History in the New Media Ben style

A Site for the People
April 13, 2007, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The site I explored that was not on the list is called the Museum of Online Museums (or MoOM) located at http://www.coudal.com/moom.php.  It was an interesting portal to a variety of different sites designed for the public.  Many of them have to do with art and culture but because it is ever expanding it could grow to include a wider variety of historical sites.

Of the list of sites, the one believe that best conveys the past to a ‘general’ audience is the Raid on Deerfield.  I think it makes that best possible use of many of the tools that the internet and the new media make available.  Although there is a lot of textual information to be found it is an extremely visual site with its smart use of art and maps.  The portion that impressed me the most was probably the ‘Attack’ page where the user could choose a tab to identify each player (the picture darkens to accentuate all those in a particular group) in the conflict and read their part in the story.  The wide variety of other sources was also impressive, especially the use of audio as a way to enhance the experience.  Having the story told to you (as in the introduction) makes the experience seem to become more real, less artificial.  Other audio which I enjoyed was the NPR radio broadcasts and the traditional English songs.  Because the site is so visually pleasing with the added sound makes the site appealing to a wide variety of people.  By exploring the various group, it is in my opinion that the historiography is not sacrificed for the sake of entertainment.  This type of site can stand alone and perhaps not need to be a supliment to a ‘brick and mortar’ institution like the ‘Museums of the Web’ article discussed.


The Greatest Story Ever Played
April 6, 2007, 1:41 pm
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I see video games as a medium with much potential as a tool for teaching history, but it has a very long way to go.  For example, many of the games I found online were hardly anything to speak of.  On a BBC site, I played as Neopolean’s Army in the Battle of Waterloo and tried to change the course of history.  I learned a lot about events leading up to the battle from the narrative the game displayed before it began.  As it turned out the game was nothing more than a choose your own adventure type with poor graphics.  (I was destroyed on the second move)  Another example of disappointment came from the History Channel web site.  I was quite depressed at my poor performance in a Pres. Lincoln trivia game.  But this was part of the problem.  Most of the history related games I found online were trivia of sorts and did very little to dress up a history lesson found in a classroom.  I kept thinking to myself, “what kind of a student would actually enjoy this?”  Much of the trivia was too difficult for a high schooler and the game play is meant for a pre-schooler.  This is a horrible combination. 

It makes me somewhat sad to say, but I think history video games have to be viewed in the same way as Hollywood.  I order to get the butts in the seats you have to offer them something more.  Since I had such a difficult time finding a true history game online I will give some examples of games I have played in the past which can at least be the source of some discussion.  One from a few years back was Medal of Honor, where you played an allied soldier on secret missions all over occupied Europe.  A second example, one of my favorite video game series is Grand Theft Auto.  I could be very easily criticized for using this gratuitously violent game as an example but I find there is a massive amount of thought that has gone into every detail of the game which would be very easily overlooked by the Tipper Gore’s of the world.  I cite these games much in the same way I would cite a Hollywood movie, as a way of exhibiting historical memory.  A specialist on World War II could probably say a lot about the types of things Medal of Honor includes in its games (and it is only one example of a dozen other WWII popular video games out right now) such as weapons, uniforms, and geographic locations.  As well as things that are missing like concentration camps.  Grand Theft Auto, I believe, is an amazing critic on American society spanning from the 80s (Vice City) to the 90s (San Andreas) to the present.  All you need to do is steal a car (in the game, of course) and flip through the radio stations.  Not only will they be playing popular music (or what the developers remember as popular) but also commercials and talk shows which lend to the scathing social commentary that oozes out of every pixalated pore of the game.  It is meant as humor, but I also realize that the truth (albeit exaggerated) is what makes it so funny. 

Now, if there was only a way to harness the gameplay and narrative stylings of a blockbuster video game with true historical study that would be something a lot of people could sink their teeth into.

