Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Field Evolving

For me to answer the question- “how are digital tools reshaping the field of history,” who is in the field must be identified first. Three major groups of people I have noticed as reoccurring over the course of this class are independent historians, educational historians, and public historians- often overlapping in the work they complete. Although they often use the same technological tools, what differentiates them from each other is how they apply these tools and for what reason.

When I use the term “independent historian,” I am referring to a historian who focuses on their own independent research. This may include hobbyists, educators, journalists, and just about anyone who has developed an interest in history and pursues it for themselves. The primary way that digital tools has reshaped their scope of the field is how they do research and how they publish it.

Technology has given way to the digital storage and digital archives, meaning that historians are no longer required to travel to a different physical location to research their interests. Now, they have the ability to sit at home and browse huge collections of digitally published journals, articles, transcriptions, and multimedia. However, some items have yet to be digitized and be viewed digitally. The camera is an easy solution for this- allowing historians to photograph documents and places to review later. This results in large personal archives of items that previously required a physical presence- now of which historians can comb through at their leisure and take their time gathering details. To help them in their review, there are many applications and software to organize and analyze- such as Tropy [1] and Tableau [2].

Digital publication and scholarship are now possibilities for historians. Rather than having to go through an institution and printing company- costing significant time and finances, historians can now export their work online for anyone to see at little to no cost. Websites and online journals are only a few platforms available. For larger audience engagement, historians can run blogs and step into the social media sphere. Platforms such as Twitter and Youtube current host large communities of historians, allowing them to find, engage, and learn from each other without going to a physical location.

In my visualization project, I chose to build a video around the major security breach data I explored and modeled in Tableau. I then uploaded it to Youtube, and although it is set as unlisted, this still serves as a way that the platform is being used to share research. It is also a way that social media and multimedia can be used in the classroom.

Educational historians refer to those who teach history at an education institution. Digital tools have changed the way that they can engage their students for better understanding and comprehension. Teachers and professors can now turn to blogs, social media, and multimedia to enforce learning points and subject matter. Videos, documentaries, and 360-degree photographs now pull their students into an immersive lesion on what it was like to be someone in another time.

These same digital tools can be used to build more holistic and encompassing lessons- such as with Tecumseh Lies Here. This game campaign-style lesson used social media, SMS, multimedia, websites, and many other digital tools to teach students how to do history as historians do in the field. It reported to be incredibly immersive and an experience unlike any other [3].

Compared to these two groups of historians, public historians actively seek to bring the history to public audiences. Digital tools that they work with are applied to enhance museums, historical sites, and other locations that their public audiences visit. As applied to museums, digital tools may be screens or interactive components of an exhibit. They could also be websites that provide more information of exhibits and items. During the COVID-19 quarantine and lock-down, there has been in increase in museums pushing their content online to be viewed and learned from. The Palace Museum in China is only one of these opening their doors virtually, allowing their resources to be viewed by a larger audience online than in person [4].

However, public historians do not have to work with an institution to be able have items for an online audience. They can also be independent historians with already digitized items that they would like to share. Omeka provides a platform where they can publish these items and sort them into exhibits and collections [5]. In one of our projects this semester, we worked with Omeka to compile our research on a subject around multimedia. My Omeka website on cryptography featured pictures of cipher-machines and classical ciphers throughout history, presenting them as exhibits in a museum-esque way. Without Omeka, I would have never been able to organize these items like that- unless hours were spent wrangling code and implementing packages and add-ons.

In conclusion, digital tools have changed the ways in that history is collected, reviewed, and published. Therefore, they have made the field of history more accessible for historians and their audiences alike.

NOTES
1. “Tropy.” n.d. Accessed May 5, 2020. https://tropy.org.

2. “Tableau Public.” n.d. Tableau Public. Accessed May 5, 2020. https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/.

