Digital Presentation & Communication

Oct. 22

  • Cohen and Rosenzweig ch. 5-7 (Building an Audience, Collecting History Online, Owning the Past)
  • Sheila A. Brennan and T. Mills Kelly, “Why Collecting History Online is Web 1.5,” Essays on History and New Media
  • Doug Seefeldt and William G. Thomas, “What is Digital History? A Look at Some Exemplary Projects.” Perspectives on History 47 (5), May 2009. (make sure to download and read the actual paper)
  • grad students should also read: Orville Vernon Burton and Simon Appleford, “Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences,” in ECAR (Educause Center for Applied Research) Bulletin 9: 1 (January 13, 2009): 2-11.

A different audience definitely exists in the digital world because it is an open place for uploading, editing, and learning. People are constantly switching from one website to another, hoping to gain easier or more access to specific information pertaining to their inquiry. Thus, archives are fundamental to history, and understanding primary accounts of certain events that occurred in the past. However, the internet is a collection of an infinite number of different sources, and this makes it difficult for audiences to synthesize, utilize and find all of this information available to them. While you can build a massive audience online, web makers and up-loaders must be extremely specific in key-wording their information to draw in audiences on a more narrow level. However, this collection of online history has left audiences in a middle space, I think, between formal and synthesized versus informal and scattered. Brennan and Kelly conclude that “collecting history online floats in a world between the uneditable, didactic Web 1.0 and the completely open and editable Web 2.0, leaving us with a place we are calling, “Web 1.5.”” This is a strange place, Web 1.5 because the definition of digital history ends up having multiple meanings. Is information digital history because it has been uploaded to the internet and pertains to events of the past? OR is it digital history when it has been consulted and edited by someone (not necessarily an ‘expert’ or ‘professional’) with more experience in the field than your average Joe?

Thus, this causes me to ask, is storytelling equivalent to history? Take the blackout story, as well as the 9/11 and hurricane databases — do these stories make up history? In essence, many historians argue “yes” that these types of online resources are part of a specific history, and I would have to agree as well.

Nonetheless, this type of digitizing history and certain events has really opened up the world to an imaginable amount of information with ultimately infinite access, as Burton discusses. This is a significant step forward in the right direction for historians and for the public because it creates a connection between history and an audience. Digital humanities is crucial to understanding information from the past and applying it, particularly, to today’s events. The wide access to such information causes more questioning and thus, keeps history and historical discussion afloat. The more the data, the more the analysis, and the more, as Burton shows, discovery is made.

The most significant implication that digital history might have on our society, as Seedfelt and Thomas argue, is that we might have to give up our more traditional ways in order to open our eyes to the technological advancements within the historic field. My issue with this is that I think there needs to be a balance between what we ‘give up’ and what we start adhering to as new practices. The reason for this is that history is part of the humanities, and that means — books and writing. How will authors and historians be able to write properly in generations to come when you no longer have to read a book in its entirety to find the key words and the theses etc. Digital history allows for easier and faster access to information, but as historians in the humanities, giving up ‘tradition’ might be pushing it a little too far. Regardless, online libraries do help historians significantly because people are able to access resources that were unimaginably attainable previously. And it is this, as Seedfelt and Thomas state, that propels the digitization of history and the online version of the humanities.


Project Update

Oct. 15

I have decided not to use word clouds for my project anymore, because I really want to focus on maps and mapping out events, particularly during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s-1960s. I think that this time period has been neglected on the visual front, digitally, because there are very few maps, lists, tables, graphs etc. about particular occurrences during Civil Rights. What I want to do, is look at the Sit-ins, first with 1960. If I have enough time, and can properly execute the project, I seek to map and point every sit-in of that year. When you click on the reference point where the sit-in took place, the university affiliation, I hope to add the black population of the county, photographs of the particular event, main members/activists who started the specific sit-in, and a paragraph on the event itself. Thus, every point will be more than just statistics and facts, it will mark a continuation of the Sit-in story of 1960 that my digital audience will be able to follow and understand, and ultimately, look more into.

I will be using the information from the Civil Rights Center (Greensboro, NC) website for details on each sit-in, and a list of those in 1960. However, I am not sure yet of which mapping tool I will be using for this project. Most likely ArcGIS, but if it proves too difficult and time consuming, then I will revert to Google Maps.

Ultimately, my goal is to embed or create link to this map on a website that has more information on the Civil Rights movement as a whole, and of course, the Sit-in movement in particular. The success of this project really depends on how much time I have to collect and input and create everything, so I will be taking it step by step and trying to go a little farther every time.

