Digital Clio


Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age

Tool Review: TokenX and Language Analysis

The proliferation of linguistic tools for analysis has opened new avenues for historians working in the digital realm. Textual analysis is the study of newspaper articles, books, laws, oral histories, and other forms of human communication. Textual analysis digital tools better enable historians to decipher language usage, frequency, and significance in the context of discourse, rhetoric, and ideas. These robust digital tools thereby provide numerous possibilities that can inform historical research and communication strategies that can introduce new thinking into the current historiography. Brian Pytlik Zillig at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed TokenX as a powerful tool for analyzing text. While TokenX continues to undergo revision and further development, tools like this one can help historians integrate textual analysis in their research to analyze connections in language and across several texts.

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Filed under: Scholarship, Tools, , , , ,

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, , , , , ,

Jason: Life Update

With so much going on in the last few months, Digital Clio has regrettably fallen to the wayside.  Since nothing has appeared here since April, I thought the blog deserved a brief update running through everything going on:

Rawley Conference
At the end of April I was elected to be the Chair/Director of the James A. Rawley Conference in the Humanities, a graduate-student run conference held on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Over the next few months the groundwork will be put in place for the conference, including when the conference will be held, the theme of the conference, and arranging the keynote speaker.

We’re also hoping to launch a blog to make it easier for us to keep in touch with those interested in the Rawley Conference.  In the mean time, you can follow updates on the Conference with Twitter.

Wedding Bells in the Air
At the end of June I married my best friend and other half.  We were also in the process of relocating to a new apartment.  She was also busy finishing up tasks related to her degree/new job.  Needless to say, May and June were incredibly busy for both of us.

Onwards and Upwards
In the middle of moving and wrapping up wedding plans, I finished writing my thesis in June and successfully defended it at the beginning of this month.  The last week or so has been spent trying to finish revisions and suggestions brought up by my thesis committee.  It will be a great feeling to have it off my desk!  This fall I’ll be starting the Ph.D. program at UNL.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West
Brent and I were both hired to work as Research Assistants for the coming academic year with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, which is starting the Papers of Buffalo Bill digital history project.  Brent is handling research on the Rough Riders and I am tackling the show Indians Cody used in his Wild West shows.  The goal, on my end at least, is the creation of a database tracking the name of Native American performers, tribal and linguistic affiliations, their hometowns, what parts they played in the show, among other things.

Teaching Historical Thinking
During the spring semester I served as a teaching assistant for Dr. William Thomas, along with my colleague Leslie Working.  Throughout the course of the semester we devoted much time and energy to fostering historical thinking among our undergraduates by using digital technology such as PRS Clickers and Wikis for group writing assignments.  Leslie and I are co-writing an article about the results we received over the semester that we hope to publish in the near future.  In October, we will be presenting our results to the Teaching History Forum hosted by the History Department at UNL.

TokenX Review
Brent and I are also co-writing a review of TokenX that should appear on Digital History in the next couple of weeks.

Related to Digital History, we’re currently in the process of creating a digital historian directory, which will provide a way for historians to connect with one another and view projects they are working on.  You may want to watch Digital Clio or the Doing Digital History blog for news of its launch.

Book Chapter Drafts
Brent and I both have book chapters either out to publishers, or will soon have them submitted to publishers.  I anticipate heavy amounts of editing in the future, but for the mean time, they’re off my desk.

