|As has been the case with every project I have worked on
(Ethnography of the University), the project Visualizing the Difference Diversity Makes was both exciting and enlightening to work on. Working from student research brings a "freshness" and honesty to discussions about diversity that standard academic research, papers, and conferences do not.
In conceptualizing the project, one of the main things I wanted to highlight was the process that these students went through in doing their research on diversity. One of the most interesting components of this process was the "Inquire" section where the student asked questions to themselves, the readers, and a greater audience. Among these were questions about self-segregation, the Chief, and what it means to be "different" at the University of Illinois.
I began to see this time of asking questions as the first in a three part process that these students went through in doing their research: questions, observations and reflections. Each of these sections on the website is a series of statements/questions from the ask, investigate and reflect sections of students inquiry pages. I separated them out (instead of taking a linear approach to each students research question) to, once again, highlight this process of asking, looking and reflecting that the students were going through.
I took a similar approach to the visuals of the website. I didn't want the viewer to get bogged down with exactly what each image meant; rather, I wanted to convey a sense of the University of Illinois as well as the complexity of this issue. The images rotate in a random order, thus appearing with the text in random sequences. The resulting pairing of images with text poses a question to the viewer and creates another layer of meaning to be interpreted differently by each individual, allowing multiple readings to be possible.
It was my goal with this project to highlight the issue of diversity and the problems in dealing with it on the U of I campus and the struggles the students went through trying to answer and solve these problems.