3. Compeau, Timothy, and Robert MacDougall. 2019. “Tecumseh Returns: A History Game in Alternate Reality, Augmented Reality, and Reality.” In Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau, Online, Chapter 10. Digital Humanities: Digital Culture Books. Ann Abor: University of Michigan Press. https://www.fulcrum.org/epubs/5q47rq179?locale=en#/6/34[Kee-0017]!/4/2[ch10]/2/2[p176]/1:0.

4. Maggie, Hiufu Wong. n.d. “With Travelers Unable to Visit Due to the Coronavirus Outreak, China’s Museums Put Exhibitions Online.” CNN. Accessed May 5, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/chinese-museums-online-exhibits/index.html.

5. Trimble, Cailin. 2015. “Omeka for All: Teaching, Research, and Exhibits.” CED Archives-UC Berkeley. May 12, 2015. https://archives.ced.berkeley.edu/blog/working-with-omeka-exhibits-and-much-more.

Categories
Project: Visualization

Major Data Breaches

The history of data breaches began before companies started storing their data digitally. Back then, a data breach might consist of physical file theft or unauthorized personnel exposure. However, computers and the Age of Information Technology led to a higher frequency of data breaches in the 1980s. This has resulted in a rise of public awareness between the 1990s and early 2000s.

Since 2004, there have been 336 major data breaches- defined as a security event with a record loss of 30,000 records or more. Between these 336 data breaches alone, 27,837,914,908 records have been lost.

My visualization project aims to analyze these major data breaches by modeling a global data set sourced from Information is Beautiful. The questions the models are designed to answer are:

When have the largest data breaches occurred?
What sectors have been affected the most?
Which companies have lost the most records?
How has this data loss occurred?

What I discovered from this project is that the data is skewed towards two major security events. The first security event happened in 2013 with the hacking of Yahoo. Three years after the breach, Yahoo disclosed that one billion users accounts had been affected. Once acquired by Verizon Communications, it was announced that the number of records was triple that at three billion.

Categories
Conferencing/Writing

Communication 101

Writing is a way in which we communicate non-verbally and record our thoughts and ideas for future review by ourselves and others. It allows us to review the events of the past as if they were occurring in the present with higher clarity than memory. Just as verbal communication is a critical skill for social engagements, so is written. Being able to take notes, compose emails and letters, and write in your field (documentation, grants, research papers, etc.) is crucial for any given professional life. But writing goes far beyond that as a form of communicating self-expression and self-organization.

Therefore, because communication is so integral for interacting with ourselves and others- with writing being a pillar of that, it is absolutely necessary to have students practice writing in the classroom more. Practicing writing helps build confidence in communication, creativity, and familiarity with our own thought processes.

The nature of most of the daily communication today can be described as often concise, yet effective. For example, SMS text messages, Twitter posts, and social media captions are often brief blurbs or text. This makes being able to convey thoughts, ideas, and emotions in more concise forms an important skill in the modern age of technology. Because of this, essays and long papers are not the only types of writing assignments that should be given to students. In fact, it is crucial that “lower-stake” and non-serious writing exercises be included in lesson plans.

Blog posts are useful for this because they are very versatile by imitating various platforms. They can be seen as casual, academic, or somewhere in between. Likewise, the length of a blog post could be short to imitate a Twitter blurb or on the longer side. In this class, we have used blogging exercises to synthesize reading ideas with a more casual and personal approach. The brings various benefits, including- the practice of explaining sometimes technical and abstract ideas in a casual, accessible way. Due to the length, we must practice organizing our thoughts and laying them out in a logical fashion for others to understand. Between these two criteria, we sometimes must get creative with how we converse or present ideas- occasionally bringing multimedia into play. Altogether, this makes blog posts a great exercise assignment in communication.

To conclude, writing is foremost a form of communication- something that affects all of use in our daily and professional lives. While teaching students to write and communicate in their discipline is important, I may argue that getting developing minds to practice everyday communication is even more critical as they grow and adapt into society.

