Southside Chicago Documentation Project

Southside Chicago Documentation Project Partner(s): Sudhir Venkatesh
The Center for Urban Research & Policy

Access: Open to all
Released: April 2008

VIEW PROJECT

The Southside Chicago Documentation Project (SCDP) is a web-based environment for students in Columbia's Urban Research Workshop to conduct social science research on South Side black communities in Chicago. The project is centered on a digitized collection of the South Street Journal, a local newspaper that was once a powerful voice in the Bronzeville community in the 1990s. Through tagging and data visualization mechanisms, SCDP allows students to discover patterns and lacunae from primary source materials they are commonly investigating, deepening their understanding of context and discourse in sociological research.

CCNMTL developed the SCDP in partnership with Sudhir Venkatesh, professor of sociology and African-American studies and instructor of the Urban Research Workshop. The project currently contains a publicly-accessible repository called Southside Chicago Archive, as well as a private workspace for workshop students. Professor Venkatesh plans to use student-generated work to expand the SCDP and eventually use the online environment as a resource for larger undergraduate classes, continuing the model of collaborative development of meaningful sociological analysis.

Project Details

The Southside Chicago Documentation Project (SCDP) is being built by CCNMTL to provide students with direct experience in social science research. By fostering collaborative analysis of primary source material, the project raises the stakes of student sociological research. Such work, once conducted in isolation and often lacking direct connection to primary source material, will be framed as long-range knowledge building in Southside Chicago--a practical, innovative, and serious environment in which students will hone and showcase analytical work.

The project is part of the Urban Research Workshop (URW), now in its third year at Columbia. Sudhir Venkatesh, professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, teaches the year long workshop: students receive formal credit and they are obligated to write a senior thesis as part of the course. Participants in this workshop are tasked with building an archive of information on Chicago’s Southside black communities, with particular focus on changes to Chicago’s Southside since the early 1990s. The SCDP will facilitate students' use of an archive of primary sources to drive their research, thereby deepening their understanding of this area of Chicago.

SCDP will provide a platform for the year-long primary URW research project, and it will be centered around a core primary source: the South Street Journal, a local community newspaper that was a powerful voice of the community; several years’ worth of back issues have been donated to Columbia University for this project. SCDP will allow successive URW classes to read and collaboratively analyze the articles, using them as a basis to conduct primary research on themes such as gentrification, racism, political affairs, and youth development.

Through tagging and data visualization mechanisms, SCDP will allow students to discover patterns and lacunae from the set of South Street Journal they are commonly investigating, deepening their understanding of context and discourse in sociological research. Such mechanisms will also help students build on peer research: learning from work done in previous URW classes, identifying research gaps and opportunities. Drawing on a common set of primary source materials, and feeding their analysis back into a larger body of knowledge, students working in SCDP will be given valuable experience in real-world research and peer review.

Once URW students have developed SCDP, Professor Venkatesh plans to also use it as a resource for larger undergraduate classes, continuing the model of collaborative development of meaningful sociological analysis.