Defense of Contract and Final Reflections

The essential goal of our project, as stated in the Murray/Slaughter contract, was to digitize the letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray, and we have been able to do so. We have completed our website, an Omeka-based digital archive that creatively displays our collections of letters from Murray and Slaughter.

In terms of the details of the contract, in broad strokes, we have done very well. Essentially everything was completed in terms of the website itself. We have not, however, done the intended publicity work, due to the constraints of time though I am willing to send some emails to that effect over the next few days. In terms of deadlines, we missed a few, though only the deadlines for having the letters uploaded and the StoryMap completed were missed by a significant margin. That delay was due primarily to technical difficulties and the fact that the group, due to the complications with Omeka’s item ordering and the relevant plug-in for that, believed we would have to upload the letters in a staggered fashion. The delays in getting Murray’s letters done meant that although I had Slaughter’s transcribed letters ready, we had decided I couldn’t upload them, as we wanted to complete the Murray collection in the complete order first. That ended up taking longer than anticipated. Despite that, once given the go-ahead, the Slaughter letters were up inside of two days. The StoryMap, which required looking at all of the letters, was also delayed as we focused on resolving the technical issues plaguing the letter uploads.

In terms of the parts of the project I was responsible for, my main regret is not fixing the transcriptions of the letters to the best of my ability before they went up on the site, as substantial parts were left blank on the transcriptions I was working with. However, I had a couple of difficulties that partially account for this, the main one of which is that I was working with handwritten transcriptions, which took far of my time in the special collections room than I expected, so I was unable to spend any time also working with the originals, which Kathleen had scanned. Until all items relating to the same letters were up on the website, which did not happen until weeks later than expected, I did not have any terribly convenient way to display both the original transcription and a separate description, so that ended up dropped from the agenda as I worked on other aspects of the project. Relating to this, another area in which the contract also ended up being slightly outdated over time was the tasks assigned to each member, as we ended up helping each other on tasks on originally assigned to one member; in my case, I assisted substantially with the StoryMap and helped with some of the initial planning and clip selection for the video.

Despite the challenges, I am overall pleased with the website. It was completed on time, the entire group was satisfied with how it looks, and it certainly achieves the basic task of digitizing the Murray-Slaughter letters. Overall, I am proud of the work we did for the website, and feel we fulfilled the spirit of our contract.

 

 

 

Penultimate Progress Update

With the deadline for our project drawing near, I am happy to say that we are essentially done. The introductory video has been completed, as has the StoryMap, and the main body of the site, the uploaded and organized collection of Murray and Slaughter’s letters, has been complete for some time. We have made progress on preparing for the final presentation, and all in all, the only thing left is review remaining supplementary materials such as our bibliography that we’ve assembled for the project. Despite some delays in our originally intended deadlines, our project, ahead of the final deadline, is essentially complete.

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.

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,

Digital Resume – Update

When originally doing the assignment to create a digital resume, I ran into a problem with Domain of One’s Own; I had used up my disk space somehow, even though I only had two sites attached to the domain and in file manager, I could not find what was taking up all the space. So I was unable to make a new site to display my resume. After a visit to the DKC, I was allotted more space to work with, and I now have another site to use, located here. I’m still toying around with the site, but the basic bones of it are complete; I might steal an idea from a few other members of the class and display my work history as a JStimeline as well.

Week 10 Reading

“Anecdotes alone don’t prove much.” I feel like the Nicholas Carr reading probably could have stopped there, and little of value would have been lost. I think there are quite a few problems with Carr’s article, but I would definitely point at a very faulty assumption in his basic premise as one of the root issues. Carr seems to think that because we read differently on the Internet, we are by definition not reading as well. As someone who has grown up with the Internet and doesn’t really recall a world without it, I can definitely say that I don’t think Google has impeded my ability to read long books, for instance. I’m a history major, and even long before college I would often dive into very long books for pleasure reading or simply because I wanted to learn something about the relevant topic. I have read War and Peace and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, to name two famously long and heavy works.

