Category Archives: history

Over the course of this semester, my classmates and I have been posting on this blog, referring to the assignments given in our Critical Approach to Digital Humanities hybrid class. This was not my first time blogging for a class, but I still had/have much to learn about it. For my open posts I mainly chose memes, websites, and news articles that related to my knowledge of the Digital Humanities. My most important goal is to make a definition of what I think DH is, and this class has helped me get closer to reaching my goal by forcing to do my own research, but the blog helped me see what my classmates were discovering and I found that to be very helpful. Using the blog for class assignments was also helpful in improving my public writing and developing my voice.

A few of my beginning post were not very detailed and it resulted in comments that had questions asking me to further explain what my post is about. After “practicing” posting and reading other’s post, it became easier for me to see what type of information was necessary to have a blog post that was brief but still very clear about the reasoning and idea of the over all post. This open post from the beginning of the class is an example of somewhere that I really could have gotten into depth. Instead I just assumed that my audience would know where the image came from, what my thoughts were on it, and how it relates to DH. The image was simply from a Google search and I was drawn to it because I saw it as a visual definition what I think to be Digital Humanities. The photo is representing a classroom and the volume symbol is showing that it is virtual. I could have expanded even further by relating it our hybrid class that is participating on this very blog. Those that go to class and those who are online students never meet, but on the blog, it feels to me at least, that we are all the same. For example, I am just as likely to comment on an online students post, as I am to comment on someone’s post that I see in class. When learning is cybernetic, everyone is essentially equal and this reminds me of the open and sharing attitude of the Digital Humanities. Later on I started to find things that reminded me of DH and that also related to my life, like this post with a “Y U NO?” meme. It may not be my prettiest post, but when you read it, you know exactly why I chose that meme. In this post, I made myself vulnerable and shared tweets from my personal feed and account to help demonstrate what I was talking about. In both my open posts and directed post, I slowly built up my voice and also raked through my interests that relate to the Digital Humanities.

When scrolling through my blog posts, there really isn’t much sense of a theme besides the common subject of the Digital Humanities.  I am really still in the beginning staging of understanding the field, but I know that it is right for me because I find almost every part of it fascinating. The multitude of opportunities it has the potential of presenting me, gives me security for the future that I am comfortable with. What interest me the most are the projects that we recently studied; they are what I find to be the most important part of DH. I see social media being a part of DH as well, but I think that it kind of fits into the category because of the big data that it creates. DH has much more potential than just counting the amount of pictures on Facebook and weeding through all of the tweets about an event. Sure these are important aspects of DH and they help us learn about us as a society, but I feel that it almost “cheapens” if you will, the definition of Digital Humanities and it has not yet been set in stone. I see the networking to be an outlet for discoveries. Websites and blogs like ours that are collecting history and information is what drives the success of the field. Being an admin to this blog helped me work on my public writing, but it also helps clear my personal pathway to the definition of Digital Humanities.


This class was the first one I’ve had to take that has required the students to write blog posts each week. We’re not only writing for our classmates and professor but for everyone on the web as well. I think this has improved my skills as a writer because this is the first time I’ve had to write for a wider audience than just my professors and classmates. I think writing in blogs gives you the opportunity to show more of your personality in your writing than you would for a normal assignment that only your professor would read. I think I’ve always shown my voice through my writing. One example of this is for the DH project evaluation paper. I chose to examine the September 11th Digital Archive site. For this paper we got put in groups and had to edit and proofread our group members papers. I remember one comment from one of my group members said that he liked the way I let my voice show through my writing. I think in some ways this is effective, especially writing in blogs, because it allows the reader to connect with the writer on a deeper level than a more formal assignment.

I think blogging is more relaxing to write than a paper that is for your professor. Even though my professor, classmates, and other web users read what I posted, I think blogging is more personal; it takes some of the pressure off. Blogging has changed the way I write because I feel more comfortable to sound more like myself in my writing and let more of my voice show through. I think professor Pignetti did a good job at allowing this because of the open posts we had to do each week along with our other post that was about a specific topic. The open posts could be about anything related to our course goals and I really enjoyed seeing what everyone else posted each week. I think for the open posts everyone let their voice shine through in their writing and I think this makes the blog seem a little more inviting. Another thing I liked was that professor Pignetti would also do blog posts and would comment on our posts. In her posts and comments, and even teaching in class, she would talk to us in a casual tone and I think this also helped put everything at ease. Writing in the blog didn’t seem like an assignment sometimes because I usually always enjoyed what I had to write about and share with others for the open posts. And since our professor would do blog posts too that also helped make it seem like it wasn’t an assignment sometimes.

