Points of Reference

Carolyn A. McDonough, Digital Humanities
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Stephen Brier
Project Website: Points of Reference

carolyn a. mcdonough, ma in digital humanities, with certificate in interactive technology and pedagogy, class of 2021, the graduate center, cuny

capstone: Points of Reference_Carolyn A. McDonough_MA in DH Capstone_Iteration 2

points of reference is also available on the cuny academic commons at Points of Reference: Humanities Content for Media Studies (to access, you must be logged in to the commons) and as Points of Reference on]

Points of Reference is a digital, pedagogical tool/lesson plan which employs the Knight Lab JS3 Timeline plug-in for WordPress, conceptualized in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY, Spring 2018, and the New Media Lab, GC, CUNY.

Points of Reference is tailored to humanities content encountered in undergraduate media studies and aspires to be a digital pedagogical tool to intervene with the use of Google Search. The scholarly underpinnings of Points of Reference are The Frankfurt School’s leading voices: Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Walter Benjamin. Critical theory scholar Todd Presner’s work and the bold critiques of Google Search and Google Maps by Safiya Noble and Miriam Posner respectively have empowered me to address the fact that Google is not an academic resource, but rather a product of “‘the culture industry'”, specifically advertising, a stronghold of late-stage capitalism.

Points of Reference‘s prototype and accompanying white paper were undertaken in Spring 2019 as an independent study toward the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate at the Graduate Center, CUNY.  My continuing research on Points of Reference is being conducted with a design concept aspiration of non-linear “browse” to enhance its existing linear timeline. Inspired by scholar Stephen Ramsay’s writing on the “search”/”browse” dichotomy, I hope such a non-linear approach will encourage visitors to think in associative ways, rather than “search”  in the regimented, algorithmic ways dictated by Google Search. Points of Reference does not intend to reinforce “canonical references” but rather seeks out significant, inclusive, cross-cultural references. Western master works are referenced in varying contexts and will be acknowledged and cited when they can serve to illuminate the edges between archetype/stereotype, and the realities of colonialism, racism, and appropriation inherent within humanity’s cultural production. By revealing and confronting the data points surrounding the provenance of such references contextually, I hope Points of Reference becomes a point of reference indeed, for students and scholars alike.
View a Screen Shot of “Pantheon: Pilot Reference” — Entry on the Timeline

“Spend a Moment in the pantheon Under the Oculus”