Category Archives: Guides

California Landmarks App

The California Historical Landmarks App is a smartphone applications that makes the history of California available to the general public. It features a database of over 800 state landmarks that have been dedicated to historic preservation. These features  include: an easy to use map interface within viewing the landmarks, the ability to “favorite” specific landmarks, check-in, add a photo, quickly jot personal notes about specific features, and the app alerts users when they are approaching a landmark. As part of the app’s selling point, they  argue that “When most think of The Golden State, they picture Hollywood or one of California’s iconic beaches, but few are quick to recognize the rich history the state encapsulates.” Thus, I quickly downloaded the free version (CALandmarks Lite) and located the nearest site, which is Fremont State Park. It tells me that I am 8.2 miles from it, I can get directions, and add a photo of my own or from the Library. The “Gallery” portion of the app is not available on the free download, but I assume that it shows photos taken at this site. Underneath the map, there is a short history of Fremont Peak and its discovery. The “real” app costs $ 0.99 and offers Standard, Hybrid, or Satellite map options. Users could search in the Landmarks page by name, by Counties, or by browsing the map and checking the pinpointed areas.

The creator of the site is Enola Labs, an Austin, Texas based technology consulting firm. They offer web development and hybrid solutions, native mobile application development on iOS and Android, legacy systems migration, architecture and custom software development, digital strategy, and technical consulting services for organizations. They have created another similar app for Texas Historical Landmarks.

Since, I am about to leave on a three-day trip to Death Valley, I will try out this app and continue the report to better layout the theory of history that they are putting forward. What I am expecting is being able to read about the place I am at, as I am viewing it, thus experiencing a more immediate and direct connection to the place.



To begin this post, I decided to check the Wikipedia page on crowdsourcing, which provides the evolution of this partnership between institutes and the wild crowd of the world. I particularly liked one of the several definitions offered, “Crowdsourcing is channeling the experts’ desire to solve a problem and then freely sharing the answer with everyone.” In the genuine spirit of crowdsourcing, the history reaching back to non-digital times presents some great examples: best solutions to measure ship’s longitudinal position outsourced by the British government in 1714 or the Mr. Peanut logo designed in 1916  by a 14-year-old boy who won the Planter Peanuts logo contest.


Both of these instances were playing off of the idea of community building, a common goal to solve a problem.

Crowdsourcing in the digital age makes even more sense. DH projects can greatly benefit time-wise and financially from involving the members of the public to solve problems such as transcribing many thousands of documents, making newspaper text corrections, fixing maps, tagging, and adding to collections of images. The Transcribe Bentham project and Papers of the War Department benefits from calling the members of the public to transcribe historical documents. The Trove and Building Inspector projects work with the public in correcting historic maps and text.

These projects, however, need to be publicized, so the public could discover them, as Sharon Leon of the Papers of the War Department expressed, “they won’t come just because you build it.” Social media sites are usually a good way to spread the news to go beyond the small community of researchers and scholars interested in a given history or cultural project.

Crowdsourcing is a joint venture where both parties benefit. While an overwhelming project gets done is a reasonable time frame, The public contributors will not only learn about facets of history, but also receive a satisfaction out of contributing to a greater good to further the development of researching humanities past.

Having contributed to Papers of the War Department and Building Inspector, I discovered that by experiencing the satisfaction of contributing to a historical research it also propels one to want to learn more thereby contribute more to the given project. It also allowed me to discover another aspect of DH and how it works. Building Inspector’s motto, “Kill Time. Make History” is probably drawing more people in by its catchy slogan and by the instant accessibility of its interface. While the transcription of the was documents offers a considerable learning experience both in transcription and in history, the Building Inspector aims for a fun experience in learning about maps of New York. There is also a safety net built into these projects as editors continuously check the work of volunteers.

I have been using wiki pages by pbworks with my students to share and collaborate on writings and projects. This crowdsourcing practice made me rethink how else I could have students learn by following the example of these practices create and correct projects of their own in a more collaborative way using the class wiki as a platform.


How To Read a WIKIPEDIA Article

As a teacher, I have always cautioned my students about using  and citing Wikipedia in their research papers. They are told by all of their teachers that it is not a reliable source, we do not know who had contributed to the page, and  the information found on a given page  may not be accurate. The one purpose, however, Wikipedia has always fulfilled is the initial information in a search. I have encouraged my students to scan Wikipedia for basic information to begin their research and to use the references or links given on the site to expand on the research. Which means that both teachers and students view Wikipedia as an unreliable source, but rely on the sources it offers. Thus, we need to re-examine its value and perhaps suggest a responsible approach to using and incorporating Wikipedia into professional research.

