Category Archives: Reviews

Revised Personas

Persona 1

Name: Carol Willburg
Demographic: white, early 60s, college educated, upper-middle class
Descriptive Title: Former City Council Member, who, with her husband, owns and runs a Glass Shop in town and is considered the local historian.
Quote: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
A Day in a Life Narrative:
She begins the day by walking her dog and then walking around the corner to the Glass Shop to open up at 8 A.M. and greet the first customers. As a city council member, she used to be involved in the inter-workings of the city’s policies. Once a month she would run the show and call the shots at meetings, which she still sits in to keep tab on all the happenings in town. Currently, she enjoys spending her time exploring the county’s libraries searching for books on the history of her town. This activity keeps her occupied and expands not only her knowledge of local history, but also her private collection of historical memorabilia. With her husband’s help and expertise the old photographs and documents become digitized, preserved, and displayed in their private collection. After making her rounds at the libraries, she also enjoys going to Soul Treasures, an antique shop, in search of more artifacts to add to her research. This also the setting for casual local gathering, which she often attends. In addition, she volunteers as a member of the local high school board. This fulfills her desire to stay involved with the community projects and provides a platform for her interest in spreading local history.
End Goals:
Through her extensive research, she wants to preserve the city’s rich history. To help streamline the efficiency of the archiving process, she hopes to improve her computer skills. To keep up her journalism background and her work at the local newspaper, she preserves pieces of the city’s history by writing short narratives for the collection of old and new photographs to be included in her upcoming book.

Persona 2

Name: Todd Sullivan
Demographic: white, male, early 90s, middle class
Descriptive Title: Retired Air Force pilot
Quote: Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.
A Day in a Life Narrative:

In his days as a pilot, he flew dangerous missions in many foreign lands. When first given the option to be relieved from active duty at the end of WWII, he instead applied to become a flight instructor to teach the next generation of pilots. He used his skills from the Air Force to train the future crop dusters of the valley. These days, he meets for breakfast at Denny’s with his old military buddies. Even in retirement, he checks on the crop dusting business, stays involved by advising novice pilots, and appears at events commemorating past achievements of local heroes. The occasional invitation to fly as the guest of one of the pilots at the local airport gives him great pleasure and a rare opportunity to reminiscing of the old days and sneak in a few rounds flying a plane.

End Goals:

He offers his stories to anyone who is a willing listener. However, the bulk of his free time is dedicated to learning about new technology developed for aviation, especially in the line of crop dusting planes. Ultimately, he wants to preserve the memory of the thousands of pilots who served the local community and the country. As he has gotten older, he strives to maintain an active lifestyle thus he stays involved in the community, goes to city functions, and meets with family members of his old buddies from the flight school.

Comparative Review of the National Steinbeck Center and Its Digital Presence

National Steinbeck Center, One Main Street, Salinas, CA 93901 http://www.steinbeck.org/index.html

I have visited the National Steinbeck Center many times before, however, I was compelled to do it again, so I could walk through and view it with the fresh eyes of a public historian. The place is primarily dedicated to the memory and work of John Steinbeck. It is named appropriately a “center” because it has been the focus of events and activities that promote learning about literature, culture, history, human nature, art, and agriculture. The building was erected two blocks from Steinbeck’s childhood home, and is standing nearly in the same spot where once his books were burned. It stands at the end of Old Town’s Main Street, waiting for visitors of Salinas to walk in and complete the journey. Steinbeck’s large transparent portrait hangs from the ceiling greeting visitors, though to the curious eye it is visible from the outside as well. It suggests a promise that the history – personal or public – will be presented through Steinbeck’s transparent view.

The museum tells Steinbeck’s personal history, the history of his writings, the history of people and events evoked and critiqued by him, and offers the story of his legacy. I believe the main argument embodied in the site is evident in the questions Steinbeck raised with his writings and still continues to examine regarding communities, deceits, families, dignity, good and evil and man’s inhumanity to man. Steinbeck himself is a symbol of controversy; he was both despised and revered during his lifetime.  Steinbeck told the truth during the Great Depression, during the wars, and  about America in the 60’s. Thus the primary audience for this place is made up of people who read Steinbeck’s novels and appreciate his empathy of historical struggles, his ability to tell the truth, and his mastery as a writer.

