Defense of Contract

For our COPLACDigital course, Jacob and I created a project contract to guide us in the creation of our website. Although we deviated from the original plan summarized in this document, our website turned out better than I imagined. As I thought of new ideas, I knew being flexible with the plan would yield the best end product.

Mission statement

In this section of the contract we state the intention of our website:

“Our goal is to educate the Southern Ontario and Western New York regions, on the origins of this complaint, as well as situating the incident regarding The Golden Compass within the larger contexts of the long history of censorship.”

SUNY Geneseo 2019 Project Contract

I believe we accomplished this goal. There are numerous pages dedicated to explaining the intricate details of this case including the people involved and the chronology of events. The Halton region is also described in the “Where?” section of the website. We made sure to incorporate our own analyses of the case including if we thought the school board made the correct decision.

Digital tools

Jacob and I incorporated a large number of digital tools into our pages. I created a TimelineJS, made a navigation system using hyperlinked book covers, and embedded both a Google Slides presentation and a song from the film. I also utilized the StoryMapJS I made for class on the “About Lauren” page.


The due dates we scheduled for certain pages did get a little shuffled. Pages were not always worked on in the order listed. I ran into some technical difficulties while at a conference in Florida, thus resulting in a minor delay. Additionally, Geneseo’s wifi did not make using WordPress user friendly; therefore, I had to find a place off campus to work. This restricted the dates and times I was able to edit the website. Despite my inability to access WordPress directly all the time, I did continually work on the website content via Word or Google Docs. I tried to work on a different page every weekend and was pretty successful. In wrapping up the project, I have been to Sweet Arts Bakery everyday this past week. If you are ever in Geneseo, I would highly recommend stopping in and picking up a cinnamon bun. They are huge and delicious! Although the timeline was not followed exactly, we completed all of the pages we set out to do plus several extra.

Division of Labor

The division of labor did get slightly unbalanced at some points during the project, but this was not intentional. I adopted a couple of topics Jacob was originally supposed to address. Jacob and I both selected the pages we wanted to work on and did so independently until the review process. I also added additional pages to my workload as they came to mind.

Here is a list of what I worked on:

  1. Website theme and navigation
  2. Homepage
  3. Book summary and anti-Catholic themes
  4. Timeline
  5. Primary sources (school board documents)
  6. Viewpoints of different groups (school board members, complainant, media, Catholic organizations, and external commenters)
  7. Interviews
  8. Autobiography


Claire, Shannon, and I eating the website party pizza.
Photo by Grace McGinnis

On Saturday, I had a website party with my housemates, Shannon, Grace, and Claire. I provided the pepperoni pizza and they reviewed the website. They gave a lot of good feedback, especially with regard to the summary of the text. They suggested making it shorter and skipping over some of the minor plot details. This should make the story easier to understand, specifically for viewers who have not read the book. Their extra eyes were also helpful for catching spelling errors and cleaning up the pages in general.

I am very pleased with the final version of The Golden Compass website. It conveys the case in an approachable manner and is good for all viewers. I really hope my classmates and professors enjoy reading it. I am looking forward to giving our presentation this afternoon.

My website design skills have improved throughout this course. Considering I have never made a website before, I think this one turned out quite well. I have recently been awarded a Student Ambassadorship from Geneseo to pursue a project of my own design. For this project, I will be making a website. Although I am focusing on a totally different topic (intellectual and developmental disabilities), the skills I learned in this course will definitely be applicable.


The Final Countdown

Look where are we now! It is crazy to think that just two months ago all my pages were blank. I am very pleased with what Jacob and I have accomplished in such a short time. Our website is undergoing its final revisions, and we will be recording our practice presentation this Thursday.

A last minute 180

After taking a good look at my website, I realized there were certain aspects I was not satisfied with. The appearance in general just looked a little disorganized. With the recent revisions, I not only believe this site is more visually appealing, but also contains much better content.

The homepage gained a short summary of the case. This should help clarify things for the reader, as they will already know the basic premise when they browse the rest of the site. Additionally, the Coggle diagram was replaced with some hyperlinked book covers. The book covers are positioned in the recommended viewing order. This looks much better considering I could not make the Coggle the appropriate size for the page. Also, the header image was changed to a picture of the northern lights (alternative book title) and the yellow font was changed to purple to make it easier to read. The title of the website is officially “A Compass for Censorship.”