This link takes you to my very first blog post for this class. I couldn’t tell you what the assignment was about but I think this is a good example of sounding more personal in your writing. One thing that I would change now that I have reread it is in the last paragraph I talk about how I like Bobley’s definition of Digital Humanities. I wish I would’ve said what that definition was and explained why I liked it because now that I’ve reread it I don’t remember what his definition was. For most of the blog posts I just wrote it on the spot, read over it once for any spelling and grammar errors and then posted it. Normally I would write something, let it sit for a few days and then go back to it and make changes. I think writing for blogs forces you to be better at writing on the spot and writing something good the first time. Blogging is definitely good practice for that. For my editing class I think about how my professor was telling me how reporters would sometimes have to write stories and they would get proofread once and get sent out to the press. I always wondered how they could write something so good so fast and get mostly everything right the first time. Now that I have a little blogging experience under my belt I’m not too intimidated by writing something on the spot and still feeling confident about it.

I love train travel, so reviewing Railroads and the Making of Modern America for my project was an easy choice. I like the aspect that they are looking beyond records and documents to explore the impact that the train had on the growth and development of this great nation. This site gives us a glimpse of how people’s lives were interwoven through the railroads and how that changed the course of history in many cases. I was a bit disappointed that the historical aspect of this site focuses primarily on the mid to late 1800s and doesn’t explore much in the 20th century. I’m working on a project where the railroads played a vital role during the Great Depression and the years surrounding it. I’ve been in contact with the lead researcher for this website, he is interested in my research (though I’m just a novice at this). I thought it was interesting the the same researchers were instrumental in the creation of several of the sites that were reviewed – and that those all focused on the same time period in history, mainly the Civil War era. You could see the similarity between those sites. One of the presentations noted that when that class was completed, the website updates seemed to stop, which does not reflect well on the ‘sharing’ aspect of digital humanities and limits is usefulness as a research tool.

So, here is my attempt to embed my Prezi into this blog. I’ll post the script, too, so it makes more sense. If I figure out Slideshare, I’ll update it so the audio is part of the presentation.

Railroads Project intro1. If you follow Highway 14 west from Madison, it soon becomes apparent that small towns are about 7 – 10 miles apart. You pass by a historical marker that tells the story of a once-thriving community. You pass through sleepy villages, clusters of homes and abandoned buildings – remnants of stores and businesses. Those too were once bustling communities. One thing that all of those communities had in common was the railroad. In the early days of rail travel, that is how far steam trains could go before they had to ‘refuel’. And where they had to stop for water and wood, a town sprung up. As people became less dependent on trains for freight and travel, many of those same towns withered and died. Helena (hell ee na) was one of those towns. It was once a thriving community situated where the Wisconsin River and the railroad met – it was a shipping point for lead shot for the Civil War, and for lumber. Helena was seriously considered as a location for the state capital when it was moved from Belmont. It now little more than a memory – all that remains are a few homes and a tavern. Helena’s demise is a direct result of the change in railroad use.

2. Railroads and the Making of Modern America, a website produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is exploring phenomena such as this to gain a better understanding of how railroads contributed to social changes in America over time. Their premise is that the railroads “triggered unexpected outcomes in American society”, and “became wedded into the fabric of Modern America”. The website is coordinated by a team of experts in the fields of history, geography, and digital technology, who are actively involved in related research projects. It receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities—Digging into Data Competition, The American Council for Learned Societies—Digital Innovation Fellowship, the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK, and from the UNL Office of Research.

3. The website creators noted that historical records are numerous and quite complete. Their goal, according to their website, is to “use digital medium to investigate, represent, analyze and document” their findings, and in particular:

  • To capture and represent the social history of the railroad
  • To create interpretive visualizations
  • To build upon the base of historical geographic information system or, GIS, of the growth of the railroad over time.

They do this through what they call, the ‘assemblages’ of data, and interpretations that should be considered multi-media experiments in the presentation of digital history. As such they define the site as a digital history project. That is reinforced by the partnerships with other universities and libraries in the US and other countries

4. The website is straightforward and is easy to navigate. It uses drop-down menus accessible from each page, as well as lists on the sides of some pages. The home page contains lots of information, including links that define digital history projects, and an About Us page that acquaints readers with the project, and the researchers and their backgrounds. It contains links to information within the site as well as external links to related websites, blogs and projects such as the Aurora project, which provides apps for historical visualizations. It cites pertinent research publications. The site is not static, new information has been added to the collection within the past two weeks.  The website goes beyond an overview of the function of railroads to looking at other aspects connected with the railroad such as Native Americans, slavery, politics, war, manufacturing, agriculture, technology – and how those things influenced the development of North America. One of the limitations of the website is that is focuses primarily on the latter half of the 1800s. There is not much information from the 1900s. I’ve actually been in touch with the project leader about information about the role that railroads played in the hobo culture during the early to mid 1900s.

5. This website captures the essence of digital humanities – using technology to look at big data, and in this case big history, in a new way and to share that information. It is defined as a digital history project, and as such incorporates John Unsworth’s Scholarly Primitives of discovering – representing – annotating – comparing – sampling – illustrating and representing. Others are encouraged to submit their research to be included on the website. Graduate student projects are included, with links to those individual websites. The Copyright Statement notes the information is published freely for educational and research use.

