Categories
Project: Visualization

A Stitch in Time: Samplers

Samplers are a girlhood art, and for many, their only real chance at schooling. I started this project, wanting to look at how the samplers changed over time, containing it to a geographic region to limit my sample size and influence.

As for what has been written, there is not much, and most of it is old. The most recent source that I used came from 1991, and the earliest of which from 1921. The databases where I got the majority of my information from are much more recent. 

I focused my research on New England, leaving out the later developments in other areas of the country. I kept my research between a three hundred year period to get a more general sense of how the samplers had changed over time, becoming more elaborate and decorative, rather than just a place to copy patterns and stitches. 

My conclusion, after studying these samplers and the stitches, is that the samplers got more elaborate and complicated as the cost of making them went down, allowing for more thread and creativity, and an increase in girl’s education, allowing for more complex stitches and patterns to be used. The ages of the girls were usually somewhere between 10-15, done in whatever free time a girl had, as a way to practice letters, numbers, and stitching. The more elaborate, the better, with colors and stitches used, to better impress their community and any potential suitors.  

When looking into these samplers, I focused on the stitches the girl’s used, learning how to create the twelve most commonly used ones, as a way to see for myself what they girls did, and to show others how they were made, to show part of the process the girls did in making theirs.

Stitch Dictionary – https://www.flickr.com/photos/187319344@N08/albums

Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Reflections on Digital History

Digital tools are reshaping how history is done, both with ever increasing access to information, the depth and scope of what can be done, and how history can be shown and communicated, beyond a paper or a textbook. With online social media, more people are talking, which means more talk about history. Videos and images are easier to find and use, as well as audio. There are more sources to be found and used, though online databases and websites. It is easier to be more collaborative with history, crowdsourcing information finding or getting ideas for next steps in research. 

There is a new generation of historians coming to the field, eager and learning how to best meld the newer advancements in information technology with the old field, which is something that is still being pioneered. I am a very slow learner when it comes to technology, so even the simple things are amazing, being able to annotate images, create interactive timelines and the like. I am looking forward to seeing how history will evolve with these additions.

When it comes to online sharing of ideas and information, ebooks, online journals, blog posts and other forms of social media are a few of the methods that have come around since the creation of the internet. The traditional field of history is still struggling to adapt to it, and has made some progress, like with the acceptance of digital projects as phd things, as opposed to books and articles. Creating a website to share information can count just as much as writing a book, for all of its different forms. There is just as much work and research involved, but it takes a non-traditional direction in its path and final product.(1) 

Public historians have been quicker to accept this change overall, due in part to connection that they have with the larger public and are beholden to the shark pool that is public opinion. For them, it is not a question of publish or die, but adapt to the ever changing world, keep up with the faster paced changes in the larger world, and take what they can for the betterment of their museums and research. (2) Museums are listening to their visitors, and becoming more interactive with them, in part through social media.

Also – Digitization of museum collections. This allows for the public to get a look at a museum collection from their computer, getting some, if not all, of the information the museum has on an artifact or series of artifacts. It’s not always possible, due to money constraints and the state of the materials in question. There is also just too much to make everything digital quickly. It can take years. It’s better to get a few things now, than wait years.(3)There is also something to be said for seeing something up close and in person. But that’s not always possible, especially in this time of world quarantine. 

Now it is much easier to access larger groups of people, who share the same interests, through the internet, making collaboration easier and quicker. Now, if there is a professor with niche interests, and the only one that has that interest in the institution where they, there will likely be an online community that shares the same interest, and knows of other professionals of the same mind, from all over the world. 

When working on my project, one of the first places I looked for samplers was on online databases, collected and curated by various institutions and historical societies. (4) I also turned to books and online websites and Youtube for the more physical aspects. Books are always my first instinct, but I knew that books could only be so helpful in this case, as samplers are such physical things, and words to describe them fall short, requiting images to fill in the gaps. After all, a picture is worth a thousand works. Telling that the colors are rich and the stitches exquisite paint a beautiful image, but a very unclear one. Showing what is meant will do much more for the reader. (Here’s one of my favorites.) (5)

I made this project out of interest in how, exactly, samplers were made, focusing on the stitches used, and how they can be picked out of their surroundings. I was able to show the process of recreating a stitch used in a sampler, showing where it was, and how it was used in the sampler. Most people don’t know very many stitches, if any, thanks to the industrial revolution in the clothing industry.  

