Rose Bender
Building community through meaningful digital experiences


Throughout 2019 I will be working on my graduate thesis for a Master of Science in Integrated Digital Media at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering. Sounds pretty intense right? Below I'll chronicle the ideation, iteration, failures, and triumphs. Join me, won't you?

Back in the Saddle Again

It feels impossible, but it’s been nearly eight months since I was last actively working on my thesis. In that time, I’ve focused on reading books about the history of conspiracy theories and taken a course exploring the exhibition of difficult history on digital platforms. While I didn’t find the course as inspiring as I had hoped, I did get exposure to some new topics.

Creating Digital History

  • General museum exhibition techniques

    • curating the big idea or question

    • developing visitor flow

    • differentiating between your collection and your exhibit

  • Best practices and issues of digital exhibition

    • platforms and technologies (yeesh, some of these are straight out of 2002)

    • metadata standards

    • translating and displaying a traditional exhibit online

    • identifying and reaching intended audience

    • copyright concerns

  • Issues of discussing difficult history

    • respecting affected populations

    • providing historical context

    • cautioning privledge of modernist perspective

I intend to use these lessons as I move forward in developing my final project. At this point, I envision myself putting together an exhibition conveying the impact of exposure to conspiracy theories in the digital realm vs the real world. Knowing the techniques used by exhibitors and museum curators in both the tactile and digital space will allow me to play with the two and best achieve my goals. Conspiracy theory as entertainment and it’s larger implications (politics, empathy, community-building, and violence) is a difficult present that is fueled by its difficult history and surrounded by many challenging and complex societal, cultural, and technological issues that are still developing and changing. Over the past year, I’ve visited interactive and historical museums whenever possible and hope to continue to do so over the next few months to gather inspiration for my project.

Getting the Expert Opinion

In an effort to hear from museum curators and exhibitors, I am joining online groups for museum professionals.




Finding an Advisor

I’ve selected three advisors from those suggested by the program. Two are focused on the interactive, temporary installation portion of the project (which I will definitely need help with) and the third focused on hostility in digital community and virality for her thesis.

  1. Emily Conrad

  2. Vanessa Harden

  3. Lillian Warner

Collecting References

After re-reading my pre-theis paper, I had two thoughts: 1) damn, I sounds smart and 2) where did I get all of these ideas from!? Collecting my resources and references has been HUGELY helpful in diving back into the world of my thesis and reminding me the topics I’m interested in and the experts I’ll build from. It also provided me the opportunity and thought starters to search for new articles, books, and references about the areas in which my thesis has grown since last Spring.

I decided to include the type of media and the topics that it covers as related to my thesis so that I can easily sort and find related references when needed. As I begin to read deeper, I hope to label each with a reference number and create a dialogic journal in a second tab so I can quickly reference these resources for my paper.

All references can be found here and there are more being added regualrly.

BXMC Process Site

As a part of the NYU Tandon community, I will create a process website (much like this blog) that will document my journey through thesis. Honestly, I kind of snoozed on setting this up assuming it would only take a minute to establish the page and make my documentation for the week live. Unfortunately, I was wrong. i’m hoping to get the site live over the next week and will move this documentation there (though I do hope to duplicate it here for my MANY, MANY followers).

Research Questions

My project has morphed in a lot of ways. Here are the key questions for my thesis as I see them now.

  • What social structures are unique to conspiracy theorist communities?

  • How is knowledge transfer and community-building different in the digital space?

  • What impact does digital learning have on idea ownership, empathy toward opposing points-of-view, and understanding of scientific claims?

  • What similarities exist between pseudoscience and conspiracy theory?

  • What are the cultural and societal impact of easy access to conspiracy?

  • Do we have a better understanding and empathy of different points of views and claims when we are forced to explore them offline?

Pop-Up Space

The trouble with installations is, like, where do you store everything? I’m lucky to have a walk-in closet and outdoor space to build and store, but I will need a place to display. I’ve started to look into pop-up spaces (ahem, I’ve simply started googling). Here are my resources:




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Rose Bender