6. In keeping with scholarly primitives, the website offers thorough search options with a number of criteria and tools. Those include language analysis tools, an index of topics, data visualizations, and mapping. It provides thorough annotation of all documents.

7. The website is a good example of illustrating information in a number of ways, including animations, charts, graphs, databases, maps and GIS images, copies government documents and reports, and an extensive photo collection. I thought one of the limitations of the site was locating photographs.

8. I see the primary focus of this website as a research and teaching platform, so the main audience is educators, college students and researchers. That is evident in the layout of the information on the website, as well as the links for teaching materials. The information is used mainly in history and geography courses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The site would be easy to use for students of any age, or for anyone who might be interested. The site also offers opportunities for researchers and students to share their work.

9. So, does the train arrive at the station? I think Railroads and the Making of Modern America is a strong example of a mature digital humanities website. It does add to the larger body of knowledge of the disciplines and to the inter-disciplinary field of digital humanities. The site is designed well, it is straightforward, comprehensive, easy to navigate, and easy to use. It exemplifies digital humanities, especially well in the aspect of sharing information, with links to information within the site as well as external resources. It provides an avenue for researchers and students to share their discoveries including links to their websites, and highlights newly updated information. This website meets the objectives of the creators by providing a digital resource for research and investigation, and by adding to the GIS mapping of historical information.

I really enjoyed the website that I chose! What I liked about my presentation was that I talked about how the site is free although the creators could charge for all the information that is on the site. Many history sites today as well as newspapers charge their readers to see their information, for example the New York Times only lets you go so many years back before it charges you. The other thing that I think I did a good job with was explaining that the site is good information for all ages. Simple enough for high scholars, yet informational enough for graduate students. The only thing I didn’t like was how fast I talked, but I had so much to tell that I felt was important enough.
The thing that I enjoyed about other student’s presentations was that they talked about the big data, which I totally forgot about. Also I liked how some projects mentioned Unsworth, which I also forgot about. I would have to say that my favorite website would have to be For Better For Verse. I thought the website seemed fun as well as informational. The site does seem quite difficult, however it can help for someone who is into poems! I totally see the digital humanities within this site and I think that it is awesome that something like this, can be put on the internet to help people who need it.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”DH Metaphor Project Presentation” target=”_blank”>DH Metaphor Project Presentation</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>kaylablack</a></strong> </div>

I really enjoyed the project that I chose, “The Mind is a Metaphor.” The navigation of the site was very easy for me to learn in a short amount of time. I wish I would have been able to get the Prezi site to work for me because I think I would have been able to  represent how the site works much clearer. There were a number of flaws to the site, but the project its self was a very interesting concept. The blog like format of the site makes sense for that specific project because of the way it is being put together. Brad Pasanek, the brains behind the operation, is working on the project by adding material to the site in a very miscellaneous fashion. The archives can be sorted through by a process of elimination style of  advanced search and this is what I enjoyed most about the project I chose to analyze, aside for the metaphors them selves.

Some of the other projects that were presented in class I also found to be very interesting. Lauren Brooker’s choice of project that was a 911 digital archive was relateble to the entire class because it is a time in history that we were all around to witness. It does not make sense to me why the project has stopped adding material but it is still encouraged to send it in. I think having a digital archive, of that tragic time in our countries history, that is accessible to everyone is a great representation of Digital Humanities. I do not remember Laurens full definition that she gave DH, (somthing along the lines of shared information an learning from it?) but I found it to be very fitting and broad enough to fit almost everything the Digital Humanities has to offer!

The mature DH project that I evaluated was Looking for Whitman: The Poetry of Place in the Life and Work of Walt Whitman. You can view my presentations here:

What I liked about my presentation is that I included background information about Walt Whitman specifically for the class. I mentioned during my presentation that it was not included on the website, it was just meant to help them understand why four universities/colleges would want to make a website revolving around him. I think I did a really good job with the weaknesses and strengths. I know people generally start with the strengths but I found more weaknesses than strengths but I still wanted to end on a positive note rather then seem like I was bashing the project. I wish I would have included screenshots of the actual website but at the time I thought they were all bland. I am glad I picked this project I feel like I really connected with it. The students put a lot of effort into their work and though many of the links were dead, many of the tabs were repetitive, the posts on the main page were dated, and the project was dropped when they graduated they still worked hard on it while they could.

I really liked the Slave Voyage Project. I feel like this is really DH because it is history, of our country, but turned digital. That is the very essence of DH. On the main page you can pinpoint countries and it tells you their history revolving around slavery. Its incredibly interactive and informational.

This is a website I found that shows the top 7 digital humanities projects. These kind of relate to the project that we just did, some even look a little familiar but I wasn’t sure if anyone picked those websites or not. It’s interesting to look around and see what we could possibly be doing with this concentration!