Category: In Common List


In Common this week: Interview with Ned Benton of New York Slavery Records Index

Dear fellow Commoners,

I have another behind-the-scenes look for this week!

Below, I interview with Ned Benton, Co-Director of the New York Slavery Records Index and Professor at John Jay College. The New York Slavery Records Index opened to the public on the CUNY Commons in January 2018 offering a searchable database of over 37,000 records related to slavery in New York State. In the interview Benton describes what inspired the project, how CUNY students compiled the data, and why the database belongs on the Commons.

Whatever you do, don’t skip Benton’s answer to the last question where he describes some of the most interesting details already uncovered using the tool.

I’ve played around with the database on my own and even used it in an American Literature course I’m teaching this semester. Using it, I found out my elementary and middle schools were named for former slave-owners. Hopefully you’ll be inspired by the project, or learn something by using the tool. Hopefully this interview will give you some of the interesting history behind the project, too.

In Common this week: “Departed but not gone”

Welcome fellow Commoners,

This week I’m looking backwards at sites that have been left dormant on the Commons and offer a kind of “distant reading. The title of this post comes from the title of one of those sites, dormant for over five years. (BTW: If anyone out there is looking for a corpus to explore, I’ve only scratched the surface here. Like many of the sites that will be referenced in this post, this is a hint at a project that could be. But it’s also a fascinating glimpse at the history of this digital community)

The idea comes from me doing some “spring cleaning” in my Commons account–removing myself from groups that have been inactive for years or from sites I no longer administer.

It got me thinking about the sites on the Commons that haven’t been deleted and persist years since they’ve been touched. The homepage pushes the most recently active sites, but what can we learn from looking at the opposite side of that spectrum?

I decided to make a list of the titles and post it here. I’ve organized them loosely around themes I noticed. These themes suggest experiences that we Commoners share–truly what we have “in common.” I think they also represent opportunities: they are ideas, ready for someone to pick up again.

To make the list I searched the Commons for sites that haven’t been active in more than three years, going all the way back to 2009 when The Commons first went live. I haven’t included titles that are simply people’s names, opting to share those which are more suggestive. Many of the actual sites are blank, with the default sample pages or simply an error apologizing for not finding anything. Sometimes the sites have content, though. Some are time capsules, others perplexing, funny, poignant, sad, self-depreciating, infuriating.

I’m interested in what you all see.

All the best,



Many sites suggest a traveling narrative:

Beyond the Pale

path less traveled by

Just Passing By

Odysseys and Homelands (sic)

Others revel in their unfinished-ness:

In Medias Res

Poems in Progress

Always a Working Title

Some capture a romantic or metaphysical self:

The Dilated Soul

My Passions


Collecting the Self

Inventing the Self

Many, like this list,  suggest a wandering mind:

Occasional Thoughts

Engaging Thought



Notes to myself


Thought Sphere

Public Ponderings

Thoughts and Musings

ocasional intrpspections on the world…

Asymmetrical Thoughts and Other Freudian Slips.

Some either are unfinished projects or sound like them:


Erotic Lit and etc

Delicious Food for Swallowing (actually about food that is easy to swallow)


Quant Made Fun

A Minor Map

Counter-Mapping Return

Measure of Justice

Queer Lines of Communication Digital Scrapbook


1960-1985 Computer Historical Moments for

Wrestling Freedom from a Realm of Necessity

Unsurprisingly, technology is a common theme:



Luddite No Mas

Datalogical Turn

Blog about to Bloom

super user dood

Code. Play. KILL.


Mistakes I’ve Made in WordPress So Far

Teaching is also a common theme, although there are clearly sub-themes in this group:

Things I say to my BlackBoard students

If I wasn’t a teacher…

Raised by CUNY

Adventures in Teaching


School Survival

My  “academic” self

Blackboard Awesome

Trials and Tribulations of a Library Science Stude (sic)

CUNY Comments

But there’s excitement for CUNY, too:

My Professors..I adore and respect a lot!


