Saturday, November 25, 2006

Digital Skill #2: Wikipedia addition and creation

So, I made a new Wikipedia entry and added some stuff to an existing article. The info is from my thesis. The links and what I did on the pages are as follows:

John Mottrom -

This is a new creation, that is why there is not a whole lot to it. But when the link I tried to create in the Northumberland County article to Mottrom showed up red, I figured I would put what little info I have on there.

Northumberland County -

The History section itself and all the info in it is mine. And I also added the last sentence in the geography section.

Hopefully, I can get a 5-pointer for this one since I even created a new page!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Will people ever look at my website???

So, first of all, I'd like to say "Geaux Tigers" because I was just watching LSU beat its archrivals Arkansas and prevent them from being able to get to the BCS National Championship game!

Now, I also want to blog about our readings for this coming week...not going home for the holiday means I am actually ahead of schedule for once and read over 100 hours in advance of our class! Go me!!!

The website I am planning to create for my final project is based around the research I did for my master's thesis. I want to make a database that includes all the raw data that I used but put into 4 tables in the thesis. The main reason for doing this is (besides being required to do it of course) that I am often frustrated at seeing tables or graphs in an article or a book and not being able to see the data used to make those tables/graphs. And what if I want to do something different with the same numbers, how would I be able to do that without muddling through ALL the data that the author did? Wouldn't it be great if you could see that data without having to do all that leg work??

You will obviously hear more about this when I make my presentation on Dec. 5th, but the Digital History chapter for this week really speaks to the idea of who, if anyone, will actually look at my website! I see this site as a VERY specific website that only 17th century Virginia historians will probably use. So, based on this probable specificity of my proposed site, should I even care about reaching out to other non-Virginia historians? Or should I revolve it around that small, but focused group entirely??

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The article if you want to read it too

It's called "Teachers emphasize the Indians' side" and here is the website:

my rant on Thanksgiving, don't worry it's not near as bad as the Columbus Day rant!

I posted this after a Yahoo! article about a 3rd grade teacher who was actually teaching his kids the real story behind the early relations between the Native Americans and the British colonists. While I think 3rd grade is a bit early, I do like the idea that some grammar school teachers want to teach the truth and not just what is in the textbooks or what the school board says. And I figured I'd post it here too since we have been talking about history and how it is taught in 810, along with the fact that faulty high school and college textbooks was a topic of my discussion sections a few weeks ago (which I brought up in 810 as well for those that were there and remember). So, here it is:

As for kids learning this part of American history, I think it could probably wait until sixth grade or so, but it should not wait too long because most of the history one learns (unless they become history majors in college or take a couple good history courses) will be in high school and jr. high, where history is often wrong, misleading and misinformed.

Personally, I have always found two particular holidays very perplexing: Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. Columbus, obviously, did not "discover" anything since there were already people here and he was not even the first European to land here. Then, when he got here, he slaughtered large numbers of natives on Hispanola and other Carribean islands. Yeah, let's party for that!

As for Thanksgiving, it is right that the first celebration was amicable, relations between the natives and the Protestants in Plymouth turned sour soon thereafter. And by this time, the British in Virginia had already been at war with the Powhatan Confederacy twice, in 1611 and 1622. And then, of course, if Thanksgiving is supposed to represent the natives helping out our fore-fore-forefathers from starvation, I feel, for equal time, we need to have another holiday that acknowledges the land and lives we stole from the Native Americans.

I love Thanksgiving, not for what it represents but because I get to eat a lot of turkey, spend time with friends or family and watch football all day! But every holiday, I quietly appologize to the natives for the violent and expansive nature of those British colonists and the early Americans.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Legalities and disappearing history

Well, the readings this week are swimming in legal jargin. I was not aware of the immense amount of copyright laws passed in the last few decades, but it is somewhat disconcerting that most either do not apply or are questionable as regards to digital history. But, there are a few specific issues I would like to raise in my good ol' Blog.

First, I do not remember if we talked about it earlier in the semester, but I thought of another advantage of online books vs. physical books: in the chapter from Digital History, the 2nd footnote referenced Lessig's book Free Culture and that it came out after Digital History was written. But, obviously, they were able to cite it because it is much easier to alter/update a book if it is online. To do the same thing with a physical book, you would have to put out another edition.

