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Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age

WSSA: Scholarship in the Digital Age

On Friday, Brent, myself, and our colleagues Nic Sweirscek, Michelle Teidje, and Robert Voss will be participating at the Western Social Sciences Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a roundtable we proposed entitled “Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age: Asking New Questions and Exploring New Forms of Scholarly Communication with Digital Techniques.”  You can find our abstract below the fold.

The conference is open to the public, so we hope some of you can join us.  If you cannot, we will be doing a wrap-up of the discussion on the blog.  Also, I hope to provide a live feed of sorts on Twitter by tweeting the roundtable (you can follow me @jaheppler).

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Filed under: Conferences, Research, Scholarship, , ,

Framing Red Power: Newspapers and the Trail of Broken Treaties

Commentators, participants, and historians have suggested connections between the media and the political movements of the 1960s and their interactions that allowed activists to communicate their agendas. By utilizing media coverage of the Trail of Broken Treaties and ensuing occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1972 by the American Indian Movement, Indian activists secured a medium in which to voice their goals. The study of the relationship between mass media and the protest movements is important, historian Julia Bond has argued, because “until historians unravel the complex links between the southern freedom struggle and the mass media, their understanding of how the Movement functioned, why it succeeded, and when and where it failed, will be incomplete.” Bond’s declaration can be extended to other movements of the 1960s and 1970s that utilized mass media to their advantage.

The American Indian Movement forcefully inserted their agenda into public discourse and used the print medium to insert their voice into public policy debates. What sort of things were activists talking to the media about? What was the media reporting? Omitting? What was AIM’s message? Did the media report the demonstrator’s goals or was the message lost in the sensationalism of the occupation? Was the occupation of the BIA a successful strategy for disseminating their agenda? Framing Red Power analyzes the ways newspapers covered the American Indian Movement by bringing together digital technologies and traditional historiographical methodologies, allowing historians to pose new questions about the interaction between media sources and political actors.

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Filed under: Research, Scholarship, , , , , ,

Google Earth Election Overlays from the University of Richmond

I’ve neglected to point out that our good friend Andrew Torget and the crew at the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond partnered up with Google Earth and created map overlays to analyze state and county voting results from 1980 through 2004.  The Voting America map also includes demographic information from the U.S. Census that allows users to get a county-level look at how populations voted over time.  The collaboration builds upon the DSL’s Voting America: United States Politics, 1840-2004, which explores the last 164 presidential elections through cinematic and interactive maps.

Filed under: Research, Tools, , , , ,

Open Source Scholarship, and Why History Should Be Open Source

Open Access logoIn June 2006 the late Roy Rosenzweig published an article entitled “Can History be Open Source?  Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” in the Journal of American History.  Open source models like Wikipedia, Rosenzweig suggests, might offer alternatives to the historian’s highly individualistic and possessive craft.  The triumph of Wikipedia indicates the thirst for free and accessible information people have. The methods and approaches that have characterized Wikipedia’s success raises questions about how we produce, share, and debate scholarly work.

Open source in the technical sense means offering software and code available for free, allowing users to explore, extend, debug, or tweak in a highly collaborative atmosphere (open access refers to the principle of making research freely available; for my purposes I tend to think of the two together and often refer to them interchangeably – for instance, offering the raw XML of a transcribed newspaper article on my digital history project is both open source and open access by providing access to my research and access to the data and encoding behind documents).  Open source began with Richard Stallman, who voiced the idea of making computer code freely available for all to use and edit as long as they shared changes to the software.  In his wake came Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, and Brian Behlendorf, the developer of the free web server package Apache.  More below the jump.

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Filed under: Academia, Research, Scholarship, , ,

Tool Review: MIT’s Citeline

The open source tools created by MIT’s SIMILE project can help historians visualize their data in a variety of ways.  One of the project’s newer tools is Citeline, a WYSIWYG exhibit builder for bibliographies.  Recently, I experimented with this tool in constructing an exhibit with citation data for the digital history project I am undertaking. The  tool offers a simple interface for editing publication lists, bibliographies, and other citation information. This tool requires BibTeX files to run. BibTeX files are created by digital bibliographic services such as EndNote and RefWorks. The Citeline frequently asked questions describes how to import BibTeX files into the tool. On the other hand, one using Zotero can download Zotz, a firefox add-on that extends Zotero, to upload data directly to the Citeline service.

This tool is implemented very easily, requiring almost no HTML knowledge as the tool writes all of the code itself. The Zotero route for importing data into the MIT tool seems much simpler and straightforward, particularly if one is familiar with Zotero.  After downloading Zotz, one must simply click export data to Citeline and within seconds, all of the data in the Zotero library is available and usable. Once imported to Citeline, data is presented in a visual exhibit, downloadable and freely usable as an HTML file. The output is an online, multi-faceted interface in which users can investigate, analyze, and query citation data in lists or on a timeline. See the brief skeletal exhibit I created here. This output seems to combine Simile’s exhibit and timeline tools, by directing them towards citation data. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Research, Tools, , ,

Textual Analysis

In order for digital history to embrace and employ the great potential of the technological age, text encoding becomes necessary. Text encoding is one method of taking original textual materials from analog to digital representations, electronically searchable for scholarly research. XML is an encoding standard that assists in the creation, retrieval, and storage of electronic documents. Through text encoding and XML, researchers can gain a higher level of expertise about original texts and documents in electronic form. Such technology allows for systematic manipulation and analysis of complex historical texts, deciphering their intricacies into a more understandable form while preserving that complexity. Furthermore, Perry Willett asserts in his article “Electronic Texts: Audiences and Purposes,” “Electronic texts give humanists access to works previously difficult to find, both in terms of locating entire works, with the Internet as a distributed interconnected library, and in access to the terms and keywords within the works themselves, as a first step in analysis.” The digital tools available to historians for textual analysis have opened new realms of historical analysis. As a tool for researching, analyzing, and teaching, XML and textual analysis offers avenues of research to describe and analyze the literary and linguistic past.
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Filed under: Research, Scholarship, Technology, Tools, , , , ,

What is Digital History?

Digital History is the use of digital tools including audio files, interactive maps, video, timelines, and textual analysis in the quest for historical understanding. Since the Web emerged in the mid-1990s, sites devoted to history have pervaded the proliferating public space. In 1997, Michael O’Malley and Roy Rosenzweig suggested of the Web that it would less likely present a radically new paradigm or way of thinking regarding history, but rather serve as a space with speedy access to existing resources.[1] At that time, O’Malley and Rosenzweig’s prediction seemed fair. However, an interesting and noticeable progression surfaced in history’s uses on the Web, beginning with rapid access to teaching materials, then to research, and finally to scholarship.

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Filed under: Research, Scholarship, , ,

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