This Week’s Reading Reflection

This week, we read articles about the impact of digital history  on historians and on the practice of history.

One of the articles called Blogging for Your Students, talks about all the benefits of blogging for a class. Blogs allow the author to make updates in the form of a log, and allows for interaction between the author and reader through commenting. Additionally, blogging is a great teaching tool. Because they are open to the public, no passwords are required. Since comments are made public, they tend to be more well-thought out because students know they will be seen. Professors can also post blogs to clarify difficult readings, and it forces students to think about topics before in-class discussions. The article compared making a blog to making an investment in the future. At the end of a semester, professors have organized reflections on all course material that they can use for future classes.

Another article, called Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?, by Sherman Dorn, analyzes what the relatively new issue of digital history, and how it impacts historians. Digital history poses many new questions for historians. Databases are now more sophisticated. One challenge that arises with publishing digital history is choosing how to display primary resources. Today, there is not so much of an issue of being able to display primary resources, but more so, how they want to display them. Later on in the article, it discusses the wide range of digital history projects that exist, as well as the range of tools available to present history. These tools range to present artifacts, events, teaching and learning, and argumentation. Digital history will require that historians work more in teams to document history. For example, tools will become outdated, so to make sites last for long-term, they constantly need to be updated and fixed.

Both of these articles bring up interesting and important points that historians need to consider when viewing and presenting history in today’s world.

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, 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.


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.

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,

Update #4

Hello once again everyone. As you know, I am one of the members of the Convergence Center group and I have some news for you. I have completely edited four of our seven interviews, but have only uploaded three of them to YouTube. The seventh interview will be going up either at the last minute or after the project is completed, so I’m more than half way finished with them. Once I have all of them up on YouTube, I will list the videos as public and add various annotations on the video and links in the description for our website and the interviewee’s website. The last few videos will be uploaded by the end of this week.

The reason why I have only uploaded three of the four interviews is because I  ran into a small problem while editing. The Cartland Berge interview was missing some footage, but luckily we caught that and downloaded a back-up before completing the editing process.

Other than that, everything is going fine. We decided to schedule a walkthrough to record all of the HCC’s resources and spaces that the students can access. We may have one or two more interviews to do, but we have finished all of the main ones who were involved in the building’s creation. Our main goal now is to focus on our website and make sure everything is nice and organized for our audience.

Project Update

We have begun making headway on the organization of our website. This week we need to start focusing more on that, and deciding how we will present the information on our website. The good thing is that we have no shortage of information. The tricky thing will be sifting through all the information we have and determining from that, what is important, and how we will organize it. Monday, we are conducing a video walkthrough of the HCC, with managers of each main room talking a bit about the purpose of the rooms and their functions. After this, we should have all the video content we need for our site.

Google and HCC Group Project Update

This week, one of our class readings talked about the idea that Google “making us stupid”. The author proposed that the Internet is reshaping our thought process, making us unable to concentrate and think like we used to. He also suggested that the way we read is changing. “Efficiency and immediacy” are becoming priorities over deep reading and engaging. Kubrick’s prophecy states, “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence”. I found this interesting, and can see where he is coming from, yet I found it to be more extreme than the reality. My perception is that the Internet is changing the way we read, but the changes are not only negative. We may be less focused, especially when reading longer texts, but information is much more available today than it used to be.

At this point in my group’s HCC project, we have completed all of our interviews. Now, what we need to focus on is finishing the timeline and finalizing the website. We are up to date on our contract.

Text Mining + Group Update

The readings for this week were pretty interesting and they seem to involve some tools that I used in some other courses throughout my journey as Digital Studies Major. Nicholas Carr’s article, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, really stood out to me because of the brief mentions of electronic reading compared to physical reading. I’m taking a course right now called After Books with Professor Whalen and whenever we begin to read a new book, he asks everyone how did they obtain it and how will they be reading it. We’ve read four books so far and I’ve read 3 of them in an e-book format. I personally don’t feel any different reading a physical book compared to an e-book, but I do miss the feeling of holding an actual book. It’s just something about feeling the actual mass of a specific book instead of your e-reader for everything you read that is really satisfying.

Like we discussed in class today, I do feel like reading electronic text, be it e-books or articles online, actually helped improve my reading ability with the concept of skimming through text and picking out various keywords and such. This should be true for the majority of individuals living in this digital age because everyone speeds through text messages and articles in order to bring them up in future conversations or they just to learn more about an event that is happening in the world.

Now for a little update on our Convergence Center Project. We have our final interviews Wednesday morning and afternoon, so we will be able to talk about those during our presentation on Thursday. There is a possibility of working on our video walk-through on Friday of all of the resources, but we need to discuss it more with each other. After that we will put all of focus into the website and meet up with Kyle from admissions again to see what he thinks about our website so far.

Before the week is over I will be uploading the edited versions of the interviews to the Explore HCC YouTube account, so they can be put up on our website.


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.