A Blogging Resolution
Finally, I hope to pay much more attention to the blog from here on out.  I hope the blog will become a central place where you can see my thought process or read my thoughts/ideas on digital history.  My plan is to set aside chunks of time to devote to the blog where I can post something new at least twice a month (baby steps…), but ideally I would have something new every week.  You can also follow me on Twitter (@jaheppler) or FriendFeed (jaheppler).  If you haven’t already, you may want to subscribe to our blog.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Foundational Material in Digital History

This post by Rafael Alvarado has been making the rounds on Twitter and got me thinking about, more specifically, what material would be a useful introduction to digital history (as opposed to digital humanities).  Here’s my list in chronological order:

  1. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” The Atlantic (July 1945)
  2. Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors: Psycho-History, Quanta-History and History (1974)
  3. Roy Rosenzweig, Steve Brier, and Josh Brown, Who Built America? From the Centennial Exposition of 1876 to the Great War of 1914, CD-ROM (1993)
  4. Roy Rosenzweig and Michael O’Malley, “Brave New World or Blind Alley?  American History on the World Wide Web,” JAH (1997)
  5. Edward Ayers, “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History”  (1999)
  6. Edward Ayers, “History in Hypertext” (1999)
  7. Robert Darnton, “An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-century Paris” AHR (2000)
  8. Philip J. Ethington, “Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge” (2000)
  9. Roy Rosenzweig and Michael O’Malley, “The Road to Xanadu: Public and Private Pathways on the History Web,” JAH (2001)
  10. David Staley, Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology will Transform Our Understanding of the Past (2002)
  11. Orville Burton, Computing in the Social Sciences and Humanities (2002)
  12. Edward Ayers and William G. Thomas, The Valley of the Shadow (2003)
  13. Edward Ayers and William G. Thomas, “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities,” AHR (2003)
  14. Roy Rosenzweig, “Scracity or Abudance?  Preserving the Past in a Digital Era” AHR (2003)
  15. Dan Cohen, “History and the Second Decade of the Web,” Rethinking History (2004)
  16. William G. Thomas, “Computing and the Historical Imagination” (2004)
  17. Edward L. Ayers, “Doing Scholarship on the Web: Ten Years of Triumphs–And A Disappointment” Journal of Scholarly Publishing (2004)
  18. Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web (2005)
  19. William G. Thomas, “Writing a Digital History Journal Article from Scratch: An Account,” Digital History (2007)
  20. William Turkel, The Programming Historian (2008)
  21. Andrew Torget, Texas Slavery Project (2008)
  22. Interchange: The Promise of Digital History,” JAH (2008)

If you were completely new to digital history and trying to get a grasp of what it was about and what it entailed, this is the list I would probably hand you.  The texts might be a bit heavy on the development of digital history as a field rather than the theory of digital history, but at twenty-one books, essays, and projects, I thought I’d cut the list off before it became unwieldy. Perhaps I’ll add a post about reading material for a theory of digital history to my blog post idea list (which grows and grows…).  Clearly, this list is not a definite canon of digital history, but I think it gives you a good picture of where the field has been and where it might be going.  I’ve tried to catalog a variety of projects and reading material that I found important to my understanding how the field has (and is) developed.

Any other suggestions?  Nit-picks?  Disagreements?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

EDIT: Fixed link on the Thomas (2007) piece.

Filed under: Scholarship,

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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JAH Starts Podcasting

The Journal of American History launched their podcast, “JAHcast,” this week.  Their initial podcast features John Nieto-Phillips speaking with James Meriwether about his article, “‘Worth a Lot of Negro Votes’: Black Voters, Africa, and the 1960 Presidential Campaign.”  This is a good first step for the journal to provide open access to research — I’d love to see JAH add panels from their annual meetings and other discussions to their podcasting service rather than center the show on a single article.  But it’s good to see  the journal engaging new digital technologies.

(Thanks: Dan Cohen)

Filed under: History, Podcasts, , ,

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, , , , ,

Readings for Digital History

We’ve added a page of digital history readings that we’ll keep updated as books come across our desks.  I thought it might make a useful resource for readers interested in learning more about history in the digital.  If you’re into the fabrication side of things, Bill Turkel has posted some light winter reading for digital humanist makers.

Filed under: Books

The Mouse Turns 40

Seeing as how this blog deals with technology and history, I thought it appropriate to point out that the humble mouse turned forty today.


Filed under: News, ,