Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Final Reflections: Revolution and Evolution

Back in January, I wrote a blog post detailing what I believed to be the primary aspects of digital history, which I termed digital pedagogy, research, and history. [1] Now, at the end of the semester, coming back to that post, the class has both not covered what I would term digital history as a school of history, and covered things that I would not have thought of fitting, such as establishing a digital identity. Now, while I still believe that the school approach to digital history is an interesting idea, and worth of significant further study, it is also outside of the scope of the class, and instead I will focus on the former two ideas, pedagogy and research, although I will be approaching them in the opposite order this time.

In my personal experience, digital history research both makes things far easier, and simultaneously does not go nearly far enough. In my research for an eventual thesis on the Spanish American War, I have used, and attempted to use, quite a number of digital tools. In some cases, such as digital archives these have been incredibly valuable. For example, DigitalNC has offered up a large slice of the newspapers published at the time in an easy to search and easily readable format. [2] Furthermore, in this age of COVID-19, these digital archives are literal lifesavers, on top of being figurative ones the rest of the time due to presenting large numbers of digitized primary sources for use in papers and research projects. On the other hand, other tools are either too specialized such as Transkribus, or simply hard to get working properly, such as many of the OCR tools that I have tried to use. [3] However this is not intended as an indictment of the state of Transkribus, or of OCR. My use case is a particularly challenging one. Transkribus for example is intended to use a large selection of a single person’s writing to create a recognition frame in order to transcribe it into print text. I wanted a system that would allow me to take a bare handful of letters and make them easier to read, which is a much more challenging problem, because most of my writers only sent maybe half a dozen letters, if that, during their service in the Spanish American War.

To discuss more generally however, digital research offers up new ways to access, interpret, and share information. With access, while digitization is highly expensive both in immediate and ongoing costs, it makes preserving documents easier, and makes them far more accessible. This is not only because I can connect to them anywhere that I have an internet connection, but also because the process of preparing the documents for digitization often makes the materials themselves more readable. [4] With interpretation, the first and last gate has always been the historian. While new tools can offer new insights, they cannot replace good judgement. For example, in the case of Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross, they used large selections of data and computer modeling to attempt to divine the real experience of slavery. While they made some interesting points on the economic viability of slavery, they utterly misrepresented and mangled their interpretation of the slave experience. [5] At the same time, this is not a problem of digital modeling, and digital interpretation, but of the historians doing the work. Tools like Voyant create opportunities to examine language in a more fine toothed manner, and offer new ways to engage with well trodden fields. [6] Finally, sharing information is really the most revolutionary aspect. While some historians are too enthusiastic about its revolutionary potential, the ability to share a work in progress means that the time for peer review does not begin during the publication cycle, but long before it. [6] However, at the same time, traditional books and journals offer fixed points in time to maintain a historiography, rather than simply changing the pieces that don’t fit in the interpretation any more.

The other half of the digital history question is pedagogy. This is again a number of parallel paths, effectively, teaching history directly with digital technology, teaching how to do history with digital technology, and finally distance teaching.
In teaching history directly with digital technology, much like the rest of teaching history, there is no substitute for a dedicated, interested, and engaged teacher. In the Tecumseh Lies Here ARG for example, no amount of packaging and preparation was able to capture the impact that a small team, acting and reacting based on live information was able to create. [7] Games in various forms have long been a part of teaching, and offer significant advantages, primarily by being able to simulate and approach complicated topics by baking those ideas into the game design, and stimulating the competitiveness inherent in play to master those topics. [8] Beyond teaching with technology, teaching how to use technology is likely even more important. At its most basic, history in the modern day is not about knowing facts and figures. That Christopher Colombus set out across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 is really an irrelevant factoid. Modern history, especially with Google and other search engines, is more a process. Inquiry, research, and verification are the tools that the modern history classroom needs to leave the student with, not the stale and well trodden facts and figures. Most modern students have access to research tools in the classroom, and have the ability to begin to put it together. [9] Similarly, teaching students to build and maintain their own websites is a key life skill that falls relatively neatly into the goals of the humanities. [10] This teaching how to do history can also put student historians into practice, for example the University of Edinburgh’s Wikipedia editathons. [11]
Finally, there is distance learning. Especially in this age of COVID, distance learning is the key challenge for educators, and something that this class has leaned into. While programs like Zoom, Skype or Discord can help, fundamentally, learning at a distance requires a reorganization of how teaching works, and must include trusting students to do projects independently.

