. Yaira has collected digital stories about everyday life and colonialism in Puerto Rico. Upon completion of a pilot workshop of contemporary literature and production of digital stories offered to youth in the island, she returned to Berkeley with hours of audio recordings and six digital stories. Yaira now hopes to process this data and build a website to share the results to a broader audience, so that the research is in close conversation with the broader framework of public digital humanities and engaged scholarship. This semester, Canyon will transcribe and code the audio records and stories in MaxQDA, before designing a digital platform to accompany the information produced. Canyon was interested in the project as a humanities student seeking to promote awareness of underrepresented narratives. The role of this research in preserving history and combating historical erasure, especially histories surrounding colonialism and its continuing economic, political, and social effects, provides Canyon with the opportunity to actively work towards encouraging discourse and engaging with history.

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