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Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age

Tool Review: Google Earth for Digital Historians

With tools like Google Earth, historians can construct interactive and engaging forms of history. Users can generate graphical representations of events to visually convey events. For instance, Google and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) collaborated to spread awareness of the genocide in Darfur [link]. The overlay they generated includes descriptive HTML that presents users with first-hand testimonies, pictures, the locations of refugee camps, and links to video clips. The Darfur map included an overlay that could be turned on that displayed 3D columns to visually represent the numbers of displaced persons. Teachers may speak of 200,000 displaced individuals, but to visually represent such numbers conveys greater weight to a subject. The same approach could be taken with historical events, such as using columns to display war casualties in World War II or the location and relevant information of Nazi death camps. Additionally, students could get an idea of how early cartographers viewed the planet with the Dave Rumsey historical maps [link] or explore the geographic and historical data related to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake [link].

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Filed under: Scholarship, Tools, , , , , ,

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, , , , , ,

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, , ,

Kindle as a Metaphore for the History Web

Amazon is featuring on its main page that the Kindle is shipping right away after months of being back ordered because of insufficient production to meet the demand. Also, they’ve published their letter to shareholders (PDF alert), which focuses almost exclusively on the Kindle. Reading the letter, it sounds like Jeff Bezos has some big plans for going completely electronic. More below the jump.

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Filed under: Books, Scholarship, , ,

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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