Graduate NYC!

And then there’s the grab-bag category:

Thanks for all the fish

Having Fun

The Sound of the Stick

It seems we are at an impass (sic)

Miss Informed

The People’s Suitcase

When it Rains…

In Memoriam

Departed but not gone

Planning for the future

Place to Try Things Out

Start Procrastinating…Tomorrow

Lazy Sunday

The Manifold


The Archive

Birds of a Feather

Feed Me Seymour!

DId We Break It

It Cannot be Trivial

In the Know How and Who

In Spite of Kryptonite

always a bridesmaid

Consequence of the Four Incapacities




Teaching on the Commons: An Experiment with Discussion across Three American Lit. Courses

Welcome fellow Commoners,

In this post I focus on a project Jason Nielsen and I have been working on this semester. Jason and I are both instructors at Queens College and between us, we’re teaching three sections of the same American Literature survey course at Queens College. Using a shared forum on a course page, we’re having our students discuss shared texts throughout the semester and collaborate on projects. Our primary goals are to invigorate class discussion with these additional voices and to make visible the approaches Jason and I take to these texts, too. You can take a look at the course site here:

In Common this Week: Classes that produce Resources to Share

Welcome fellow Commoners!

This week I want to highlight two courses that are running on the Commons this semester whose expressed goal is sharing content beyond their classrooms. As the course site for Free Queer CUNY proudly declares “If it can’t be shared, it can’t be taught!”

What is unique about these courses is that they push coursework to not only engage with on-going discussion in their fields, but to produce actual tools that can be used. Students are producing genuine work product geared towards a very public audience.

  • The first site is a clearing house for the Independent Study projects created by students in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Students in the program participate in a two-part seminar in which they work together to create digital tools and projects. You can find these projects all over the Commons, but on this site you can see a collection of many of the most recent projects. It’s an exciting place to browse for inspiration but also you might discover tools useful to your research or classes:
  • The second site is the course site mentioned in the introduction. The course, IDS 70100 at the Graduate Center, asks students to design Queer Studies courses that can be used for undergraduates at CUNY campuses. It’s hard to imagine a collaboration that is more perfect for the CUNY Commons. It’s early in the semester, but students are already sharing resources, brainstorming ideas, and scaffolding assignments. This shared process work, along with the final syllabuses will be of tremendous help to educators in the future here at CUNY and elsewhere.

Look out for a post next week about an experiment I’m trying with a colleague with teaching on the Commons and using discussion forums across multiple classes.

That’s all for now, keep exploring the Commons!


In Common this Week: Conferences Websites!

Welcome fellow Commoners!

We’ve reached the last leg of the race and are racing for the finish line! It’s a time of the semester when everyone is busy and our inboxes are steadily filling. I’ll look at them, we promise ourselves, when classes are over. Many of them, and likely your inbox is like mine, are conference CFPs and my winter break will be busy sending in proposals to several conferences. That got me thinking this week about how a good conference website can really help promote a conference and to expand the constructive networks one builds at a conference into the digital world.

So this week I’m directing you to some of the good conference websites people have created on the Commons in the past year (conference organizers take note!). It’s some inspiration for the winter break!

The CUNY Games Conference – This is the fourth CUNY Games conference (you can visit their other conference websites, too!) and they have an impressively put together site using the newest WordPress theme. With a flashy header video and a smart use of images and fonts, this website looks pretty slick. Most importantly, it looks good on a mobile device, something that’s particularly important during the conference because that’s how most people will be accessing schedules!d

BMCC CUNY CUE Conference (Coordinated Undergraduate Education) – Another slick, mobile adaptive site. This site is paired down and the big, bold icons make navigation easy.