Overall, I see digital history as more evolutionary than revolutionary. While digital histories offer new tools for nearly every aspect of the profession, and ones that I fully intend to make use of, the tools do not change the underlying discipline as a whole. In this class, I have used the same skills and approaches as I have in any other, but have added new tools and understandings of how I can use those tools to an already existing toolbox.

[1] Chamberlain Silkenat, “Start of Semester Understandings” Digital History, Jan 28. https://digitalhistory.rwanysibaja.com/publishing/start-of-semester-understandings/

[2] “North Carolina Newspapers.” DigitalNC. North Carolina Digital Heritage Center http://www.digitalnc.org/collections/newspapers/.

[3] “Transcribe. Collaborate. Share…” Transkribus. https://transkribus.eu/Transkribus/; “Download OCR Software.” SimpleOCR, January 29, 2020. https://www.simpleocr.com/download/.

[4] Emma Skinner, “Letters of Note: Preparing the Prize Papers for Digitisation,” UK National Archives, April 30, 2020. https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/letters-of-note-preparing-the-prize-papers-for-digitisation/; Archives @ PAMA, Region of Peel. “Why Don’t Archivists Digitize Everything?” Archives @ PAMA, June 1, 2017. https://peelarchivesblog.com/2017/05/31/why-dont-archivists-digitize-everything/.

[5]Robert William, Fogel, and Stanley L.. Engerman. Time on the Cross: the Economics of American Negro Slavery (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995).

[6] Stephen, Sinclair, and Geoffrey Rockwell. “Voyant Tools.” Voyant Tools. https://voyant-tools.org/.

[7] Timothy Compeau, and Robert MacDougall. “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, 2019. https://www.fulcrum.org/epubs/5q47rq179?locale=en#/6/34[Kee-0017]!/4/2[ch10]/2/2[p176]/1:0

[8] Jorit Wintjes,“‘Not an Ordinary Game, But a School of War’ Notes on the Early History of the Prusso-German Kriegsspiel,” Vulcan: Journal of the Social History of Military Technology 4, no. 1 (January 2016): 52–75.

[9] Joseph D. Galanek, Dana C. Gierdowski, and D. Christopher Brooks. “Experiences with Instructors and Technology,” Educause, 2018. https://www.educause.edu/ecar/research-publications/ecar-study-of-undergraduate-students-and-information-technology/2018/experiences-with-instructors-and-technology

[10] Sara Grossman, “Web-Hosting Project Hopes to Help Students Reclaim Digital Destinies.” The Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs: Wired Campus (blog), July 25, 2013. https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/web-hosting-project-hopes-to-help-students-reclaim-their-digital-destinies/45035

[11] Martha Saxton, “Wikipedia and Women’s History: A Classroom Experience.” In Writing History in the Digital Age, ed. Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, 86–94. (Digital Humanities: Digital Culture Books. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013) https://muse.jhu.edu/chapter/1030707

Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Getting Down From the Ivory Tower

If you asked me a few months ago why digital history is important, I probably would have told you that it isn’t. I always felt more comfortable using tangible resources and writing things down by hand, so I never really considered digital history as essential.

This isn’t to suggest that I was ever totally dismissive of digital history. In fact, one of the pieces of work I’m proudest of ever creating is an article for Gettysburg College’s Killed At Gettysburg online project.[1] I’ve had some familiarity with digital history and how it can be useful, but I never really viewed it as necessary to pushing the field of history forward. And then this semester happened.

