Reflective Essay

After taking History 451: digital public History, and just about every other history class that is offered at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I now have a well rounded perspective on everything. I came into this class feeling like I was borderline, computer illiterate. That has been confirmed. I am but a bushwhacking , gun packing, rooting, tooting, two finger typing, military vet, outdoors man that probably had no business in the class. But there is a sociological construct called  “education”, that my aunt who I love more than any living thing in this world outside of my sons, spent her life savings on me going to school, because she believes in education, with her double bachelors and double masters. (no PhD) So that is the short story of how a caveman ended up in web design class.

Now, for the reflection on the class itself. I found the class to be highly informative, especially for someone like me who doesn’t now very much about the web outside of Pandora radio, and Moodle. Maybe, Just maybe, one day I may take all this knowledge I have obtained, and I will take on some sort of digital undertaking. I may take the basic skills I learned and make a website of a non-historical nature. But then again according to the introductory readings, History is in everything. I tweeted about pearl harbor yesterday, but got no replies or likes, I guess I had never tweeted before for a reason. Blogging on the other hand was fun, particularly this one because I am hoping that this is the last time I will ever do a school assignment until I die. I am not a grad student, or a public historian, so it was easy for me to see that I didn’t fit in with my peers in the class. I just treat it like a social experiment, one can learn a lot about others and even more about himself  sitting around with a group of people who you have nothing in common with. That alone was a great learning experience. All classmates were cool.

One major take away for me from the class was just how much stuff is out there on the internet. From all the design tools to research projects and blogs, oh and how could I forget social media.  There are so many applications for web design, think I might create a digital cookbook. Oh, as for the History part of the class, pretty much every research project site that I visited was exceptional, some people just have gifts of digital creativity. I can draw just about anything but when it comes to typing I am not very good.

The Conceptual side of the class I enjoyed as well, the whole Idea of the physical vs. the digital presentation of history. Even a woodsman like me knows that digital platforms are the future of everything including history. It is Just best if it is left to those with the zeal and understanding of the digital world to lead us to the next generation of Historical scholarship. By that time I will probably still be reading about war and genocide.

Overall this was a really good class with many practical applications that will especially come in handy for those who work in offices at a desk, or enjoy the hobby of researching and unlocking the secrets to history.

On a final note I must commend all of my classmates on their awesome projects, everyone else was great, meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out why my images are super small. If anyone is looking, I hope you have a magnifying glass.

And last but most certainly not least, I must recognize Dr. B. First I must commend you on coming to Louisiana, from up North, I don’t know where you were but it was probably better than here. And for accepting my blogs, especially this one which is more of a delirious rant. I’ve been awake for basically 37 hours. On that note I will retire, if anyone needs to reach me you can via twitter alexanderdoucet@axd9976, if I don’t reply I probably deleted my account. Good luck grad students, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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Children Of the Lodz Ghetto write up, U.S.H.M.M. Washington D.C.

This site is perfect for me! A one stop shop to read all about man’s propensity to kill fellow man, or woman. I like the atrocities timeline that follows genocide around the world and through the ages. The preventing genocide blog is a good read as well, I will have to add that to my recreational reading list, along with a book by Nick Turse, which I recently discovered called Kill Everything That Moves, that is about the execution of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War, and also the terror bombings that U.S. Naval and Air Force planes carried out Vietnamese civilian populations. Estimates on civilian casualties during the Vietnam war range from 1.5 million to 3 million. That’s a genocide too. It looks like there are a few countries on genocide watch these days according to this site. I had to view the Concentration camp photos, and even after being away from the subject of the Holocaust for a couple of years, those Images never fail to piss me off to the max! I hate bigotry, but I especially hate bigotry based on religion. This is a site I can visit regularly, it is fluid current and covers all the topics that interest me, in the no nonsense Jewish educational approach. Straight forward no sugar coated euphemisms, just the Harsh reality of human nature’s dark side. The U.S.H.M.M. is definitely on my list of must go there places.

Playing With The Past

Mir & Owen: Unpacking Ideology, in Sid Meier’s Colonization

Wow! What was this person thinking when they made this game? could they have been more racist and xenophobic? The natives identified as “other”  is at least historically contextualized for the purpose of this game. I find it slightly surprising that a web designer would chose such touchy subject for certain groups of people as the backdrop for a video game. I will admit that some parts of the game seem intriguing to me as far as the strategic aspect of interaction with the natives and the motherland. However I just can’t get over. The Stages of conversion caught my attention. I peer reviewed a classmate’s 490 paper that was about The French Jesuits that tried to convert native Americans into Christians. It didn’t work. That would be the main difference that I saw between the game and the actual history of colonization in America, which the game is based on. On the game natives could be converted, while in real life history the natives were more likely to try to kill the Europeans, rather than assimilate to their culture.

Pox in the City,

Yet another strange choice for historical context of a video game, amidst a small pox epidemic. I can say that I do agree with the third person over first person theory, and how it immerses the player more into the digital environment. Before fatherhood I played Xbox (360: old technology) but I was a Gears of War man no call of duty for me.