The entrance to the exhibit invites the audience on a journey, first and foremost into the literary heritage of Steinbeck, and then to the familiar places he evokes in the books. The museum is a walking tour starting with the first of several maps, this one shows the setting of Steinbeck’s novels. There is a map of Steinbeck’s expedition to the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California, the map tracing his travels with Charlie, his beloved dog, and the map of Europe lighting up the places he had visited during and after the war. The walk begins with Steinbeck’s personal history, tracing back to his parents and grandparents, portraying photographs, small bits information, a bed, books, and more personal memorabilia. This leads into the first novel of the exhibit, East of Eden, which includes Steinbeck’s own family in the narrative.

Steinbeck’s words are all over the exhibit. They are printed on pillows, inside drawers, on the walls, and behind doors. Surrounding each section or turn of the walk historical locations come to life drawn from the books: a wooden railing, a large poster of downtown Salinas about a hundred years ago, children can sit on a red pony, or in a Model T Ford and pretend. Scenes from the movie based on East of Eden are played on a TV screen or read by actors. Around the next corner, visitors will encounter another time, another place where they can try on the clothes Of Mice and Man’s Lenny and George.
Words reveal themselves with the pull of a sword, by opening a safe, and pushing a button. Further down the “road”, visitors walk through Monterey’s Cannery Row, then to the beach in Mexico, and in one sharp turn, they will be faced with rubble from WWII. Each one of Steinbeck’s novels creates its own world, location, history, and language while interacting with visitors. There are puzzles, questions, and references from the books reminding those who read them and intriguing others to open them. Many of the quotes, information, and questions are translated into Spanish as well – mainly the ones that come from the books set in Mexico or tells stories of Mexicans.

The last section of the walk leads to the East Coast, where Steinbeck lived and work towards the end of his life. The tone of the exhibit seems to turn more political, serious, and reflective. Turning from fiction to nonfiction, from the empathy of humanity’s struggles and triumphs to the sharpness of reality still hunting it. The last turn displays Steinbeck’s achievements and legacy as a writer and the visitors leave with a sense of accomplishment that is colored with sadness and joy as it yearns to know more. In the lobby a small theater shows two movies: a Steinbeck Biography and a hanging menu of movies and documentaries made from or about his books.  Before leaving, visitors can browse in the bookstore and purchase not only Steinbeck’s books, but most of the publication in connection to his writings and history, along with other Steinbeck memorabilia.

The exhibit is a journey into Steinbeck’s books and through that into his thought With each turn a new page opens and a new idea is revealed. Visitors are without a docent or a guide, although there is a person at the entrance of the exhibit by the sign-in book who will answer questions about the museum. The flow of traffic is easy ad interactive, thus people may go back to a certain book, explore a room, sit in the boat, or ponder about a quote. It is hard to think of one more way to exhibit a writer, his work, and relevance.

While the National Steinbeck Center exhibits focus on exploring the writer’s books in historical, cultural, and artistic context, the official site on the Internet presents a community oriented cultural center. The front page reveals current events, such as Steinbeck’s annual birthday celebration, the Young Author’s Program, the Festival, and the Newsletter. Other events include the Day of the Dead, Mariachi, Comic Con, and the Sweet Thursdays. The site is easy to navigate and puts out practical information starting with general knowledge for visitors; directions, fees, calendar, contact, and suggestions to explore Salinas and the surrounding tourist attractions. Links to events, education, about the staff and board members, about John, the museum store, and ways to support the center are to guide users to gain more information.

Facebook, Tweeter, and Intagram are further spreading the news generated from the National Steinbeck Center. Each of these social media sites have a good number of followers as they post photos from the events, about books, and more. The site is currently under construction, it is being rebuilt because of the previous site’s hot went bankrupt. Thus, some of the drop-down menus are lacking information.