It started with Zotero. What was at first a nifty tool soon became an important way to streamline the citation process. As the website GettingThingsTech argues, “Citations are important, they’re just also inefficient. You want to show the world that you’ve done your research and help future readers (or yourself) see where they can learn more on your topic. It just shouldn’t take so long.” [2] As I found in my own research project (which I’ll address later on), it was almost a necessity to use a tool like Zotero. While I could have done my research without the use of a citation manager, it would have taken me so long to get the full citation data that I would have been unable to do as much research as I ultimately did. On top of that, having all of my sources in one organized location made it much simpler for me to return to those sources when I needed to.

So, cool, an app made my life easier. Nice, but not really groundbreaking stuff here, right? The thing is, the tools of digital history aren’t just meant to make things faster and easier – they’re meant to help convey information in new ways than the standard paper or dissertation. Why else would George Mason University allow their doctoral candidates to create a digital dissertation? [3] If digital history was simply a tool for comfort and ease of use, then universities would not allow students to submit works of digital history as academic scholarship. This is proof that digital history is actively pushing the field of history and forcing historians to engage with the public more often than before.

This, of course, presents challenges, and we’ve discussed them at length on our class blog. But digital history also presents tremendous opportunity. Errol Morris used digital tools and techniques to answer the question of the sequence of two photographs from the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” in the Crimean War. [4]

Two photographs of the same road, but which came first? From Errol Morris’s “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Part 1)”. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/25/which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg-part-one/

Authors and historians had argued unequivocally that the second photograph (the lower one on this post, the one with the cannonballs on the road) was taken after the first one. They used these photographs to make an argument about the character of the photographer, Roger Fenton, and how he altered the scene to make his own experience appear more harrowing. However, Morris proved that while the sequence of photographs was correct, Fenton did not alter the scene. In this instance, digital tools helped historians come to a new understanding about the past and proved prior assumptions incorrect.

Digital history tools were necessary for my research project to come together. [5] I created a timeline to tell the broader story of the 1985 bombing in Philadelphia that killed several people and left hundreds homeless. I could have easily written a paper on it; there’s a number of well-done books or journal articles that talk about this event using only or mostly text. But creating a digital site allowed me to use photos, videos, and images that I could not have in a “typical” old-fashioned history paper.

Something I’ve learned through my own personal experience in public history is that showing is always better than telling. So, I’m going to try a little experiment. I’m going to write a short sentence or two about an event from my research, and then I’ll post a video that I included on my timeline. I want you to think about which has a stronger emotional impact for you.

Ready?

In 1978, the group MOVE got into a shootout with police. In the crossfire, police officer James Ramp was shot in the neck and killed.

And now, the video: (WARNING: Violence/gunfire is shown in this clip.)

Easy, right? That kind of emotional power is not something I can convey through words, but that feeling is just as much an essential part of the story as any date or name. That is how digital tools can advance the field of history as well.

Digital history is a game-changer, both for research and for helping historians to tell narratives. It isn’t without its drawbacks, of course. But its flaws should not make historians cower in fear of it. Instead, it’s time to embrace the possibilities of a digital history approach. Historians need to come down from the ivory tower that is academia and make their work accessible to people. Digital history allows them to do just that.


NOTES

  1. Martin, Jeffrey. “William Jones, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery”. Killed At Gettysburg: The Final Footsteps of Gettysburg’s Fallen. http://killedatgettysburg.org/william-jones-1st-rhode-island-light-artillery/
  2. GettingThingsTech, “Zotero, the free citation manager for students, teachers, and more”. https://gettingthingstech.com/zotero-free-citation-manager-students-teachers/
  3. George Mason University, “Digital Dissertation Guidelines”. https://historyarthistory.gmu.edu/graduate/phd-history/digital-dissertation-guidelines
  4. Morris, Errol. “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?” New York Times, September 25, 2007. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/25/which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg-part-one/
  5. Martin, Jeffrey. “‘It Was War’: The 1985 Philadelphia MOVE Bombing”. Sutori. https://www.sutori.com/story/it-was-war-the-1985-philadelphia-move-bombing–4qQtASBHxHPEqN2pJ69Cb5TE
Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

The Masses Rise Up

The story of Digital History has to cover the relutance with which some other academics in the history discipline have, or have not, accepted the field. Some historians fail to see how the field progresses the work of historians, or simply if the field is needed at all. So it is important to not only answer the question “how are digital tools reshaping the field of history?” but also to ask “why is it important to change it?” Fortunaley, the answer for both is the same. We need to change the field of history to bring the public in to challenge previous conceptions; and digital tools are the way to do this. 