Both of these games just kind of went over my head with the purpose. I can see the historical context, but not much else that i can say anything good about.

Practicum: American Mission

I’ve seen enough. Once again, I see the historical context of slavery in America. But, when that context is applied to a game, it just comes off as racist.

Argument Wars:

This game seems more tolerable. It is still set in a period before civil rights, hints Brown Vs. The Board of Education, 1954 which led to the eventual overturning of segregation. At least the court room setting seems more civil than trying to free enslaved relatives. That’s just not a good game theme.

Building an Omeka Site/ Practicum

Miriam Posner, Up and Running with Omeka.net

posner essentially provides an instructional guide/ tutorial for the creating of an Omeka web site. The visual aids are very helpful when using Omeka, and posner addresses any questions that may arise when using the Omeka as your platform. The second Posner article along with Megan R. Brett, is basically a continuation of the Up and Running article, but this one focuses on the creation of a digital exhibit. The Dublin core article is another instructional guide to help gain familiarization with the use of the Dublin core format for adding items and collections to your project.

Metro Case  Study

Omeka can support various Item types, and file formats, which makes it quite flexible, in its uses. This article can also be used as an instructional manual on how to use virtually every component on the platform. I will have this handy while finalizing my project for sure. There are also visual aids in this article that allow for easy correlation of physical documents to the digital platform.

Overall this group of readings are very simple and straight forward. However they are definitely critical for me being that I chose Omeka as the platform for my project.

 

 

Practicum: Exploring and evaluating digital Archives

September 11 Digital Archive

This archive was outstanding. It displays all the characteristics that make up an effective digital archive. It has collections of photos, first hand accounts, art, other related projects, and an about page and the option for public contributions (interactive). I also noticed that the staff was made up of a bunch of people whose articles I read for the class. This archive simply has it all. It is a great resource for scholarship on the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Bracero History Archive

The Bracero History Archive is also outstanding. Like the 9/11 archive it has everything that is required of an award winning project (2010 Public History Project award) This archive is also bilingual. I thought that was great since I speak Spanish according to my college transcript. The  numerous sources reflect the amount of content, 3209 items, with 47 items from outside contributors (visitor interaction). another feature that stood out to me was the learning tab with activities geared toward primary and secondary education students. I also appreciate the cultural aspect of it. As a sociology minor I have a strong interest in minority groups.

The Shelly Godwin Archive

The first thing that popped out at me when I viewed this site was the tab that read, Using the archive. In previous readings there were mentions of the proper use of archives. However, this was the first one that I recall having a tab just for that purpose.

DPLA, Digital Public Library of America

The DPLA site, like the 9/11 and Bracero archives, has everything that the two aforementioned sites has plus an interactive map. In addition to that, it provides data through apps and has a live twitter feed to keep viewers current on new items and collections.

All of these projects are excellent.

Physical vs. Digital Exhibits and Archives

Getting to the Stuff, Sheila Brennan

Brennan points out the fact that there seems to be a schism of sorts between the realms of Physical museums, and digital Public historians. She urges physical sites to make some of their collections more accessible digitally. She believes this is beneficial to both the Museums, and those who wish to use archival materials or collections for the purpose of creating digital scholarship. She also encourages collaboration between the two fields, which would ultimately bring the content possessed by Physical museums to the forefront of the historical and scholarly consciousness.

Chan & Cope, Collecting the Present

The one thing I picked up from this article was the potential of digitization as a means of preservation. However, in the following Cohen and Rosenzweig article we see there are some drawbacks as well.

Owens,

This gave me some perspective on the various definitions or interpretations of the word “archive”.

Cohen & Rosenzweig, Preserving Digital History

This article was fun and informative. I was surprised by all the obstacles one can encounter when trying to preserve digitized content. The story about the only guy who knew the passwords to the database turning up dead, and no one else knew the password. This led to the first hacker reference so far! I just feel like this much info about all things digital should have at least one hacker reference. I like the reference to the National Archives and Records Administration, I used that as a source for my 490 paper to find the death tolls for the U.S. in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The section about technology going the way of the dodo (extinct) is a point of consideration. It is important to use various forms of back up, and to keep current with software compatibility . And I also took note of the suggestion of finding an institution with a repository to store your digital project. I may ask the institution that my aunt spent roughly $30,000 out of her pocket for me to get a degree from #ULL. all this info has prepared me to properly store my project for future use.

Wikipedia Practicum

I randomly chose three topics to search on Wikipedia. The topis were the guillotine, The American Revolution, and the Battle of the Alamo. As indicated in the how to read an article history wiki page, I came across edit wars, suspected vandalism, grammar and spelling police, as well as non-sourced citations, and people reverting each other’s inputs regardless of which article history I was viewing. I learned early on in my college career, that Wikipedia is an unreliable, and unacceptable source for the purpose of historical research, based on the fact that it was open to the public for edit. However, this was my first time seeing how the edit process works and looks on screen. These are some examples of edits that I saw.