History, Camera, Action!
March 30, 2007, 12:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

These sites that we have explored for this week are just the beginning of a great expansion into the various new forms of media that is quickly changing the way we see the world.  Reading about history can be exciting and moving depending on the subjects that most grip the historian.  But those feelings can change or be amplified in the instant that you actually hear or see the persons being studied.  It gives us an opportunity to become part of the audience, to attempt to become part of the time in which these words were spoken and these gestures made.  Every pause or stutter lends to the speakers mood, skill, or character and helps to make historical figures more human. 

But these mediums go well beyond the famous pictures and soundbites that we are familiar with.  It is also a valuable tool for recording our history; to coming closer to marking down more of how our society functions, feels, and deals with life.  Recording sound and video is by no means new, but it is available to so many more now than ever before.  The average and the extrodinary can use these tools to react to the world.  In my first experience with YouTube I saw an Asian-American poet respond to Rosey O’Donnell’s ignorant joke about the Chinese language.  He gave a clear and rational speech which I would have never had the opportunity to see and hear had this not been available.  It will only become more interesting when we see how to expand the use of these tools.

Type “M” for Murder
March 23, 2007, 1:26 pm
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The site Who Killed William Robinson certain is an interesting way of looking at history.  By tweeking the users interests with mystery and an opportunity to weigh in on the outcome could help a variety of historical subjects that students might initially consider borring.  In the case of William Robinson’s death there is a lot of information provided by the site, so much so it is hard to know where to start.  But that is part of the beauty of this type of digital history.  Each person will see the evidence differently because likely each user will find their own path through the infomation.  Even if everyone started on the same page they would more than likely choose differently the next time, or the time after that.  Suppositions and theories will be developed early on.  Because it would be very difficult a time consuming to view every peiece of evidence the user will like try to find sources that would strengthen their original hypothesis.  On the other hand they could find something that dashes their idea to pieces.

It was interesting viewing the undergrad blogs because many had some very different and original ideas.  I particularly like they theory of the judge being the murderer.  Most were not as silly as this and had some real thought put into it.  Even if the real answer could never be found it would appear that this is a valuable history teaching tool.

After reading some of the evidence and the undergrad blogs I would have to agree that Tom probably got a raw deal in this trial.  Considering the strong likelihood of discrimination towards native indians fairness was rarely in play.  But no matter how one slices it the testimony by young Dick is extremely damaging.  The big question is why might Dick have testified against his friend if he did not do it?  Because of the time differential their could be any number of reasons; coersion, revenge, etc.  The prosecution was likely more than happy to execute the accused to maintain the appearance of justice and peace in small community.  I question the use of the axe handle as evidence against Tom as there is far too much speculation and issues of memory.  I would be much more interested to know the whereabouts of Robinson’s gun.

Crumpled pepsi can
March 9, 2007, 2:54 pm
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The articles for this week certain are interesting in thinking about the future (and the past) of copyright issues that many of use will have to face.  Because there is value in both sides of the issue it is difficult to take a side and stick with it largely because in all likelihood you will one day find yourself on the other side of the fence.  Metallica jumps to mind in the debates over open-source and freedom on the internet.  When the band got its start, there popularity skyrocketed thanks largely to the numbers of boot-leg tapes circulating amongst fans, whose numbers continued to grow with every new listener of the tapes.  The coin flipped in the late nineties and early 21st century when Napster allowed users to download music free off the internet.  Metallica was one of the loudest voices againstthis downloading of copyrighted material.  There my be a substantial difference between boot-leg tapes of the eighties and P2P files sharing of the 00s but the similarities are undeniable.

Because we may one day fine ourselves in a similar situation the articles provide interesting points to the debate.  We want our work protected, but we don’t want the creative process stifling by unsympathetic copyright laws, as is discussed in Lessig and the documentary filmmakers statement.  I think this becomes especially true with the changing media environment and the consolidation of the industry stressed in Lessig’s book.  For now we will be forced to pay close attention and follow the copyright laws in order to participate in the exchange of ideas.  The debate will continue and activism will likely follow.