Categories
Making History Personal

History x AR

Augmented reality is defined as adding digital elements to the real and physical world (not full immersion from it- i.e. virtual reality), changing the experience, and making it more personal- accessible. Many forms of public engagement by museums, historical institutions, and other instances beyond the historical field all seem to converge on the matter of accessibility. The implications of accessibility include reframing information in a way that appeals to multiple learning styles, perspectives, and forms of education. Combining these efforts with technology and social media leads to augmented reality.

The game Tecumseh Lies Here developed and played at Public History program at the University of Western Ontario fits within this definition. But the immersion of the game for its developers and players went beyond that of common examples of AR- such as the app Snapchat or the mobile game Pokemon Go. With such deep story line complexities and efforts- those involved can only seem to report that in order to understand, “you had to be there.”

 What makes this interesting, in my opinion, is that the ways the developers (professors and graduates) augmented history for the players were not technically advanced or sophisticated by any means. The websites and passwords undoubtedly took some tech savvy, but the way that social media, email, video, and texting were involved- anyone could develop content on those platforms with enough time. Many people use social media now, and those who have attended an academic institution have likely had to complete a video or two for an assignment, lesson, or other reason.

Therefore, the level of immersion, success, and satisfaction of Here Lies Tecumseh- provides an exemplary example of to what degree history can be augmented for accessibility without sophisticated technology and software. The primary problems show up with time, success, and feedback, and (ironically) demographic.

In Here Lies Tecumseh, classes, free time, and essentially lives were put on hold for over a month to develop, provide, and solve puzzles and problems. Surely, one reason this happened was because of the “doing history” purpose of the game, and the intricacies of mimicking historical work. And the only reason it worked was due to those involved- dedicated professors, paid graduates, and young adult players who mostly already identified as gamers. For the example of AR history, was is only so immersive because of the conditions outlined above? And can museums and other public history institutions hope to develop that level of immersion for the general public when that implies massive diversity?

If they use marketing segmentation techniques, I believe they could at least challenge the experience of Here Lies Tecumseh over time. Museums seeking to provide AR elements could gather demographic information on users and skew the AR elements toward the most prominent segment. If there was more than one major segment, they could develop and label different routes or experiences for users to choose from. This idea would certainly be a long-time project and likely constantly evolving, but it seems like one possibility in search of immersion through augmented reality.

Categories
Establishing Your Digital Identity

Your Digital Identity and Privacy

Online personas are an extension of us, a part of ourselves. Collectively, they form our online identity- which can be quite abstract depending on how many forms of social media and sites a person engages with. But that’s alright, because we learned that we can control our online identity by picking and choosing how we present ourselves and what information we depart.

In order to protect our online identities, we were taught to not post anything “bad” or “incriminating” in the eyes of our family, future employers, or anyone else representing authoritative judgement. These things might “follow” us for the rest of our lives because “nothing can truly be deleted from the internet.” Audrey Watters in The Web We Need To Give Students defines this as digital citizenship. And that’s easy- don’t post pictures or videos of partying, acting out, or otherwise behaving on the more wild side.

To cement this sentiment, a professor during my junior year assigned a paper that required us to explore our digital identities. In order to complete the assignment, we had to type our name into the Google search bar. If I do that right now, I’ll see my LinkedIn and Facebook account in the results, as well as academic mentions on App State’s website news. And if I’m honest, these results barely begin to encompass what I consider my digital identity. If someone had knowledge of and were to search my most used gamer tag/online alias, that would expand on my online identity, but still not cover everything.

At this stage of my life, what would significantly fill in the blanks of my identity for anyone looking is a repository of my work- an accessible, online, and controlled portfolio. As someone who has spent the last 18 consecutive years of their life attending one academic institution or another, it would be an understatement to say how encompassing education has been. But this isn’t wholly reflected anywhere online- when it should be. I would expect this sentiment to be relatable, and therefore fully agree with and admire the efforts of UMW and The Domain of One’s Own Initiative to give students autonomy of their online identity. And I appreciate that their focusing on educating students on what they can control, rather than just what they cannot- i.e. privacy legislation. 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) lays out privacy rights in the context of students and their parents. Its purpose is to provide access to the student’s records and be able to challenge the record content and the release of the records to third parties. Information on this can be found here.

