Week 14: The Future of History in the Digital Age

The digital age will continue to grow and thrive, however, this does not mean the traditional historian has to be forgotten. On the contrary, I find that among all this technology surrounding us, the “craft of the historian” should be even more embraced. Weller reminds us that, “the traditional historian has tended to be overlooked as digital history has become the buzz-word for avant-garde historical scholarship in the digital age.” The readings throughout the semester have made me appreciate the traditional historian because everything that digital history offers has been dealt with, for example, “dissemination and accuracy” – today there is a plethora of books that have been written and peer reviewed by historians. There is this notion that historians like to come at some sort of truth when approaching a certain topic but that’s not always the case. Like digital history, traditional historians have and will face challenges and these will become overcome milestones to only better the narrative.

What I really found useful for this class was the amount of links to valuable information that not only was useful for the course but for personal use as well. Being an active digital user on a daily basis, it was eye-opening to step back and learn what goes on “behind-the-scenes” – how it works and I honestly feel like I could never stop learning because things are changing right now. The digital field will never be static, it will always produce and contribute new things and as historians of any field I think it is really benefitting. I think the works become easier but tricky at the same time trying to keep up with the next new feature that comes out. What I mean by the works become easier is that the digital field offers so many advantageous resources such as the amount of digital information that now is readily available at any time anywhere. I think as traditional historians, we should become one with the digital world because we are constantly learning from one another – yes the digital world offers so much more and at certain times it becomes super overwhelming but I believe we still have so much more to learn from the tradition and field of history today.

Reference:

Weller, Toni. History in the Digital Age. London: Routledge, 2013.

Week 13: Public Historians and Shared Authority on the Web

Navigating through the National Archives and Records Administration Citizen Archivist website was fairly refreshing! I created an account and the process was pretty straight-forward. It’s amazing how much you can do within the website, the tasks are infinite. The cataloguing and metadata of WWII materials was very intriguing – I took the opportunity of adding tags to certain photographs such as this Orlando Roseland image and I have to say at first it was a bit confusing because there are two sections where you could add tags whenever you’re viewing a photograph. One of these sections were located to the left of the photograph and I kept adding tags there not realizing that it doesn’t show under “View/Add Contributions” in relation to the photograph. Once I clicked on “View/Add Contributions” beneath the photograph, I noticed other tags had been previously added as well so I went ahead and added about six more. I repeated this process for about three photographs.

Finding how to tag photographs was a little bit difficult at first so what I did to find it was by writing “tagging”in the search subfield and that led me to a page full of files and documents and photographs from which I just picked a couple of photographs to tag. The task of tagging helped me analyze the photo closely and notice details I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Even though the photos were all in black and white – there is so much intricate information you could obtain just by looking very closely. I found it helpful that some photographs had a small description. Tagging here is definitely different than what I would use on Instagram.

For Instagram I usually put longer tags and informal ones obviously. I really enjoyed the ability to zoom in on a particular image and even more the ability to download it! The amount of resources offered are very beneficial not only for researchers, museum curators, but even veterans and military individuals! Another helpful area I found within the website was the ‘Advanced Search‘ metadata fields – it really does provide many useful information that helps in trying to find an item or resource accurately. I tried searching for “museums” and I was surprised with how much exhibit and museum information I was confronted with and the different types of materials makes it all the more resourceful. The archival records are vast – no doubt and the high level of interaction helps me engage more attentively with the historical materials. I found this website to be as useful as Omeka – with a few confusing spots here and there which I think has to do with the amount of information offered – a little overwhelming to navigate through but overall a very interactive, educational, and informative historical gem!

Week 12: Making Digital History Relevant

Podcasts are so popular nowadays. You can literally search any podcast topic online and it’s readily available to be downloaded at no cost (except on iTunes store). Topics can range from health and nutrition all the way to academic topics like history and art history, sociology, anthropology, business, economics, science and even mental health. It is a digital means used for informational or even entertainment purposes. Currently, there are thousands of topics from which to choose from on the iTunes store ready to be dowloaded. Honestly, I never really took interest for podcasts mostly because I’m more of a visual person but also because I wasn’t really exposed to it. After discovering this topic on Stuff You Missed in History Class called “Giorgio Vasari” which extendedly narrates the story of 16th-century Italian artist notorious for his art and architect masterpieces, however, mostly famous for his art historical writing about the lives of other artists. Art history podcasts like these fascinate me because it’s intriguing and captivating listening to information that not only relates to my interests but also helps me discover and learn new elements within the art history and history realm.