The biggest changes were made in the “Who?” section. The content on “The School Board” page was reformatted into a google slides presentation, which was embedded into the page. Quotes were also added. Instead of just listing the articles on “The Media” page, I summarized the ones I believed were the most important. I made sure to include a wide variety of opinions, as to show all sides of the argument. This page is now one of my favorites.

I created a branch off the summary page called “Anti-Catholic Themes.” This page specifically addresses the content of the book that religious individuals were not pleased with. I felt this was necessary since the anti-Catholic sentiment is not obvious to all readers.

The page titled “Lauren’s Analysis” has also been enhanced. In the old version, it seemed like I was jumping to the conclusion DO NOT CENSOR. This was a bit brash on my part. Throughout this course, I have learned that censorship is most certainly not black and white. I believe I did a better job of discussing both sides of the argument, while also showcasing the reasoning behind my conclusion.

Wrapping up

There is still work to be done! I will be editing the “Taboo of Atheism” page today, and trying to clarify the definition I provided. Additionally, I plan on writing a short paragraph exploring the history of atheism, and how it is a somewhat unconventional practice throughout time. In editing this page, I aim to eliminate some of my personal viewpoints in the text.

Lastly, I am not sure how but I would like to improve the quality of my TimelineJS on the “When?” page. I have struggled to find events to incorporate that are not already discussed in detail on other pages. I am going to do some digging right now.

The Anticipation

I am very excited to hear everyone’s thoughts about my website! Hopefully, those who attend our presentation and view our site can learn something new. I am also eager to see my classmate’s finished projects. I cannot wait for next class.


Reading and Reviewing

For my final blog post concerning the course readings, I have chosen to discuss two shorter articles. I hope these can help me identify the minuscule touches that will complete my website. Additionally, I want to recognize the importance of digital history, including the websites my classmates and I have created in this course.

In the article titled “Why don’t archivists digitize everything?,” Samantha Thompson gives some reasons why all collections are not available on the internet. For the most part, it seems that many texts are not digitized due to a lack of resources: time, money, large size scanners, digital file maintenance, etc. Thompson is clearly bias, being an archivist defending her position. The majority of the reasons she mentions are funding related, and are not necessarily adequate excuses of why we should not make a piece of information available.

Thompson did offer one valid reason why some documents are not worth digitizing; holding an object or paper document in your hands is an experience in itself, and cannot be replaced by a digital copy. While this is a good point, most average people will not travel to seek out an artifact, so I would contest experiencing only part of a record is better than nothing. One thing I have learned throughout this course, is that viewers are usually willing to read what is in front of them. By creating our project websites about one specific case of censorship, people have access to organized information without having to leave their couch. For most, convenience is key.

In the article titled “Best Practices for Writing History on the Web,” Sean Kheraj offers some valuable tips on web design. While reading this article, I simultaneously reviewed my own website to make sure I took advantage of all the advice he has to offer.

First, Kheraj recommends writing in an accessible manner. In order to accomplish this, I tried to keep my pages short and sweet, and provide answers to questions before the reader has the chance to ask them. For example, I included a paragraph on the definition of dust on the book summary page. Hyperlinks were also suggested, which I incorporate throughout the website, but especially on “The Media” page. This way readers have the option to read more about censorship of The Golden Compass, but are not overwhelmed while scrolling. Third, Kheraj places emphasis on visual history. Although we had a limited set of pictures from the movie, Jacob and I tried to incorporate various interactive diagrams such as the TimelineJS and StorymapJS. Lastly, he mentions adding audio and visual elements into the website. This is one area where I feel my website is a little lacking. Since both interviews occurred via email, there were no clips to upload. However, I did put the movie music on the homepage, just to add another interactive element. Perhaps I will consider adding a short movie clip to the summary page.

Overall, I think my website would live up to Kheraj’s standards. Most importantly, I hope my website answers the viewer’s questions censorship. As the course wraps up, I am eager to hear feedback from my professors and classmates.

