Sylvi Stein

Undergraduate Researcher, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Arts Humanities

Research Topic

History of Art

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2022

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Reading Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 24, 2022
Replying to Yoni Kurtz
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

During the course of my project, I ran into the issue of finding quantitative data regarding participants in youth baseball. Though this was initially frustrating, it forced me to reconsider my research question, and move in a direction that focused more on media perceptions of youth baseball and race, through looking at newspapers and magazines. This helped give me a concrete place to look, as well as a firm research question that could be analyzed in any era for which newspapers are available, which is a much broader range than any of the limited qualitative data that I had found. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I have found ebscohost's newspaper archives particularly useful, as I have been able to do advanced searches for certain keywords like "baseball," "little league," "youth," "people of color," and more relevant phrases to find newspaper articles in ebsco's vast archives that show the growth and decline of youth baseball in different communities over time.

It's so interesting to me to consider how all the research that has ever been done is entirely reliant on a) what traditional resources are available and b) whether or not a researcher is able to be incredibly creative. I think that it's amazing you were able to rephrase your question to focus on utilizing the newspapers and other tools open to you, and I appreciate your use of the phrase "qualitative" to describe data. I always thought of research as a qualitative process, but I am realizing it is almost entirely a quantitative one, a creative one.

Jun 24, 2022
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

I am writing a paper about art history, and I have come to assume it would be published in an art historical journal. This means the target audience is art historians, and in the future, those in the academic world of art history will be the people who are gleaning anything of relative importance from my work. In discussion with the other students in my graduate student group, I came to realize that this is not what originally drew me to my project - the idea of contributing a sliver of information to the art world. I am more interested in the actual concepts i am studying, and how they affect the public's understanding of contemporary art. I might care about what a famous art history professor thinks of my work, but I also care a good deal about what my younger brothers think about the art I enjoy so much. I want to focus more on writing a paper that includes both sides of the issue, not just a bias towards one or the other. There is no "side" to take, actually; I am just presenting the facts as I see them, and I hope that, in doing so, I can learn more about what causes people to say "that famous work is ugly," or what causes museums to decide when one kind of art is better than another.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I have mainly been using Google Scholar and JSTOR, but I have also reached out to a lot of people via email. So I suppose my most valuable resource comes from public firsthand accounts.

Jun 17, 2022
Replying to Sylvi Stein
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Do you hope to produce an annotated bibliography that you reflect on down the line? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

My research will hopefully culminate in a research paper and/or archive of interviews that have to do with my topic. I believe that a paper will be the most successful culmination of my research because I am interested in investigating a very specific topic: the replacement of one particular monument, and the ways in which community response is indicative of the interaction between the public and contemporary art. I think a paper will be able to address the topic succinctly and thoroughly.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

Monuments are enormously important in our current culture, and the debate surrounding them has unquestionably been brought to the forefront of our national attention in these past couple of years. As an art historian, my life's work will be to puzzle out the mysteries of the art world in order to understand how life and art are intertwined. I think that there has been a radical break with contemporary art and the public sphere in the past couple decades. Since Jackson Pollock, the art world has made a definitive and obvious move into intellectualism. Actually, I would say that since Picasso, art has slowly been morphed into something that you either "get" or just think is dumb. I think this barrier has prevented a lot of people from engaging with a concept that is, generally, just about expression and communication. I want to know why, exactly, the community chose the more traditional monument over a contemporary art giant, because I think it will unlock a path to our understanding of the consequences that come from the intellectualization of art.

You bring up a good point - I called it "intellectualism," but I mean to say that art has become more about academic training. Art made today references famous art movements, both those hundreds of years in the past and those made quite recently. An example of this can be seen at the Whitney Biennial; one artist's work is a stack of medical documents (part of Emily Barker's Kitchen: https://hyperallergic.com/537093/built-to-scale-emily-barker-at-murmurs-los-angeles/). This art piece is interesting on its own, for all it depicts about ableist systems, but I found it an interesting callback to Felix Gonzales-Torres' Paper Stacks (https://www.felixgonzalez-torresfoundation.org/works/c/paper-stacks), a comparison that gave the Barker piece new meaning in my eyes. I never would have known to make this comparison without the aid of an art history class I took here at Columbia, so I suppose that is what I mean by "intellectualism" -- the art world has become more and more self-referential.