One of the best resources in my project was a blog, showing how to make most of the stitches referenced, and many more variations that were not. The images are necessary to learn how to stitch, to see what is being done in order to copy from it. Where the blog failed me, I turned to youtube. Some videos were more helpful than others, but that is the nature with every source of information.   

NOTES

1 Cohen, Dan, and Joseph T Scheinfeldt. Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013., doi:10.1353/book.22907.

2 Kee, Kevin. Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014., doi:10.1353/book.29517.

3 Archives @ Pama, Region of Peel “Why Don’t Archives Digitize Everything?” https://peelarchivesblog.com/2017/05/31/why-dont-archivists-digitize-everything/

4 Ball, Emily. “Stitch Dictionary’”. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/187319344@N08/albums

5 Whitney, Fanny “Fanny Whitney’s Sampler,” accessed May 4, 2020, https://www.flickr.com/photos/187319344@N08/49835119927/in/album-72157714039902313/

Categories
Making History Personal

On Ebooks: Nice, but nothing really new

I remember and dreaded the day that ebooks would get rid of books. Surely this was the end of actual reading! Sone then, I have found my fears unfounded.

I was right, and I was wrong. Ebooks are a part of the book market, holding about a third of books sold now. I can understand this. It’s so much easier, and sometimes cheaper, to have an ebook instead of a physical book. When going on vacation, there is only so much room for books allowed, and carrying 25+ can be tiring. Ebooks, you can have thousands of books. I don’t want to wait to get a book physically when I can buy it and start reading it instantly. If I don’t like it, I can usually return it for a refund just as easily.

On the other hand, there’s just something about a physical book in hand, the smell, weight, and feel of it. They get worn and damaged after countless rereadings. You can tell when a book has been loved and read, as opposed to one that had been forgotten on a shelf. Ebooks don’t give you that, not in the same way. You can bookmark a page, and highlight text, sure, but you have to get to the page for it to matter. You can’t write notes in the margins, circle a word and put highlighter everywhere, bleeding through the page. Physical books are permanent in ways that ebooks can never be.

There is less memory and worse attention spans involved with reading anything on an ebook, or any form of electronics, really. Physical books force kids to pay more and better attention to what is being read because they are not getting as much stimulation from a paper page of text from a screen of text. Read online for fun and the experience, read physical books for memory and recall.
Ebooks depend on electricity, and the internet, and money. I mean, sure, you can get them free at the library, same as physical books, but there are different sets and levels of costs to ebooks than physical books. Books don’t need so much money, and they are always available.

No matter what, people need to read to learn and grow. It is how they get that material that is changing, with the internet and ebooks and everything, paper is becoming something that is less needed and therefore more of a preference. There will always be those who prefer paper, while others hold to electronics as the future of the written word, what is most likely to happen will be a mixture of both, using both mediums to reach the widest range of people with less of a cost than what the same spread of information would have costed earlier.

Categories
Ethical Concerns

CopyRight or Not?

When it comes to copyright laws, they make sense and work well. Seventy years after the author’s death, in the case of books, as a general rule of thumb. That gives enough time for the authors and their families’ to get their dues, and then you get awesome or horrible remakes, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. 

What about the idea where there have only been four original stories ever, with the details changed? How much has to be changed for a work to be considered original? How many Romeo and Juliet stories are there? Basically, every romance can be summed up with: “And they fell in love, after these obstacles.” What about tragedy or comedy?

What happens when something is no longer held under copyright, legally speaking, but it is in effect? There are some forms of media, like The Simpsons, that is not used, because it would cost far too much to get permission for something that is technically free?

On a far less serious note, what about with youtube? One of my favorite forms of entertainment is finding reaction shows online. I enjoy getting to see someone fall in love with the same series I did. Sometimes they notice things I missed, understood what happened differently, and put everything into a whole new perspective. 

They have ways for getting around copyright, by distorting the audio or visuals, playing clips that they reacted to the most and cutting out what they didn’t. They use the “Fair Use” claim to get around the copyright. If they are commenting about the video they are watching, offering criticisms or opinions, and usually offering a review afterward, not just putting it up, watching silently, and enabling other people to watch it in its entirety for free. 

Depending on the reviewer, the show in question, and if they want to appeal Youtube, they might be able to keep up their reactions, or have their channel shut down entirely. I’m not entirely sure of the legality of it all, I think it falls into a sort of grey area. They don’t (all) do it for profit, some do it to watch a good show and connect with fans. 

