All posts by gershuni

Final Reflection

The Provost of SUNY Geneseo, Dr. Paul Schacht, came to Rachel’s and mine presentation on our COLPAC Digital work on our school’s GREAT Day (Geneseo Recognizes Excellence and Talent), a school wide presentation day. He will be teaching a COPLAC Digital course next semester, and wanted feedback on everything, from the difficulty of the course, to how well the digital conferencing tools worked, to the ratio of student pairs who video conferences from the same room versus students who video conferenced from different rooms. He was so interested in the details of the course, that Rachel and I spent half an hour talking to him about our experience after everyone else had left the room. We spent so long talking to him because there was so much to say about our COPLAC Digital experience from the very beginning to the end.

As soon as I heard about this course, I desperately wanted to participate. As the professors know, I was so eager to get into the course, that I was super active in the search for my partner, even volunteering to go it alone if another partner couldn’t be found. However, I could not have been happier when I found out Rachel was my partner, I was absolutely elated. Not only was I fortunate enough to work with someone smart and ambitious with similar interests to mine, but I was fortunate enough to work with someone I was already friends with. The partnership that Rachel and I had was the highlight of this course for me, simply because it was entirely stress free and complementary. We had very similar expectations of work division, face-to-face meeting times, and overall collaboration. Furthermore, we could always depend on each other to move the project forward, which was something I truly appreciated.

When developing our website, this natural collaborative chemistry came to our advantage. Because we had very similar ideas about how the website should look, we didn’t have to spend valuable time compromising and arguing over what content we wanted featured. We were able to get straight to work on background research and identifying the names and contact information of the legislators we needed to contact. This was particularly useful since the semester (tragically) flew by faster than we thought, and not having to scramble at the very end made us produce a more complete website.

However, it wasn’t all easy. The biggest challenge I ran into was definitely trying to make sense of all the different groups and grievances that were presented in the various websites we found. Because there is virtually no literature, peer reviews or otherwise, published on Upstate New York secession, we had to guide ourselves through the project. The novelty that came with charting a topic came with edits and re-edits, constantly moving content and adding and removing subpages. We were aided greatly by the feedback we got from our classmates to feature opposition voices, just to show another side of the argument and to make our website seem more complete.

The skills I learned in this class will stay with me as I prepare myself for graduate school and for the future world. Having designed and led my own research project, I feel more confident being able to say I can conduct the independent research that is required of me in my future studies, and the technological skills I learned will prove infinitely helpful as I embark on my future career.

Update Again

A comment made on Wednesday said that some of our pages didn’t have enough content to justify them being actual pages, so I consolidated a bunch of the social media pages and the analysis onto a parent page. Will be asking for feedback about this Monday/Wednesday.

Progress Report

It’s been a rough busy week here in the Happy Valley of SUNY Geneseo, but I managed to finish up the opposition voices content of the website. It looks good and I am looking forward to hearing comments because I feel like the comment section was the most helpful part of last class!

Update Report #?idk (upstate NY)

In a burst of post-class productivity I sat down and wrote the analysis for the social media section of the project! Now onto exploring the suggestion made during class about some alternate voices who might be against the movement and would add context to our site. This next part is going to be fun because I feel like I am finally going down a road I haven’t gone before!

Progress Report (Again)

I submitted a progress report about two days ago, but it isn’t showing up… so if anyone can tell me where a progress report might be hidden, that would be good!

I am just going to combine the last report and this one together. Before the weekend, we finally made all of our pages desktop sized which is great because it makes the text more aesthetically appealing, and makes all the slideshows and storymaps bigger and easier to read. I specifically worked on adding analysis to the History section of our website. This part was very rewarding paired with Rachel’s work adding the politician interview analysis because it allows us to weave common threads throughout our project.

I am currently working on adding analysis to the social media parts of the website. Right now, I am trying to see what would be more logical and appealing, adding small sections of analysis throughout the many social media tabs we have, or creating one big block of analysis? The latter might be easier in terms of information consolidation so people don’t have to search for analysis. However, it is a big block of text… which might not be ideal.

Update 3/29 SUNY Geneseo

This has been a very productive week for Rachel and myself. I personally worked on editing the slideshows, to make them more informative and have them blend more smoothly with the webpage. I did this for both the website homepage and the pages under Social Media groups. This was specifically helpful because it helped balance out our first draft in order to make it as visually pleasing as possible. Along with the info on New Amsterdam, and the various social media groups,  I was also able to do some housekeeping on our sections regarding the “About the Course” Section and ensuring that every header tab had text on it.

I feel that overall, we have a good first draft that has all the information we need on it, but we will need to delve further into the analysis parts over the next month.


Spring Break(?)

I finally got a response from Senator Robach about the questions I sent him a month ago. That is good because now we can consolidate his answers with the ones we get Assemblyman Hawley and look for patterns and common themes in order to make it more navigable on the website. I also added a few tabs to the website and am amending the contract for the final time (hopefully!).

SUNY Geneseo Bibliography

Clark, Dan. “The Upstate Economy Is One of the Worst in the Country.” Politifact New York. 16 September 2016. Accessed 3 March 2017.

Conley, Kirsten. “Upstate New Yorkers Rally to Secede.” New York Post. 31 August 2015. Accessed 3 March 2017.

Craig, Susanne. “New York’s Southern Tier, Once a Home for Big Business, Is Struggling.” The New York Times. 29 September 2015. Accessed 3 March 2017.

