About the Research Group

About the Research Group

About the research group

The work presented on this website was created by an exceptional group of 15 undergraduate students from the University of Michigan, who also helped with the research for the forthcoming book:

Olivier Bahizi, Zahraa Ballout, Rachel Byrum, Isaac Davis, Brooke Erlich, Tyrice Grice, Brianna Kucharski, Alexandra Niforos, Trina Ray, Erin Ringel, Elijah Seagraves, Sydney Simoncini, Jordan Stanton, Darby Stipe, and Danielle Williams.

We did not begin with fifteen student researchers. Instead, we began with four during the first year and then gained more each year. All fifteen students never worked concurrently. The most we had on the team at a time was eight.

We present here testimonials from three of these students as evidence of the impact of conducting this historical research on their lives and college careers. Erin, Sydney, and Jordan worked on the project for all four years of their college careers and also managed their own teams of undergraduate students in the completion of the digital projects shown in this website.

About Erin Ringel

Erin Ringel is a senior majoring in sociology with a minor in sociocultural anthropology. She was a part of the Interactive Production History Map project. After graduation, she will attend law school, and is specifically interested in public defense.

Interview with team leader Erin Ringel

How did it help and/or better your college career?

This project helped my college career by allowing me to develop valuable leadership and research skills. I developed leadership skills through leading a small group of students, which taught me to divide up tasks and keep the team on track. I was also responsible for providing weekly group updates, which required the ability to check in with team members when they weren’t available for meetings and relay this information. This responsibility really helped me grow as a researcher and a student. Additionally, through this experience, I became more attentive to detail and creative with my research methods. This has helped me succeed in my college courses, since I was required to conduct research as part of writing my thesis in sociology. These skills will also help me as I enter law school, since a large part of being an attorney is detailed research.

What about the digital construction of this project do you believe will/can benefit other publications?

The digital construction of this project is unique: it is an interactive map, so users are able to engage with the information as they want. This is a unique method of presenting data, and it has the potential to benefit other publications by inspiring this kind of data presentation. The interactive map is also an example of how research can come in many different forms. This could also benefit other publications by exemplifying the fact that research can exist and even be more effective in alternative formats.

Why should other faculty/ digital projects collaborate with undergraduates?

Other faculty should collaborate with undergraduates on digital projects for two reasons. Firstly, faculty gain a new perspective that they might need in order for digital projects to succeed. Many undergraduates are familiar with the extensive resources that universities have to offer, for example, the ArcGIS consulting and Information and Technology support. Additionally, this method of collaboration allows undergraduate students to gain valuable research experience that will help them develop professionally and succeed outside of a university setting. This method of collaboration is a mutually beneficial way to successfully carry out research projects.

Sydney Simoncini

Sydney Simoncini is a senior pursuing a degree in Film, Television, & Media with a minor in Education at the University of Michigan. During her four years as a researcher, she was a member of the animation and 3D modeling teams. After graduation, she hopes to work in film production, specifically art design.

Interview with team leader Sydney Simoncini

How did it help and / or better your college career?

I started working on this project my second month of my first semester of college. It was one of the first activities and groups I ever got involved with and, as of May 2020, I will have been a part of the team for all four years of my college career . The first year taught me proper research methods and upper level analytical skills, preparing me for countless assignments and challenges that I encountered throughout my collegiate career. The following year, I led a small team of undergraduate students in the creation of the 3D models, which helped me learn management skills in a low pressure and supportive setting.

What about the digital construction of this project do you believe will/can benefit other publications?

This digital construction of this project will lead the way for other publications to see how versatile and easily accessible their projects can be. Academic research no longer has to take years to be printed and distributed. The “Book Unbound” project has allowed us to take our findings and present them in a way that we thought was creative and easy to consume. It gave us--the undergraduates--more of a say in how our research was presented, which is a wonderful aspect to the digital construction process.

Why should other faculty/ digital projects collaborate with undergraduates?

I found that as undergrads, we were sometimes able to look at things with a new perspective. For this project specifically, which aimed to be accessible to not only undergrads but also a broad, general audience, I think we were able to help construct the final publication in a way that was easily accessible and comprehensible to all, without being shrouded in the sometimes convoluted language and format preferred by academia.

Jordan Stanton is a senior pursuing a dual degree in Film, TV, and Media and Business Administration at the University of Michigan. He was a member of the audiovisual and animation research teams. After graduation, he will continue pursuing his passion for video production as an assistant video editor at Spacestation, a digital production company in Brooklyn, NY.

Interview with team leader Jordan Stanton

How did it help and/or better your college career?

When I entered the University of Michigan’s Film, Television, and Media major as a freshman, I was not sure where my education would take me. My initial involvement with this project was my first taste of what a media studies and humanities education stood to offer. During my first year with the project, I spent hours at the University of Michigan Special Collections Research Center reading archival transcripts and interviews with Orson Welles, slowly discovering cinematic concepts that had never crossed my mind. As a sophomore, I led a team of researchers, assigning weekly tasks, providing constructive feedback, and ultimately presenting the team’s work to a crowd of University employees and scholars. As a junior, I played the role of producer, casting voice actors, working with composers, and collaborating with a fellow researcher on five different animations. As a senior, I will have the privilege of travelling with the whole team to present our findings during a panel at the annual SCMS film conference in Denver. In retrospect, this project offered me a degree of flexibility, variety, and responsibility that my classes and even summer internships never could. I have no doubt that these leadership experiences will prove invaluable as I transition from my undergraduate career to professional work in the entertainment industry.

What about the digital construction of this project do you believe will/can benefit other publications?

The digital construction of this project effectively democratizes the data and research we spent the past four years collecting. It provides readers with the opportunity to circumvent the complex and often daunting process of archival research. Those interested in learning more about Orson Welles’s early career, his influences, and “The Heart of Darkness” project need not engage in costly document requests, out of state travel, or long searches through special collections archives. Instead, they can engage with the source material - scripts, notes, influential films, extensive pre production materials, and even a handful of audiovisual renderings of Welles’s sketches - using an organized and accessible digital archive.

More specifically, aspects of this project such as the animated reimaginings of Welles’s scene sketches go a long way to help . Furthermore, in their function as engaging, audiovisual pieces, they push the envelope of archival research materials in the broadness and accessibility of their appeal. In other words, the animations make it possible for interested in engaging with Welles’s work to do so through a medium that is atypical and fun, rather than dense. By utilizing novel approaches in the digital construction of our project, our team will hopefully inspire creative presentation solutions for archival film studies of the future.

Why should other faculty/digital projects collaborate with undergraduates?

In my experience, this project’s style of intergenerational collaboration fostered a tradition of teaching and learning that was instrumental in the project’s longevity and continuity. For reference, as of Winter 2020, I am in my 4th year with this project. Almost every week over the course of those four years, our team met in person for an hour. We shared updates on our respective projects, provided constructive feedback to our peers, and laid out a roadmap of our goals for the coming weeks. This casual and consistent meeting style instilled a sense of accountability among our group members and, most importantly, opened the floor to a multitude of perspectives. More specifically, this breadth of perspective was integral in considering the ways that aspects of the project’s audiovisual content could be constructed and presented to appeal to a broader spectrum of viewers.