Hello. My name is Ari Stein. I’m a rising junior majoring in Digital Narrative & Interactive Design, which is a relatively new program formed via a collaboration between the English and Computer Science departments. In addition, I’m double minoring in Computer Science and Japanese. For my project, I will be researching Japanese cultural history through the lens of architecture. More specifically, I will examine how shifts in the country’s culture manifest in monuments, memorials, and other physical structures, starting around the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 through to the modern day. Something that’s always interested me about recent Japanese history is the way the people adapt with the times and changes brought on by foreign influence while still maintaining a strong, distinctly Japanese identity. I think my chosen time frame, with an influx of foreign trade at the start, will reveal how that identity shows itself.
I will be working alongside Dr. Charles Exley, an associate professor of Japanese Literature and Film here at Pitt. Something I highly value about my pursuits in this area is the opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and, in a more general sense, a chance to expand my own perspective. I believe that my project can extend this perspective to a wider demographic, exposing people to the complexities and developments of recent Japanese culture beyond what can be gleaned from a regular textbook. The final product will incorporate what I’ve learned from my major, presenting the narrative of Japanese culture through a digital, non-linear format. I’ve studied the video game engine known as Unity, and beyond simply creating games, I know it is a powerful tool for facilitating exploration through a story, allowing for branching paths and freeform design to paint a more realistic, complex picture than a regular paper report.
In terms of professional goals, I have a couple paths in mind. I’m on the game design track of my major and would love to ultimately end up working in that field. The major itself is perfect for that as it combines skills of writing and technical creation. With the Brackenridge program, I know I’ll have a lot of chances to engage with many driven, diverse academics. I will gain a lot of insight into the ways other people’s minds work and improve my own ability to communicate in creative and effective ways. This will help as a general life skill, but it is also key to success in the game development industry, where creative communication is everything. One other path I might pursue in the shorter term is teaching English to middle and high school students in Japan. Once again, learning how to effectively explain my own area of expertise to those who may not be as familiar will be an invaluable skill, and very good practice for entering the field of teaching.
I will finish off by sharing the requested unique point about myself, which is that I wrote a serialized novel. I posted a chapter every week for 50 weeks throughout my freshman year, which kept me active with it and allowed me to be proactive in pursuing my love of storytelling. I look forward to many more such opportunities in the future.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to working with everyone this summer!