Final Project Prospectus

For my final project I propose to build an online exhibit which combines tools explored in this course with those being explored in a parallel library science course.  For the LS project I will be creating an online bibliography known as a “pathfinder.”  This pathfinder is intended in aiding a users ability to quickly find resources and contribute to his/her over research.  The list will be composed largely of secondary sources but also include periodicals and related primary sources.  I will build onto this project by using what we have learn in New Media.  A small database could be built to increase searchability of the primary sources and images.  The goal of the site, in addition to aiding research, is to appeal to a broad audience interested in the subject matter and gain new prospective by making choices in how the material is viewed. 

The topic of discussion in the site will be about urban riots in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  I seek to explain the urban setting and contentious events leading up to the violence that was so prevalent in this period.  I will also attempt to compare the primary sources available from the period in the context of racial prospect.  Clearly the events of the riots would play out very different depending on the point of view of the observer (white v. black) and I hope to display this to the viewer of the site. 

I plan to use Dreamweaver and other related graphics tools which I already have some proficiency in using but wish to strengthen in the coming weeks.  Quick question I would like to ask about the project:  In writing the proposal how much of the project should we have completed as an example of what we wish to accomplish? 

Making history more
March 2, 2007, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Website Evaluation

The question posed for this week is whether the sites before us deliver “the promise of digital history.”  Quickly mentioning what digital history is meant to be is most easily understood as a scholarly work which could not be confinded in the traditional media of a book and utilize as much of the tools the internet has to offer.

The sites we wish to explore are The Difference Slavery Made, Images of the French Revolution, and (for my choice) Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge.  Each a piece of digital scholarly work in a form similar to that of a journal article but offers much more to the reader.  As Thomas and Ayers point out in their overview they were attepting to break out of the neat printed box and expose and greater exposure of the sources used to create it.  Much of the Thomas/Ayers site takes the form of an ordinary article but offers a long list of “Evidence” taking the forms of maps, table, graphs, etc. that the reader can follow with the article or deduce their own interpretations of the data.  Other digital accomplishments include links to synopsis and excerpts of others work such as James McPherson’s Ordeal by Fire.

The Censer and hunt site (Images of the French Revoltuion) Takes a different approach to the use of digital scholarship but also exposes how some things don’t necessarily have to change.  The site offers several essays exploring Revolutionary images before the site’s image database creation.  all of the articles are digitally updated usinganchors for citations so the reader can immediately jump to a footnote.  Within these notes might contain a link to a broader, more in depth view of the source provided.  Probably the most interesting addition is the online forum so the authors can add to their work or comment on someone elses.  This is a practice I have come to recognize in journal articles of authors responding to criticism.  But where as that process could take months, the online forum offers instant, real0time communtary on works of this kind. 

In the last example of digital scholrship we see a site which clearly does not have the same kind of financial resources that the previous two do, but none the less still attempts to utilize what the web has to offer the reader.  Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge struggles with the goal of assessing the claim of LA as “metonymic for the entire course of human history.”  The site’s author Philip Ethington stresses the importance of maps and spacial issues, making the web an idea outlet for exposure of such analysis.  Similar to the French Revolution and Slavery site, footnotes are linked for instantanious viewing.  Links to maps and other evidence is placed throughout the essay.  This form of digital history is ‘primative’ in comparison to the other sites but deserves recognition for its attempts at lofty goals.  It is filled with digital images, both moving and interactive that cannot simply be printed on a page.  Even if the site looks amateur it still falls well within the promise of digital history.

Search by Scetch
February 27, 2007, 10:17 pm
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As per our discussion with Professor Turkel, here is the link I mentioned using a unique method of image surfing.  http://labs.systemone.at/retrievr/  Give it a try.  You will probably get some varied and at time confusing results from the doodling.  Its accuracy is obviously limited as is the database from which the pictures come from (flickr), but it is an interesting example of the new and perhaps extremely use forms of web searching.