The Guillotine:

-cut discursive material not related to discourse

-Removed a superfluous section already covered in earlier paragraph

-English language source translated from French (this one not so militant)

The American Revolution:

-Removing heavy handed bias in favor of neutrality

-Unscrambling this Godawful mess removing stupid redundant links

-Removing paragraphs that make no sense

Battle of the Alamo:

Removed irrelevant, inaccurate information about the Battle of San Jacinto

-Not all died at least a couple escaped

-Sieges don’t have climaxes

After reading these edit histories, it is clear that Wikipedia is not a reliable source because of the instability of the information. It is also not a very good option for presenting any research or history digitally, considering that someone will likely revert your input for whatever reasons they see fit.

Digital History’s Audience, and Audience as Practitioners of Public History

Cohen and Rosenzweig, Building an Audience

This chapter was great for learning the most effective ways to promote your digital History project, and build an audience and a loyal following. The emphasis on historical communities is key. In my case my project would fall into the WWII community. This means that the best place for me to start building an audience is among those who share a passion for the same historical topic, WWII. It never hurts to reach out to those who operate sites, that are related to your own for promotion or suggestions to improve your work. Also pay attention to historical context such as anniversaries are current events that relate to your topic. Guest books (non-mandatory) also encourage interaction and return traffic to your site.

Elissa Frankle, More Crowd sourced Scholarship

The first thing that Jumped out at me about Elissa Frankle was her Job title. Frankle is education consultant at the United States Holocaust Museum, which makes me automatically interested in the Children of the Lodz Ghetto project. I learned about the Lodz Ghetto in Dr. Richard Frankel’s class, History 327:The Holocaust, a class in which I proudly earned an A. I also plan on making a visit to the United States Holocaust Museum one day. So this article was good for me. The main thing I took away from this article was to seek help from the right people for certain tasks. She makes a distinction between heavyweight and lightweight peer production. With the heavyweight appearing to be the more valuable of the two. The heavyweight peer production is that which comes from professional scholars and historians such as PhD. professors. Over the years I have developed good relationships with my professors here at the University at Louisiana at Lafayette, which can benefit me by asking them for suggestions on my presentation of historical content. Frankle also emphasizes that audience interaction and the facilitation of communication draws in return traffic.

Causer and Wallace, Building a Volunteer Community

The main thing I took away from this article was to seek help from the right people for certain tasks. She makes a distinction between heavyweight and lightweight peer production. With the heavyweight appearing to be the more valuable of the two. The heavyweight peer production is that which comes from professional scholars and historians such as PhD. professors and people like Elissa Frankle, who have specialized concentrations in historical scholarship. Over the years I have developed good relationships with my History professors here at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which can benefit me by asking them for suggestions on my digital presentation of historical content. The Transcribe Bentham project showed how effective crowd sourcing can be when approached correctly.

 

Digital History Projects We Loved

All of these projects were quite impressive making it hard for me to find something wrong with any of them, although the subject matter of some of the projects may not have been particularly of special interest to me, I thought they all were very well done. Some of my favorites were, Small Town Noir, Mapping Inequality, The Georgetown Slavery Archives, Old Maps Online, and Roarin Peoria. Some of the key elements that I saw among all these sites were, about tabs, sourcing, comments sections, and credits. I particularly like the map based projects, because to me, they seem the most interactive. I like the click and drag scrolling and zooming action of the maps on all three of the map based projects mentioned above. The Georgetown Slavery Archive in my opinion was the most well organized project. I liked how all the tabs were located at the top of the page, which features an interactive map, along with historical background of the entire project, galleries, collections, lineage, the works! I really liked Small Town Noir because it was simple but very interesting. The mugshots with the stories behind them were pretty cool. Some people still go online to browse mugshots in certain circles of society. And I could not leave out Roarin Peoria. I am just a fan of everything that involves Richard Pryor. But the historical context of prohibition, and the history of the town itself, combine history and Richard Pryor making it note worthy for me, and apparently Slate, since the project made the top five list for 2014. Mapping Inequality was extremely well researched, when viewing the sources and what a collaborative effort it was.

Evaluation of Digital History

The main thing I noticed about all of the articles from this block, is that they seem to target an audience consisting of public history majors and public history graduate students who are looking for a job in the field of public history, Doctoral professors of public seeking tenure. I am in neither of these categories. I am an undergrad history major just trying to earn a bachelors degree, who will not, at least in the near future, be doing any type of work that involves history. However, there was some useful insight on how work in the field of digital public history is judged. Craig MacDonald’s rubric assessment does a good job of highlighting some of the important aspects the user experience, in regards to digital works of public history. Things such as Visual content, visual aesthetics, usefulness, and uniqueness are what distinguishes an online collection or exhibit. These articles also, provide some good links to sources that can be extremely helpful when thinking about or undertaking the designing a web project. I also took notice that Todd Presner, the author of, How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship, was the director of  the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. I took two classes about the Holocaust, and I have been fascinated with Jewish history ever since. I may have to check out some of his digital work in the humanities one day. Another thing that I took from the AHA guidelines, that was echoed in Presner’s article as well was, stay informed of new developments in digital public history, and let your project continue to evolve as well. And, don’t be afraid to take risks. Geoffrey Rockwell’s checklist is another good resource for evaluation of digital projects.