Impact of Digital History Readings

I found the central point of the Sherman Dorn article rather interesting, and very relevant given how this class works. The article’s demonstration that you can present scholarship as something besides a polished final product is not something I’ve ever considered in that light before, but in hindsight it seems obvious. After all, this is exactly what our group presentations to the class have been doing, showing a decidedly unfinished and polished product and explaining the sometimes messy and irritating process we’ve been dealing with. And some of the input and feedback we’ve been receiving has definitely been useful in shaping our projects as we’ve gone forward. This is also what some of the Talking History talks from faculty in the history department are often about. In the digital world, it is much easier and more accessible to present history in this way and receive feedback and commentary from however broad of an audience you may want to engage in the discussion.

The Robert Wolff article concerning Wikipedia and students also struck me as interesting, particularly the bit where he noted that the traditional history students in his class, despite most of them being first-year, already had ingrained, very traditional notions of what the practice of history was. From Wolff’s point of view, this actually served them poorly in understanding the digital humanities, and perhaps this sends the message that we need to begin incorporating a broader view of history not just at the college level but further down as well. Before college, most kids in the future will likely engage with history primarily through the web. Future generations will need a broader understanding of history at an earlier stage in their education.

Thoughts on readings

For this weeks reading I found that one important principle for the future of digital humanities seems to be how to use technology to make information more accessible. In one of the articles I read “Zotero: Social and Semantic Computing for Historical scholarship” it was stated that the library of congress contains over a million academic dissertations, but much of this information is typically buried within itself due to it’s size and depth. The task is to make all the information easier to organize, share and discover and this is where program concepts like social computing via del.icio.us, or Zotero come in handy. I am already familiar with Zotero, having used it for previous research assignments, and there are many aspects to it that I find useful such as being able to store and share information from your personal collection with others via it’s cloud website.

A similar article I read which stressed the importance of incorporating new tools was by Amanda Grace Sikarskie called “Citizen Scholars: Facebook and the Co­creation of Knowledge” and focused on the new role of the historian or “Citizen scholars” (non-traditional academics) in using social media as a tool for historical research. In her example she mentions a Facebook fan page for quilts she managed and how she would regularly post questions for followers to answer. In this she explains how within the online community of quilt enthusiasts a broad scope of information was shared but also returned and analyzed by this online collective :

“Social media shifts the role of authority from being vested solely in a historical cultural domain, such as the museum or the university history department, to being shared with a community- or user-generated body of information that is critiqued within the community.” (Sikarskie)

I personally agree that this shift is a good thing for the future of digital history, as was mentioned in a previous class  Wikipedia used to hold little academic standing but that has changed in the last few years. Likewise, I believe social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are going to be further adopted into digital history methodologies because they offer accessibility in both their reach and organization of information.

 

Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

           The first article I read was “The Digital History Reader: Teaching Resources for United States and European History” by E. Thomas Ewing and Robert P. Stephens.  After I saw “teaching resources” in the title, I knew I needed to read this piece.  The reader itself is a group effort, which historians, secondary educators, and education technologists collaborated on in order to help universities teach students historical critical thinking skills, even in large classroom settings.  The book is inquiry-based, and each section focuses on a central question that can be answered by analyzing the attached set of primary sources.  These sources reprint copies of things such as photographs and speeches, but also include links to other information such as songs and video clips.  There is also a resource section, which provides students with more sources to look at to learn more about a given topic.  After reading this article, I felt disappointed I had never used this in my college classes.  As a future teacher, it would have been beneficial to receive additional training with primary sources before I have to teach it to my students.  But, I can still get a copy of this reader to add to my teaching repertoire, and this book mirrors an emerging trend in the field of education, which is the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), so I think it is still relevant for my purposes, even though this article was published in 2007.  Another reason I like this reader is because it already provides the sources so educators do not have to go hunting for things.  In Dr. McClurken’s article, he said that many times educators and students will spend hours searching for appropriate, accurate, and reliable primary source material online, so this reader will help decrease the time spent searching and increase the time spent actually working with the documents.

