You’ve Been Warned

May 21st, 2009

Reverend Warning

While I was having Jim help me work out my new site, this little warning popped up on my dashboard.

Let that be a warning to you UMWBlogs users. The Reverend is always watching and waiting for his moment to strike! 😉

This One Goes Out to the History Majors

September 29th, 2008

Married To The Sea
marriedtothesea.com

Recreation of Memory

August 29th, 2008

A few months back I listened to a podcast on memory from one of my favorite radio shows, Radiolab out of NYC.

While we often think of our memory as file cabinet and when we want to retrieve a memory we just go into the drawer and pull it out. Through experiments scientist have concluded that this file cabinet view is wrong and in actuality each time we remember something we create a new memory, so the more we think about something the less it is like what actually happened.

So what does this have to do with US history in film? Consider Birth of a Nation, a movie about slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction. Knowing the majority of US citizens go to the theater at this point in history, while they watch the movie they are forced to think about the time period. In thinking about that memory, either from what was learned or actual memories from the time, they are recreating it. So their memory is being slightly skewed towards what the film has presented.

Historical films force us to think about history (duh) and with that the memories of what we have learned about or experience during the time period. Knowing visual and audio leave a lasting impression on us and that we create new memories every time we remember, watching films can change (without us even realizing it) the way we view historical events.

August 29th, 1852

August 29th, 2008

I’ve blogged about This Date, From Henry David Thoreau’s Journal blog before on my other blog, but I enjoyed todays entry so much I had to share it with the UMW community.

We boast that we belong to the Nineteenth Century, and are making the most rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its own culture. We have a comparatively decent system of common schools, schools for infants only, as it were, but, excepting the half-starved Lyceum in the winter, no school for ourselves. It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men.

Funny how some things haven’t changed in the 150 years since Thoreau wrote those words. I also could not help but connect it to Barbara Ganley, who is exploring the idea of “uncommon schools” as we speak.

The Ghost of Tom Joad

August 27th, 2008

This semester I am also in a US History in Film class and in it we have to create an original online research project analyzing a particular film.

I’ve chosen the Grapes of Wrath and while I already know the Reverend has put some mighty fine clips of the film up on his blog awhile ago my brain usually runs off in a different direction.

So until I have something more substantial to say here is Bruce Springsteen’s ode to the films protagonist, “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1DEtA5fhk4k" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Faulkner & Morrison

August 26th, 2008

(image from cultural logic)

I am currently taking a course on William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and after the first class and doing some readings I am really excited for the class to get going.

I freely admit to being ignorant about souther writers although I have read a few novels by both Faulkner and Morrison. Being from the North attempting to understand the Southern mentality has always been like wandering into an unknown territory. Never quite sure what to expect.

Some of the first readings we have to do are Faulkner & Morrison’s acceptance speeches for the Nobel prize. Mary-Kathryn, who is also in the class, sent me a message with a link to some audio of Faulkner reading. Included on that site is the audio of the Nobel prize speech. Never having heard Faulkner’s voice before a jolt of excitement went through me as I heard him, southern twang and all, deliver the speech. In an instant Faulkner became real to me and his narrative is one of a new friend who I long to get to know. Oh yes, this will be a good seminar.

Download Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech

New Law

August 26th, 2008

Another school year at Mary Wash.
I have mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness, optimism, and cynicism.

So as promised when I started this blog, cheesy song lyrics for my current cynicism:

Derek Webb – A New Law

“Don’t teach me about politics and government,
just tell me who to vote for.
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty,
just label my music.

Don’t teach me how to live like a free man,
just give me a new law.

I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me.”

Fighting against the daily grind of automated student activity.

Digital History And All That Chaos

April 8th, 2008

One of the articles I read was “Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wiki(pedia)” by Christopher Miller. Wikipedia has been a hot topic in every academic department since it became a popular resource. I think Miller’s approach to the subject is the most even keeled way to look at the matter. One major point he hits on is that it is not necessarily about Wikipedia or online sources, but the skills that the researcher has when evaluating and analyzing them that are most important. Just as with every source that a historian uses they must compare it to others and check its sources. I think the root of the problem lies in people’s fear of the internet as a whole and anonymity and ever changing face of it. Anyone can post online and say anything and this scares a lot of people and it raises many questions, e.g. who and what defines an expert or a scholar in a certain field?

            An important aspect of Wikipedia is that it is community moderated and as stated in the article Wikipedia tends to have just as many errors as any encyclopedia, which, is impressive given everyone’s fears about how it is not a trustworthy resource. I believe Miller’s approach to teaching his students about sources is a step in the right direction. We are no longer in an age where scholars are in charge of history and the way it is interpreted. Miller’s point was not just to discuss Wikipedia, but the changing face of scholarship in the twenty first century. Like I said before what is most important in all of this is the students develop a sort of digital fluency in dealing with this relatively new way of researching. Even more basic than that students need the fundamental skills of critical thinking and analysis, skills that are apparently just supposed to happen while you are a college. Some people can pick up skills like this intuitively and from lots of experimenting and practice, but I think we are doing students a great disservice by not addressing these issues head on and more than one class a semester.

   

While reading Barbara Weinstein’s “Doing History in the Digital Age” it was interesting to see some of the problems we read about in our book and some of the problems we actually faced while doing these project she too also faced. The digital age has made process more transparent. Questions of how and where do we store things especially for long term.

