Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Session 6: transitioning forward

Cohen and Rosenzweig, chapters 7, 8, and conclusion
  • What is Creative Commons? What are its implications for scholarship?
  • What is copyright? How does copyright protect you, frustrate you, as a historian? What is fair use?
  • How are sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc., dealing with copyright and images?
  • How do you feel about copyright? Alternatives? Is open access an alternative?
  • Copyright is a big complicated mess. If you were creating a digital history project, for a class, say, what should you do: 1) about copyrighting the project and 2) about any primary sources you wanted to include?
  • What are the takeaways from this chapter for you?
  • Should we seriously worry that historical study will be impossible in the future?

Kelly, chapter 5 and conclusion
  • Do we agree with Kelly’s implicit suggestion that digital history = online history?
  • Do you want your professors to add online components to your classes? What if the cost is reduced skills that are the traditional goals of graduate classes, like close reading, analysis, and understanding of the past?
  • “While historians might be tempted to scoff at such mash-ups and remixes as ahistorical or simply silly, the popularity of such work cannot be denied.” Is this a good argument? Where does “popularity” fit into history professors’ goals?
  • Are we content to do “thought experiments” such as the Tank Man video Kelly discusses?
  • What do you think of the “Lying about the Past” course?
  • Given the intentionality of the hoax, let’s revisit how we know whether to trust online sources.
  • Given how long things last on the internet (long or short?), was it a reasonable assumption that the class could really “take down” the hoax at the end of the class?
  • Idea of “zombie facts”
  • How can you give grades in a course like Lying about the Past?
  • What do you think of the decision of the GMU department that Kelly could not continue to teach the Lying about the past class?

Questions for going forward
  • What do we know now about how to think about digital history that we didn’t know at the start of the semester? What questions do we have now that we did not formerly have?
  • Let’s try to construct the steps you need to build a Digital History project
  • Brainstorm possible projects and paper questions

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Flaw in the course plan

I've figured out one of the things that I should be doing differently in this class. Too much of our talk about digital history is abstracted from real world experience. We need to have more doing of digital history built into the course from the beginning.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Session 5: Matching Historical Goals and Presentation

I have been pulling up the blog in class so that the questions are available during discussion. However, because the question list is too long and we often have other material up on screen, they have not had the effect of spontaneously directing classroom discussion.


Overriding question: The internet offers us so many options for presenting and gaining historical information. How do we know which ones to use? Goal of class discussion: develop criteria for thinking about how to answer this question.

Cohen and Rosenzweig, chapter 6
  • What methods can you use to figure out what research collection approaches match your intent?
  • What questions should we be asking about the reliability of witness testimony collected through online sites? Are such questions any different than those we would ask about oral histories or archived documentary history?
  • What are the takeaways in terms of advice about when you build your own digital collecting project?

Tweet Me a Story
  • What did you learn about how Twitter works from this essay? What are the strengths and weaknesses of how Twitter works?
  • Why did one student in the class refer to the essay as a blog? What’s the difference between a blog and an essay?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter as a platform for telling a longer story?
  • Does carefully organizing tweets into a story, perhaps with posts from other media included, undermine the instant-gratification effects of Twitter?
  • What role might Twitter, and storytelling through Twitter, have in history in particular?
  • What effect does the author gain by invoking the historical practice of serialization of novels in magazines before being sold in book format?

Kelly, chapter 4
  • In this age of so many possibilities for presenting your historical information and ideas, how do you know which one (or sequence) to use?
  • Should we be asking students to write in a variety of forms (such as Tweeting) or should we defend the value of the traditional linear essay? What have you gained from the traditional linear, analytical essay? What are its essential virtues? Can we make a comparison to practicing your scales if you are a piano player—you shouldn’t venture out into these other formats unless you have the basic approach down?
  • Why are/were grades private? Is public feedback on a work in progress more motivating? Is my reluctance to share work in progress born from a perfectionism characteristic of those very people who go on to become professors? Should student projects have a life after the end of a class?
  • Have I made the goals of the class blogs sufficiently clear? What are the pros and cons of the blogging platforms that you have started up your blogs on?

Evaluating Multimodal Work
  • Would you feel comfortable using these criteria to, say, assess the work of students in Mills Kelly’s class?
  • Do all of these criteria seem to apply to student work? What kind of student work is she talking about?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Session 4: A lot of content and a lot of users

 This week we will be talking about the problem of the web: there are so many websites and so many potential audience members. How do we relate to them and each other?