“Could New York Let Upstate Be Upstate?” Public Policy Institute. May 2004.

Hawley, Stephan. “Another Point Of View: Nothing Unconstitutional About Letting The People Decide.” New York State Assembly. 13 May 20111. Accessed 3 March 2017.

New York State Senate. In Senate Committee. Provides for a referendum on the question “Do you support the division of New York into two separate states? Senate Bill S2176A. 21 January 2015.

Spector, Joseph. “Upstate Groups Want to Secede from New York.” USA Today. 25 August 2015. Accessed 3 March 2017.

Kolossov “Ethnic and Political Identities in former USSR”

Vladimir Kolossov’s analysis of ethnic tension and geopolitical, territorial struggle in the post-Soviet space is outstanding on some fronts, but lacking in others. As a scholar of Russian politics, history, and culture, I enjoyed reading about his insights, specifically on Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. However, some of his analysis, specifically regarding the Russian Federation is clearly a product of him writing in the Yeltsin years and does not apply to Putin’s Russia today.

Uniquely, Kolossov defines ethnicity in the former USSR as a matter of choice, a “self -identification” for people who want to belong to a certain ethnic group. Because ethnicity isn’t primordial, it can be easily exploited by political entrepreneurs for territorial and economic gains. Ethnicity in the former USSR has been used as a state building mechanism, and to solidify control over arbitrarily drawn borders. He points out that most former Soviets have a hierarchy of identity, common in a place with so many conflicting territories and histories. In a personal example, though I was born in the Russian Federation and was baptized into Orthodox Christianity, my ethnicity is listed on my Russian passport as “Jewish.” This to me was totally normal, until I came to college and people started looking at me weird after I told them that. It is because hierarchical identity allows me to identify as many, sometimes contradictory, things. This is the case with many Russians and with many other former Soviets.

“Soviet” itself is still a popular identity among the post-Soviet republics. Though this word has Marxist connotations in the West, Kolossov states that those identifying themselves as Soviet do not have to be communists or even pine for the days of the USSR. They simply are remarking on a shared experience that connects them with people tens of thousands of miles away. Kolossov uses “Soviet” as an example of a trans-border identity.

Language policies are also touched on heavily in Kolossov’s analysis. He mentions how in Ukraine, those who speak Russian can be considered traitors because Ukraine is using language policy in order to consolidate their power over their borders and distinguishing themselves from the Russian “other.” In a moment of unwitting prediction, Kolossov mentions the Donetsk republic in Ukraine as an example of a place where an enforced Ukrainian language policy would not make sense due to the high concentration of Russian speakers. Donetsk is currently engaged in a separatist civil war in Ukraine, with one of their grievances being Kiev’s disrespect for their Russian ethnic heritage.

Kolossov makes another fascinating point when he says that in the former Soviet republics: “Who we are depends on who we were.” This manifests itself in Ukraine’s vision as the “breadbasket of Europe” and attachment to the Kievan Rus, the founding of all Slavic civilization. In South Ossetia, (Georgia?/Russia?/Independent State?, they are a part of a frozen separatist movement), people of different languages and religions see themselves as the heirs of Alania, a powerful state that resisted the Mongol horde.

However, Kolossov’s article shows signs of age. He seems to dismiss claims of “Russian imperialism” through Russian language instruction, when today, the proliferation of the Russian language is a vector of Russia’s foreign policy and the creation of a Russkiy Mir or Russian World. Soft power projection, such as the spread Russian language instruction, is as important to the Kremlin as military policy. Furthermore, Kolossov gives too much power to regional governors in the Russian Federation. While it is true that during the Yeltsin years, regional governors exploited both the Kremlin and the people they represented, Putin severely curbed the power of regional governors during his first term, centralizing the country further and making it less prone to secessionist movements.

“The Virgin of the Carmine and the Revolt of Masaniello” – Peter Burke


The story of the Revolt of Masaniello in 17th century Naples blurs the line between a religious revolt and a revolt based on grievances. The people of Naples were ruled by a Spanish viceroy who levied high taxes on the population, especially on foodstuffs causing mass discontent. The poor people of the city who participated in the revolt were sparked by an increase in the fruit tax, which caused a riot among local merchants and vendors.


The revolt was led by Masaniello, a fisherman who was participating in the Feast of the Virgin Mary on the public square. He is the tragic hero of his own revolt, since he led it unwittingly. The revolt started during a mock battle staged by the residence of the Naples on the feast. Masaniello was in charge of one of the stage armies, but as soon as he and the public heard about the rise in food prices and the dispute over the tax spilled out into the streets, the threat of the stage army became a physical mob. The crowd of people marched on the palace, destroying property and stealing from stores and the houses of wealthy Neapolitans.


What is most interesting about this rebellion was the use of religion by both the rioters and the authorities. Masaniello, who had attempted to stop the rampant looting and destruction of the riot, had become “a man sent from God” and the rioters shouted the name of the Virgin Mary as they raided the city. The authorities however, also invoked the religious imagery by carrying crucifixes and praying. The authorities were literally trying to exercise the demons out of the rioters, because it seemed like the crowd had been possessed by the devil himself.


Earlier in the semester, I brought up a war of greed versus a war of grievance. This is a good example of how a war (or 10 day rebellion) was fought over greed, but was attempted to be turned into a religious crusade, a war on grievance. This heightened religious imagery no doubt contributed to the madness of the crowd, so it makes sense that Masaniello finally went mad after being compared to a divine prophet.