There is also fanfiction, writing of fans of whatever work. It’s not under Copywrite, as its only the names of character/places/universes/etc that are being used, not the source in its entirety. Depending on how it was written, fanfic can go very far from the source material, while keeping with the spirit of the original. Some even go on to be professional authors, like Cassandra Clare. Her series, The Mortal Instruments started out as a Harry Potter fanfic series. And what about the Cursed Child? JKR didn’t write it, she just approved it. Jack Thorne wrote it. I’ve read better. 

What about just reviews? Video gamers get to play games online without falling under the same copyright laws.

People are inspired by what they read, watch and listen to. Some are driven to create their own works. You can only learn by looking at what came before you, take what parts you like, and put them together in new ways to create something completely different. After all, there is no such thing as a new story, just new characters, names and places.

Categories
Establishing Your Digital Identity

Students and the Internet Frontier

When it comes to technology, students are the ones pioneering the use of technology, with a few innovators and professors leading the way. The educators are harder ones to convince of the uses of the web and internet when it comes to teaching and student use, preferring to learn and teach as they had been taught, using books and papers. Most caution against the internet, as it is a rather new and unforgiving territory, one that they are unprepared for and slow to adapt to. 

Their reasons to hesitate with new methods of information-sharing are warranted. What someone said in highschool could come back and haunt them in their thirties, thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter. When teachers do bring up the internet, the majority consists of some form of “Don’t use Wikipedia”, “don’t put up anything personal online”, and “Websites are not proper sources, you can’t site them (because they are always changing)”. If they do teach about the internet, it is used as another way of using pen and paper, like ebooks and online academic journals. This has slowly begun to change the way classes will be taught, with increasing use and reliance on technology.

As everyone is adapting to the ever-increasing presence of technology in our lives, so have the attitudes towards the internet and computers changed, as well as the teaching methods used. Papers, books, and articles are not the only means of presenting research and furthering knowledge among scholars. So much information is right at people’s fingertips. Where the problem was once a lack of information, now there is an overabundance of information to sort and shift through, as relevance and time allows. 

Websites and blogs are becoming more common and acceptable means of gathering and sharing information, but to what level are they the same? In a perfect world, all information would be held equal, but how can people replicate and use what they do not understand?

With an increasing part of people’s lives being lived on the internet, new ways of navigating and interacting with the world and each other are being created. People can interact with others in ways they never could before the internet, and the new dangers that have been created as well. 

Now classes can be taught online, which is a very big break from the more traditional methods of teaching, functioning as a mix of homeschooling, tutoring, and traditional teaching depending on the class, the teacher, the subject, and the requirements.  

Professors are creating new guidelines to adapt to the expanding field, allowing for online projects to be held at the same level as a research paper, even if it has different uses and requirements when dealing with information.

Categories
Sharing Scholarship

On Academic Journalism, E-books and the Internet

Upon reading the articles, listing reasons on why or why not digital scholarship should be held to the same level as traditional scholarship, I was wondering what all of the fuss was about. The answer seems obvious, they are different paths that overlap and can complement each other, with one no lesser than the other.  

Trying new things is difficult, and what has worked in the past, by which I mean articles, book, journals and the like, will continue to function as they always have. New media entering the fray doesn’t change that. What is changing is how people come to expect information, and by the means of which they get it. 

Books are slow moving. It takes years to write one, months to publish one, and decades to change one. With the internet, things move much faster. The collaboration is easier, the feedback is almost immediate, and fact checking is a necessity, if only to keep the commenters happy. 

On the other hand, the internet’s reliability in terms of truthfulness can be rather suspect, as opposed to articles, which will have gone through an extensive peer review process. Anyone can put up anything, and make it look just as creditable. There is so much information put up, it is impossible to fact check everything.   

Digital scholarship is rather recent, and there are not real standards yet as to what counts as ‘scholarly work’ when compared to books. This allows for a great deal of freedom and innovation into what can be accepted. The only thing is the fight that it takes to ensure that the piece is held to a similar standard of an article or book. It would not be to the same standard, because it would be too slow to adapt to all the changes made in a digital media. 

Already, books are becoming digital, through electronic readers and the like, for the ease of access and the cost of printing make it more feasible, cheaper and wider spread. Opposed to traditional print mediums, which can drive up costs and make it hard for publishers and authors to break even, electronic texts have less risk for the same information, and more direct profits. If the technology is there, people will use it. Books can be boring, when compared to an interactive, fun website that can tell you the same information, at the rate the user wishes, as opposed to reading, or skimming, through a text to find what fact you want. 

Books will never die out completely, but the allure and appeal of the new ways of distributing information are clearly here to stay. The trouble is with finding a middle ground for both mediums to put their best foots forward.