Reflections

When I first signed up for the course, I had a good idea going in what I was going to be in for, but still was surprised. We didn’t discuss historical video games at all, which is something I wasn’t expecting to have discussed much but would have liked an opportunity to go over it, as it’s becoming a platform for many to learn history (Or monuments in video games, of which there are at least one article written). Of the articles and assignments, I really liked the historian blogger one we did around Halloween, which was a great deal of fun to listen to and talk about. The actual crowdsourcing of transcribing and tagging was also fun and interesting to talk about, and something I will be doing in the future.

Admittedly I had read similar articles about open source websites like Wikipedia and twitter when writing my white paper on digital history for Prof. Glaser. I still enjoyed them as well, and the conversation about them. I did try to comment on another persons posts every once in a while, but wish I did instigate more of a discussion online over the course of the semester. As far as the readings go I felt they were helpful, though truthfully I read a good chunk of the Rosenzweig book over the course of the summer to help give extra context to the course and supplement the readings. While we did have some readings out of that book, I was more ambivalent about it. It was new information to discover the non-permanence of the internet, as we were all told that once it’s on the internet it’s there forever, which isn’t always exactly true. I’ve also decided to make the exhibit my capstone, which there is a lot of material to go off of and is something I look forward to.

Reach for the Ropes: Tag You’re In.

What a week! I apologize on being a day late on posting this, but I’ve got some exciting news to share! (At the end of the post).

First things first, the link on the page appears to be partially broken taking you to the archives.gov page. Once I created an account, it was a little daunting at first, looking at posters and such and questioning every single tag idea that came through my brain before I remembered I’m there to make the viewers life easier. Truthfully I had a little trouble finding items I felt comfortable tagging, but it got a little easier when I found a few items relating to Weir Farm that had no tags associated with them.

While entertaining, they did not provide a large amount of instruction on what to do or what exactly they were looking for. Signing up for an account certainly would help diminish the risks of trolls or people messing with items. While I’m sure a determined person could always create a new email with name, the amount of effort and energy expended to go through with that would seem to be not worth the effort. It also allows them to track down the trolling to a single source and revert any damage done from a single account much easier.

Transcribing is a bit easier, and certainly something I find oddly relaxing. I have found I can read a number of poor penmanship, and while my skills aren’t quite unrivaled I’ve found I can decipher most chicken scratch that gets sent my way.

All in all it’s a pretty great activity, allowing citizens and fledgling historians to get into the nitty gritty and help out with digitization and digital history efficiently and effectively! I’m very impressed with the website as a whole, and hope to continue to use it!

On a side note, I’ve been asked by the Ridgefield Historical Society to help run their website and contribute a post every once in a while. I’m likely to say yes, and the said it ran on WordPress, which I have a little bit of experience using from this blog! This week ties in pretty well with this opportunity, so I’m rather excited with how things are turning out!

Twitterstorian

Admittedly, I don’t use Twitter all that much. The platform I don’t really favor, and I primarily used it to vote on which team in the LCS I thought was going to win. I only recently changed my picture from that of Justice Leagues “The Question” and started moving in the direction of taking the platform more seriously. I followed a few Twitterstorians (after searching the term) as well as checked out a couple of the twitter diaries I had seen previously and referenced in the white paper I wrote for a previous class. Many of the twitterstorian posts didn’t necessarily have to deal with being a historian. I blame the hype of the election, but quite a few were more vocal about that than about history. There were a few who were asking for advice on potential sources, topics, and other ideas, as well as sharing links to different articles to keep their followers informed on the topics they thought valuable. War Through Art I rather enjoy, as they post posters and they celebrated national pickle day by posting two war posters about pickles, which gets them points in my book for such a niche post.

My twitter is still a hodgepodge of different subjects, several retweeted reviews of internet celebrity critics I found interesting or who raised good points, a couple pictures of cats, some League of Legends related posts, and sharing a page about puns. Admittedly there isn’t really anything remotely history related on my twitter page, though I think most of that is due to my reluctance to even use he platform in the first place. I would try to “harness he power of the digital web” in other ways truthfully. I liked the podcasts we looked at a couple weeks ago and doing one of those could be fun. Historical YouTube series like Extra History, which were both entertaining and good for brushing up on my history of Christianity and made for good discussion as I was able to go into greater detail with my friends who were watching with me. For my exhibit, I could incorperate a short podcast on the history of Ridgefield and the Weir Family up to the first World War to help provide a background information for the listener that can help visitors greater understand the items on the website.

