My Projects<!-- --> | <!-- -->Ben Pettis
Ben Pettis

My Projects

Thinking About Media!

web

November 1, 2022

A screenshot of a website with white text on a dark grey background. The text reads: "Trust me, bro": A (re)imagination of Thomas the Tank Engine Since 2020 it has become increasingly apparent that Barack Obama has had an outspoken influence on digital native. But this relationship is not limited to modern media contexts. As early as 1850 early instances of radicalization could be seen emerging with an orientation toward the future. In this paper, I argue that Geocities shows that scholars must return to Geocities. To do this, the paper draws upon media industries frameworks to inform its use of Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis to critically examine Thomas the Tank Engine.

Inspired by @matthew_paul's #TeamRhetoric Twitter Bot, the website uses a JavaScript library called Tracery, originally written by Kate Compton. Using a series of template phrases and mad-libs style replacements, the site generates paper topics and abstracts fitting for any media studies scholar!

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Media History Digital Library Website

web

August 31, 2022

A screenshot of the homepage of the MHDL website. There MHDL logo is in the center of a grid of several colorful magazine covers.

During the Summer of 2022, I have been working with Eric Hoyt to redesign and improve the functionality of the Media History Digital Library website. The previous version of the website had an outdated design, and used almost entirely static HTML and CSS, which required significant manual work to keep up to date. This new version is built with PHP and is able to automatically query our Solr instance to display up-to-date content and information.

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HTML Search and Record

other

May 20, 2022

A cartoon image of an open file folder with the Google reCAPTCHA logo appearing out of it

This is a Chrome extension that detects the presence of reCAPTCHAs on a Web page and invites the user to record and preserve their interaction. By detecting specified HTML elements within a Web page, the extension enables researchers to preserve users’ interactions with an interface without needing to continuously (and invasively) record their browsing. The extension aims to balance the priorities of Web preservation with user privacy and autonomy. This represents a new approach to Web preservation that may be useful to other digital humanities projects by attending to ephemeral user interactions that other preservation tools are not as well-suited for.

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Tracking the HTTP 451 Error Code

web

May 15, 2022

A cartoon image of a server icon with a flame and cloud in the background

This project automatically tracks use of the HTTP 451 (Not Available for Legal Reasons) code, how frequently it's used, and archiving error pages. Geoblocking is a reality of the modern Web, and the code could be appropriate to use in some of these situations. We know that gov censorship is a reality in many places, but despite all the restrictions on the full flow of content online, this specific HTTP response code is actually not used all that frequently!

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Lantern 2.0

web

May 1, 2022

The Lantern logo. It is a cerulean blue color. There is a mining-style lantern on the left, and the word 'lantern' in curvy lowercase letters beside it.

During the Summer and Fall of 2021, I have been working with Eric Hoyt to upgrade and the backend and redesign the interface for Lantern, the search platform for the Media History Digital Library. This has been a highly involved project, and has required me to essentially recreate the entire website with a newer version of Ruby on Rails to use a more recent version of Blacklight. We are currently running an open test of the upgraded interface, and plan to fully deploy the new version later in 2022.

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Adobe Acrobat PDF Fixer

other

January 1, 2022

A screenshot of the Adobe Acrobat interface. It is in dark mode, so the windows are a dark grey and there is a single page of text in the center

Do you have a professor who provides PDFs that look like they’ve been run through a meat grinder? Are you a professor who provides PDFs that contain multiple scanned pages on a single page? We’ve all been there – someone has generously provided us with a PDF copy of a book chapter or article. But there’s one problem – none of the text is actually searchable. And each page of the PDF actually contains two pages of scanned text. PDFs in this format are not accessible to people using screen readers, and keeping multiple scanned pages on each PDF page can make navigating the document inconvenient and cumbersome. Adobe Acrobat can make those PDFs more usable, but manually fixing your scans each time is tedious. This Acrobat Action will semi-automatically process a scanned PDF to separate each scanned page onto its own PDF page and run the entire document through OCR to create searchable and selectable text.