 

            The second article I read was “Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?” by Sherman Dorn.  Dorn states that digital history has challenged traditional history in the sense that research as well as publication norms have changed.  Physically visiting a library is no longer the primary way that historians do research because there are plentiful electronic resources, such as those housed in online databases.  Furthermore, because many people, not just professional historians, can publish their work online, the prestige of university presses has somewhat eroded.  However, digital history also has its advantages.  The one that stood out most to me was the ability to engage the public in the process of history.  As Dorn points out, history is messy and even though an author may finish with an argument, that argument is never truly complete and is always changeable as new evidence is uncovered.  By publicizing this process, historians can show how subjective the discipline is.  To accomplish this task and to make historical projects more accessible, Dorn lists several resources historians can use.  Is there a place to find historical works in progress as examples for my future students?  I think this would be beneficial to share with them because before I began taking classes for my history major, I never realized how extensive a research project could be, and as such did not have as much appreciation for the subject as I do now.  I suppose a somewhat acceptable variation of an actual historical research project could be Wikipedia because the pages are constantly being written and revised.

Digital History and Technology

When looking up articles that had to do with digital history and technology, the first article I looked at was “Enhancing Internet Use for History by Categorizing Online Resources” which talked about how easy it is to categorize and find various points in history.  Everything can be found with a quick search (provided there is proper use of keywords) and by using indexes, catalogs, and databases; users can easily look up whatever they need to.  If the user is looking for something printed, they can look up where a printed copy is; be it at a library or a museum, something will come up on the internet.  That said, the article also explains that libraries holding certain items are irrelevant if there are full-text databases that hold everything given that there is no need to visit a library since the information is already right in front of the user.  Ultimately, this article makes a point that technology makes looking up any information easier and that historians should try to learn this technology to make information gathering easier in the future.

The second article I looked at was Visualizations and Historical Arguments which talked about how images and videos can be used to help show relations or dramatizations of certain events.  Simple visual aids like graphs or maps can show comparisons between two or more different categories or how far some group has moved over a certain period of time.  Dramatizations of various events can show how certain events (like a bomb dropping for example) may have looked from different angles.  They can also be used in the future to show how events will look depending on whether or not certain actions are taken (to try to explain it better, Y depends on X which has not happened yet; visualizations of Y can be made to prove which X should take place).  Small parts of visualizations such as color, lines, bars, etc. can make a large difference in the visualizations that are made.  In the end, historians should learn to make these visualizations (or know someone who can make them) and learn how to read them.

Both of these articles drive the point that while technology is moving forward, historians need to grow accustomed to the changes that are being made.  While technology is making processes easier as a whole, it is up to the people using technology to know how to use them in order to easily find what they are looking for.  Technology is somewhat a middle-man for how historians find what they may want but it is faster than any alternative.  As technology gets better, that middle-man will get faster and faster.

Adventures in Digital History! 2016-04-05 01:05:42

“Yet there are new opportunities and challenges that did not exist several decades ago. One is the ability to display primary sources and related data objects tied to those sources (tables, charts, and maps). As this volume’s chapters by Stephen Robertson and John Theibault demonstrate, we are surrounded not just by the type of static images and data objects that historians have used to make arguments for years but by the ability to present audiences and interlocutors with manipulable objects, using software to allow readers to zoom in and move around, add or subtract data layers, change axes and variables, or set the data object in motion” (Dorn).

I personally think this is one of the coolest things digital history has to offer. Creating a database of a collection is interesting and compiling primary sources is fascinating but creating something unique out of the information presented and presenting it in a manner that would have taken years to create is really, really special and indicative of the capability of computers and digital history.

Adventures in Digital History! 2016-04-05 01:05:42

“Yet there are new opportunities and challenges that did not exist several decades ago. One is the ability to display primary sources and related data objects tied to those sources (tables, charts, and maps). As this volume’s chapters by Stephen Robertson and John Theibault demonstrate, we are surrounded not just by the type of static images and data objects that historians have used to make arguments for years but by the ability to present audiences and interlocutors with manipulable objects, using software to allow readers to zoom in and move around, add or subtract data layers, change axes and variables, or set the data object in motion” (Dorn).

I personally think this is one of the coolest things digital history has to offer. Creating a database of a collection is interesting and compiling primary sources is fascinating but creating something unique out of the information presented and presenting it in a manner that would have taken years to create is really, really special and indicative of the capability of computers and digital history.