Oral History

Oct. 8

I find the term ‘oral history’ a difficult one to grasp and define. As “The Oral History” suggests, oral history is no longer just stories/history that has been orally passed down to others. Now, it is a compilation of interviews, audiotapes, videotapes, and other methods of that sort. I relate with the fact that oral history helps provide different perspectives on one event. That is what I love most about history in general, is not necessarily to maintain an objective perspective, because I believe that bias is inevitable, but to consult a wide variety of views to reach a conclusion. Furthermore, I, personally, linger on the past and am a very nostalgic person, so discussing events or history with someone versus reading that in a book, is significantly more gratifying and enjoyable. The emotion and particular details remembered are what I am most intrigued by. Does it really matter if something is not ‘fact’ when being translated via oral history? What exactly is fact? In this, I am referring to the British and Northern Ireland folklore stories that might not necessarily be ‘factual’ but they are part of the United Kingdom’s history nonetheless. Thus, I definitely like the legal definition and importance of oral history, in that it is just as reliable of a source as written history, because it should be viewed as that, and I often find that this is overlooked.

Understandably, relying on oral history in the past was more difficult because of the lack of recording materials, but eyewitness testimonies were still of great important in ancient times for example as Paul Thompson suggests in Thomson’s article (Thomson, 51). He outlines the development of oral history, which I find to be a very interesting history in itself, particularly in the amount of creditability it has been given over time. “Words and experiences” as Thomson states, are crucial in understanding events and the development of people (Thomson, 52). It is this historic evolution that is most important – the experiences of the people and their view of it. These various paradigms help shed light on the different ways that oral history has evolved, been defined, and been relied on over time. There is a multitude of different websites that are archives for oral history, the one that I favor is the WPA Slave interviews. The reason being, slavery happened, these people were slaves. Does it matter if their dates were off or they recollect the Civil War differently? I do not think so. I think that the ‘factual’ details need to be overlooked — the emotional attitude and way the stories are narrated is what we should focus on.

We all remember events differently, as Savage nots. For example, the 9/11 interviews are all significantly different. I have a few family friends who were part of that project, because I too lived in New York City at the time of the plane crashes. I remember it differently than most people too. Our various historical recollections are not necessarily factual, but they represent the way each person lived through such an event. Thus, sometimes the facts are not the most important.

Introduction to Websites

Oct. 1

Unlike most, I do not have a personal website, I am not on and I do not have a LinkedIn profile. On facebook, my first and last name are both shortened, so I can only be found by people who know me by my nickname. However, after these readings, I definitely see the importance behind creating an academic and networking presence on the Internet. Posting papers, academic interests, and most importantly, a resume, can definitely do more good than harm online. I have always been hesitant because of the uncertainties that there are on the internet in terms of identity manipulation and future employers impression, but having a website could be a very good idea. As Cordell states, it’s a professional presence, and thus a very proper one on the internet. And as an aspiring academic, he states that it is crucial for networking around the world. I do not think I will bring my presence to twitter and ‘tweet’ daily, but I will definitely look into the creation of a LinkedIn profile and definitely an academic websites. Furthermore, the idea of having my papers online is a fantastic one – especially for people who might be doing research in the field I am interested in.

Professor Hacker definitely emphasizes the boundaries that should be adhered to when having an online presence. Articles of interest, historians of my field etc. would be perfect on an academic webpage/profile of mine. Hacker also notes the importance of the professional space that needs to be maintained online. You should present yourself online as you would for an interview – and this is what I have always been taught to do since a young age, even with a facebook profile. Always be careful what you post. I do not however think I would go so far as following Google Alerts of myself. I am not that interesting in what people are looking up when they type in my name. To that extent, I feel as if it’s an invasion of privacy for both myself and the searcher – I would rather not know.

I have always been a fan of websites and web design. Throughout my undergraduate years, I made multiple websites on Wix, one of my favorite tools to create terrific-looking websites. I am very picky about clarity, cohesion, and visualization on websites. I am the first to judge a website based on its appearance and understandability. Particularly with historical websites. They must look professional, reliable, and easy to cite. If there is not enough information for me to properly cite a website (author, date, etc.) then I will not use it or rely on it for information. With these websites such as Wix, you do not have to program at all, and if you choose to, you can Google how to program what you want, and it is very easy to change things to your liking. Thus, web design and creation are very easy tools – and they could be of great use for an academic website of mine, if I decide to create one.

Text Analysis

Sep. 24

It is interesting to think about the fact that search engines and APIs can help make sense of a collection of sources that would have lacked cohesion and understandability otherwise. Digitizing history clearly improves our sense of organization and access to various historical aids, tools, and databases. I had not heard of Syllabus Finder or the H-Bot prior to these readings, so when I looked them up and tried using them myself, I was pleasantly surprised and how much I found. And these are only two of many search tools that allow users to access a wide variety of information pertaining to a specific topic. I am also intrigued by H-Bot because you can ask the engine specific questions, something that not many search engines allow because they rely on specific key phrases versus providing an answer to a question. These tools are instrumental in the progress of digital history, as Daniel J. Cohen says: “ these computational methods, which allow us to find patterns, determine relationships, categorize documents, and extract information from massive corpuses, will form the basis for new tools for research in the humanities and other disciplines in the coming decade.” The patterns and answers resulting from these tools will definitely help us, as historians, further and develop our analysis on specific subjects of interest.