            Like Miller she also addresses the fact that it is not just about being digital and while this important we need to make sure we are not going with technology for technologies sake. When discussing money distribution for projects in the humanities she notes the unfair advantage projects that met certain digital guidelines had over those that did not, she states:

“In a classic case of putting the cart before the horse, they would have to reduce the time and resources devoted to the crucial processes of transcription and tracking down references in order to ensure digital accessibility. The result would be a devaluing of an artisanal/scholarly process in favor of an industrial/technological mandate, with the likelihood that quality would be sacrificed.”

            This brings to mind the whole industrial knowledge of education and the standardized tests that plague the schools of our nation. In the abstract it looks like a good idea, but put into practice and in the long run it is helping very few people and probably hurting the overall cause. So, sometimes the question is raised, what is more important technological standards or quality? Now this doesn’t always hold true and it would be a false assumption to see these two on opposite sides of the spectrum, but this case shows us that we are not done answering all the questions the digital age has for us and it will be by thoughtful thinking, analysis and bit of trial and error that we determine answers for the digital age.

 

While reading this article I also thought about copyright issues and so this is a bit of a tangent. While ideally everyone would have access to everything published freely and easily the truth is money makes the world go round and when publishers already make small profits there isn’t much incentive to make items electronically available. So where is the balance and how can we get all this information that should be available to the public with little cost, but still maintain the systems that produces these books that we want to read? Personally, I think a lot of the issues come from the length of the copyright period. Right now copyright laws are skewed in favor of the copyright holders while the public has to wait a lifetime (and then some) to have open access to these sources. One of the most obvious solutions would be to limit the copyright term to something reasonable in which the copyright holder still can make money off of it, but people also aren’t at a disadvantage because of the wait period. This seems obvious to me (and probably to you) but we have that whole silly government that seems to not want to agree with popular opinion, its not like we are in a democracy or anything…oh wait. Well, like I said money makes the world go around and to quote one of the major corporations who has helped extend the copyright, “It’s a small world after all”.

Tech and Junk

March 26th, 2008

This has been a hectic week and I’ve had a lot going on and have been busy with lots of stuff so I wanted to do a bit of an overview just so I can get it all down on digital paper.

Instead of keeping our blog on umwblogs our group decided to do a separate install on umwhistory. BUT after talking to the WP Master Jim Groom, who just made his return this week, we decided it would be just as easy to keep it on umwblogs and the burden of updates wouldn’t be on Dr.McClurken in the future to maintain the install of WP. So Jim and I (but mostly Jim) have been hacking away at the site on umwhistory, so I will probably be showing that one at our groups the presentation tomorrow. But moving the theme files will be easily done with the help of Jim’s backend assistance.

Jim and I also discovered there is a WP plugin that works with Simile timelines and so Jim is going to be kind enough to install the plugin and see if works. It would be much easier than creating our own navigation bar.

I’m working on another post detailing exactly what Jim has done for the site to take it from blog appearance to site appearance and all the possibilities that we have for categories and tags. Having the amount of markers we do it is helpful to have several ways to filter and search through them and the tag and category feeds will help us do just that. The possibilities are exciting.

Also Jim (did I mention how awesome he is?) recommended that we should grab the pictures from the VA site. I’m assuming since they are government property they are under public domain? Someone correct me if I am wrong. Jim also showed me a really easy way to get the google maps to work on the site so for each page we could possibly have a map for it. In addition another possibility is having a large google map that would cover all our markers and it wouldn’t be too hard at all.

There is still work to be done and I will eventually blog about the finer details and also how awesome the K2 theme for WP is, but that is for another time.

Now for a bit of randomness. After a conversation online last night I did a little photoshop this morning and created a Che Guevara-esque photo of Dr.McClurken.
So for your viewing pleasure:
jmguevara01.jpg jmguevara02.jpg

My question for you fellow Digital History students, what kind of caption do you see with this picture? Do you have a color preference? Oh and should there be t-shirts? Maybe a sort of I survived McClurken’s Digital History Seminar deal haha.

Way Overdue OneClick Install Post

March 19th, 2008

So I mentioned a few weeks ago about a WP plugin called OneClick install. It isn’t available on UMWblogs, but if you have a separate install or your own blog this a pretty nifty plugin.

If you google it you can find a site to download the plugin and in addition you will need the Firefox extension and that can usually be found with the download. If you don’t know how to install a plugin in manually there is a lot of documentation out there that can help you, but the nice thing about the OneClick Install is that once you install that you’ll never need to do it manually again!

So if you manage to do that (and if anyone is really interested and needs help I would be more than willing) once you have OneClick installed and the FireFox extension added you are just about set to go.

What does OneClick install exactly do? If you find a theme or plugin for WP that you like, instead of manually installing it OneClick allows you to do it right from the browser. First you need to make sure you are logged into the blog you want to install the plugin or theme, otherwise it won’t work. In addition when you find the file you want to install make sure that the link to the file is a direct link to the file, otherwise it won’t work either. I know it may seem like more work, but its not.  Once you have a file in your sites right click on it and in the menu pops up you will see an option for OneClick Install and you can either chose theme or plugin. Once that is done you can go the dashboard of your blog and activate the plugin and there ya go!

Hopefully this plugin can help you save some time and frustration.