Although, there is a contact section, through which visitors of the site may reach the staff of the center, there is no opportunity to interact with it, except via Facebook or Tweeter. Researcher will find the archives link incomplete, however, they will be able to review the rules regarding access to materials and contact the archivist. The education tab is still under work, but it promises two opportunities for schools to involve students in reading Steinbeck and interacting with the Center to enhance the experience. I was interested in reading about the Center’s history, about the design, the architect, and especially wanted to find out more how the transparent portrait came to be – this will have to wait too.

While, I was completely in awe of the physical appearance, presentation of material, and effect of the Steinbeck Center, the digital face is lacking more than one way. People visit this place from around the world and a way to reach interested audience through the Internet would benefit not only the center itself, but also the events, and materials housed there. Crowdsourcing opportunities to share experiences of readers, visitors, artists, students or teachers inspired by Steinbeck’s work could enhance the digital experience with stories, lessons, or photos. In addition, I find it curious why the web site does not offer any information about the museum  exhibit at all. A menu should include elements of the museum and the theater along with the shop and the events.

 

Survey of the Fields

How has the work of digital public history changed over time?

The early phase of digital public history appears to focus on disseminating information, photographs, and documents for teaching and research purposes. The audience engagement, based on images and information, assumes that visitors are searching to find out more about the given topic’s history. The Blackout History Project  solicited input to enhance the collection and broaden perspective, however, the soul purpose seems to inform the public of these events. Later, the digital public history work shows great advancement in the design of sites, the navigation and inclusion of video and audio recordings have moved the historical process to another level. These sites expand on the purely research and historical information in a way that they aim to gather responses from visitors of the site. Part of the historical experience is to share and examine the effect of history on contemporary audiences. They tell the stories and examine the perspectives to allow for a broader understanding and interpretation. This lends itself to great educational purpose, such as the Raid on Deerfield project. The more contemporary sites of the digital public history move towards outsourcing digitized historical documents. These sites also incorporate social media to reach a wider audience and invite more contributors. The educational purpose is still prevalent and desired by some, for instance the Lincoln at 200.  It seems that while early sites were offering, revealing and making information available, the more recent sites have a slight shift in focus inquiring help, collaboration, or interest in spreading history while revealing new perspectives and connections to the public and to the individual.

What qualities should we be looking for as markers of good digital public history work?

The markers users, creators, and visitors of public digital history projects should be looking for good navigation, the quality of information that is driven by research, public interest, and asking or answering questions of history and the human experience within that history. These sites should be designed to fulfill a need to further explore histories that we know or we wish to know. It should examine perspectives with a critical eye and build its content to serve audiences of all sides. In addition, the site should have a strong presence on social media sites.

  What are promising new directions in this field?

One of the promising new directions are the ones that consider public history in light of   education. These sites offer an additional view of history as they supplement textbooks and lectures. Also, the ability to house and showcase document, photographs, and videos allows visitors to view, gather, or use these in research or education. The outsourcing aspect of this field is exciting because it not only involves the public, but also expands on historical research.

 

Doing Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities has been a curious adventure for me so far. I dove into this opportunity because of the recommendation of a professor at SJSU and the chance to expand on my experiences in literary studies. Having navigated the activities and studied the readings, I was steadily progressing in getting a grasp of DH and finding innovative prospects in Humanities. As each module built a new step towards the final project, I felt more and more confident mingling in this field and was excited to discover what directions I can take in regards to Literature by using digital tools.

Although my initial project to map East of Eden by John Steinbeck did not materialize, I did set off to use those ideas and instead applied them to Mapping Dubliners by James Joyce. All of John Steinbeck’s writings are under strict copyright and may not be available digitally for free use until the 75 years will pass after the death of the author.

