Undergraduate Research Dispatch: Canyon Perry

25 May, 2017

Undergraduate Research Dispatch: Canyon Perry

This year, BCNM initiated its undergraduate research fellowships, which offer undergraduates the chance to engage in direct research experience with BCNM graduates. Canyon Perry was selected to work with Yaira Roman Madonado on her project Literary and Digital Avant-Gardes in Post-National Puerto Rico.

Yaira 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 hoped 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 transcribed and coded 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.

In his own words:

Working as a research assistant was one of the most rewarding challenges I have taken on at Cal. When I first got the email from Yaira asking for help with transcription and website design for her project, I thought there was no way I would be selected. But I knew how great Yaira was, and the research sounded interesting, so I had to apply. Yaira had helped lead a workshop on everyday life and colonialism with a group of teenagers in her home country of Puerto Rico. The workshop also included literature, tools and strategies for the youth to create their own digital narratives. The project has allowed me to work with these real people and their stories. It has shown me the power of new media, both for documenting and presenting narratives. I have learned about the sensitivity required when recording and exhibiting someone else’s personal story; the responsibility of remaining faithful to the storyteller is incredibly important. Despite my initial fears and reservations, I loved working on the project. Yaira was flexible and understanding; I had a lot of room to be creative and self-direct my work. The work taught how to manage my time and meet deadlines in a way that I had never had to do before in a traditional classroom. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had, and I would definitely recommend working in the Center for New Media to anyone who likes thinking about people and the stories we tell.