Rather than weakening our capacity for “deep reading,” perhaps Google simply teaches us a different kind of reading that’s equally useful within its limitations. Even if we accept that I’m less likely to stop to read an entire article in-depth while I’m browsing JSTOR and in all likelihood doing multiple other things in different tabs, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not accomplishing something useful. For instance, the online format makes it quite easy for me to quickly skim through the article, determine if it would be useful to me, save it for later, and use its author, references, and key-phrases to quickly find more related articles. But by the standard Carr is insisting on, that’s apparently the same as flitting around frivolously and rewiring my brain to be more shallow. Reading a book “deeply” and reading articles on the Internet might be different in terms of how you read them, but I do not buy that they are mutually exclusive.

Digital Resume

I have added a section to my site to display my resume for the time being; At a later point, I may make an entirely new site under my domain name for the purpose of highlighting my resume and linking to other sites and projects I have done.

Resume

Digital Footprints

The three websites I looked at were the Footprints in the Digital Age article for Educational Leadership,  the Personal branding in the age of Google blog, and the personal site of Jessica Reingold. One of the first things that struck me about the latter site was the relative simplicity of it; it was primarily just a method of presenting her resume and portfolio. Because of the visually interesting way in which her website allows her to do it however, it is very distinctive and memorable. So, my first takeaway from her website would be that the digital world allows excellent presentation of very basic and rote information.

 

From the Footprints in the Digital Age article, I had two main takeaways. The first, not surprisingly given the article’s focus, was about how much the actions of kids on the Internet could later affect their digital footprint. I mostly just read the Internet when I was younger, and never really posted anything associated with my real name before college, so this doesn’t really apply to me too much directly; but with the ever-increasing amount of kids who are present on the Internet from a young age and using it for any variety of purposes, a considerable part of any individual’s digital footprint may have been made well before adulthood. This could certainly be problematic for anyone later on in life, depending on how they wish to present themselves on the Internet.

The second takeaway from that article for me, also not surprisingly, was about networking. Leaving a digital footprint from a very early point in your life has some potential pitfalls, but on the other hand, when well managed and guided, children can also find communities and other individuals who share their interests and hobbies and potentially aid them, both casually and even in a more professional capacity later on.

From Seth’s blog, I took away two rather simple lessons. The first being that simply put, Google can be a permanent record, and anything you do or say can end up there, including personal habits that may not look attractive to a potential employer. The second, more specific thing worth keeping in mind is that you should be careful what you say online about your ambitions as to your career, since a potential employer could easily see a disconnect or a lack of commitment  between what you say and your application to that particular job.

 

Mid-Point

Well, we’re about at the mid-point for the semester so far. In regards to my group’s project, I feel quite good about how it is going so far. We have been clearing all of our self-set milestones and deadlines so far, and we are all doing quite well with our own particular section of the work. The next milestones in our immediate future are doing some video work, which Kathleen and myself will be doing, and completing the task of reading through all of the letters. As I have typed up existing (handwritten) transcriptions of the Slaughter letters, I have already read through those letters in some detail. The Slaughter letters do present one potential difficulty going forward; they’re nearly all to Mayor Slaughter, rather than from him. We were planning to do some audio recordings of the letters, but the lack of letters actually from Slaughter makes this project somewhat problematic, at least in regards to Slaughter in particular. That future difficulty aside however, we are making good progress.

Wikipedia and Creative Commons

When looking at the specified Wikipedia discussion tabs on several historical pages, the first thing I generally noticed was something further specifying what the page was, and a listing of what categories and WikiProjects the page was related or relevant to. That page would also tell you if the article had been nominated for or won any good or featured article type awards within its category. Following that, what you would see is a listing of posts by various users about the article, particularly about how to improve it or fix problems. While the discussion page isn’t supposed to be for general discussion of the article’s subject, there were some examples I saw of historical debates breaking out on the page over discussions ostensibly about improving the article. One example was on the page for the Thirty Years’ War, where there was something of a debate about in what order to list the belligerents of the war, with the idea seeming to be that the importance or scale of those nations’ contributions was relevant to how they were listed. There was even some nationalism on display, as one user seemed to be arguing that the English-speaking world downplayed the French contribution. The “history” tab, which showed what edits had been made, generally showed people had made edits in order to improve the attributions and categorizations of the articles, rather than major changes to the text.

For our own group project, I feel the most accommodating CC license, that of Attribution, would be the best. Going through the Stanford guide to fair use, I feel the nature of our project, a published website which we will try to disseminate as widely as possible across the Civil War historical community, is something we should very much encourage people to visit and use material from with no fear of fair use problems.