It’s over. It’s done.

The end of the semester has finally arrived and I’m impressed that I made it. The spring 2018 semester has by far been the most trying, yet I can say with confidence that I am leaving with so much more knowledge than I had in the beginning. I know this is on the digital history blog, and I know this technically counts as “sucking up” but I have never learned more in a class than HIST 428. I did not take computer/tech classes in high school and I took one computer applications class in college. I felt incredibly unprepared to take this course but in the end, I am so glad I entered the class that way. 

I put so much of my effort and energy into building a website, branding myself, cleaning my digital identity, managing my time, researching, using new internet applications, and applying these methods to my other classes. The skills that I learned in this class will apply to more life situations in the future than my other history courses.

In regards to my group project, I’m pretty happy with the final outcome. While the project did cause some animosity among group members and put the majority of the group on edge, the project did get completed; it just did not follow through accordingly with the originally proposed contract. I think the main issue is I went into the project thinking that we were going to be able to do all of these things to make this awesome web page with a lot of awesome widgets and awesome videos. Those awesome things did not happen but I still believe that we as a group did create something pretty awesome.  To go through the contract I will first discuss what we did do, then move to what we didn’t do, and after a look into what I wish we had done or didn’t do in the first place. 

We did look into 40 markers like we said that we would. However, this being the basis of the project made this objective one of the most trying. Originally the research was supposed to be done by Rachel and myself and we would get all of the necessary information in. Not an easy feat, but doable when given substantial time to do so. But, the research was split up among all group members with different schedules and opposite task management skills from other students in the group. The basic info on the markers did not change (aside from the interviews) which pretty much reflected off of the model that other groups had used in past projects. We also did complete a timeline, map, and sourcebook–there were just some minor changes in ownership along the way.

We did not make a video on the intro page. I really wish that we had done that because I think it would’ve personalized our page more. A lot of websites do it to show how they work. Since there is a lot of components to this page, I would’ve really liked to have seen that added in. We also never got to do any interviews–another disappointment but I don’t think it took anything serious away from the project. I was supposed to work on that but I was worried that I would not get the help that I needed to pursue it since most of the work completed by the group was last-minute. In regards to the map, it was also decided to not use ArcGIS story map because it did not seem that user-friendly. I had really pushed for that, and once I got stumped, it was frustrating to have to go back and start making a google my maps. However, making the map turned out fine and actually look better than I expected (we had also mentioned that we might change the map on our contract). We never made 2 timelines. I am glad we did not do that because it seemed kind of silly to have two. Maybe if we documented the years that certain monuments went up we could have graphed it or something similar? But having an interactive component like a timeline and inputting information like that seemed like a waste once we started making that timeline for the research events.

Finally the part of the project that should’ve been done every week but wasn’t was consistent project blog posts. There were always changes along the way that should have been documented by all group members. I know that I was not consistent with my posts, but I was very vocal with the group. I would have set aside a time slot every week to work on my blog posts if I could do this project over again. I would forget about the blog posts each week or be working on something else related to the project or other classes. I also would’ve done the map, timeline, and sourcebook after finishing each marker research post. Going through all of them for each widget was messy and time-consuming. I would have come up with a better way of keeping track of the markers that I had finished to avoid confusion in the editing stages.

Speaking on the deadlines for the project, I met each one (except now that I see that this post was due Sunday…). So aside from this blog post, I got my work in when I was supposed to and I’m pretty impressed with that given my class load this semester. 

And finally, upon reflection of how I feel my overall contribution was, I feel pretty good about it. I was happy that Rachel took the lead on delegating because I was the leader of two other group projects, but I felt like I did my part, got my stuff in, and provided help when needed. I also firmly believe that my role in taking the photos for the site was critical and time-consuming. It’s not that we wouldn’t have a project without my photos, but it certainly didn’t hurt to have them. 

This project was overall a fun and challenging experience that I’m fairly proud to put on my resume. I had an active role in the creation of the page and I feel good about taking co-ownership of the final product. 

 

Digital Evolution of Historians

Technology usage in education has a profound effect on the classroom. Children tend to be more engaged and perhaps even a little more well-versed on how to use technology when incorporated in their education. While there are people in the professional world such as historians and teachers jumping on the bandwagon to promote change in the field of history and/or in the classroom, there are others that reject this change and push against using technology in the classroom. However, those interested in education and history have practically no choice in the matter and can no longer avoid the calls of digital history and technology.