To me, it almost feels like a lecture at home and this is precisely the benefit I would like to emphasize. Podcasts are easily downloadable which means it can be saved and preserved right in your computer ready to be heard at any time. Some podcasts are more lengthy than others which is important to take into account because depending on the size of the podcast is how much space it will end up occupying. Podcasts are an attracting digital and public history tool that can be used to extend a public history audience by offering realms of information relevant to their interests at the click of a button. It’s fast and downloadable, on-the-go easy to listen to anywhere.

It is a new learning tool that is convenient and highly informational – I also find it motivational especially the time I remember listening to a podcast about mental health and nutrition (two semesters ago when I took a nutrition course at UConn) and actually found myself writing down notes and making a nutritional plan for myself. Of course, unlike a lecture, podcasts aren’t interactive between professor and student but I do find it to be mentally interactive where it makes me think and ponder about the subject wanting to know more and more. I find myself not only absorbing the information but also filtering through what I consider to be important and to that end furthering my knowledge. Podcasts are transforming the way in which we interact with digital information by providing an audible means of learning all sorts of new information. I think podcasts are creating a shift in the public historical realm, it is digitally transforming the way we think and takes processing digital information to another level.

Week 11: Public History and Social Media

Social media has grown to be a full out phenomena that public historians are readily taking advantage of. Presently, I have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Snapchat but the ones I constantly use are Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. I created a Twitter account for my digital history course and I have started following a couple of accounts since then and haven’t really built a following because I rarely “tweet” (currently have 82 unopened notifications!). I like retweeting posts, especially inspirational quotes that I relate to but lately with work and school, I haven’t really had time to scroll through and retweet new ones. Currently, the historical accounts I am following are: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of ArtCT’s Old State HouseConnecticut HistoryCCSU HistoriansConnecticut State LibraryHistory In Pictures, CTinWWI, and of course Bernie Sanders!

My digital persona is completely different than these “twitterstorians” mainly because I find I would tweet more informal versus formal information such as museum exhibition events, event programming, or related narratives/linked articles for the CTinWWI or CT’s Old State House for example. However, this would change if I used my occupational platform to promote museum events like (Art After Dark: Gorey’s Worlds – 4/5!), upcoming exhibitions and films or sharing a painting to reminisce on a particular artist and its relevance in history today. This way, I would start posting more formal information that could be of value and use to the public much more than my regular informal daily life quotes/retweets. If I were to do this, the way I would attract attention would be by providing direct external links like the way I’m doing here and including media and relevant details and most importantly hashtags like the way the museum’s official Twitter account does now.

I find that doing this through Twitter would be more efficient than say through Facebook or Instagram (although both are still great for promoting events and posting media!) because Twitter has the qualitative aspect of the frequent use of #hashtags which is highly efficient in being able to find either a topic of conversation, artist, event, person, celebrity gossip, etc…you name it. I personally don’t have that much experience using hashtags but if I were to start using my account for promotional means I would definitely make sure to be on top in using relatable hashtag so users can easily find the information I’m trying to put forth. Most of the articles I read for this week’s lecture was based on the efforts of the Library of Congress in trying to archive every possible tweet since their announcement in 2006. Scholars and researchers would be the first ones to benefit from this if made possible because it would  be a valuable resource for their academic endeavors, however, so far it’s proving to be highly difficult!

One important takeaway from all the articles is that not only Twitter but social media in general is rapidly changing and keeping up with its pace can be quite tedious and more complicated than it might seem. With that being said, the level of audience engagement also changes on a constant basis because new interactive features are being created and each time these new features prove to establish a faster and deeper connection to the public audience such as retweeting and the inclusion of multimedia or even trending tags/#hashtags. The digital world continues to thrive and its fast-changing and innovative resource tool makes our social lives easier and more exciting but at the same time it makes us lose appreciation for face-to-face interactions, readings newspapers/books/watching tv or worse yet, taking the time to put our phones down and spend quality time with our loved ones at family gatherings. Our daily analog tasks are soon to becoming extinct!

Digitization & Preservation

The transformation from analog to digital is inevitable. Earlier in one of my posts, I went over the advantages and disadvantages of digitization and in the same vein, it is important to take these elements into consideration when taking first steps to building a site. From Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s Digital History: A Guide To Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting The Past On The Web, I learned that some of the elements I consider to be attractive and functional for creating a website are the addition of hyperlinks and content materials and design that in a way that “attracts contributions with other contributions and offering information or materials that will bring attention to the website – essentially its distinctiveness is key to an effective outreach” (Cohen & Rosenzweig). Through these types of content materials, for example, hyperlinks allow direct access to other sites that intrigues us to keep researching for more information.

