I must admit that when I first started designing my project, I was intimidated. I was intimidated by the amount of time I had to complete my mission, worried that my final project just wouldn’t be good enough. But over the past six weeks, I have gained confidence in my own abilities and in my work. These past six weeks have been enlightening in terms of just how much one can get done in a short period of time, my strengths and weaknesses, and the immense amount of issues unraveled over the course of my research adventure.
I have learned that the research process is a series of ups and downs. Last week at the Digital Humanities Meet up at Bryn Mawr, I listened to a member of Swarthmore’s faculty discuss failure. I began to reflect on my own failures, and realized more clearly than ever that failures are steps to progress. Failure isn’t stationary: it is a process in of itself, one which is sometimes necessary in order to succeed. My work continued to fluctuate: I bounced from mapping to data visualization to one form of web design to another, constantly waiting and wishing that something would sort itself out on its own, that suddenly the answer would be right in front of me, ready to put together. However, it wasn’t that simple, figuring out my project and my research goals was a pattern of trial and error, taking risks, spitting out ideas and eventually figuring out a combination that fit correctly. When I finally came across the ideal combination of research and conclusions and digital tools, the project came together much more smoothly and cohesively than anything else I had done prior in the process.
The bulk of the work that I have done during this research internship has been the process of discovery and learning. In the end, the project itself only took a fraction of the time; after all of my experimentation the direction I wanted to go in was finally clear. I was relieved and proud to have come up with a plan. I remember sitting in the classroom in the basement of the library for a few minutes after lab hour in week three and clicking the display button on my timeline prototype and thinking to myself how exciting it was to have come up with something so interactive and pleasing on my own. It felt good to design a project from beginning to end and to write a paper about what I truly am passionate about without a prompt predetermined by a professor. It was also an accomplishment I hadn’t imagined I’d achieve the summer after my first year of college.
Ultimately, this project has been a series of beginnings: from beginning my project and developing my research question (which flipped and spun in circles for weeks, I might add), to beginning a series of discoveries regarding indigenous issues, to finally, beginning a passion that might just continue to develop over the course of my academic career and beyond. My dad heard that I wanted to apply for this internship early in the spring semester and randomly sent me an article from The Guardian regarding Sami reindeer herding rights and said something along the lines of “how about this?” At first, I laughed. I didn’t think that I’d be able to form a project about a topic so obscure. I was sort of right in that with the resources available to me and the distance between researchers in Sweden and myself, the topic was too specific. But, I went ahead and tried anyway.
My project frustrated me, and the research available frustrated me even more. In the end, I embraced the frustration and the limitations to my research. I did what I could, and centered my research around the lack of data available. This way, whenever I present my research, I continue to raise awareness about the erasure of identity and the restrictions the Sami people continue to face today. One could say that it is my small contribution to human rights activism, a field I am keen on dedicating myself to in my career.
As these six weeks come to a close, I hope that I have been honest with my research. Early on, I discussed the importance of remaining objective when discussing a group far removed from my own cultural identity. I realized as time went on how difficult it is to convey Sami culture from an outside point of view without making accidental assumptions or categorizations – the very same issues I displayed in my findings regarding Sami treatment by the Swedish government. I did my best, and hope to someday be able to immerse myself more in this vibrant culture in order to understand it more deeply. I believe that with this challenge, I have grown as a thinker, as a writer, and as a human. While this project may come to an end (or perhaps not), the values I’ve learned to appreciate, and the skills I’ve gained will translate into all of my future endeavors. This reflection may be a conclusion, but this is really only an introduction.