User Research and Project Ideas

For my GMU Public Digital History course, I will create a project to commemorate University of the Pacific’s 100-Year Anniversary on the Stockton campus. University of the Pacific is California’s oldest university, founded in 1851 in Santa Clara, California. The campus then moved to San Jose and finally to Stockton in 1924. The goal of my project is to help diverse alumni and community members connect to the Stockton University of the Pacific campus by revealing the stories behind monuments and memorials. Familiar narratives will no doubt circulate during the celebratory year. While these stories will heighten a sense of belonging for many alumni, students, faculty, and staff, those who do not see their stories centered may feel alienated and erased.  My website will offer content and interpretation, including primary sources that document multiple stories and biographies. Over time, I envision a participatory website where students, alumni, faculty, and staff can contribute their research over time.

My initial user research indicates that this is a feasible and interesting project. I interviewed three alumni from diverse backgrounds who graduated five to ten years ago. (I will interview more alumni later this week.)

I asked about the ongoing contact that the interviewees have with the University, and they remain in contact in different ways. One is an athlete who has applied for positions within the athletic department and stays well-connected to her head coach.  Another has joined the alumni association and visits campus regularly for speech therapy. Another has family in Stockton and sometimes visits campus to see faculty and staff. All receive mailings and emails from time to time.

Next, I inquired about their use of computers and mobile devices. They use laptops and tablets or phones daily.  They tend to use laptops for work and tablets and phones for personal use.  They enjoy social media, gaming, browsing the Internet, reading, following the news, viewing anime, and more.  Only one regularly visits museum websites, but all said they regularly click on links that are interesting to them from social media, and they said they would be very likely to explore a website about the history of UOP because UOP is important to them.  

When asked about campus spaces and places, the alumni said that they never gave much thought to the museums, monuments, or naming of buildings. One worked in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections but never really wondered who the archives were named after. But the library and its archives were important spaces for him.  Indeed, two alumni mentioned the library. Two mentioned the building where they had most classes, and one mentioned the athletic facilities.  Their groups, activities, and clubs were wide-ranging: athletics, history club, anime club, and the Black Student Union all received mention.

The user research tells me that the project is of interest to diverse UOP alumni (at least those who are relatively recent graduates). But they are less concerned about particular monuments and memorials than they are about spaces that had meaning to them. Several mentioned the campus grounds and just walking around as memorable and as creating warm feelings. Thus, the project might include histories of important spaces and not simply monuments and memorials. One alumnus said that he would love to see maps that show the change in the campus over time.  Mapping the sites onto time-specific maps will be an important part of the project.

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