It’s essential to consider that “becoming digital” has as much costs than benefits. Some of these costs revolve around the monetary cost it takes for both creating and preserving a website. However, I think the benefit of open flexibility and manipulability should be taken advantage of while the process in itself is already difficult. Another benefit is the endless opportunities the net offers researchers and scholars, because of the internet’s fluidity, information is constantly changing and offering new research outlets. As Cohen and Rosenzweig claim, “the internet shuttles information between and among people.” Though Cohen and Rosenzweig mentioned how difficult it was to digitize history, it’s clear the digital future will be permanent. I do want to emphasize that I personally think that digitizing history does not necessarily mean preservation of history. Online resources are not always reliable. More times than not, I’ve lost academic research essays and journal entries due to forgetting to save my document. In other occasions, I’ve made sure I saved my academic work but my computer would freeze and all of a sudden my work is gone. Even in the transition of switching phones, I’ve lost pictures, music and files because of the lack of storage capacity. Digitizing information, I believe, is essential to publicizing history and the preservation of this history is imperative to continue historical legacy passed down to our generations. I agree with Cohen and Rosenzweig in their offer of preserving digital history, “the archive of specific historical sites should be stored in a larger archive of the web.” I think that this way it’s as if second-saving information, as a back up almost. It would be interesting to look into this further.

As for model websites, I have to mention the Wadsworth Atheneum’s official website Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art because of its easily accessible contents, openness and inviting presentation. It has eight pull down tabs with extra links to access related information. In addition to his it has six extra tabs at the very top highlighted in black against white text as quick links to essential information about the museum. The very middle has moving images to advertise the upcoming events along with a calendar to showcase all the important dates the museum will be holding events, lectures or films!

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Another model website is the Smithsonian’s History Explorer (Smithsonian’s History Explorer). I really appreciate how informative and organized its contents are and the amount of hyperlinks leading to more online resources! Like the Wadsworth Atheneum website, the moving images promote events, discussions and websites that provide further relevant information. The moving images, color, alignment, proximity within these both model websites make all the difference as part of the attractive elements in engaging audiences. I often use this website to find information on museum artifacts. It doesn’t only locate artifacts but it provides fast access to where those artifacts are exhibited whether it’s digitized online or located in an actual museum. I love looking through the online exhibits, however, it really can’t compare to the unique experience of walking within museum walls and admiring the art in all its glory!

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The Collaborative Web: Rome!

Three related Wikipedia pages I chose to analyze were three of Roman’s most iconic monuments (being such an art history lover!): Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Starting with the Colosseum, the first link that comes up when searching ‘Colosseum’ on Google is Wikipedia. There is an extensive history discussing its history, its architectural features, restoration, its popularity in Rome and its ultimate significance within the heart of Italy. I was very surprised when looking into the “talk” section and noticing more than fifteen sections where changes by various users were enforced! One of them being the discussion of the type of columns used. Apparently, there was an error in the original Wikipedia page in stating that the columns that made up the arcades were “Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian” where in reality instead of Tuscan it is “Doric” columns. The user that suggested this change gave the name of a book by Sebastiano Serlio and also a link to the Britannica page. I really appreciate how Wikipedia is determined in finding and posting reliable sources for the general public. This column change is one of many suggested changes. Another example is the difference between sand and concrete and furthermore edited to be changed to “travertine, tuff and brick-faced concrete” in specific backed up by a scholarly article.

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I remember more than one time for one of my introductory art history courses, I searched up this monument to study for my exam on the section about its significance in relation to Rome and I found it very helpful and easy to understand. At this time I was not aware of the “talk” sections, but now I know Wikipedia is fixed on being up to date providing reliable information that in reality I had nothing to worry about!

Moving on to the Trevi Fountain: (this is definitely one of the monuments I am most excited to visit for its iconic global recognition) to my surprise the Wikipedia page on the Trevi Fountain provides a rather short history and only about four topics (“iconography, restoration, coin throwing, and design & commission”). I was really expecting a lengthy historical overview and added sections such as significance, architectural interior and exterior analysis, etc. I say this because in my introductory art history course (ancient to contemporary) whenever we came across a Roman or Greek monument, we would analyze its architectural features in relationship to its significance within its location. Moreover, discussion on its architecture and iconography would give way to topics such as religion and politics which proved to be highly interesting! Reading the talk section on the Trevi Fountain, I found about ten sections that Wikipedia has not approved or disapproved and these suggested changes range from the years 2004-2013 and there is no response listed by Wikipedia which is quite odd. I have noticed that many of the users have not provided any type of source, I think one of them has a link to the New York Times, could this be why? I will definitely have to keep my eye on this to check future updates!