In the 1960s, a wave of historians began to study previously overlooked narratives like that of the enslaved and minorities of society. This was proclaimed to be the “new social history.” This supposedly revealed past misconceptions within historical narratives. However, I think we are still correcting our older, prejudiced views within history. Each and every day, with the help of historical tools, historians are finding previously hidden details or presenting history in a different manner in which the public can see the full picture. For example, digital tools were the basis of filmaker Errol Morris’s discovery of which photo of “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” came first by photographer Roger Fenton in 1855. One photo of the Crimena battlefield captures a scene of hundreds of cannonballs covering the landscape. However, another photo of the exact same landscape shows far less cannonballs, with many of them in a ditch. Many historains have concluded that Fenton initially moved cannonballs onto the road to create a more dramatic image. However, Morris is less quick to accept this psychological analysis and resorts to digital tools and experts in order to find which photo came first. 

Even though the photo with the cannonballs on the road was in fact the second picture, Morris discovered that this was due to the law of physics that had forced the cannonballs to roll on the road.1 Therefore, utilizing digital tools and digital history strategies of sharing data and visualizations of the past with professional colleagues provide more of a buffer to falling victim of the human tendency to go with the obvious explanation based on preconceived notions. What seems obvious to us now would not seem obvious to actors of the past – and vice versa. We as historians must provide the tools and insight in order to overcome our own biases through lived experience. Even presenting historical research in just a different format, like Anne Sarah Rubin’s Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory interactive map will challenge everyone’s preconceived notions of a famous moment in history.2 

The second half of how digital tools are reshaping the field of history incorporates the common man, meaning everyday people. Traditional academic history still remains unreachable for many members of our society. With academic journals and books only available through costly platforms like JSTOR that are only accessible to students or professors of a university, the so called “break throughs” of historians remains within our inner circle. Institutions like the University of Michigan are making steps towards making history more accessible for everyday people by making their publications public on the Internet. However, this academic focused historical rhetoric still proves to be inaccessible for people who did not receive a higher education degree in history.  Simply publishing an ebook does not equate to the work of a digital historian. Products can be outside the realm of traditional books and articles. Reconfiguring how we present history is the key to making history personal for everyone, and then truly succeeding in the mission of new social history to bring light to forgotten narratives of the past. Timothy Compeau and Robert MacDougall’s historical game “Tecumseh Lies Here” is an excellent example of utilizing digital tools to engage people of all backgrounds. The game incorporates inquiry-based learning skills with primary sources that allow students to truly be their own historian.3

Historical games are far more accessible than academic journals that are predominantly read just within inner academic circles and exclude other members of society. Augmented reality apps like Niagara 1812 and Queenston 1812 appeal to a generation that cannot escape the digital age. Almost every person is connected to society through a digital manner and has been socialized to engage with others and our past through a digital platform.4 Instead of remaining stubbornly in the past by just publishing articles and books, historians should embrace this tide of digitalization. The same scholarly work applies – the same research, the same reading, the same corporation. However, digital tools can make our valuable work far more impactful on society through apps, engaging websites, and games rather than a book. Instead of only discovering a new historical conclusion through a book review released through JSTOR, digital history could result with these exciting new developments going viral on Twitter.