According to Ed Galloway & Cassandra DellaCorte at the University of Pittsburgh, “Wikipedia, of course, is not the new kid on the block, having been in formal existence since January 2001. It now contains 30 million articles in 287 languages and represents the sixth most trafficked website in the world” (“Wikipedia: About,” 2014). They make a point in their article, “Increasing the Discoverability of Digital Collections Using Wikipedia” how Wikipedia could become a trustworthy source, and also improved by careful editors that could lead to a shortcut of references to legible links. The Wikipedia project they have conducted at the University of Pittsburgh,  was done with the purpose to enhance the “discoverability of Pitt’s digital collections and finding aids by creating links from Wikipedia articles to relevant content held by the library’s specialized collection units as well as to generally improve the quality of articles by adding additional information.” The interns have editing nearly 100 articles in Wikipedia as they have developed their own strategies how to use and edit Wikipedia efficiently. They made decisions on the types of content to add and the way to present new and adequate information.

Since not all Wikipedia pages have gone through the editing process Galloway and DellaCorte describe, there are some essential questions that need to be addressed for successful use of Wikipedia. Who is creating the entries? Who is editing the entries? What do we know about their biographies? What changes are being made? Can I trust the information?

 Some users may not think about spending extra time to find answers to these questions, however, they can be extremely telling . After having scanned the page for its organization, the way it is divided and what the sections cover, users should go to the “History” tab to see a timeline of edits made. Here they can also check the user profiles of those making major contributions. By viewing the editor profiles, credentials, the frequency of edits, and the genera development of a given entry., users can assess for themselves whether to trust this information.

For instance, the details in the “History” of the Wikipedia page for Digital Humanities provide important factors about its creation and development over the past ten years.wikipedia_1

The page was created by Elijah Meeks in 2006. By looking at his biography, we find out that he is a Digital Humanities Specialist at Stanford University and used to study Wikipedia and open-source culture. The page offered a definition with sections explaining DH: Toolset, Lens, Document, Themes, Standards, References, External Links, and See Also. The definition of DH has gone through changes from the computing aspect of DH project, through a section on Humanities Computing Projects focusing on the digital process rather than on the programming. Not only the definition, but also the application  and scope of DH has continued to evolve in the Wikipedia page. The number of DH projects grew significantly by 2009. Also, a section for Journals in the field were added in 2009 February. By 2012, the Miscellaneous section grew including text mining, topic modeling, and new media. The Criticism and Controversies section began growing in 2013. The objectives/introduction section grew too big by 2014, so it was divided into Areas of Inquiry and Definition of DH. In addition, Meetings were added to the list of links to connect to conferences. In 2016, the sections grew to include 11 areas of concern in DH.

Contributors for the DH Wkipedia come from a wide range of professionals, such as professors, librarians, researchers, scholars in education and in classical studies.  Of course there are others with no profile like John Unsworth, ClueBot NG, or the ones represented with numbers. Several of the professors are associated with the University of London such as Simon Mahoney and Gabriel Bodard, proving that there must be an institutional presence as well on Wikipedia. I was delighted to find a biography on one of my country men, Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, who is a widely published researcher among other things in cultural studies, media studies, communication studies, literature (English-, French-, German-, and Hungarian-language literatures and cultures), Central and East European studies, Holocaust studies, historical genealogy.

 Besides the history, the editors, and their contributions, users of Wikipedia could examine the references and links keeping in mind credibility ans sources, such as scholarly articles vs. other Wikipedia or Internet posts.  In addition, it is useful to check what sections have been most contested on the page by clicking on “Talk” and viewing discussions between editors . Although, it did not help me much, it was a bit difficult to discern the direction of these discussions.


Overall, it was an eye-opener to deconstruct the DH Wikipedia page and view it from the other side. All these years, I have never considered looking into the making of these pages.  It was also extremely enlightening to read “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” by Roy Rosenzweig and gain a much clearer understanding of the origins of Wikipedia, its policies and guidelines for users and contributors – especially from the perspective of the deeply individualistic historical scholarship. Both the articles discussing Wikipedia and the Digital Humanities Wikipedia page seemed to be encouraging regarding vandalism of pages and information; the problem is quickly eliminated and corrected. DH is a uniquely newer discipline in the scholarly world, thus examining its developing history on Wikipedia is quiet exciting. The page seemed to represent the evolving nature of this field in Humanities. Other, more commonly known topics might yield different results in the analysis of the page contribution history. Rosenzweig asks, “Can the wiki way foster the collaborative creation of historical knowledge?” As the University of Pittsburgh project shows, it can and hopefully Wikipedia itself will continue to evolve and more institution and scholars decide to improve its pages.