With Mapping Dubliners, I did not have a tangible goal as far as an expected outcome; rather I was curious to see how DH can interpret, re-visualize, or present a new perspective about a classic literary piece that has been analyzed by many scholars. At first, I planned to see which digital tool offered a feasible opportunity to explore the text. Voyant seemed like a good start to look at word frequency. In the same time, I also realized that in order to complete a comprehensive mapping of the entire book, I needed to re-read Dubliners. As a result, I looked for the story with the most locations to begin — “Two Gallants” was the one.

The inspiration to execute the project came from Modules 7-9 when we looked at digital tools such as Voyant, CartoDB, and Palladio. I was particularly fascinated with two projects: Linked Jazz and Putting Harlem on the Map. The results these projects have put forth with the use of DH tools allowed for a fresh perspective in both cases. Ambitiously, I was hoping to do the same with my project. My queries regarding mapping Dubliners were: What more can we learn about the characters or the author’s intentions by looking at specific locations on the map of Dublin? How have these locations changed? How many still carry the same name? (As I found out some street names have changed.) What sorts of activities happen in those areas of Dublin today? How do they differ from the activities during Joyce’s time? Then of course, I realized that using these tools, I would simply just begin to scratch the surface. In order to answer these questions, perhaps crowdsourcing is a way to go by inquiring residents of Dublin about the places or gathering anecdotes or photographs to link to the locations. As a different approach, a twenty-first century Dublin could be constructed and linked to Joyce’s Dublin as it appeared in 1914.

In my project, I was curious to see how I might be able to manipulate Palladio and find a network of connections between characters and locations. I was able to work with the data to see the network of characters and locations in the story I have mapped. This made me think about how once all the stories are mapped,  the links of places and character, could offer a look at which part of the city the female characters are more likely to be versus the male characters. Overall, I believe that the data from one story alone is just not quite enough to show a bigger, more complex perspective.

While Palladio took me to visualizing simple links between characters and locations, I wanted to explore CartoDB’s mapping. Again, CartoDB gives a great visual of the places these two gallants were walking  through in the story, but I was not exactly sure what elements of the book these maps might enhance. Perhaps they do not have to add to the reading experience, only accompany it.

Then again, following the wonderful example of the Linked Jazz project, it would also be a promising prospect to create a linked map of the names of characters, pictures of locations, and quotes from the book. CartoDB has the ability to show character names, streets, and the limited text I added in from the story regarding what was happening at that location. In addition, this project might incorporate Irish music or any relevant audiovisual element to enhance the experience of reading Joyce’s book that is so deeply steeped in the geography and culture of Dublin.

As of now, the seeds of Mapping Dubliners is posted in my portfolio, however, in order to make it more comprehensive and interactive, it will have to be moved over to its own site. I hope to continue adding to this project by mapping the rest of the book and exploring other digital tools to see it evolve.

Working with DH tools, watching the media additions and reading the course literature, I have found that one of the remarkable aspects of Digital Humanities is that the ideas of a project grow in ways unexpected at the start. Via digital tools, visualization, links, presentations, and crowdsourcing these DH projects yield a certain historical and cultural expansion.

Social Media Strategy

My Digital Humanities final project is based on the Dubliners by James Joyce. I would hope that this project presents itself interesting to college students studying Literature or History, it could offer scholars, teacher working with the text, Dublin, Ireland, and also professionals involved in DH. People traveling to Dublin might also be interested in visiting sites in relation to Joyce’s novel.

I would venture to create a blog for the project to detail its development and perhaps invite additional input as a form of crowdsourcing to acquire ideas how to further build the project. I would hope to expand the mapping to connect photographs (both old and new) of the various streets, squares, churches, and universities mentioned. Any occurrence of criticism and journal articles will be encouraged to be posted and commented on by students/scholars. A Facebook page would also generate interest in tracking Dublin’s sites mentioned in the book. The general public would be invited to post pictures of their travels to those sites. In addition, literary events in connection to the book, Joyce, history of Dublin, and digital mapping might be posted on the page. Twitter may also offer a good platform to gather input on interest and share the process and progress of the project. It could generate discussions on Joyce’s political views of Ireland and whether they are pertinent or superficial today.