“Digital History should be taken seriously meme.” From “Reflecting on Digital History (Pandemic Edition) through Memes” by JMCCLURKEN, April 28, 2020. http://techist.mcclurken.org/digital-history/reflecting-on-digital-history-pandemic-edition-through-memes/

NOTES

  1. Morris, Errol. “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Parts One to Three).” Opinionator: The New York Times (blog), September 25, 2007. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/25/which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg-part-one 
  2. Rubin, Anne Sarah. “About.” Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory. http://shermansmarch.org/about 
  3. Compeau, Timothy, and Robert MacDougall. “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, 2019. https://www.fulcrum.org/epubs/5q47rq179?locale=en#/6/34[Kee-0017]!/4/2[ch10]/2/2[p176]/1:0 
  4. Kee, Kevin, Eric Poitras, and Timothy Compeau. “History All Around Us: Toward Best Practices for Augmented Reality for History.” In Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau, Online., Chapter 11. Digital Humanities: Digital Culture Books. Ann Abor: University of Michigan Press, 2019. https://www.fulcrum.org/concern/monographs/70795899c 
Categories
Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Final Reflections on Digital History

Throughout this class I have learned just how much the digital age has affected the field of history. As technology advances so does the way historians use those advancements. online media has become a major tool for historians in this technological age. Before the internet, a historian would have to physically go to a library to look at a specific book or travel to a state or national archive to have access to primary documents. Now, they can just go online and access those books or documents without leaving the comfort of their home or office. Historians are also able to share their work quicker and to a larger audience. Originally they would have to send their articles to a journal and wait for the physical copies to be printed and distributed. Those copies would go to an audience limited to those who subscribe to that journal. Today they can upload their articles to a journal that anyone can access. This digital age also allows for historians to share documents they come across as well as store them where they can access them at any time. This is possible through programs like Omeka and Zotero. During this class I have been able to do these things through several projects and assignments like blogging. Digital history is also very important for public historians because it allows them to teach the public about history to a much wider audience.

The first main advantage that the digital world has had on the history field is the ability for historians to share their work to s larger audience. Due to online journals historical works are not limited to those who subscribe to certain periodicals. Online journals however can still fall under the subscription category, but many are free to the public like The Journal of the American Revolution and The Public Historian. Online journals are an evolving technology with new standers being created by historians like allowing new types of media in their journals.[1] This allows anyone to access historical works if they have access to the internet. These online journals host a multitude of different historical works. Using the Journal of the American Revolution as an example, visitors to the site can find a wide variety of sources to look through. These sources range from reviews of the latest books on the American Revolution, lists ranking things like the top generals from the war to the bloodiest battles, to articles on specific events or people. Blogging has also become a major outlet for historians to show what they have been working on. Through blogs a historian can get quick feedback from other historians or the general public if it is a public blog. Sites like Twitter or Word Press are often used by historians to blog about their research or to get feedback on their work.  Historians can also use these new digital tools to store research. Zotero was created to help store documents for quick access.[2] This makes research a lot quicker and easier since historians do not have to sit in an archive or library and do all the work on one document at one time.

The second main advantage of the digital age relates to Public Historians. New digital media has allowed them to create new interactive ways for the public to access history online. These outlets range from online exhibits, interactive games, and virtual or video tours of sites. Online exhibits are a major form of digital public history. The major online exhibit creator would be Omeka which we used in this class for one of our major projects. Omeka is an easy to use program that can be used to store items and also create exhibits. It is also free to use. The free version is limited on space but still allows the user to create pretty intricate exhibits. With my Omeka I was able to create two exhibits, one on the history of Horn in the West and one on the history of Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with multiple sections and over 100 images each. Since I am studying to be a Public Historian creating an online exhibit was very beneficial. These types of exhibits are easier for the public to access them where they have internet access. This is beneficial for museums or historic sites that are not able to open to the public for any reason. this keeps the public engaged and may convince them to visit the site when possible. Another digital media public historians are using are virtual games and tours. These outlets make history even more engaging by making it more interactive. For those who are more visual learners this is super beneficial. Mount Vernon has been using both these media outlets with their virtual tour of George Washington’s home and the interactive Be Washington Game. Other sites have used video’s and live streams to interact with the public during the Covid-19 pandemic showing just how important digital technology can be for public historians.