The Impact of Digital History

The idea that struck me the most from this week’s readings was the idea of forming online groups of historians and archivists. I find it surprising that given the ways in which the internet has increased the accessibility of primary sources, and the ways it has connected people, that internet crowd-sourcing and social media groups of historians and like-minded people have not come to play a large role in how history is practiced. I believe that much better scholarship could take place if as many scholars participated as possible. I also think that the relative lack publicity of places for scholars to form groups online has slowed the development of the active engagement of historians on the internet. I was surprised to learn that Zotero was not only a tool for managing digital sources and citations, but also a place where groups could form for people to remotely collaborate. After searching the groups, I found several that would have been incredibly useful as places to find ideas and sources for my theses. In addition to the lack of publicity, is digital history being slowed by a fundamental wariness to share research among scholars?

Week 12 Readings

For this week’s readings, I decide to read pieces on Blogs, Zotero, and Categorizing. There’s no particular reason why I  chose these other than I have some personal experience with  Zotero and blogs.

David Voelker’s piece on Blogs reminded me of what Professor McClurken does for our class. He has all of the readings and blog assignments listed ahead of time to give us all a chance to read them before the next class period to increase the probability of discussion. Voelker also talks about the convenience that blogs have for other things like grading keeping up with the students and from a student perspective, I agree. Most of my Digital Study courses that I’ve taken used Blogs as a hub for the students and professor to communicate with other. It’s a lot simpler than having to e-mail every student about something since there is a risk of said e-mail getting lost in the spam folder.

Daniel J. Cohen’s piece on Zotero basically talks about how everyone uses Zotero today. I’ve never heard of Zotero until I took a course with Professor Whalen. We used the tool to create a large bibliography for everyone in the class to help the arguments of our papers that were due at the end of the semester. I think it’s a great tool and use it for just about every paper now. It’s perfect for historians since you can save anything with just the click of a button if you have the browser plugin and if you want to find a large library of academic works or documents, you can even search for them on the Zotero website once you have made an account.

Edward A. Riedinger’s piece about categorizing various online databases like JSTOR to change the way we use the internet by making it a bit simpler and enhancing our experience. It sounds like a good idea and reminded me of the UMW ezproxy that has a list of all possible resources that you could access for academic sources. I’m not sure if there is a website out there that categorizes these resources, but it would be pretty useful for historians in long run to make all of the online databases easily searchable via a website that categorizes all of them.

Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

Prior to reading these articles I was not aware how studying and teaching history has changed do to the Digital Age. One main development in the Information Age is the increasing amount of primary sources that many people all over the world can access. The article about the Digital History Reader by E. Thomas Ewing and Robert P. Stephens shows how teachers are using technology to provide their students with access to primary sources as well as providing them with the tools to ask questions and reach conclusions. The goal of the Digital History Reader is to provide primary sources and show how historians draw conclusions from them. I think that this is a very useful and important digital project because it allows large amounts of students the ability to learn how to analyze primary sources to understand history.

In Stefan Tanaka’s “Past in a Digital Age,” he discusses the changes that are occurring in how historians write and study history. I agree that the amount of historical information can affect how historians value history and also make scholars question why they have done things. History has not always been studied the way it is today. For example, the study of social history did not really exist until the second half of the twenty-first century. Tanaka also believes that the digital age will create a more inclusive historical narrative where the forgotten stories of the past can be told. Although I think this is a bit optimistic it is clear that technology has and will change the discipline of history for years to come.

Group Project Progress Update

Our group has made some major progress this week. Uploads of George Murray’s letters have been completed by the other members of the group, so many thanks to them. With that done, I have so far uploaded the rest of Slaughter’s letters, and intend to deal with the rest tomorrow. In addition, Matthew and I have essentially completed the audio recordings for Slaughter’s letters and at least most of Murray’s. The group as a whole has also gathered the material we wanted for the introductory video, and in addition, the website itself is looking the way we wanted it. All in all, the video is the only major component of the site that is not yet complete in some form, and there should be no difficulty meeting that deadline. The project is coming together,

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