Missing the Things You Missed

The blog I decided to check out was “Things you Missed in History Class”. I was first greeted by ads, which I am actually OK with. The podcast episode in particular was about the Hagley Woods Murder. (Fitting, it’s Halloween!) One of the benefits and drawbacks in the availability of ads and how easy they can be put on to these podcasts. It is about a mysterious murder of a woman who’s body appeared in the middle of an elm tree. She was suffocated to death by forceful asphyxiation, and had been dead for a year and a half. Chilling, it immediately caught my attention as I love murder mysteries.

I love podcasts, but I never listened to a history one before. I usually listen to Roosterteeth or TFS as they are pretty popular gaming/personality podcasters who discuss their various going ons. I actually like the people talking on this one, they have good chemistry and a likable personality. It’s good for easy listening and helps translate the information well, as it feels like I’m part of a lecture or conversation which helps me retain the information better. It also allows an easier and quite literally discussion between experts across multiple fields which can help greater transfer information to interested listeners. Books on tape were the sort of predecessors to this, as my father and I would listen to them commuting to work or during long vacations, listening to a wide variety of book ranging from the Chronicles of Narnia to “Goodness without God”.

The upsides of podcasts is they can reach audience quickly and transfer information quickly and easily. The formality of a podcast is also variable, with it being more personal to help create a greater connection to their audience. The downside is linking source information and diving into the nitty gritty of the source material is less prevelent and potentially boring detracting more casual listeners, as well as the problem of not being able to quickly skim for information or gut as can be done in a PDF., article, or book. Still, it works well. I like the podcast I listened to and certainly am going to give them more of my time in the future.

Wikipedia: Leaders of WWI

Wikipedia is a wonderful resource and I wholly support its usage. For the most part it is factually correct, and generally resistant to change even with evidence as it is overly skeptical of those adding information’s qualifications. There has been a call to greater academic authority added to wikipedia to help give it more credibility. Furthermore, wikipedia isn’t going to go away, and if anything is only going to grow in popularity. It is often the first page that appears when an inquiry is made in the more popular search engines. The logic would dictate “if you can’t beat them, join them”, and while that mentality isn’t often a good one, in this circumstance the added credibility to articles from experts proves helpful in educating the masses.

The three pages that I looked at the talk sections for comparatively are Douglas Haige, John J. Pershing, and Joseph Joffre. All three were allied commanders during the First World War though they differ on notoriety with regard to American audiences. An interesting comparison could also be stemmed from using the appropriate country’s URL and looking up the commanders to compare the commanders own peoples opinions of him.

The talk section of Douglas Haige was poignant in that he received very sharp criticism polarized in that he is attributed to being a mass murderer, with others defending him saying that he could not have known how the war would go or how deadly it would be. This polarizing resentment perpetuates the talk section, with people questioning his later charitable actions and the reasoning behind them.

Pershings on the other hand is more to technical stuff, whether or not the stars on his uniform after the war were gold or silver, changing the language used to make it easier to understand for readers, and whether or not he was present during the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake.

Joffre on the otherhand has a small point on a book which would help add more information, as well as debating if he was in a campaign in Romania. There is a rather limited talk section for him.

Three leaders with three very different talk sections. Of them, one extremely divisive, one with a constructive conversation about the page, and the other still a fledgling discussion.

Week 7: The Man, The Boy, The Donkey, and the Poorly Designed Website

The web has become the second home to much of humankind. If we are planning on going out to eat, we check out reviews. If we want to know something, we google it. If we are lost, we simply look up the address. If an institution desires to be successful, it must have an effective online presence.

The duplicity of website design is if anything the aesop fable of the man, the boy, and the donkey. A website needs to appeal to the common person but also uphold academic standards, as well as be flashy but not too flashy. Ads can be distracting, but provide much needed support for smaller websites as well. I think it’s also obvious not to use obnoxious fonts like papyrus or comic sans and don’t put four animations on a size 113.5 neon spinning title, as while that will attract attention it will quickly frustrate the reader and cause them to migrate elsewhere.

