SHU initiative looks to integrate University with SO community using technology

The Seton Hall Digital Humanities Committee partnered with Seton Hall, the Village of South Orange, the Pierro Gallery and the South Orange Public Library in a mission to integrate technology into the South Orange community.

Throughout March, April and May, the initiative, called “South Orange/Seton Hall Connected,” will feature events meant to help South Orange citizens incorporate technology into their daily lives.

File Photo/Katherine Boland

Dr. Mary Balkun, a department of English professor and chairperson, explained in an email why she and Dr. Marta Deyrup started the initiative.

“We were inspired by several things, such as recent political events, especially the importance today of digital skills and awareness for things like voting, news acquisition and evaluation, and communication. ‘Digital citizenship,’ especially how people can become more engaged in their communities via the digital, is also a growing area of interest,” she said.

Balkun said that they are interested in helping strengthen the connection between the University and South Orange.

“Digital Humanities as an area of study is committed to the public nature of scholarship and information, and so we decided to reach out to leaders in South Orange to see how we might create a series of events that would explore digital citizenry in a variety of ways,” she explained.

Deyrup said that there will be a symposium held on May 6 to explore the topic of what it means to be a citizen in this age.

“We are calling this being a ‘digital citizen’ since so many of our activities take place online or involve the transfer of electronic data. Does place matter? How do we engage with society if much of that society is now global?” Deyrup asked in an email. “Our panelists will talk about these and other questions as well as give some predictions of what a “technified” South Orange will look like in fifty years.”

Emily Brostek and Claudia Preza, both graduate students in the Master of Arts Museum Profession program at SHU, are the independent curators at the Pierro Gallery of South Orange, which will open on April 19 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event will run until May 19.

“Since November 2017, the both of us have been researching and preparing ’tech (in)dependent’ which explores people’s personal attachment to devices and an almost universal dependency on them to carry out tasks both ordinary and extraordinary,” Preza wrote in an email.

Staying true to the topic of digital citizenship, Brostek and Preza have selected artists who are portraying the concept in their works.

“The artworks selected from each of the artists deal with the concept of digital citizenship and technological culture through their own unique interpretations and through different mediums (paintings, prints, videos, performance art, and installation),” Preza said.

Alexandra Altramura, a junior biochemistry major, mentioned that senior citizens and individuals from lower income areas can benefit from the initiative.

“People who are sixty-five or older may not be as aware of technology as everyone else because they aren’t as into the media as we are, so I think it’s great for them. And also I think these programs will help people in the low income areas, especially in South Orange become more aware of the resources they have around them,” Altramura said.

Senior Mark Uriarte, an English literature and computer science major, expressed his apprehension about technology. but his belief that the initiative can provide new opportunities.

“I’m a little fearful for the future when technology starts taking over society, not in the ‘Terminator’ sense, but in the tasks we have people do now, so that’s where I’m starting to get a little fearful. I’m happy, though, that people want to learn more about technology and want to seek new productivity. I’m impressed that [the Committee] wants to move forward with this initiative,” he said.

Sophomore Patrick Condon, a sports management marketing major, was pleased to hear about the 3D printing program that the South Orange Public Library will be hosting on March 24.

“Personally, I think those kinds of technological things can only help create a better learning environment, especially 3-D printing. I’ve seen people make tables out of an app on your computer and I think that can only be helpful,” Condon said. Balkun encourages any student interested in being involved with the three-month series of events to contact her at mary.balkun@shu.edu or Deyrup at marta.deyrup@shu.edu.

Author: Kaitlyn Quinn

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