Fifth Biennial Literature and Law Conference – This site foregrounds the keynote speakers, so it’s clearly intended for promotion prior to the conference. It functions as a digital billboard that you can send people to with a simple web address. This site proves you don’t need fancy bells and whistles or a digital team to have a good conference website.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully these sites will spark some inspiration and, maybe, connect you to some resources on topics you’re interested in!

All the best,


In Common this Week: Where to Find out about What’s New on The Commons

Welcome back fellow Commoners!

The Commons is a digital network which, at it’s core, is a network of people. During weeks like this one, when people are gearing up for a holiday, there’s a natural ebb to the activity on the Commons. Most people will be blissfully away from there serious work for a day or two, long enough to enjoy time with their family and friends. I know I’m hoping to be!

I’ve been taking a German reading class all semester to satisfy a language requirement and recently the instructor talked about how German allows new words to be created easily. One of her examples was vergoogelt, which means “to Google too much.” I’ve definitely fallen into the Google pit, when you start looking up one topic and stand up from your lap top two hours later researching something complete different. So this week, instead of highlighting a few new sites, I’ve decided to share some of the best ways to find out about what people are doing on the Commons and you can do your own vergoogelt-ing. All of these are ways I follow activity daily as part of the work to put together this blog. Each week I try to highlight some of the most interesting sites, or sites activity based on a theme, but the truth is there much more that doesn’t make it into these weekly posts. The only way to find out about what people are doing is to jump into the streams. . .

The Commons Home Page – Putting this on my list might seem like cheating, but it’s genuinely the only place that brings together most of the separate streams. You can see recent site posts but also group activity. WordPress sites get all the glory but Commons Groups are where much of the real collaborative activity happens. Some groups, like the Events Group, are open to the public and allow any Commons user to post information on upcoming events that might be of interest to fellow Commoners. Some groups require permission to join, but you can’t learn about them until you take a look!

Site Directory – Accessible from the main navigation menu (Sites), this list sorted by date shows you not only recent posts to sites around the Commons but also sites that have just been started. If you see a site about something your interested in, you can contact the authors and see how to get involved. Taking a look at this list every once in a while also helps you get a handle on what organizations are producing the most content.

Recent Activity – This list is the hardest to find (from the main navigation menu click News but not the drop down menu item), but is one of the best. Like the other two streams, this is ordered with the most recent activity first. This list is similar to the Commons Home Page in that it brings together several streams, but unlike the Home Page it integrates everything into one list. You can see who has joined the Commons most recently, who have recently become “friends,” who has joined groups, which groups or sites are new, and recent posts, comments, or group activity. This is probably the most comprehensive stream on the Commons.

So go get vergoogelting!


All the best,


In Common this Week: Getting News about the Commons Development

Welcome fellow Commoners!

I’ve published a few posts this semester about the development that is always going on behind the scenes to help the Commons evolve to meet the needs of its users. I’ve posted a behind-the-scenes snapshot and highlighted examples of how people have made suggestions and made use of recent changes. This week I want to highlight the official sources of developmental news.

CUNY Academic Commons Development Blog – This site details the routine updates that happen every few weeks. Each release is detailed after it’s up and running and includes a list of all updates (to plugins, themes, etc.). It’s a great place to see how dynamic the Commons really is!

CUNY Academic Commons News – If the Development Blog is for the techie, Commons News is for the layperson. If you want helpful descriptions of new features and major updates, this is the place for you. It also helpfully links to relevant documentation.

Looking forward to the Thanksgiving Holiday next week,


In Common This Week: Theater Publications on the Commons

Welcome fellow Commoners,

It’s that time of the semester when people are really looking forward to the brief reprieve Thanksgiving weekend offers. So this week I want to encourage jubilant feelings with a post about theater and dance!

An increasing number of publications are moving to the Commons and these are three of the most impressive. It’s probably no coincidence that they are well-designed and media rich since they all are focused on theater. They also reflect the remarkable community of scholars CUNY cultivates. You’d think, too, that at a city university in one of the theater capitals of the world these professional journals would focus exclusively on the New York scene. Instead, these journals show the diversity of work of CUNY scholars and the contributors to these publications.