[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., https://ncph.org/publications-resources/publications/the-public-historian/

[2]“The Basics”, Zotero, Accessed May 3, 2020, https://www.zotero.org/support/quick_start_guide


Categories
Conferencing/Writing

How does blogging impact classes?

I believe that blogging can definitely impact the learning that is taking place within classrooms through the merging of technology with coursework. I think that it is imperative that teachers, professors, educators remain steadfast in ensuring that their material can be grasped by their students. Each generation is different, along with the technological advances, therefore, if we are looking to effectively educate people, we must meet them where they are: online. This has been a belief that I have long held, however, it was great to see it fleshed out in the article by John Warner. He mentions the fact of introducing different types of writing prompts (related and unrelated to coursework) which ultimately yielded the results that he was interested in: thought-provoking arguments of substance. This is a part of meeting students where they are! I can remember many times being given “busy-work” by professors and teachers during K-12 which would not always challenge me to grasp a concept, but to keep me occupied. I have always appreciated professors who integrated many facets of technology and activities in order to help students find relatability within the subject matter. In the article written by Fowler, it also supports my thoughts and those of John Warner about how blogging can be used to stimulate ideas or force students to defend a specific viewpoint. This is the perfect type of learning that Warner reflects on within his experience; one that allows for students to learn in their own way and electronically mending different teaching/learning styles. I believe that by utilizing blogging, it helps students become more reflective in their content if there is intentionality behind the activity.

Categories
Project: Visualization

Lest We Forget: Surviving Katrina

Images of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago

During late August and early September of 2005, Hurricane Katrina passed over New Orleans and wreaked devastation on the city. About a quarter of the residents could not or chose not to evacuate. For days they were stranded in poorly prepared federal shelters or within their homes. They watched as the canals winding through the city were destroyed and the water began to rise. Soon 80% of New Orleans was flooded and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. By the time the catastrophe was under control, 1,145 people had perished. In the aftermath, the city’s population was halved, and years passed before portions were rebuilt. Unfortunately, the reconstruction has led to gentrification and further inequality

I first chose to pursue this project after listening to a podcast sponsored by the Linguistics Society of America, Subtitle. A recent episode, Did Katrina Kill the New Orleans Accent?, made me consider the ongoing impact of the hurricane and how the tragedy was used to change a historically black city. Initially, I went into the project with guns blazing, furious at how the tragedy was handled. Now, after seeing so many images of floating corpses and weeping people, I’m both angry and very sad. I kept my information truthful and tried not to be gratuitously negative, but, I must admit, my site might be more biased than most of my scholarly work.     

Although I originally focused specifically on gentrification in New Orleans rather than the events during the hurricane, but that changed for two reasons. First, scholarly work on the matter is minimal at best. Many experts studied New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina and came to intelligent conclusions regarding the impact of race in the response to the tragedy. However, not much research can be done on gentrification until the 2020 Census information is available. The 2010 Census was less than five years after the storm and, while trends were evident, it was not enough data to form firm conclusions. Most of the information I discovered was through a few newspaper articles and videos made by unhappy New Orleanians. It’s worthwhile information, and I believe their arguments and conclusions, but it’s not enough to create an entire visualization project and Omeka portfolio.

Categories
Project: Visualization

Poverty and Homelessness; Stigma and Relief: Real World Solutions

This semester I researched poverty and homelessness in the United States of America’s history, specifically where the stigma around poverty and homelessness may have originated. I also explored possible effective solutions. For my Omeka Project I focused on the opinion of the public on poverty contemporary to Jane Addams, her creation of Hull house, and on aid the Works Progress Administration provided to those unemployed during the Great Depression. This naturally led to questions of: is the stigma still around today, how people are combating the stigma today, and how are cities and countries working to end poverty and homelessness within their borders?

