Tag Archives: Digital Humanities

Friends Forever: Nail polish history and Max 6



Today, the project finally started coming together! I met with my professor to get a patch and a MakeyMakey. Although I wasn’t able to get a MakeyMakey today, I will be able to pick one up tomorrow. In the mean time I used the brass paper fasteners and curled them using some needle nose pliers to make a sturdy place for the alligator clips from the MakeyMakey to connect. I thought this would be the easiest way for the contraption to stay together and look kind of cool too! I then ensured the alligator clips fit.. which they did! Yay for small successes!


After a lot of tinkering, changing file names, and searching the contents of my computer.. we finally made the patch work on my lovely Windows computer. This success was followed by a well deserved high-five. 


Next, I started adding my nail polish content to the patch, ensuring the correct file names were kept and double checked that I saved after every change.




I was able to add all the content and add an additional output to the patch and the patch STILL WORKS! Next, I decided to figure out the ‘presentation mode” business. Using the awesome Max 6 help pages, I found step by step instructions for switching to presentation mode, selecting items to be in presentation mode, resizing and moving things in presentation mode. 


After I followed all of the steps, I ended up with the screen below! YAY!



Tomorrow I will obtain a MakeyMakey and test the connection. And if all goes to plan, Max 6 and nail polish will live happily ever after in my Interactive Exhibit Design project. And if not… well I don’t want to talk about it.


A snag…

Since my last post, I have come to find out that my idea was far too lofty. That being said, my professor suggested I try using a MakeyMakey and a cardboard hand with painted nails as the controller for my Nail Polish History exhibit. I took his idea and ran with it!

I chose to use brass fasteners as the conductive part of the hand. They will allow me to connect with the MakeyMakey alligator clips and trigger a command on my Max 6 patch. This will show a video, text, and/or a photo related to nail polish history.

Check out my cardboard hand controller progress below:






I thought that the hand looked rather boring so I decided to add something into my project that I love.. HENNA! I looked up some designs online and freehand drew them on the hand.





TA DA! The almost finished product! Tomorrow I will meet with my professor and work on connecting the MakeyMakey and plugging in the content to the Max 6 patch.



Interactive Exhibit Design Idea 1: “Swing and Jazz: A Who’s Who Experience”

For the Interactive Exhibit Design Class, we are required to create an exhibit using interactive and digital techniques. Below is one of the ideas that has been slowly percolating in my brain. Lets hope I can succeed spectacularly, rather than fail spectacularly as I wade into this unknown technical territory!

Title: “Swing and Jazz: A Who’s Who Experience”

The plan for this exhibit is to set up as if the person entering the exhibit is on a stage, like they are part of the show. They will sit down on the stool which will activate a welcome screen instructing the visitor to interact with the items around them. They will have the option to press a key on the keyboard, say something into the microphone, turn the page of a score, or press down a valve on the wind instruments (maybe just one instrument, or maybe a different person will be represented by a saxophone, trumpet or clarinet). When the person does one of the above described actions, part of a song that relates to a certain Jazz or Swing musician will begin to play which will lead into the biography of that musician being displayed upon the screen. The person can then choose to learn more about Jazz and Swing as a genre or play another instrument and learn about another musician. When finished they can leave, once they stand, there will be a Swing/Jazz song that plays them out of the exhibit with a screen that says goodbye or something that relates to the Jazz and Swing eras. I could have poster boards with instructions and an overview of the Jazz/Swing era at the entrance to the exhibit so that visitors would know what to do and would have a good understanding of the material before beginning the exhibit exercise.
– multimedia Computer with Sensors, using Max since it was made by musicians anyway it would probably do the project justice. I would need a sensor for turning a page of the score, for sitting down and standing up from the stool, for pressing down on the valves for the wind instruments, for sensing vocals, for the keys on the keyboard (or maybe done without sensors on Max)
– a program built by me to control all of these ideas and ensure the correct video plays when an action is performed
-t.v. or computer screen to show video of history of swing and jazz eras, and specifics on certain influential musicians
– a music stand, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, stool, old microphone, and a keyboard
– a mannequin (or two if not expensive) to be the musicians, possibly holding multiple instruments, could also dress the mannequin up in period clothing for a performance (one female, one male) on either side of the keyboard
– fabric to create drapes to make it feel like the visitor is on stage, they would hang behind and on either side of the t.v./computer screen the visitor will be facing
Time Period:
– 1910-1970, focus more on the 1920s and 1930s
– Identify some key figures in the rise and popularity of Swing and Jazz music (for example: Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington)
– Identify and explain the origins of Swing and Jazz
– Identify and explain why Swing and Jazz originated from African-American roots
– Provide an interesting way to learn about music history rather than just reading it. Includes hands-on activities, music and text.

Idea number 2 coming soon…

In digital history this week, we were fortunate enough to learn from David Brown about an interesting Graph Database Management System called Sylva.