Another feature each of these publications shares in common is that each is hosted by the Commons and runs using the underlying WordPress/BuddyPress framework that powers the platform, but each uses a custom domain. And if you have a custom domain for a site your building or for your organization, you can use your domain on the Commons, too. Just contact the Commons support team!

  • Arab Stages –  A journal devoted to broadening international awareness and understanding of the theater and performance cultures of the Arab-Islamic world and of its diaspora. The journal appears twice yearly in digital form and is produced by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center of New York (another Commons site sporting a custom domain name) in conjunction with the Arabic Theatre Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research.
  • European Stages – In 2013, the two Western European Stages and Slavic and Eastern European Performance journals merged to reflect the changing face of Europe and its once divergent theater scenes. Since then European Stages has provided English-language readers with the most comprehensive source available on current theater across the continent of Europe.
  • The Journal of American Drama and Theater (JADT) – This journal publishes thoughtful and innovative work by leading scholars on theater, drama, and performance in the Americas – past and present. Provocative articles provide valuable insight and information on the heritage of American theater, as well as its continuing contribution to world literature and the performing arts.

That’s all for this week. I hope you keep up with your work and make it to the finish line.

All the best,


The Humans Behind the Machines: Spotlight on the People & Processes Keeping the Commons Going

The CUNY Commons Team posing with a Community Facilitator for Bronx Community College,posing at #bronxedtech 2017

Welcome fellow Commoners!

Most weeks I write about new and interesting work people are sharing on the Commons. In this vast, open, shareable space we call the Commons, people from across CUNY experiment, collaborate and create in unexpected ways all the time. This week, though, I want to offer you a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes. The Commons is, after all, an ongoing experiment in creating more open and transparent digital spaces for the CUNY system. It forges ahead thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people: programmers, designers, technicians, librarians, faculty, students, project-managers, and community leaders. This post is, in a small way, a thank you to all of them. Below you’ll read about howthese folks work together to brainstorm, design, and implement changes that help support the Commons and there are many more people than are named in this post. But hopefully we’ll get to everyone (including readers and content creators like you) through future posts and behind-the-scenes glimpses.

In Common this Week: A New York State of Mind

Welcome back fellow Commoners,

I’ve been thinking a lot about New York City lately because I’m teaching a course on Literature and Place this semester at Queens College. I decided to focus the class not only on how place and setting are important to literature, but on New York City as a particularly “literary” place. There are so many stories about the places my students currently inhabit, and it’s been my hope throughout the semester that students contrast their experiences living in the city with it’s literary depictions. One weekly reminder I have of the dissonance these can have is when the bus I ride to QC drives past Flushing-Corona Park. The site now famous for being home to two World’s Fairs and (perhaps ingloriously) as the site for the dramatic ending sequence in the movie Men in Black (). My students are often stunned to realize that Flushing-Corona Park was once the home to massive dump for the coal ashes that heated homes throughout the city and that the “Valley of Ashes” made famous by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby is one and the same. So this week I want to highlight a few New York City-focused pages from around the Commons.

New York State of Mind: Dispatches on American Literature, Culture & Identity – A mapping project from Professor J. Brett Maney and students at Lehman College, this maps the locations of well-known texts with links so you can read them!

How Poor Public Transit Makes Idiots of Us All – There isn’t much that can be more New York than complaining about public transit, especially recent amidst increasing MTA service problems and derailments. In this post hosted by the CUNY school of Professional Studies’ Murphey Institute, Professor Kafui Attoh discusses what our public transit problem mean for city planning.

The Bronx was Brewing: Mapping the Breweries of the 23rd Ward – I guess I’m a sucker for a mapping project. In this MALS capstone project, the historical breweries of the Bronx (once home to 17 breweries in a 10 block radius!) are mapped and discussed.

That’s it for this week. Have fun exploring the Commons!