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Alternative Implicit Association Test

web

May 1, 2021

A screenshot of a website. It has a white background and a large header which says 'Implicit Bias Test About Crime'

This is an alternative Implicit Bias Test created as part of the Code and Power course (LIS500) in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's iSchool. Our Implicit Bias Test about Crime aims to test each individual’s biases towards race and gender through a series of questions along with a summary of results. Each question is directed at the individual’s thought process, thus giving them a score determining how biased they are towards each photo in relation to crime. Safiya Noble (2018) has argued that even in cases where people are attempting to seek accurate information, search engines can nevertheless feed their confirmation biases. We recognize there may be some limitations in our test as there is no exact “right” answer; however, it allows each individual to compare their answers with the public and to reflect on their own choices. Ultimately, the test gathers information on one’s implicit racial and gender biases within crime by using timed elements and numerical responses.

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Jazz Genius

web

May 1, 2021

A black and white photograph of Louis Armstrong mid-bite with a large forkful of spaghetti

Jazz Genius is an experimental Digital Humanities project that interrogates the conventions and trends of jazz lyrics. The website contains thousands of songs collected from Genius.com and enables users to browse this collection and explore connections. Jazz Genius also offers several tools for analyzing this collection—including topic analyses, TEI markup, and various data visualizations.

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Public Speaking - Online Review Videos

video

May 1, 2020

A black screen with title text on it. There is white text on a green rectangle which says 'Parts of an Introduction' and white text on the black background which says 'SPCM 200 - Final Exam Review'

During the Spring 2020 semester, I taught multiple sections of SPCM 200 - Intro to Public Speaking. Each section had approximately 20 students, and the course covered basic principles of public speakig, along with fundamentals of research, writing, and argumentation. In March 2020, Colorado State University—like many others—transitioned to fully remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We transitioned SPCM 200 to an asynchronous format, and began delivering course materials primairly through pre-recorded videos. At the end of the semester, I produced many short videos such as these to help review various parts of course content before the final exam.

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The Mall

other

January 1, 2020

A brown background with several white rectangles with small drawings on them scattered throughout. The white rectangles are connected to each other with small orange lines, like a web

For some reason, when I was in elementary school I became obsessed with creating and drawing imaginary storefronts and the various items that each of them sold. The drawing skills are sub-par at best, and the actual spatial organization of the mall lacks any logic or structure whatsoever. But it was the third grade. Sue me. Years later, while visiting my parents and cleaning out some of my old stuff I rediscovered a folder full of these drawings. Now armed with the technical know-how (aka the confidence to Google and poke around with basic JavaScript), I set out to scan these old drawings and finally connect all these stores with one another like younger-me had always envisioned.

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4chan Scraper

other

January 1, 2019

A screenshot of the 4chan /pol/ politically incorrect imageboard.

This simple Python script uses 4chan's read-only APIs to scrape the information from the front page of a given imageboard. In addition to saving every image posted to the board, the script will also generate multiple CSV files that record which threads were on the front page at a given time. A folder is generated for each thread's images, as well as an individual CSV file that records each reply in the thread as well. I have done some research on anonymous online communities, the ways they communicate with one another, and how they're able to influence real events in the physical world. Rather than manually browsing and downloading content from 4chan imageboards, I built this script to automatically scrape the most recent content from a given 4chan imageboard.

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.org Doesn't Mean Credible

web

January 1, 2018

A screenshot of a website. In the screenshot there is a shooting star with the words 'the more your know' in its tail.

Many textbooks, online research guides, and other resources claim that a .org domain name is an indicator of credibility. The common explanation is that only non-profits, professional associations, and other organizations are able to register a .org domain name. One of the course objectives for SPCM 200 (Public Speaking) at CSU was to develop research skills, including practice evaluating the credibility of web sources. To that end, I wanted to teach students that there are rarely hard and fast rules to immediately assess a website – such as looking at the URL. Instead, they should expect to think critically about the web page and its content. To demonstrate this point, I purchased a domain name and created this simple website..

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Trumpster Fire Twitter Bot

web

January 1, 2018

A photograph of a large dumpster with flames coming out of it. The flames have been edited to appear as the face of President Donald Trump

I wrote a simple Twitter bot to represent anything tweeted by the President in a somewhat different format. Running on a simple Virtual Machine, the bot checks Trump’s Twitter feed every 10 minutes for new posts. Whenever it detects a new tweet, it pulls the text and overlays it atop an animated GIF of a dumpster fire using a python script and the Python Image Library (PIL).

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