Jun 16, 2022
Replying to Ashwin Marathe
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Do you hope to produce an annotated bibliography that you reflect on down the line? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

My oral history project will continue through the summer as I begin interviewing individuals. At the end, the audio files and transcripts will be archived by the South Asian American Digital Archive. I have spent the past month researching the background of the protest to understand the key stakeholders, locating individuals to interview, preparing release forms/consent forms, contacting archives to see if they would store my material, and now beginning the interview process. I may write a paper after I conduct the interviews, but that is largely dependent on what I find through the oral history. I am now specifically focusing on Sikh individuals in the United States and their reactions to the protests in India (how they organized demonstrations in the United States in solidarity). I expect it to be quite a bit of work—I will have to conduct 10-12 interviews and transcribe them, and write summaries of each. 

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

My research has gone from focusing on the broader Farmers Protest in India -> how did individuals resist the government? -> what about in the U.S.? -> Sikh/Punjabi culture's relationship to farming -> Sikh resistance to the Indian government in the U.S.. This research is important because it will reveal how the South Asian diaspora remains or does not remain connected to India. Since a lot of second and third generation Sikhs grew up in the U.S., their connection to Sikh culture may have withered. However, the recent protest has reinvigorated a passion for Sikh culture/farming, and has connected many individuals back to their culture that they were growing distant from. I hope to understand what that process looks like and how cultural identity can change/grow stronger or weaker over time. I think it will help answer questions like: will people remain engaged with their culture now that the protest has happened? How do individuals balance growing up in America with family back home? I am interested in this because I, too, grew up in the U.S. and have had to balance being Indian and American. I speak Marathi at home, attend religious festivals in college/at home, and am deeply tied to Indian classical music. But, I am still not as connected to my Indian heritage since I did not grow up in India like my parents did. So, I relate

I love to hear about how your idea of your project has evolved. My project has also narrowed down in scale, which I think is necessary in any research - you have to concentrate on a smaller section of information in order to make any claim. No bold or sweeping claim could be backed up without tons and tons of notes and research behind it, the kind that would take international collaboration. I am always interested in the idea that theories can never be proved, only supported. It's strange to consider how our entire understanding of modern science is built on theories...

Jun 16, 2022
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Do you hope to produce an annotated bibliography that you reflect on down the line? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

My research will hopefully culminate in a research paper and/or archive of interviews that have to do with my topic. I believe that a paper will be the most successful culmination of my research because I am interested in investigating a very specific topic: the replacement of one particular monument, and the ways in which community response is indicative of the interaction between the public and contemporary art. I think a paper will be able to address the topic succinctly and thoroughly.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

Monuments are enormously important in our current culture, and the debate surrounding them has unquestionably been brought to the forefront of our national attention in these past couple of years. As an art historian, my life's work will be to puzzle out the mysteries of the art world in order to understand how life and art are intertwined. I think that there has been a radical break with contemporary art and the public sphere in the past couple decades. Since Jackson Pollock, the art world has made a definitive and obvious move into intellectualism. Actually, I would say that since Picasso, art has slowly been morphed into something that you either "get" or just think is dumb. I think this barrier has prevented a lot of people from engaging with a concept that is, generally, just about expression and communication. I want to know why, exactly, the community chose the more traditional monument over a contemporary art giant, because I think it will unlock a path to our understanding of the consequences that come from the intellectualization of art.

Jun 10, 2022
Replying to Yoni Kurtz
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

In researching, I've realized that because my subject is baseball, many of the writers/researchers that I'm reading have a deep nostalgic association with the subject that they are writing about/researching. While this is sometimes helpful to me, since the researchers are often very thorough in preserving historical documents, it also means that they often have a tendency to whitewash elements of baseball history, or only research things that paint baseball in a positive light. This means that I often have to take a second look at the primary sources that these researchers are looking at to make sure they are portraying the whole picture.

