What? The semester is closing? Woah woah woah. My last post, huh? Weeeeird.
Well, it’s been real guys. I had done blogging before for other classes- but this has been, hands down, the most lively, resourceful, and amusing blog yet. I think that’s what I enjoyed most about good ol’ ENGL 335 – DIGITAL HUMANITIES. There is always plenty of conversation going on to spark interest, and new posts trickling in every couple hours. That’s what a blog should be at it’s best anyways, right? Cool.
I clicked my name on the side links to pull up all of what I had written this past semester, and couldn’t help but smirk and nod to myself. Niiiice. Look. At. that. I done wrote that all myself.
Speaking of bad grammar, everyone has been really good at not doing it. (Except for me just now.) Really guys, I’m pretty impressed. Everyone has been formulating some really good contributions and it has helped my writing and ways of thinking quite a bit. I can definitely say I feel more comfortable forming an educated opinion on things that to me seem irrelevant to an actual field of education.
Twitter, for example, has been to me, before this class, just another form of “hanging out” online and talking to friends. Yet, as we have discussed, it is so much more than that now, to the extent of people creating entire classes around it. It is a medium to communicate, a method of research, and an overall incredibly successful tool to share news and social changes happening in the world. I took a look at my personal twitter feed, and around the time this class started I had about 45 tweets for the past 8 months. After this class I now have 109 semi-useful but always thoughtful tweets, and adding! Yay for Twitter!
After reviewing my posts on this blog, I’ve noticed a ‘digital v. printed’ theme happening. My posts initially started out oozing over how much better books were than digital resources (smells, feels, awesome overall “book-ness”). I’ve also drawn a lot of attention to coffee (sorry follks) And also coffee and printing… (BUT ITS JUST SO COOL!)
It absolutely made my day when I found something that I have liked for a long time on the internet, and then it magically relates to a the ‘friday post’ assignment. The little things guys, the little things.
That turned into other Internet memes of how people are getting wrapped up in the Kindle and not really reading physical books anymore. Turtle.
I hope people continue to post for the fun of it, I’d really enjoy re-visiting every so often…
Well, it’s been a grand time down memory lane, but onward to these annotated bib’s! I wish you all the best and that you all get A’s in everything and have an awesome Christmas.
I received this email from Lady Gaga’s mom today. Seriously. Well, it’s because I’m on the Born This Way Foundation email list…
Anyway, we didn’t spend much time this semester discussing Maps and Spatial Visualizations or Geographical Information Systems (GIS), although I know several of your project evals featured sites with maps. Here’s one that you can contribute to with the intent of “highlighting places that inspire and encourage bravery and kindness.”
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.
1. 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.
After sitting through all of the presentations and taking notes I had an epiphany. I still do not know how to put it in words, but I am almost certain I know what digital humanities in now. Seeing all of the information and how people put it online gave me an idea on what I am getting myself into with this Digital Humanities stuff. I also learned a lot of information on history and art. It was pretty cool exploring the sites and learning new things in interactive ways. My favorite project was the Speech Accent Archive. It was fun to be able to hear people speaking from all over the world, but also interesting to hear how different people that live in the same country as me can sound. I felt as though I did a good job discovering what can be done on the valley of the shadow website, there was a lot of hidden things I didn’t even find until I was almost done making the PowerPoint. I also felt as though I explained what the site is, pretty decently. I could have improved on quite a bit though, the main thing was getting more images of the site, so people could see exactly what I was talking about instead of me trying to explain it.
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.