Project ideas

After going through my list of possible ideas for the capstone project, I saw the common theme of identity and self-expression in all of them. However, I still don’t have a clear vision of the end product that I’d like to create, so I would appreciate some input from the rest of you!

The first possible topic that I have in mind is gender fluidity. This is an area that I am quite unfamiliar with because it’s something that I’ve only recently learned about through many nights whiled away by clicking on various links. I was intrigued from the first time I read about someone identifying as being of both genders and someone else identifying as being of neither gender. My upbringing has restricted my knowledge of the various facets of identity and self-expression that have seen more public change, so I think it’ll be interesting to learn more about how people identify as being of one, both, or neither gender. The questions I’d like to explore are: how do individuals express gender fluidity, how do they do it, what motivates this assertion, and what are the implications? My biggest concern about this topic is my lack of authority in it. Moreover, I feel that my evaluation has to contribute to the larger conversation surrounding this issue. Here is where I’m concerned that my own personal opinions may interfere with and complicate the research and evaluation.

Another topic I’m bouncing around in my head is body acceptance. The last couple of years have been important in changing my perspectives on how we perceive physical appearance and how we tie it to self-worth. While I have written an essay about how I came to change my mind and to embrace the word “fat” as just another adjective to describe myself, I am interested in contrasting beauty standards that different communities hold and seeing how they function in a society. How do people view differences in color, weight, height, physical ability? Then, what does it mean to defy these standards in rebellion against imposed expectations? How do different people do it and what are their motivations?

When I think about these questions (about body acceptance) altogether, it seems that the project has to be quite extensive to be able to catch all these aspects. However, I’m actually considering creating something that has children as its target audience. This is largely motivated by an urge to give children what I didn’t have – something to tell me that it’s okay to not be like “everyone else”. What we learn in our childhood sticks and affects us for much longer than we’d like sometimes, so I feel there’s a need to stop teaching kids that being different is necessarily a bad thing.

My third idea for the project is the relationship between anonymity and community. After following PostSecret for many years, I’ve become very interested in learning about how taking away someone’s name and face from a confession, in the end, helps foster a sense of identification and community. Many people have come forth, through letters and e-mails and in PostSecret events, to reveal how they have found solidarity through seeing someone else’s secret on the website, a book, or the old PostSecret app. Similarly, sites that encourage anonymous submissions about confessions, secrets, or simple everyday revelations have popped up and gained popularity. Often, people respond by saying how surprised they are that they aren’t alone. Why are we so surprised that there are many parallels shared by different people? Seeing as how we’re so well-connected now (or so it seems), why is it that it sometimes takes complete anonymity for people to understand the truly human aspects of our daily lives? Is there a need for this invisible buffer zone to afford us the ability to comfortably connect with whom is at first a stranger? If so, what motivates this need and how are we creating our own mechanisms to keep up with the needs?

There are many questions swimming in my head now. While it can seem a bit overwhelming at times, I’m excited to see where this will go. Do let me know any suggestions you have!

6 thoughts to “Project ideas”

  1. Hey Crystal!

    All of these so far sound really exciting. I don’t know about any scholars or authority figures that write about topics like gender fluidity and body acceptance, but I could point you to some blogs/bloggers that talk about these issues with some frequency if you feel the need to do some more research on the topic. I’m not sure about how open they might be to answering questions, but I find their posts and commentary generally enlightening.

    Your first and second ideas dovetail really nicely in that they both deal with issues of the body and its relationship to the mind. I’m seeing a way your third idea might figure into this as well. Do these people have established online communities? What might the opportunity at anonymity afford for these peoples’ free and unrestricted expression of themselves? Has this helped foster community? I’m not exactly sure what projects you could create from asking and answering questions like those might steer you in some sort of direction toward a project? Maybe looking at what goes into making an online community could help generate some ideas?

    I hope these suggestions at least helped get some wheels turning!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Josh! I like how you connected the first two ideas to anonymity. I think there’s a way to work in the third idea as people are now more ready to participate in online communities to find solidarity through their shared identifications. The more I think about it, the more I feel that this is a good direction to take in setting up this project.

    1. Not a problem! Kate Harding blogs and talKs about issues of body, weight, and the fat-acceptance movement on her blog “Shapely Prose”:

      That linK just leads to the FAQ page of her site, but a lot of it is worth exploring in relation to your topic I thinK. also tends to post on A LOT of different topics that deal with representation and physical appearance that has to do with body size, race, skin color, gender indentity, sexual identity, etc. While it’s focus is on Disney movies, the admin does a pretty good job of including a number of different issues and being intersectional and thorough in her commentary and analyses of issues.

      I’m blanking on other sources right now, but if I think of anything else I’ll let you know!

  3. Crystal,

    I really like all three of your ideas. I think that more so than self-expression, the idea of identity is a really strong connection between each of your three ideas. While the first two ideas are very clearly about identity, it seems to me that Post Secret is an anonymous way for people to express themselves and, in doing so, establish or cement some type of identity. (I could be very wrong, I don’t know that much about Post Secret.)

    I think that looking more broadly at “identity” will allow you to tie in a lot of your ideas, and establish some type of overall purpose dealing with internal vs. external identity (Post Secret) and acceptance of that identity.

  4. I agree with Rachel. I suggest you reach out to a sociology professor I had a few years back. She taught a course called sociology of sexualities, and I believe her interests may align with yours, especially on the topic of gender fluidity. Let me know if you want to reach out to her; I can provide you with her contact information. You seem to have a lot of interesting ideas floating around. Keep up the good work.

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