Cameron Blevlins in her article (http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/77) discusses how historians are still referring to technology usage in history as the “future”, which is actually the now and future. Instead of technology having the “potential” to incorporate itself fully in the field of history, it needs to be recognized that it is already here and is only experiencing continuous growth. While the existence of it is being acknowledged, the strength of it is not. (The author) further argues that digital history needs to be used not only for the education and research purposes but also to compose an argument. I have seen the “twitterstorians” posing questions about research or voicing their educated opinions with a resounding response from other historians on Twitter. While this is not exactly what the article is referring to, the example of Twitter shows that digital historians (and non-digital) are pushing the envelope of where and how they can showcase their work. Discussion and feed-back is so important in the field of history, so by not including argumentation in the process of digital history, there is a prime component of traditional history that is left out. These arguments are valuable and further our understanding of the past.

In Brennan’s article (http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/83) it discusses the role of public history within digital history–public digital history, digital public history, etc. Currently, I am enrolled in Dr. Devlin’s introduction to public history course and have learned so much about how public historians engage with and work with the public. Incidentally, this week we read some articles and discussed digital history in class. The response from some of the students regarding the use of technology in their potential field was surprisingly negative. Some students in my group discussion expressed particular dislike in the inclusion of digital technology and media in their studies, and another student stated, “just give me a book”. The truth is, technology in history, and particularly public history is so unavoidable. While most of the articles discuss how teachers and historians in the field for a long time are having trouble harnessing the power of technology in their work, I thought it was interesting that there are 20 something aged kids rejecting its usage too in their liberal arts studies here at UMW.  It needs to be stressed in all history courses that students need and should immerse themselves in technology in order to provide a wider access to content. Public historians in particular because instead of just doing things FOR the public, they are performing tasks WITH the public. It is a service driven job that needs to be widespread with technology, but also user-friendly so that all have equal access to the material. But it should be noted that not everyone has computer access to the internet, particularly those in low-income areas. However, most of the population do have smartphones so creating streamlined technology for their content that is mobile accessible is necessary.

Like Dr, McClurken had mentioned in his article (http://mcclurken.umwhistory.org/documents/JMRevised–SAA%20chapter%20proofs.pdf)there should be a focus on technology in the classroom to help facilitate the material. I cannot imagine as a history undergrad with the number of research papers I need to complete, visiting the archives to collect primary sources. Do not get me wrong, I LOVE the archives (and old things), however, the ability to look at primary sources online that I probably wouldn’t have access to unless transcribed in a book, is amazing and an opportunity that something that is so valuable. However, my public history class did discuss the digital divide that Dr. McClurken brought up in his article and not only can that affect public history (some don’t have access to internet, the interfaces created are too difficult for those not well-versed in public history, etc.) but the price of gaining access to materials can be expensive. Thankfully UMW’s library search catalog is wonderful and I have never really had a large problem when attempting to uncover primary works. My community college, Lord Fairfax CC, also had a great search engine from their library that made it so much easier to gain access to works that otherwise, I would not know exactly how to find. Historians and those in the field of education need to understand the importance of using the opportunities that digital history sites like this can afford them and the students or other colleagues that they are educating.

While the field of history is consistently changing and growing, the evolution of it should not be rejected. Using technology in research is not lazy or ineffective, it’s working smarter (but you’re probably still working hard). Digital historians are constantly creating new things and pushing the envelope of what constitutes digital history. As new technology floods the education system, teachers need to take advantage of its developments to encourage better reception of history that is not only lecture.

Digital Identity–still in the works

The recent assignment to explore the horrors of digital identity has been an issue that I have been dealing with all semester. After a talk with one of the members of the digital knowledge center, I decided to give “lakelyn wiley” a google and too my surprise I found that my digital identity was nothing like I had imagined and I immediately went on a googling spree in an attempt to “clear my name”. This was two months ago and yet when I google my name, the sites I want to show up in fact first, but when I scroll down, sites like youtube and Spotify with my high school playlists from the summer of 2013 and “hilarious” viral videos saved still show up and pollute my digital presence. Unfortunately, my name is fairly unique which puts all of my information easily accessible.

However, after reading the New York Times article on digital identity by Tim Herrera (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/smarter-living/how-to-see-what-the-internet-knows-about-you.html) and Danah Boyd (http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/09/07/controlling_you.html) I feel a little better about the elimination of some of my unsavory profiles from google cache. The links provided will be useful in eliminating pictures from google image search and any indication that I have other social media other than my professional profiles.