Sources Cited:

Thompson, Samantha. “Why don’t archivists digitize everything?” Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives, 31 May 2017. Web. 14 April. 2019.

Kheraj, Sean. “Best Practices for Writing History on the Web.” Active History, 16 October 2014. Web. 14 April. 2019.


Progress Update: The Homestretch


Bumps in the road

Wow, I cannot believe the first drafts of our website are due this week! These past few weeks have been very busy for me, so I have had to push my website to the back burner. I got sick, my grandfather had an extended stay in the hospital, I took two exams, and to top it off my glasses broke. Now, I am writing this blog post from a conference center in Orlando, as I am simultaneously listening to a lecture on experimental biology. Despite all of these bumps in the road, I am confident I will be able to finish by Tuesday and produce a good quality website. 

What’s done? 

The website is looking good! All of the primary source documents and interview pages are finished. Additionally, I made a Coggle diagram for the homepage. I am not entirely sure I will keep it, as the format of the embed is not as visually appealing as I want. I am really looking forward to hearing everyone’s feedback during class! 

What needs work? 

Of course, I will not be able to call the website truly complete until every last word has been checked over. The homepage is subject to change, as is the section titled “The Media.” This page contains news articles and the dates they were published to show how the media circulated information, and may have contributed to the censorship of The Golden Compass. There is a good amount of overlap between this page and the timeline, so I am considering condensing them. Additionally, the timeline needs and update, and perhaps some new pictures. Lastly, I need to finish my summary of the book, which  should be relatively easy to do. 

Evidently, I still have a bit of work to do. It would have been nice to be a little bit ahead of where I am now, but it is difficult to account for unexpected delays. Nevertheless, I want to make sure my website is exactly how I want it to be. I am looking forward to finishing up the last couple of edits, and viewing the completed first draft.


Post-Interview Post

At the beginning of the course, the interview portion of this project was one of my biggest concerns. Not only did I fear not being able to find a professional in a topic area relevant to our case, I also thought people would not be willing to give up their valuable time to answer my questions for nothing in return. To my pleasant surprise, the professors I reached out to were not only willing, but excited, to be involved.

For the first interview I spoke with Dr. Patricia Ard, Professor of Literature at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Right from the start of the interview, Dr. Ard was adamant that censorship of students is wrong. She was particularly supportive of allowing children to read Philip Pullman’s books.

When you have a fabulous writer like Philip Pullman, who creates fantastic fantasies, with children in charge–it’s a crime to try to censor him. His books are gateways to every other kind of book a child will eventually read.

She draws a line in the sand about reading a book by an atheist and becoming an atheist oneself. Clearly, they are not the same. Dr. Ard has a lot more to say about this topic, and also ties in author Judy Blume. Click here to view the interview in its entirety.

For the second interview I spoke with Dr. Aaron Herold, assistant Professor of Political Science at SUNY Geneseo. Although we provided Dr. Herold with a list of questions, he preferred to write a more general statement rather than address each specific one. In his opening statement, Dr. Herold mentions he has minimal prior knowledge of the specific case of censorship we are discussing, which should not retract from his ability to comment on censorship as a professor.

I really liked a lot of Dr. Herold’s comments, but perhaps my favorite was the following:

We generally wouldn’t use the term “censorship” to describe the actions of a parent who won’t allow a ten year old to watch an R rated movie, or to read a disturbing but true book about the Holocaust—any more than we would blame a parent for not feeding steak to a baby. I say this because it’s important to keep in mind that when books are removed from school libraries, those doing the removing generally believe they’re acting in this manner.

This quote puts parents in the limelight, not only for being the gatekeepers, but also as protectors of their babies. Later in the interview, Dr. Herold says that parents have unquestionable rights. Since their intentions are to create healthy adults, then perhaps their judgement is sound after all. Well, I guess that depends on who you ask! Dr. Herold also covers some interesting things about the legality of censorship. Click here to view the interview in its entirety.

Although I was nervous about this segment of the project, I think it will turn out to be one of the most interesting pages on the website. It offers perspectives of censorship from two uniquely qualified individuals. I really wanted some video content, but communicating by email was just more efficient. Overall, the high quality of the answers will prove more important than the medium they are in.