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Last but not least, we have the Pantheon:) As assumed, the Wikipedia page on the Pantheon has a comprehensive list of 12 topics under the Contents list (including notes, footnotes, links, and references). The talk section is somewhat sparse and considerable. Again, the debate discussions range from 2004-2017 and there is no approval by Wikipedia acknowledging the information. Similarly, users have no added any type of source to support their argument. What I really like about these “talk” sections are the different types of perspectives offered that hasn’t been thought before. It triggers further research and I think that’s what makes Wikipedia so remarkable. As previously mentioned, as an undergrad at UConn, some of my professors were skeptical on using Wikipedia as a viable source, although they did suggest it was helpful for a quick overview of a topic I still couldn’t use it as a source for research papers because of its supposed “inauthenticity” on its sources. Now, learning about Wikipedia in depth, I have to disagree because I think Wikipedia is a reliable source – the key is to trace sources to its grassroots and verify that they are indeed credible (now that I’m taking a Historiography course, I’m learning that this is one the most essential tasks historians must do to accurately check and make use of sources). I think educational and corporate institutions should definitely  give Wikipedia a chance because there’s so much valuable and intriguing information waiting to be discovered!

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Introduction to Omeka: Creating Digital Collections and Exhibits

The two websites from the Omeka showcase I chose were the “Humboldt Redwoods Project” and “The Latina Project.” Both websites show characteristics of developing engagement with a larger community and the organized display of exhibit information which is what Omeka aims for. Similarly, both projects offer clear background information on the front page that helped me get a feel for what I was about to view. As a viewer, I find that providing an overview in the front page is essential because it allows the viewer to get a feel for what important message the author/s and/or organizations want to convey. The presentation of this “abstract” was differently demonstrated.

The “Humboldt Redwoods Project” briefly explained the history, purpose and goal of the project accompanied by a slide of images. As a viewer, I find this refreshing, simple and quick to read. On the other hand, The “Latina History Project” showcased their front page through an interplay between sharing a brief purpose statement, URL links and a spotlight space to show “featured exhibits.” In this light, I have to say I like “The Latina History Project’s” front page presentation better because of their offer in multiple outlets of information. It allows me to freely navigate topics/ relevant information that relate to the overall topic. Alike, what I really liked about “Humboldt Redwoods” is one of their tabs called “Browse Items Map” presents the viewer with an interactive feature: a map tool navigator. It is sort of like a personal research within the project that allows viewers further exploration on additional topics. There are captions with pictures embedded within each link in the map that shows relevant details within a particular area that to me really stood out as an integral portion of the entire project.

Overall, I find the “Humboldt Redwoods Project” to be compact, simple and informative to navigate with the added interactive component. Whereas “The Latina History Project” has a much more descriptive and informative side with a plethora of links available for the researcher to devour and interact with. Just browsing and reading through the links and its data, I became intrigued by activist Dolores Huerta and all her accomplishments to bring voice to local narratives. What I like the most is the tab “explore more” which offers an additional platform for further scholarship exploration. Public history projects such as these provide rich cultural and social historical knowledge that an excellent tool like Omeka offers a platform for. Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 10.42.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 10.43.05 PM

Digital Collections, Copyright, and Intellectual Property

Historical scholarship (digital or analog) has been central to both history fanatics and the study of history as a subject in the humanities. Digital historical scholarship, however, has so many implications in comparison to analog scholarship. Rosenzweig’s “Should Historical Scholarship Be Free?” explains the advantages and disadvantages of having “open access” historical scholarship and ultimately provides six foundational ways in which it could be made possible. As a history student, I have open access to many web based articles and even some scholarly journals but very few to say the least. For the most part, a large portion of scholarly publications have limited readers from viewing the full text unless you’re subscribed by paying a fee. The dilemma has to do with the economic crisis publishing scholarly societies would undergo if scholarship were to become free and open to everyone. In my opinion, providing accessible knowledge for the public good should not come at a price. This is where Rosenzweig’s six potential solutions  come into play: “self-archiving”, “author charges”, “delayed access”, “partial access”, “electronic only journals” and “cooperation with libraries.” Some of these categories have greater advantage over the other such as cooperation with libraries versus self-archiving. Even though self-archiving allows the author to freely post his or her research through personal sites; technically the original article is still sealed to readers. It defeats the purpose of having an “open access” environment. Whereas compromising with libraries favors both scholarly publishers and the “broad/ democratic access” by supporting the publishing societies in exchange for a “reduced and controlled subscription fee.” This way both gain “readership, reputation and recognition” without losing business. The rest have its advantages to a certain extent but is still limited to its external implications.

