Doctoral Student Ryan Burns Selected to Present on Digital Scholarship at UW HuskyFest 2012

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns, doctoral student in Geography and Simpson Center Public Scholarship Fellow, has been invited to share his research at HuskyFest 2012, as part of the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Showcase. The UW is hosting HuskyFest—a three-day campus-wide festival showcasing the university’s dynamic scholarship and activities—to celebrate its 150th anniversary. HuskyFest, which takes place April 19-21, will feature a variety of activities, including live music, food, dance, lectures, demonstrations, interactive booths, open houses, art exhibits, tours, giveaways and much more.

Burns will present his work with the project Mapping Youth Journeys (MYJ), a multiyear website development and research initiative that uses new mapping technologies to engage young people in exploring their everyday geographies and spatial histories. Geography faculty members Sarah Elwood and Katharyne Mitchell are supervising the MYJ grant.

As a research assistant to the MYJ project, Burns used open-source mapping technology to develop an interface for the MYJ website that allowed youth participants from Aki Kurose middle school and Seattle Girls School to participate in digital storytelling and to document their everyday experiences as they relate to particular places. This project, interactive and visual in nature, is part of Burns’ broader interest in public scholarship and in the potential of digital media to foster new kinds of participation and political interventions.

“Engaging in digital technologies open a lot of avenues for scholars,” says Burns. “They expand opportunities for nonlinear forms of learning in the classroom and beyond it and also offer different ways of thinking though information.  As a researcher, they allow me to communicate my findings to broader audiences, and they provide a channel for me to acquire data from a more diverse cross-section of people.”

Mapping Youth Journeys has been piloted at two Seattle-area middle schools. The first iteration was at Aki Kurose, a public middle school, in a YMCA after-school program. Over the course of an academic year students mapped their daily journeys, the spaces of the city familiar to them, and their community’s assets. The second iteration was at the private Seattle Girls School, integrated into the students’ regular curriculum. Here students spent several weeks mapping different ethnic groups’ histories in and around Seattle. Results from these implementations demonstrate that new mapping technologies enable an effective form of spatial learning and civic engagement and open up new ways of thinking about young people’s political agency.

As part of the Simpson Center’s Certificate in Public Scholarship program, Burns has been building an electronic portfolio that showcases his research, teaching, and engagement activities. He has also been a key organizer of the 2011-2012 Making the University Public graduate interest group, which has been active in convening collective conversations about public scholarship praxis. The Arts & Sciences Showcase at HuskyFest will provide Burns an opportunity to share his publicly-engaged scholarship with wider audiences.

His presentation takes place on Saturday, April 21, at 11:30 am in Kane 110. See a full listing of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Showcase scheduled events.