Even though I felt like this:

It was a very interesting system to test out. My only experience with entering data into a database for other people to use is at the Oxford Historical Society in Woodstock where I entered Probates of Will into an Excel spreadsheet. Excel isn’t the easiest to work with, sometimes your work disappears and you have to start again. During the brief, yet thorough, tutorial we were provided, David showed us how entering data into the system is rather straight forward and that it is laid out nicely in a visualization. Sylva uses points and edges to draw connections between the data which Carla Watson pointed out, was very similar to my favourite non-digital learning tool: mind-maps. They help you visually represent the content and use short phrases or words to help you remember what it is you are studying. Mind-maps link the information that is related and can easily be expanded to fit more. The Sylva database works a lot like that, by having never ending space for you to add more and more edges and individual points. It also allows you to link ideas in more than one direction if another link is necessary to make the connection. I’m glad that even my old high school study ideas of making mind-maps to connect pertinent information can still relate to the hi-tech big data world of Sylva.

I enjoyed the tutorial, even though it went a little over my head. I can’t wait until I become an expert at inputting data into Sylva and can show everyone my awesome visualizations!

Digital History & Research Success


A few weeks ago in my Digital History class, we were fortunate enough to have guest speaker Mark Tovey come in and teach us a bit about how to digitally reconstruct historic buildings and locations. Specifically, I was excited to find out that the architectural plans that I found at the County of Oxford Archives pertaining to the old County of Oxford Jail would be of a HUGE benefit for me.

In the digital history class we are working on individual projects pertaining to historic buildings and/or sites. We are expected to use new digital formats and digitize the building the best we can. I have decided to create an interactive timeline using the program Capzles for the first half of the project. For the second I intend to learn how to use Sketch-Up through the numerous instructional Youtube videos that I have come across and then digitally reconstruct the building and create a virtual tour. A tall order I know, but I think that the jail is incredibly important as one of the Woodstock Court House Square buildings and through my research I have found newspaper articles pertaining to the “Save the Jail” campaign. The jail was slated for demolition but the people of Woodstock would not allow that to happen. I will go into detail about the “Save the Jail” campaign in my project.

In order to digitize my building I need the architectural drawings which I have access to at the County of Oxford Archives. I have found not only the elevation drawings, but also the plans for the ground, first, and second floors. I also have section drawings and aerial views which will make it easier to recreate the building inside and out. I will be able to import the drawings into Sketch-Up and then recreate the building according to the measurements and specifications on the drawings.

Below are a few of the drawings I have access to:

Front ElevationIMG_0403IMG_0393IMG_0386

Look what I can do: HGIS


For those of you reading this and have no idea what HGIS is, I didn’t really know either until today. I knew that the acronym stood for Historical Geographic Information Systems and I knew it had to do with mapping the past, but I didn’t realize how difficult yet interesting it would be!

In my Digital History class we participated in a workshop by Don Lafreniere, who provided us with a quick yet in-depth overview of HGIS and how it can aid in historical research. He guided us through a hands-on exercise using the program ArcGIS.  Lafreniere led us through a set of VERY well laid out instructions that were incredibly helpful. If you need an instructional guide created, he is your man! The point of the exercise was to acquaint us with the different capabilities of HGIS and allow us to get somewhat familiar with a very new program.

I was incredibly skeptical at first, especially since I had not had the best of luck with the MapTiler application last week. My skepticism soon waned as Lafreniere explained just how this type of program could aid in historical research. “A geographical information system (gis) allows researchers to methodically and efficiently organize and analyze spatially referenced data, and to identify and visualize spatial patterns and processes” (Dwelling Places and Social Spaces: Revealing the Environments of Urban Workers in Victoria Using Historical giS by Patrick A. Dunae, Donald J. Lafreniere,  Jason A. Gilliland, and John S. Lutz).

This type of digital history is so interesting and there is so much that can be done. HGIS is time-consuming, but once you have a workable base in your system, it seems as though it would be rather straight forward to change the parameters and look for different trends.

Lafreniere suggested that you can use Excel spreadsheets and import them into the program to set the social environment of the particular location during various points in time. This can be done using the information found in census data and city directories which would provide names, occupations, ethnic and religious backgrounds. This information would allow the researcher to map for changes in occupations in a particular location in an industrialized city. Or how religious practice has changed or stayed the same in areas surrounding places of worship in a particular town. This is very helpful for visual learners like myself, because you can actually see spatially how places and areas have changed or have not changed overtime. There are exponential possibilities for the use of the data, it is almost a bit ridiculous.


Even though my skills do not lie in the digital world, I believe that if I could watch some instructional videos, listen to Don Lafreniere talk for another 10 hours, and play around with ArcGIS, eventually I would get the hang of the program. Once I am able to use this type of analysis for my own work, I most definitely will. It may just take a little bit of practice.