A quote that I will remember every time I open up a new internet profile is “the best plan is to overload google with good stuff and act as if you are always on candid camera” (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/02/personal-branding-in-the-age-of-google.html) This was from Seth Goodins article on personal branding. Its so important to present yourself in a professional manner and google can and will uncover moments in 2010 that you may not want an employer of 2018 and beyond to discover and attach to their perception of you. Recently I have been getting to work by updating my linkedin, getting second opinions on my resume, and keeping all of my online personal life private. All of my professional digital resources such as my domain, linkedin, and even research gate, has helped bolster my profile and enabled me to look capable and prepared for an actual job as I near graduation.

The main take away for all of the articles that I reviewed is that sure, privacy is dead, but I still have a semblance of control for what others see with a simple google search. I feel a lot more confident about the information I am showcasing, I just need to enhance my professional profiles more.

Creative Commons and Wikipedia

The Ted talk on Wikipedia was interesting to me as I did not know all of the words that the site does and interestingly, does not do. The fact that they only have a couple of employees and the bulk of the labor is volunteer only is amazing to me. It’s one of the most visited websites in the world mainly for its free access to information that is clear and relatively easy to understand. The article pages that I decided to look into were of Jeffrey Dahmer and Donald Trump. Jeffrey Dahmer’s history tab was riddled with recent changes from someone who just wanted to mess with the page. I just thought it was interesting that the changes were caught so quickly and reverted back to the original text.

All of the changes made by “Coleisedgy23” were immediately found to be incorrect and changed. It’s kind of insane that there are only a handful of people reviewing this work and making sure that the wrong information like, “his mugshot was taken by ‘the big boy po po'” is removed in order to maintain site credibility. I then decided to look into Donald Trump’s page which I assume is on a watchlist because of his level of fame at this time. There are constant changes and revisions being made to his site. I’m sure any politician’s webpage is riddled with new changes.

Concerning the Creative Commons license, for our group, I think we would have the attribution 4.0 international license (free cultural works approved license). The information that we are attempting to make available for public consumption should be assured easy access and the permission to share with who they want to.

 

State Marker’s Fantastical Ideas

The resources presented today are very interesting and have an assortment of uses. However, determining how we could implement these tools into our project did require some critical thinking.

For text mining, we determined that we could keyword search in Voyant (https://voyant-tools.org/) for historical documents from there find more information on the historical sites that we are mapping on our website. This method can assist us in assessing the socio-historical context of a particular text and the historical marker itself.

Rachel also explained to the group how palladio ( http://hdlab.stanford.edu/palladio/ )could be used by our group. As a group, we had decided that we wanted to showcase road trips or maps to other state markers that are of interest to the site user. Using Palladio, we could determine where the networks of historical markers intersect and therefore we could deduce what sites, memorials, and makers are tied together.

In regards to topic modeling, we thought that Juxta commons ( http://juxtacommons.org/ ) would be great to access how many of out historical site intersect in terms of dates (such as when the historical event took place, when the markers were erected, etc.). We could also use the same database to find these historical markers, which will be helpful because they will have the same sets of information for the historical markers.

While we all were not completely sure about how we would use these tools in our project, there was interest in using these tools in other classes. For Lake, using text analysis sites would be a great tool for research in some of her other classes. Analyzing different documents (like the Declaration of Independence final and rough drafts) were interesting and potentially useful tools in looking for similarities and differences within texts.

State Markers Group Discussion #2

As a group we looked at Criminal Intent, famous Law Trials, JSTOR, Internet Archive, Residential Schools, Hurricane Digital Memory Bank — we also talked about Aurasma. We agreed that most of the websites were outdated and/or difficult to navigate.

We did not like the Hurricane Database at all. There was no way to watch any videos, and there was little chance that a picture would be featured.

We commented on the likeability of Internet Archive and enjoyed the many amenities it had. Lake remarked that she loved the old-school radio station, whereas Jason enjoyed the fact that he could access VR Troopers website through Internet Archive. The Internet Archive holds a wealth of information and files that cover a wide array of subjects.

Vintage Cigarette Commercial
Charlie Chaplin Comedy Movie

 

Potential issues with digitization come with some of the most basic thoughts that come with digitization — user friendliness, ease of access, organization, the theme is important, make sure that all of our links and media are sound. Basically, everything has a purpose and everything needs to be double checked so that it works and does its job. At first we were excited to use Aurasma for our project, however, after using it and playing around with the tech for a while we all realized that it just isn’t compatible with the material we were going to present.