Personally I believe scholarship should be made free and accessible to the public because by limiting it we’re also excluding populations who don’t have the means to gain admittance to valuable historical scholarship. In this respect, analog scholarship is much more inclusive. Knowledge is a powerful tool everyone should have the right to access. It is very ironic because you would think the digital world (being the overpowering and growing technology tool it is presently) would be much more open to everyone due to its vast capacity and “manipulability” but it is much more limiting when it comes to scholarly knowledge. In a sense, it is understandable that there are expenses associated with the process of publishing a scholarly journal, however, Rosenzweig encourages us to explore options that doesn’t necessarily have to leave one or the other out but rather embrace both for the sake of “inquiry and knowledge.” I think as public historians it should be our mission to spread and establish intellectual resources to not only grow as individual scholars but also continue to discover interdisciplinary ways of writing history and learn from each other as a community. I do agree with Rosenzweig that the digital world creates a “secondary digital divide” between who has access and why they can have it.

Moving over to copyright, this is a vital topic to digital historians because it has important associations (especially legal ones) in regards to their digitized work. Copyright is strikingly different for digital scholarship versus a traditional print monograph. Just as the digital web offers a vast open and endless creative canvas, the legal implications involved become much more complex precisely for its “flexibility, global accessibility and manipulability.” The “legal responsibility” is greater when there’s more than five hundred “moving pictures, endless texts and sounds” and we’re our own publishers! Rosenzweig makes an excellent point by stating, “placing work on web gives better sense of establishment than on paper” and I completely agree because through the digitizing of information historians are able to use the web as a platform to reach and connect with audiences from all over the world. One fascinating thing I learned through one of the articles (“What You Don’t Know About Copyright, but Should” by Jennifer Howard) is how easily one can hold copyright ownership, especially on the web. I actually own a copyright on all my posts on my WordPress website – this concept is very eye-opening!

Researching & Writing in the Digital Age

The Web has taken over us since the early 1990s. Today, historians are using digital tools to communicate their findings. The shift from analog to digital has affected many realms within the history world, one of them being historical research. The Web offers advantages as well as disadvantages when it comes to historical research. These advantages are described by Cohen and Rosenzweig as, “capacity, accessibility, flexibility, diversity, manipulability, interactivity and hypertextuality.” These multifaceted advantages explain that through the use of conducting research digitally historians are able to reach to broader audiences worldwide, implement new ways of showcasing narratives, preserving and creatively exposing the data, as well as sharing the digital platform with other historians in hopes of continuing to extend the “digital future by creating digital history in the present” (Cohen & Rosenzweig). Some of the disadvantages of digital writing involve the “quality and authenticity and the inaccessibility to certain disadvantaged and populations” (Cohen & Rosenzweig).

As a historian, selecting sources is vital to the process of “synthesizing, arranging, contextualizing and communicating” narratives. Unfortunately, digital sources are prone to lack authenticity versus analog sources (for the most part) therefore historians have questions to consider in order to analyze and properly select trustworthy sources. The problem with digital sources is the fact that anyone who doesn’t necessarily have a history background can post information on the Web with no basis of factual validity. The most popular example is Wikipedia. During my undergrad years at UCONN, I was limited from using Wikipedia as a source for my research papers. Although I must admit it has been useful to browse through information for a quick overview and at points I’ve had professors admit that it does come in handy when you want to quickly find background information on almost any topic. Moreover, historians must be very selective and analytical when choosing digital sources to present their data (“scholarly primitives”).

In a sense, I do believe that there are qualitative differences between the use of digital archives and traditional analog sources because using digital tools allow historians to present their “interpretative narratives” in new forms and connect with a larger network to ultimately contribute to the expansion of “historiographical conversations.” In Rosenzweig’s scholarly article, “Digital History & Argument”, he makes the case that digital historians make arguments just as historians do by “structuring and describing materials in ways that highlight specific features and relationships and in addition, digital historians can incorporate sources themselves as central elements and this allows further analysis and engagement.” That’s why I said “in a sense” because though there is a difference in the platform, process and presentation of the narratives, the goal is the same. The advantage analog sources have on digital sources is the preservation portion. In conclusion, digital historians are currently engaging within a medium that transforms public history in “meaningful ways using digital forms.” Digital historians must balance out the advantages and disadvantages in order to maximize the latter. Nevertheless, both digital and analog sources have its assets and losses, both assist historians in creating and exposing narratives.

Reference:

Arguing with Digital History working group, “Digital History and Argument,” white paper, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (November 13, 2017): https://rrchnm.org/argument-white-paper/.