MapTiler Adventures




As a person that does not like being forced to get the new-fangled item on the market, I decided to download the old version of MapTiler from their website because I didn’t believe their warning: “the old deprecated and unsupported version”. This backfired as when I attempted to follow the steps in the program, Google Chrome wouldn’t allow it. Here are some screen shots of my multiple failed attempts:





Finally I gave up and downloaded the new version. Everything worked first try which I was surprised about. Pleasantly surprised of course. Here are the final products:







I think I may be able to use this software to layer blueprints and architectural drawings of the County of Oxford Jail that I am focusing on for my Digital History project. I may just need to watch some YouTube videos and/or ask someone for help before I fully understand what this software can do to help me.

Oh the (Digital) HUMANITY!



For this blog post assignment, I found two articles that discuss blogging: Stephanie Trigg’s “Blogging, Time, and Displacement”, and Nancy Groves’ “Academic blogging: the power and the pitfalls – live chat”. I will also refer to Dan Cohen’s “Professors, Start your Blogs” in the post below. Links to these articles can be found at the bottom of this blog post.

I am a great supporter of blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere. I enjoy reading random blogs rather than following one particular person unless their topic is so interesting I can’t turn away. The blogger is free to write about whatever they want, whenever they want and unless what they say is truly provocative and tagged with the right hashtags, someone may never attack you for your personal viewpoints. The ability to be protected by a computer screen, even if your name is attached to the blog, provides a sense of fearlessness. This lack of fear can allow the blogger to produce a piece that is astonishingly brilliant because they are not under the confines of what society is expecting them to do, say, and write. Blogs in the academic sphere provide a space for academic pieces that wouldn’t normally fit into the social fabric of a conference room or a peer-reviewed journal. They are snippets of the wide world of history that not everyone can always gain access to.

I also think that blogs provide a space that allows for the blogger to use up all the extra research they compiled for a topic that did not turn out to be enough for a paper. Blog entries can allow the blogger to take a chance on a topic that they may not be experts in yet, but hope to eventually research enough to become proficient in the subject. Blogs are micro-essays much like twitter is a microblog. Even though for the most part blogs are not organized into a recognizable essay format, blogs can serve the purpose of getting out your ideas to readers that may be able to offer suggestions and research materials. These blog posts are not normally scrutinized to the same standards as journals or papers are that are typically presented at conferences. The internet can be a very dark and scary place where anonymous people can rip you to shreds, but blogging communities can form that are very supportive, and can allow you to explore your chosen topic further.

Trigg demonstrates that blogging, for her, is a displacement activity which allows her to move away from the task at hand for a brief time to collect herself and later move back to the task with a clearer mind. Trigg provides a description: “the phrase ‘‘displacement activity’’ can describe an animal’s response to conflict, or indecision” (Trigg, 934) She is basically conveying that humans, like animals, sometimes need a break from the heat of the moment in order to return full force and deal with the situation. Trigg’s ideas ring true in my own experience because I tend to write poetry or blog posts when I am supposed to be focused and finishing up a final draft of an essay. My brain simply is sick of what I have been doing and wants to go in a different direction. Blogging seems to be a space for clarifying your thoughts, and allowing your mind to take a break from the under pressure discussions you may be having in a class or the 5000 word essay you may be writing. Blogs can allow you to provide a coherent understanding even if you were making little sense in a classroom discussion.

But does this mean since our brains need a break from what we have been focusing on that what we write during our displacement time cannot be incredibly profound or intellectual?

In Nancy Groves’ article, she quotes Denise Horn (well-known blogger) as saying: “Minority academics who blog must, now more than ever, be aware of how important it is to articulate their ideas and their knowledge outside of our departments, our journals, and our conferences. Blogging is a space in which we can do that.” This quotations demonstrates what I believe academic blogging can really achieve. Sharing ideas isn’t just in the classroom during a lecture anymore, the discussion needs to continue with people that do not hold the same degrees and credentials as we do. Blogs can begin the conversations and give those that don’t normally have a voice in an exclusive historical society a chance to speak up and have their ideas taken seriously. This is important especially when we are in a field that we cannot concretely define and explain. Being able to converse and present ideas with likeminded people from across the world that we normally would not have access to is an incredibly exciting and valuable practice.

Cohen disagrees with the idea of blogging frequently in order to be successful. He mentions the use of RSS feeds which allow for new content to be pushed along to the reader whenever it is posted. I was unaware of this type of system until today, and am now incredibly intrigued by the possibilities. The precise reason I dislike using technology is because it is incredibly time consuming, and this type of development will certainly speed up my internet perusals.

For a blog to be effective does a blogger need to post weekly? Or at least have some sort of schedule so that the follower can expect to have a new post awaiting in their RSS feed? Can random bloggers be just as effective and captivating?






In relation to my title, I kept saying “Oh the humanity” all day writing this post and couldn’t remember what t.v. show I remembered it from… I finally looked it up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEpLncBG_Nw