One other ethical issue that I have been grappling with is the involvement of kids in my research. Looking at patterns of youth sports participation is a delicate subject, because it involves looking for data about children's lives that is obviously usually pretty private. In response to this, all of the data sets that I have found ensure that any data is totally anonymous, using multiple steps of anonymity to make sure that no data can be traced bak to specific children or locations.

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

Just this past week, I was having second thoughts about my research topic. I felt that all the reasons for race-based discrepancies in baseball participation had been thoroughly researched, and that I wasn't going to find any data about youth sports. After expressing these doubts to my mentor, he helped point me in the right direction, and I was able to sharpen my research question more towards how the history of youth baseball in America reflects America's historical racial dynamics. This reconnection has allowed me to continue on with my original topic, but in a new direction where I feel I will actually be contributing new research.

I think the idea of nostalgia leading to (maybe unintentional, but still incredibly detrimental) whitewashing is so interestingly insidious. It reminds me of people who say "well, this wasn't a problem when I was a kid..." displaying their narrow-mindedness through a guise of nostalgia. (Of course there were systemic issues when you were a kid, but there probably wasn't as much visibility around them.) Again and again, I find myself coming back to the idea that all generalizations are dangerous (a phrase that is oxymoronic, of course - maybe it would be better to say that ALMOST all generalizations are dangerous). I think that it is very important to distrust the objectivity of every source, but to not let that discourage you; the more sources you look at, the more comprehensive picture you can paint of your data.

Jun 08, 2022
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

I have begun to realize that a lot of the sources I am investigating are news sources with various agendas. Some are art market sources, some are round-the-clock news sources, some are human-interest pieces. All of these authors depict various aspects of the case I am studying, and sometimes, they emphasize different ideas and motivations of the people involved. I realize -- I have realized this before, but it's more startling to encounter this in person -- that there is no such thing as a truly objective viewpoint. In fact, any one source that claims to have all the facts has done something very wrong in their reporting. I find that the best way to collect the least-subjective view on this topic is to read a lot of different sources and to investigate the context in which these sources were produced.

As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

My research question has evolved after meeting with my mentor. I want to look at what, exactly, the intersection is between monuments and contemporary art. This is obviously a hugely broad question; the original idea that my faculty mentor suggested was a very ambitious response. He brought up the concept that monuments are best when they are unremarkable and invisible. I agree that this is a controversial idea in a country rocked by the protests against Civil War monuments, but I haven't yet done enough research to determine the relative merits of this idea versus the general consensus that monuments are important visibility-wise. I think it is a very interesting response to consider, and with every new piece of information that I learn about the way the public has reacted to non-traditional monuments in the last couple of years, the more information I get about how my faculty mentor could believe that this thesis could be supported.

Jun 02, 2022
Replying to Kelly Warner

1.  I found the interdisciplinary nature of this program incredibly helpful in approaching my research, especially considering that my own project cuts across several disciplines. I think this was especially noticeable upon being assigned my personal mentors. For example, my personal librarian specializess in STEM disciplines, while my graduate student's focus is in communications and social sciences. I found this incredibly useful because it allows me to approach my research from a variety of perspectives and gain a more nuanced understanding of my research topic. 

2. The predominant challenge I anticipate in getting started is where to start with my research. Since my faculty mentor is on vacation this week, her instructions were to review study materials and explore the study's online resources and databases. My mentor said she would be available for any questions that we may have, however, I am/was hesitant to reach out with questions because she is on vacation. Dealing with this was/has been a challenge, in trying to maintain communication and move forward with my research, while respecting my mentor's personal time away from work.

Hi Kelly! I also had some challenges getting in contact with my mentor. I was worried to go down the wrong path without guidance at the very beginning of the project. I think some preliminary research would ensure that any questions you reach out with would be intelligent and not a waste of your mentor's time; I think that as long as you don't email every day, your mentor would respect your decision to take the initiative!