Another interesting aside that I thought I would share came when I was reading in Roy's article "The Road to Xanadu," about the large number of Civil War websites that have sprung up on the Web. When talking about the passion of those Civil War enthusiasts, Roy compared that enthusiasm to Civil War reenactments. I have been to 2 reenactments and both times, knowing the history as I do, I was amazed at how far they strayed from the actual history. At the Battle of Raymond reenactment a few miles from Jackson, Miss., the Confederates (who in the real battle numbered about 1/10th of Grant's Union army but in the reenactment they were about equal) retreated very orderly from a 3 hour stand. In the real battle, the outnumbered Rebels fought valiantly and held off Grant for about an hour and a half, but when they broke, they threw down their weapons and ran for Jackson.

The other reenactment was even worse historically. At Port Hudson (La), there was a reenactment although I have not found ANY evidence of a battle the day the reenactment was held. I am unsure what exactly they were reenacting that day. This worries me, because if I was confused, what would someone think if they had never read a book on the Civil War? I figured I would share this real-life example of the misinformation often contained in websites of amateur historians.

Lastly, I was thinking about the restricted nature of history on the Web via pay websites and other restricted sites that can only be reached by libraries or universities. We have often talked about the idea of "access" in Clio, but usually it had been in the context of limiting academic history to only fellow historians and not granting access to amateurs and non-historians. Now, we see another side of this "access" issue. But this time, the access restricts us!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Does history exist?

First, let me say, I loved the abstract, existential 1932 Carl Becker article, "Everyman His Own Historian." I have told my students in my HIST 125 discussion sections that the search for that one ultimate "truth" in history is pointless. We must, instead, search for the truth through the perspectives of the actors and analysis of the primary sources. Secondly, I agree with his assertion that history changes with each successive generation of historians and that is why we have historiography. I suppose historiography did not exist in Becker's day. Does anyone know?

Now, I do take issue with some other things Mr. Becker had to say. One of them was his claim that historians had to change their style to engage the public more directly. Again, not knowing as much as I maybe should about how historians were viewed in the 1930s, I don't see this as a big issue today. There seem to be two distinct types of historians (probably more but at least two) and that is well represented in our class: academics and public historians. Would we still consider this a problem today? Both sides seem to be well represented both in our class and in our discipline. And that is where our discussion of the ultimate in public histories comes in...museums.

I love museums, as I'm sure most if not almost all historians do. I had visitors in town this weekend and we went to the American Art museum downtown. Their collection of colonial works was great, even though I can tell I will soon want to go to the American History museum again but it will not be reopened for almost two years.

I want to briefly talk about two aspects of museums and new media or Web 2.0 that I have been thinking about for a while. First, the idea of tagging collections. It doesn't seem like a bad idea, but I fear the Wikipedia effect that Kevin von Appen talks about in "Community Sites and Emerging Sociable Technologies." Namely, that a very small percentage of the people will do the bulk of the tagging. Now, if this group is mainly historians/artists/etc., I am fine with it, but will it be?

Secondly, will making more collections available for viewing online either take something away from visiting museums in person or shave off visitors from the museums themselves? I seriously doubt it. If done properly (which seems to be the biggest problem right now, figuring out how to do that), this online access will give people who have never visited those museums at least a glimpse into their content and hopefully encourage them to go see the collections in person. And for those who have already visited, this would give them an opportunity to dig deeper into pieces they liked and even tag the items with their thoughts. Seems like a win-win but it also seems like there is a lot of work to do!

Monday, November 06, 2006

the burden of young scholars

This article interested me very much, mainly because of its discussion on young scholars and how they (or should I start to say "we"?) are "not really entrusted with much breadth" (Manning, paragraph #51). Now, I am not sure we should be entrusted with too much breadth because our experience is limited. But now I wonder, did my thesis advisor advise me to write my thesis on such a specific topic because that is just the way it is done? Hmmmmm...

And in talking about putting/writing books online, something came to mind. Have I been cheating myself and/or the author by printing out many of these articles and reading them in paper format? I know we have talked about this before, but it was mostly early in the semester. So now that we have progressed 11 or 12 weeks into this class, I figured I would bring it up again. Now, I do often have my computer nearby or on so I can link with the footnotes if I want to. But still, am I somehow defeating the purpose of online books/articles by doing it this way?

Sorry for all the questions this week...