We were not a huge fan of this website. The first impression is good with a sleek site design, but as you scroll down, the maps are out of sorts and situated on top of the text.
Example of the graphs over text

We also came up with an idea, which is tentative for now, but to create a timeline of all of the Historical Markers in Fredericksburg City/Spotsylvania County, visualizing the chronology of when these markers were erected. From here we would be able to talk about any controversy or news that happened around these markers.

Lastly, we discussed the four vague and loose rules to begin our contract which consists of the following:

Let the group know if you’re going to miss our meetings
Ask for help from the group if you’re struggling
Be respectful of group members
Hold each other accountable for your work”

Group Discussion

State Historical Markers

Jay, Mili, and I reviewed the digital history projects and went over our thoughts, keeping in mind our course project of plotting State Historical Markers. During our collaboration, we discussed the usability of the site we will be creating. Considering the user functionality of the Omeka website about the Molasses Explosion ( ), we all agreed that this particular site was not what we wanted to make because the functionality it had was not well done. Having seen that we thought that we would focus on quality over quantity and accessibility to novice and experts, and to explicitly ask the UMW Office of Disabilities how to make our site accessible and user-friendly.

We mentioned design and the St. John’s Micro-history Mapping website (  ) was not visually appealing and it hindered the vast amount of information that she provided. We aim to create a visually appealing site to showcase our information that will appeal to the masses. The website, in theory, is what we would like to accomplish (aside from the bad design). The information was of good quality and substantial.

The creator also kept the site simple employing quality over quantity. Because we want to to have a quality project, we will be focusing on the Fredericksburg and Stafford area. We had an idea of incorporating Google Maps street view so those interested could see the actual sites from their computer or phone.

We are all very excited to continue to collaborate and employ some of the methods we have learned and continue to learn into our project.

Digital History Projects Review

Learning about historical events and trends via books and research is fine and effective, but reviewing the same information on interactive interfaces gives the same information (with a face-lift). The sites reviewed were all, for the most part, user-friendly and attractive projects that reached the goal that they had in mind. In particular, I enjoyed the 1790-1860 census data project that showed the amount of enslaved and free individuals in America.

 

This site, created by Lincoln Mullen, was easy to use, attractive, and informative without going overboard by staying grounded with the intention to map out census data.

Another impressive site, Renewing Inequality, by the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab, showed the displacement of African Americans during the times of the “Culture of Clearance”. I felt the maps, charts, and the inclusion of information was great, but the site design probably could have been better to facilitate the amount of information the creators had. For example on the page reviewing the notes and sources, there are a few other widgets nearby that clutter the page. The menu is also partially hidden making it harder, but not impossible, to browse through the other menu options.

The digital history project, St. John’s micro-mapping project is a good example of a site with great information, but a really unattractive page. I do not really understand what the creator was trying to do with this design. This project, created by Christina Ross, has an awesome supply of information. She looks into four Morning Chronical Papers in Newfoundland, Canada, looking for content. She finds that a lot of the content in the newspaper centers more around politics than small-town life contrary to her hypothesis.

 

Clicking on a point brings you to a snippet of information of a place from her research on the newspapers in the area. But, it also can bring you to a completely different page detailing the place, in this case, ‘Fisherman’s Hall’.

While a great idea, and interesting to browse, her choice in the presentation was not great.

The most interesting project I looked at, was probably the Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral project. Created by mostly NC State faculty and students, and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, they host a digital model of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the surrounding churchyard.  Their goal is to give a detailed idea of what it would be like to go to church here in 1622 on Easter and attend a sermon by John Donne. They explore the acoustics, how many people would attend, the weather, social environment, and Donne’s preaching style. The site allows anyone to time travel and experience something that they would not have the chance to.

Another impressive facet of the project is the visual model of Cathedral and the youtube video created by John Wall, that allows users to fly around.

This site is worth looking through for ideas and inspiration as there is so much to learn from.

In my own group project, I really want to incorporate not only a map to show off the state markers in Virginia but also video and images. It’s also important to not go too overboard with ‘junk’ on the page that could take away from the important content that should be showcased. Making something that is user-friendly is a must when creating a page that is supposed to be used as a guide for tourists and those interested in the area’s history.

Why am I here?

I decided to join digital history because the title of the course was different from that of other history courses that I typically see on Banner. After ‘googling’ digital history, I decided that HIST 428 would be a great addition to my second semester here. As a history major, I do enjoy research and writing papers, but I feel that my technological skill-set needs upgraded. I am nervous yet thrilled to learn the content and do my best with the state markers project this semester.