my capstone experience

Andrew Baker '08

Andrew Baker '08, a Communication Studies major and Philosophy minor from Kennebunk, Maine, participated in the Philosophy Club, theater, “Reel Talk” and the ice hockey club while at Colby-Sawyer. Here, he discusses his senior Capstone project, which involved researching Wikipedia as a cultural phenomenon of the digital information age. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience and part of the Liberal Education Program at Colby-Sawyer College. After graduation, Baker hopes to find a job in television near Boston, and would like eventually to do graduate studies in media law, cultural studies, sociology, or anthropology.

Describe the subject of your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

For my Capstone I researched Wikipedia as a cultural phenomenon of the digital information age and looked at how open-source media transform the way we communicate. I wanted to apply some of the older theories concerning communication and media to more modern conceptions of technology. I wanted to see how these older ideas held up in the world of instantaneous communication.

What kinds of research did you conduct for this project?

The three primary areas of research I examined were decentralized authority in open-source environments, flexibility and authorship, and the appropriation of oral values with the advent of participatory media environments.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experiences at Colby-Sawyer?

This project allowed me to pull a lot from the research and writing techniques I learned in my philosophy classes. Assistant Professor of Humanities Craig Greenman really helped me develop my writing voice in those classes, and I definitely pulled from those lessons. My media studies classes also played a major role. Assistant Professor of Humanities Melissa Meade, my advisor, was extremely helpful in helping me keep my ideas focused. It was the Concepts in Communication course (COM 201) I took with her as a freshman that really sowed the seeds for the project.

This project was a culmination in a lot of ways for me, because I never really thought I was a good writer or a very good student, and now that I see that I can do something as large as this project, I have a sense of confidence that I didn't have before.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the process of creating your Capstone?

The most rewarding part of this project was getting to speak at the Susan Colby Colgate Scholars' Symposium. I was really nervous because I had never really given a dissertation before and I was afraid that no one would understand my work. But it actually went very well, and getting positive feedback from Professors Pat Anderson, Ann-Page Stecker and Hester Fuller was really nice.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

The most challenging part of my Capstone was definitely narrowing the focus of my project, which Professor Meade was really helpful with. Early on I had all these topics I wanted to think about, but after doing research I would discuss what I read with her in my weekly meeting. We would sit for an hour or so and just talk about the idea on my mind and after a few weeks I was able to break it down to the main areas of my study. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful she was in making this happen.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

When it comes to lasting value, I hope that I will be able to inspire others to think about our relation to the social apparatus of media. It has permeated our society so quickly and thoroughly that we really need to think about how it affects us socially and individually. I hope to do further research on these ideas in the future with my graduate work.