The readings are:
·         Roy Rosenzweig, “Scarcity or Abundance: Preserving the Past in a Digital Era.” American Historical Review 108 (3) (2003): 735-762.
·         Alisea Williams McLeod, “Student Digital Research and Writing on Slavery: Problems and Possibilities,” in Web Writing: Why & How for Liberal Arts Teaching & Learning, edited by Jack Dougherty et al., http://webwriting.trincoll.edu/crossing-boundaries/student-digital-research-and-writing-on-slavery-problems-and-possibilities/

Kelly, chapter 3
  • What does it mean to suggest that documents “read each other”? What are the valences of the word “recombinant”?
  • What are the differences between the HTML and XML markup examples (presidential speeches)? What does Kelly say is the significance of those differences?
  • What kinds of problems does the abundance of digital primary sources create for historians? How can we keep track of all the sources we can find, much less read and analyze them all?
  • Tools like JSTOR as more than just repositories for keeping track of journals, but potentially offering a powerful, new kind of search that will create juxtapositions of sources we could not easily bring together on our own.
  • How much is an “exabyte”?
  • Is this comment overblown: “being able to use machine methods for making sense of this massive database of historical text is no longer a luxury—it is an imperative.” Are our goals as historians and teachers of history about accessing the past through every possible route, or about understanding what we are capable of understanding? Does it matter, if (for example), I can’t use quantitative analysis or read a non-English language? Are these tools simply expanding the range of what some of us can do, or are they placing new imperatives on us for the central tasks of historical understanding?
  • “Software still cannot analyze text in all the ways a historian would, but it can suggest interesting starting points for that analysis, and with each passing year the text mining and analysis algorithms get better and better.” This passage suggests that historians need to learn to skirt back and forth between mining data and reading evidence. Do we need to teach data mining in graduate school? To undergraduate history majors?

Rosenzweig, “Scarcity or Abundance?”
  • What are the problems of scarcity and abundance that we face in the digital age?
  • What are the problems involved in preserving the digital record? What are the problems of interpreting in the digital record?
  • What kinds of gaps in historical evidence can you recall having run into in your own research?
  • Are we likely ever to encounter “an essentially complete historical record”?
  • Will the students in the class who are also in SOIS talk about what they know about the preservation of digital records?
  • The problem of ownership of digital records. How does private ownership affect your ability to access sources?
  • What does this comment about the Pitt Project mean: it “broadens the role of archives and archivists through its focus on ‘records as evidence’ rather than ‘information’”? What is the distinction between information and evidence being made here?
  • What would you do if historical research were “disintermediated”? What is the ongoing role of libraries and especially archives?

  • How does this faculty member take advantage of the abundance of digital resources to transform her students’ learning experiences?
  • “I believe that a new infusion of history into American culture—through digitization and social media—may raise an issue of our students’ rights to their own temporality as we increase their exposure to controversial, historical documents.” What might she mean by this? How might her field—Rhetoric and Composition—encourage practitioners to think about time in a different way than historians approach it?
  • Why would the chance to share their research with the public through the internet incentivize students to continue their involvement beyond the period of the semester?
  • “ongoing digitization of historic records like the ROF make it all but inevitable that not only they but the entire world will soon have to confront problems and possibilities that come from widespread re-infusion of the historical.” Given what our other authors suggest about the problem of abundance, is it likely that digitization of historical records will encourage everyone to think about the past more? Or will we be overwhelmed?

Cohen and Rosenzweig, chapter 5
  • We have a potentially abundant audience—but how can we find it and let it know about our projects?
  • Do you feel a reluctance to build an audience, or a lack of knowledge about how to do so?
  • What do you think about the ideas for DH website promotion that DC&RR discuss? What opportunities do they omit because they were not available when the book was published in 2006?
  • When should you work on the publicity for your project?
  • How will you know if your site is being well used?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Session 3

Cohen and Rosenzweig, chapters 2, 3, and 4
Kelly, chapter 2

Ø  DC&RR open chapter 2 by pointing out the existence of subtle clues in the physical makeup of books that tell us about the history of the project, clues that animate how we think about them as we read them. Let’s enumerate them for:
Ø  Traditional books and articles
Ø  Digital history projects
Ø  53: are DC & RR really opposed to “planning ahead” for DH projects?
Ø  What did you learn from the discussion of “getting started” about particular approaches to solving technical problems? Does this part of the book stand the test of time?
Ø  How does the availability of primary sources on the internet affect the way you conduct research?
Ø  What are the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to digitization of primary sources that you have encountered?
Ø  How does the technology allow new and different historical questions to be asked and answered?
Ø  OCR: example of Joe Austin and ProQuest
Ø  Terms: metadata
Ø  Is it worthwhile trying to distinguish a digital history project and a digital archival project?
Ø  What did you learn about design from DC&RR’s discussion?

Ø  What is “real historical research”?
Ø  What strategies do you use for search? Do you start history paper research differently than daily curiosity research?
Ø  How do you handle the problem of search abundance?
Ø  Terms: Dublin Core
Ø  How do the skills Kelly advocates for teaching search literacy gibe with and diverge from what you know about basic historical literacy?

Ø  Do you agree with Kelly about the sustained value of going to chat with the history liaison librarian?