The messages will convey the progression of the project, as somewhat stated above. I am also hoping to invite outside source for the project to incorporate the images and perhaps input from Joyce scholars.

I plan to use the SMART goal rubric to measure the success of my strategy.

smart-goals

  • Specifically stating my audience: students, scholars of Literature, residents of Dublin, people who travel to Dublin.
  • I will measure the goals being met by monitoring social media sites and the responses to the developing project.
  • Make posts once a month, check for comments once a week.
  • Invite my students too comment(since they are reading the book) and share, also invite communities in relevance to Dublin.
  • The time frame will be aligned with the school year, so completion before the end of the term.

 

A Guide to Digitization

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  1. What can you capture, and not capture, when you digitize something?

Given that any object, sound, image, or text held in memory institutions can be digitized the possibilities seem endless and in the same time daunting the more one examines the material being digitized in light of the purpose of this endeavor. Digitization expands beyond simply preserving material as it offers items for a wider scholarly public to research. Through scanning, photographs, microfilms, and encoding essentially all material in institutes could have a surrogate made; digitization seems the new way to capture our history, culture, and art. However, when we digitize, “additional infrastructure (such as a database, a website front end, and an explanatory apparatus or additional teaching materials) is required in order to deliver the content successfully to users.” (Terras). In addition, Terras brings up the issue of what could or should be captured “Digitization programs aim to create consistent images of documents and artifacts which are fundamentally individual and inconsistent, presenting a variety of physical attributes and capture requirements to the digitiser. “ Which yields a concern of authenticity, purpose of use, and accessibility for items digitized. Therefore, Terras suggest that guidelines should be created for scanning, photographing, and cataloging material to ensure quality and a sort of uniformity in digitizing. Without a guideline for digitizing, a given material may lose certain elements after being digitized if the intended purpose was to focus on a limited aspect of the item. For instance, Conway discusses historical photographs and the way they may be enhanced through digitization by cropping, correcting fading, or adjusting high-density segments. In the same time, however, this process could eliminate crucial intended effects and alter the image.

  1. Which forms of digitization make the most sense for different types of items?

The Kitchen Activity illustrated well the digitization process most beneficial to different types of items. Digital images captured less of the categories examined. For example, color and size were captured through images, however, sound, texture, weight, and even color in some cases were captured more accurately with digital video. Thus, JPGs and GIFs are best for photographs, text, and maps. Images taken from multiple angles may also be satisfactory for pottery and statues for example. However, 3D imaging and Mp3 format may prove to be more accurate in creating surrogates of architecture or audio material.

  1. To what extent does working with digitized representations impact how we understand different kinds of items, and/or our ability to use them for different purposes?

“The Medium is the Message” declares Marlene Manoff  in “The Materiality of Digital Collections: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives”.   She explains that the differences between electronic and print media are creating different results in understanding and interpretation of texts and objects. Digital media allows the objects to be manipulated, rearranged, and combined in such ways that “new modes of textual creation may transform the nature and content. Manoff asserts that medium shapes content therefore we need to address the issues around how some information may not translate well between forms of media. In addition, if print translated into other formats looses meaning, there is a question about digital objects reproduced in print having similar fate.

Melanoff’s “Textual Scholarship” speaks to the physical aspects of a source. It is essential to consider that audio-visual aids and descriptions are helpful but not always practical or affordable for institutes. Moreover, they are transformative as seen in the example of the effort to have librarians see the content as abstract not part of the actual physical format. Then she illustrates the importance of the physical format through the EEBO database where the initial collection was not searchable therefore the accessibility of the texts has changed. This led to the creation of another version of the text, keyed in by hand, which scholars were able to read more easily and search as well. I think using digitized material yields some amount of research into the digital forms of its origin. Digitized representations of material may lead to new understanding or discoveries, however, it could overshadow details missed, left out, or altered in the process of digitization.