By providing students of greater control of their digital identity, they are educating students on how to manage it as well- beyond the digital citizenship they are accustomed to. Going further into the Age of Technology, this is incredibly important as pressure to present yourself online as you do in real life increases. This is evident in the way that an influencer’s power is positively correlated with their perceived authenticity. But as authenticity and online interaction increases, it is arguable that user-controlled privacy decreases.

Some users feel like they have nothing to hide, and this reflects in their perceived apathy toward the increased data mining by corporations and lack of attention towards privacy-related legislation in the works. For example, while Americans are concerned with COVID-19, the EARN IT Act is currently threatening to end end-to-end encryption. This would give law enforcement officials and the government a backdoor into user information, currently held by tech companies.

 The amount of government surveillance that would be made possible would infringe on users’ right to privacy. Despite the gravity of the implications, many people are unaware of this legislation. This makes education on digital citizenship, online identity, and privacy advocacy even more critical. Therefore, I would like to argue that there should be more efforts to educate students on their digital identity by giving them full control of it within their rights.

Categories
Data/Visualizing the Past

On Visualization and Outliers

Maps are great. Maps show the lay of the land and how it changes- how the setting changes and why the story and characters are prompted directly or indirectly to change with it. The latter is what gets me invested in history, the stories and experiences that is. So, what happens when the stories and experiences aren’t recorded and documented with utmost clarity? Keller and Baldwin show that we, the audience, take sides.

Did the chicken or the egg come first? And does it matter? The debate on if the symbol on the ground is a 6 or 9 shows it does matter. But when I was looking up the memorable illustration that puts emphasis on perspective, I found another edited version of it. And I think this added commentary provides a more insightful point to this blog post on the truth and finding it.

“[The] environment shapes our notions of truth.”

– Jerz.sentonhill.edu/pov

For Keller, the environment is that the cannonballs were placed by Fenton ON the road for dramatic effect. And the notion of truth is that his character is suffering.

 In comparison, Baldwin sees the environment as shifting without Fenton’s interference- and his character is not suffering.

Both notions are just that, though, beliefs- fantastical in the intuitive analyses that was done. However, the notions are still believable, because the analyses were conducted with human intuition. This makes them easy for us to follow. But they both used a bias in favor of or against Fenton to offer context and provide emotion. In that, they projected their own feelings (“the stuff that is in [their] heads” -pt1) conjured by Fenton onto his photography.

And while tempting, this is the wrong way to conduct analysis.

The right way to conduct analysis is through data and research- concrete facts and observations. It can be a time-consuming process without intention or awareness, especially with visualization software and persnickety details. When Chris Russ said:

“I’m going to have to balance these pictures to match each other. Let me play for a few minutes, I’ll be right back with you,”

– and finished a couple hours later, I felt that. Every proclaimed visual perfectionist felt that.

But that’s not the point. The point is that outlying, frustratingly minuscule details can offer more context than “the big picture” and the primary grouping(s) of data within the statistical definition of “normal.” And in my opinion, the best chance we have in order to catch onto these details is through visual means. This is because it’s easier to spot an outlying data point when it’s plotted in a visualization, compared to a data point in a line-up of thousands of other data points.

In this scenario, the outlying pieces of data are the ancillary rocks. These proved that the cannonballs were moved from OFF the road to ON the road. “Rocks that no one cared about. Those little guys that got kicked aside.” (-pt3)

My professors teach me to mostly ignore outliers, they “mess up” otherwise perfect data. But here’s a scenario where they can save the data and preserve the context.

Today I learned: Outliers can provide the perspective that we need to properly analyze data.