Text mining, and relying on a larger body of work definitely helps historians provide answers to and insight on their questions. However, not enough is digitized to make use of. Obviously, digitizing documents costs money and time, so that is a deterrent, but it is so helpful having digitized primary documents on the web. The library of congress website if by far my favorite due to the wide variety of selection and time period that they’ve digitized. However, I wish more primary sources would be uploaded by archival research centers, especially for areas that are less commonly accessed or accessible by people. Not only does the programming and digitization of documents allow for easier access by the researcher, but it also helps categorize and organize primary documents from various different locations. And with this, the word graphs can be created (such as in Underwood’s article) using multiple sources – drawing relationships between specific terms and time periods. These tools, such as the Google NGram viewer, help show/trace history over time, something that would have been difficult to achieve before. As we see in Writing History in the Digital Age, there are various graphs, tables, maps and diagrams to help relay digitized information into a concise and cohesive visual work. This is fascinating because these visual tools show a multitude of factors in just one image, and they are all based on the works that are digitized so far.


Sep. 17

I never thought of maps being used as a tool to display a certain perspective of how to present information. They are very similar to history books which, display the truth, but sometimes leave out or emphasize certain aspects to support a claim, bias, point/argument etc. Certain features may be omitted as Fleckenstein suggests because they might not apply directly to the mapmaker. This is interesting though because is there really an accurate map? Even with data maps, how are we supposed to believe everything that the map portrays? Also, too much data is overwhelming on a map, so it is difficult to determine what should be used to effectively display specific information pertaining to a certain idea, cause, issue, event etc. The Google earth tool was something that I had never used before, and I immediately typed in historical events such as WWII battles, Civil Rights movements and other landmarks. While the information that it pulled was definitely part of each of my searches, there was not as much description and detail as ai had hoped. There lacks data on the specific places and events that are (probably) commonly searched for, particularly by historians who, like myself, tend to fully grasp an event with visual aid. If anything else, the Google Earth application furthered my desire to use maps as part of my final project. I am unsure of what exactly I will do, but since I am a fan of the visual aspect of learning, I hope to implement this somehow.

As a Canadian, I am very proud that our government first administered the GIS data, particularly because after looking at the effect GIS has on our society today; it would be very difficult to understand a world without it. GIS has opened a window for the visualization and analysis of history – whether it’s historical quantitative data or events. All of the visual mapping tools of today are based off GIS data and even for everyday use such as Google Maps. This idea of historical geography via GIS mapping is quite applicable to most historians because we can now use more evidence than just images, we can digitally map out specific information, which will only entice the public even more. Although there are still technicality issues regarding GIS and HGIS, as a tool, they are fundamental to the growth and more importantly, preservation of our society in the sense that they collect and maintain past data. They help provide reasoning to unanswered questions – visually displaying data that can be manifested and interpreted by historians in particular. This tool is going to significantly contribute to the success and progress of not only our society, but history.

Spatial History

Sep. 10

I did not have a concrete understanding of what the term ‘spatial history’ meant until I read these articles, particularly Tim Hitchcock’s “Place and the Politics of the Past” in Historyonics. Know I understand how it is the relationship between the very technical aspects of geography and history – “two fields that should be in constant dialogue” according to Hitchcock (Hitchcock, “Place and the Politics of the Past,” Historyonics). Geography does provide a visual, and thus, spatial understand of how history played out. It would be extremely difficult to discuss a war without spatial reference or mapping. These elements are fundamental to history. Furthermore, Aylmer’s structure of the archive helps bring the two subjects together because it collaborates/collects data about the world’s surface and data about historical events. The “rise of the ‘infinite archive’” turned “text into ‘data’ with profound implications for how we read it” – and thus, digitizing resources altered the way in which historical georgraphers interpret the data of history and the world’s surface (Hitchcock, “Place and the Politics of the Past,” Historyonics). Prior to these readings, I had never heard of Google Ngram Viewer, which is an absolutely fascinating tool because the type of data in infinite archives such as this allow for cross-referencing with history.

Clearly, spatial history in itself if fundamental to historical knowledge because it “allows the exploitation of kinds of evidence and data bases that would be too opaque or too unwieldy to use without computers” (Richard White, What is Spatial History?). This information cannot be narrated and thus, it must be reflected on a technological level, interpreted through data.

Visualizations are essential to history, according to White and Goodchild, and these articles gave me some great ideas for my final project in which I think I would like to focus on mapping out historical events. The reason being, the use of GIS mapping and georeferencing not only provide visual representation of history, but also connect the two disciplines of history and geography – a connection that Hitchcock said was crucial in society. The comparison of layers via ArcGIS is a great way to show the past and more recent history through topographical representation. As Presner discusses, these digital resources such as HyperCities bring together different cultural communities through the use of technology. And his discussion about time-layers to show the historical effect of certain events caused me to think about my project again because it would be interesting to mimic his methods and show how various historical events changed society and this can be mapped out.