Tag Archives: #H9808

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!

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Canada’s History Forum 2013

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For my Digital History class this week we were asked to watch all or part of the Canada’s History Forum 2013. For a list of the speakers and the program you can click here.

The forum this year spends a lot of time surrounding the topic of Aboriginal History as is seen in the presentation of Young Citizen Video Project Awards and keynote Kate Hennessy of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology. The reason for this is the celebration of the Centennial of the Arctic Exhibition

The Forum itself was broadcast online using the program livestream and had little to no hiccups while I watched. I could understand everything, except of course the French. I’m glad Canada’s History chose to stream the Forum so that it could reach so people that would love to attend but cannot because of other commitments or long distances. 

The opening segment that recognized the grade 6 students for their winning contributions to the Young Citizens Video Project was inspiring. I think that it is important to realize just because these kids are young, doesn’t mean they don’t have something important to say about our nation’s history. I love it when children are given the opportunity to produce works that maybe an adult wouldn’t have thought to look into. The videos were enjoyable and used digital history methods with oral histories to create their final products. These kids are certainly on the cutting edge of historical research and crossing into the new ways of presenting their findings. 

Key note speaker Kate Hennessy discussed a project she is partnered with “New Technologies and Access to Cultural Heritage in Museums from the MacFarlane Collection to ‘Inuivaluit Living History’” You can explore the website here.

A closer look at some of the videos on the website, it is clear that the web designers made sure that everything on the site was interconnected so that someone learning about the topic for the first time or an expert could easily make their way from one item to another. While watching the video “A Case of Access” the image along the right hand side changed to match what was occurring in the video. This image then linked me to the artifact being discussed, including photos, a description and the cataloguing information. The videos also include Inuvailuit people’s responses to seeing, touching and working with their peoples artefacts.

Hennessy discussed how the digital exhibit is more than just a copy of what is in the Smithsonian. I think that this is exactly what digital exhibits need to be in order to draw in a wider audience for the topic. There are people that have no interest in looking at objects in a museum setting but would rather be able to search through online exhibits and have the internet at their fingertips to search for information they see as relevant in relation to the exhibit. This type of online exhibit also allows for people that do not have the means to visit the museum, a way to interact fully (aside from handling the objects) with the artefacts.   

Hennessy went on to talk about how they worked with teachers to create lesson plans that were curriculum centred for the Northwest Territories aboriginal curriculum. Even though they have not been in contact with those implementing the curriculum for a year, I believe that thinking about how historical information will fit into what our children are being taught is important from the inception of a project. Education of young people is important and if something like this is merely an online exhibit it wouldn’t be reaching its full potential and audience.

Overall, Hennessy’s talk was engaging and I look forward to hearing about projects like this in the future.

Digital History & Research Success

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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:

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Look what I can do: HGIS

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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.

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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

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www.geoplanit.co.uk

 

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:

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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:

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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.

So Much to Learn

Finally, something related to technology that excites me! After I watched this video, I felt like I should be innovating and creating like the people at Google have over the last 12-ish years. Of course I will never be a tech analyst or a computer programmer, but the idea that you can keep building on what you already have and keep making it better and better struck a chord with me. I think being part of the Public History program at Western is allowing me to build on my limited skill set and give me the confidence with various different mediums that I did not possess before. Only being a month into classes, I feel like I have learned more than I ever could have expected to learn in such a short period of time. Being able to try new things and experiment without a penalty has allowed me to feel more comfortable trying different computer programs and apps. We are asked to ‘play’ with different computer programs, sites, and applications for our Digital History class each week, most of the things we have tried so far like Google Ngram, Serendip-o-matic, the Wayback Machine and even RSS feeds I had never dabbled with before. It is difficult to describe in words the feeling of being so excited to just experience more all the time but also scared that you won’t remember everything you are having the opportunity learn. For some strange reason, maybe it was the background music of the video or the fact that I was so happy for the people in the video that got to be a part of the innovations that Google Maps has produced, I want to do more. I want to get better at the things I can already do and master those things that I was far too nervous to try in the past. There is so much more for me to discover!

A Whole New World.. of Faster Reading and Note-taking

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Photo: www.123rf.com

 

This may seem like a strange thing to get excited about, but I cannot believe the amount my productivity has gone up since I installed a second monitor this afternoon.

As I believe I have expressed in previous conversations, I am very hesitant when it comes to technology and the amount of extra work that comes with learning or relearning how to use newfangled things. I am quite aware that the idea of the dual-monitor is not a new idea. My boyfriend has had a dual-monitor set up for his gaming for going on three years now. But I have continued to trudge along at a snail’s pace when researching and typing notes on a single screen.

Until this summer I was working with Windows Vista, which I absolutely loved. I loved the ease of use and I found it extremely well designed. I also loved my Toshiba Satellite laptop that I purchased before beginning University in 2009. That laptop survived having a large Chai tea with two milk, two sugar, dumped accidentally into its keyboard in March of first year. It survived until this summer when I finally decided waiting an hour for a computer to boot up was slightly ridiculous. So I sadly began my search for a new computer, I really didn’t want to buy another one, I didn’t want to learn a new operating system, I didn’t want to back up all my files and move them to a new, barren computer. You may find this dramatic but I really hate buying new things, I suppose that is why I love history so much. I love the story that comes with antiques or hand-me-downs. Alas, a computer is not something that can be handed down anymore.

After weeks and weeks of trips to stores comparing the brands, options, and capabilities, I finally decided on, you guessed it, a Toshiba Satellite. This one however is 4 years newer, half the weight and 2 inches smaller which really helps avoid the constant back pain. The downside is that it came equipped with Windows 8 which I still do not understand fully. I will be on one page, accidentally move my hand and I will suddenly be looking at my photo albums. I miss my Windows Vista. It only took me 4 years, but I knew exactly how to use it.

Yesterday I began my very long list of readings for the upcoming week. Usually I print the readings off in very tiny font, two pages to a sheet and double sided, to get the most out of the paper. I was confronted with a problem, a lot of my readings were from websites where it was very difficult to copy and paste and edit down to my usual set of specifications. So I had to come up with a way to make it easier to make notes while reading without having to flip back and forth between word and the webpage and periodically losing where I was in the jungle that is Windows 8. I remembered I had a small flat screen my dad bought me in first year and with my new computer’s specifications there shouldn’t be any problems hooking it up. After a lot of rummaging I finally found a VGA cable and hooked up the screen. I changed the input on the flat screen to VGA and the screen came alive!! However, it was the exact same image that was on my laptop, slightly anti-climactic. I fiddled around with the settings and FINALLY found the option for Devices that led to “Second Screen”. I cheered! I chose the option to extend the screen to my flat screen and with that, I cheered again!

Then came getting back to my readings. I was amazed with how seamlessly I could move from reading to note taking without even losing my spot. I cannot believe I didn’t think to implement this sooner, it is the greatest technological advancement that I have mastered by myself within the last little while and I be happier. Hence this very optimistic post. 

 

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Oh the (Digital) HUMANITY!

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www.aweber.com

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?

Sources/Readings:

http://resolver.scholarsportal.info.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/resolve/17414113/v09i0012/933_btad

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2012/oct/19/academic-blogging-power-pitfalls-livechat

http://www.dancohen.org/blog/posts/professors_start_your_blogs

Sidenote:

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