Comments on Peer Projects: Class Blog 3

BLOG ASSIGNMENT: Please review everyone’s prospectus as well as each group’s preliminary plan and post comments/observations to the blog. These can include a direct reference to particular prospectuses and plans, but should also reflect on any potential common themes, issues and concerns that you noticed in reading them together. You are also certainly welcome to relate these issues to your own project and think about how what your colleagues are doing might influence your own work.

One common characteristic among students of the Humanities is that they tend to shy away from superficial research topics. Most hint at the development of the author’s maturity as a scholar by being deliberate, precise, and meaningful. As students of digital history, we’re charged with going further and applying our topics to non-traditional platforms and translating from typical narrative forms into digital forms. The expectations of educators and readers may be high, but those of the researchers themselves seem to exceed.

Digital Project Themes
With stark exceptions – most of the projects relate to translating personal experience, several from Southern, US history, into digital artifacts that are historical arguments or exhibits of alternative points of view. The commonalities of theme end there and branch into educational, military, public health, ethnic, and communications studies with the foundations remaining in historical analysis. As it is my own academic goal to combine social science and humanities in research and public discourse, I am excited to see the progress of each project and the exploration of methods for digital translation which suit the material and benefit the audience.

Public History
Digital History is a form of public history. A counter to this might be a scenario Jo Guldi or others discuss in which the historical research is given digital treatments for display in an online journal or exhibit but hidden behind an exclusive audience or social firewall. But in essence, bringing historical scholarship to digital forms such as interactive web space, elaborating timelines, 360 annotated maps and oral history presentation, or even further, gaming platforms that allow the consumer/viewer/student to manipulate the data for a personalized narrative, is public history at the core. Instead of a tautological relationship of research for publication to be used in future research for publication, academic “civilians” are able to learn general and highly specialized historical information where they are when the works are intentionally displayed digitally. On the web or in spaces dedicated to their exhibition, historians engaged in a digital translation of their work are putting courting non-elites in ways that previous analog generations could not.

Group Projects
Students also came together in small groups to consider a hypothetical digital history project for which they would seek funding. Idealism can have some erosion when faced with the cost of producing a quality site or exhibit, or it can inspire collaboration and the hunt for funds available.

In terms of setting, these small collaborations tended to focus on groups who participated in historical events or explore local and regional historical phenomena.
In other cases, the subject might not be local, but the audience can have an intimate exchange with their experiences and motivations by entering their “world” or actively participating in the digital platform in contrast to consuming.

In all cases, these projects have broad educational value. As I have mentioned before, the onset of interactive “gaming” in which a user and programmer dance to either achieve a goal or build on intelligence is a phenomenon that has entrenched itself in American culture and that of techno-industrialized nations since the late 1980’s.

  • One walking tour of Charlotte idea by Savannah, Gabi, and Rickey educates participants who can virtually walk the streets of Charlotte, noting people, places, and events of the past by location. One student also suggested the possibility of participants being able to create their own walking path, whereas physical tour groups would have a set itinerary and script.
  • Rachel, Nikki, and Tommy Warlick would incorporate gaming techniques to existing slave narratives.
    • “Using Twine, we will create a game that poses questions and dilemmas to the user that slaves faced daily, e.g., a question in the simulation might read “if you were Frederick Douglass, would you fight back against slave-breaker Covey or submit to Covey’s wishes?” The answer choices might include “fight back” or “submit” and each choice would produce a different consequence.”
      Instead of adding a “fun” element, this would allow the participant/student more insight where empathy is not possible. (1))
  • Applying this kind of insight into historical lives, Rachael, Laura, and Brian apply gaming or participant control techniques into a digital presentation on the Jamestown via self- paced navigation and character creation.

According to William G Thomas II  (2) most of these approaches are Digital Narratives by type and apply the digital platform not just to awaken existing historical data to users

In David Parry’s portion of essays on Hacking the Academy, he states one objective for fundamentally changing History as an academic and public discipline should be for historians to “Aspire to be a curator”. I think these projects prove that digital history breaks down barriers of elitism that have prevented researchers from being taken seriously and given a valid or fair opportunity to find an audience.

What I would suggest for each researcher is that they proceed with confidence and not be afraid to brand their projects or be bold. Not only are we in a digital age but in an age of commodification. Historians are producing not just their projects but a pro-duct in a marketplace: website hosting may require ads, libraries fight for funding, schools are never isolated from corporate strings, etc. Our task now is to encourage the scholarship and continue the spirit of collaboration for accountability and the deeper, more relevant dives for truth and a good story.

 

  1. Rachel McManimen, Nikki Oliver, and Tommy Warlick. Grant Project Prospectus.
    UNC Charlotte, Digital History Course HIST-6330. Fall 2018
  2. Thomas, William G. III. What is Digital Scholarship? A Typology.
    http://railroads.unl.edu/blog/?p=1159
  3. Parry, David “Burn the Boats/Books” from Hacking Scholarship: Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps. Jackson, et al.
    https://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12172434.0001.001/1:2/–hacking-the-academy-new-approaches-to-scholarship?g=dculture;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1

 

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maurahistoria

Public Intellectual in training. Appalachian by birth, Irish by blood, and a whole lot of other identifiers.

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