On a side note, I actually already have and run a website (or rather, a wikia) for my Dungeons and Dragons group. What started out as a way for me to keep track of all my NPCs without having to worry about losing a notebook or leaving it at home over the course of three years has turned into a network of hyperlinks connecting players, NPCs, story arcs, homebrew additions, recaps of previous sessions, and discussion pages. While many of the features of wikia are not exactly ideal, they have helped me nail down aesthetic by a noticeable margin.

One of the first and most important things is the organization of the page. Repetition of the font and format isn’t required but it helps the reader get immersed into the reading. Each one of Cohen’s articles we read opened with the first letter in the large ornate decoration depicted as being done by monks, yet online.

One of the things I haven’t really seen from historical websites but have seen from wikia, Worldcat, and wiki is the use of hyperlinks and links to related inquiries. For each one of my entries when I reference another setting or character I put a link up to their appropriate page. This allows any new players with questions on who a person or place is and how it relates to the article they are reading can jump to that page, read the synopsis, and then go back to what they were reading with a better understanding. This may be a personal preference, as a reader can quickly get overwhelmed with information as well if they aren’t sure what they are looking for.

An example of a quality website would be the Ridgefield Historical Society, which has a searchable archive of their resources, oral histories of a few residents, a smooth and easily navigatable design, and links to novels and books relating to Ridgefield along with other resources in town like the Ridgefield library.

Week 5: Meta-Blogging

http://gradstories.omeka.net/

http://silveragecomics.omeka.net/

(Two articles examined)

(Pre-post thoughts)

So it looks to me we’re moving in the direction of end-game for the course with the introduction of Omeka.net, as we’ll be using that pretty heavily for the final project of the course for our online exhibits. While I’m looking forward to it, at the same time I still need to narrow down a subject pertaining to WWI I would really like to discuss. I do have a little bit of an advantage, having done some work on WWI before but I would rather move in a newer direction with the project rather than recycle what I’ve already done (which, to be honest, I’m really not happy with anyway). While nothing is set in stone, I would like to nail as much down about this project as possible.

Anyway, onward to the articles.

The benefit of Omeka is similar to the benefits of the internet for research. It allows grass root movements to be documented as well as allowing fledgling or underfunded historians to create exhibits. It allows conservation of space and the showcasing of certain items that would normally not be allowed to be in a museum or exhibit, as well as use of limitless virtual space in lie of lack of physical space. It also makes the items more available for a viewing audience, and if education is the goal of an exhibit it can accomplish that goal well with limited resources or support, while adding to it when more information or objects become available.

The drawbacks are also similar, in that it is not a substitute for the actual item, and online the context associated with the item can be removed or misconstrued by the consumer. It also can rely heavily on community involvement, which we discussed last week can have mixed results.

The two online exhibits I examined (and linked at the top) are Graduate Stories and Heroes and Villains: Silver Age Comics. Outside of the obvious similarity that both interest me and difference that one is a collection of interviews of grad students and the other is a collection of comics, there is much more to it.

The Graduate Stories interested me on the grounds that some guidance is always appreciated and learning from the past experiences from others is something I can utilize. I enjoyed Prof. Glaser’s 502 class interview, and the parallel between my interview and many of the questions asked in the collection makes it much more familiar. There aren’t any objects, it is oral history recorded online in a collection to help potential graduate students.

The other collection is rather different, consisting of 21 different collections each highlighting a different hero, with mostly scans of images with detailed text descriptions of said items. The comics are from the silver age, and reach across both Marvel and DC comics for sources. Superheroes are a specialty subject of mine, something that has interested me as a child and beyond, and as someone who appreciates it seeing all the vintage comics was rather fascinating. The silver age of comics is referred to as almost a golden age of comics, where things were simpler an stories did not need to be complex or even make sense (EX. Pink Krytonite. I know it wasn’t actually introduced in the silver age of comics, but it was an omage so I’m going to say it counts.) Many have tried to recreate that silver age feel due to a growing nostalgia, such as Burt Ward and Adam West getting together to make another Batman movie, and hit series like Batman: Brave and the Bold (which is an actual Batman comic series from the silver age).

The set of collections is detailed, having source material, a set of citations for the object. The rights are also made available, such as for the cover of the “Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane” #62 which features Superman and Lois Lane at odds as both are running for senator.

Between the two, I rather prefer studying the comic one as it is more detailed, has more objects, and has images, but find the oral history interviews to have much more substance as beyond the items the silver age comics Omeka doesn’t have all that much information, leaving it up to the researcher to draw their own inferences/track down the objects themselves.