The sources of information I utilized were varied and included historical documents, scholarly research papers, and publicly available videos. In one source a Helsinki, Finland study on the long-term life of homeless people was conducted by a group that checking in with participants a decade after they used a shelter where they were doing their study. This type of long-term study has not been done before as homeless people move from place to place, die, or find permanent housing. Additionally, I found that Jane Addams had written and given speeches tying crime to moral deficiency and implying those who needed social reform were morally deficient. Other reading revealed the Works Progress Administration was ended during World War II because of the societal stigma around poverty. I found a project in Finland called the Y-Foundation which gives homes to homeless people which may be model for possible solutions in the United States of America. Further toward possible American solutions the Salvation Army in La Crosse, Wisconsin is working to reduce the stigma around poverty and homelessness. Lastly, I found a Youtube channel called Invisible People that tells the story of the homeless people the founder meets. The lingering question I have as a result of my research is: what is the best way to inform the public and legislatures that more solutions to poverty and homelessness need implemented, including possibly theY-Foundation model?

Categories
Project: Visualization

American Women at War: Nurses of World War II

For my Omeka site, entitled “US Nurses in World War II,” I focused on trying to encapsulate the large narrative of the thousands of American women who served as healers during the Second World War. My goal was to learn more about the topic through this project, in order to help me come up with a research question for my MA thesis. The goal for the site and my visualization project was to expand the knowledge of the general public about the unique experiences these women had when serving at home and on the front during the war, and to show people that it was not a glamorous job. I want viewers to look through it and understand the deep impact these women had on the people they treated, those observing them, and the future of women in the US military.

The main research questions I had going into these projects were; Why did these women serve? Where did they serve? What was it like to be a nurse during World War II? How did they impact women’s history? How did they impact those that they cared for, and what does that say about their importance?

Many people feel that nurses during WWII were not breaking any gender barriers, and most women’s historians seem to spend more time praising and analyzing the women who stayed at home and entered the workforce, replacing men in factories and businesses, or the women who joined the military but did not serve as nurses. From what I have read so far in my historiography on my topic (I’m still in the early stages of it all), nurses are not seen as anything special to women’s history outside of the fact that they comforted and healed so many. Apparently, we already crossed that bridge with Civil War nursing, and so nothing after that is particularly striking in terms of the development of American women.

I am still trying to formulate the exact argument I will make, and the exact research questions I have, but one main thing that I can’t ignore is that I HATE this viewpoint that nurses in WWII contributed next to nothing to the narrative of American women’s history. I am a believer in agency, and as I argued in the last thesis I wrote, in undergrad, these women knew what they were doing. They saw an opportunity, and they took it for a reason. They were offered places in the military, normally closed to women, in an unprecedented amount during this war, and they got away with it more easily than the WACs, WAVES, SARS, and other female military personnel who chose roles that were not related to medicine.

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
Project: Visualization

Stories Long Forgotten: Formerly Enslaved. (Omeka & Visualization Project)

This semester, I had the opportunity to be able to pick a research topic and find a unique way to not only display what I learned through a website but also through a visualization project. As someone whose introduction to history was through passed down oral histories of family members, I decided to pick a population of individuals who were at times forgotten and also caught in a living paradox (living parts of their lives enslaved and free). As someone who has read Slave Narratives, I understand the weird paradigm that they experienced. They were often seen as embarrassments to their family members (children, especially) because of being formerly enslaved and enduring a life that many could not dream of. Therefore, for my Omeka site, I documented the lives of 4 individuals who were interviewed by the WPA from 1936-1938 and were residents of North Carolina. These documents were found through various vital documents (marriage and death records) along with land deed information.

For my visualization project, I thought it would be cool to do a timeline specifically for one of the individuals that I documented throughout my Omeka site, however, I thought of something even different: a family tree. I decided to attempt to utilize the documentation that I have to find information not only about John Beckwith, but also his parents, siblings, children and nieces/nephews. One of the great things about Ancestry.com is the fact that its interface creates a timeline of their life along with maps of where they have been documented to live.