Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What is Digital History? Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography
Ayers, Edward L. "The Pasts and Futures of Digital History: Edward L. Ayers." The Virginia Center for Digital History at The University of Virginia. Last modified 1999.
            Ayers recommends that students take advantage of the vast amount of items that are available to them digitally and “embark on research projects that would have been impossible just a few years ago.” Ayers suggests that be working with digital tools students and professional historians will be able to open themselves to a wide variety of tools and be able to complete projects that would never have been possible in the past—especially for amateurs. Digital history can broaden our professional conversation and leave the discussion open to regular users and historians alike. When this article was being written in 1999, Ayers is looking at digital history from what we would consider to be an archaic perspective. Based on this, I would imagine that our resources as historians today would be even more than what Ayers could have expected in 1999.
Cohen, Daniel J., and Roy Rosenzweig. "Digital History | Promises and Perils of Digital History." Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Last modified 2005.

            Cohen and Rosenzweig have created an easy step by step guide to understanding how to use digital tools to study history. The authors assert that there are seven qualities of these digital tools that make it easier to create digital projects. These are: capability (we can easily store vast amounts of information that would be more difficult with written texts), accessibility (we can share our work with countless groups of people all over the world with just the touch of a button), flexibility (one project can take on several roles; for example, we can change the form or even the language easily), diversity (almost anyone can have access to our work), manipulability (we can use these tools to manipulate our research that may not have been evident to us in any other way, interactivity (can open up dialogue with professionals which may lead to collaboration or useful reviews), and hypertextuality (or work can take on different guises).
"Interchange: The Promise of Digital History." Journal of American History 95, no. 2 (2008): 452-491. doi:10.2307/25095630.

            Cohen’s article takes on the new(ish) field of digital history by taking a look at the meanings behind pedagogy and institutional support as well as how digital history can affect our process of historical research. Cohen also mentions that digital history has different meanings for different people who encounter it.
Seefeldt, Douglas, and William G. Thomas. "What Is Digital History?" American Historical Association Home Page | AHA. Accessed April 13, 2016.
            As mentioned in other sources, the authors assert that digital history is burgeoning field and it also is a tool that opens up history for anyone: the student, the amateur who wants to make a site dedicated to his favorite historical event, the professor,  etc. We have only just begun to explore (as of 2009) what digital history can do for our field. Digital history is defined in this article as “an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer…” If anyone wants to get involved in digital history it is not enough to just digitize the past, they need to create the opportunity for people to experience history and answer historical questions (such as through GIS). Eventually digital history may change the field entirely and everything we do could be digitized which is why it is important for our students and other burgeoning historians to gain as much access to these digital tools as possible.
Thomas, III., William G. "Is The Future of Digital History Spatial History?" Newbury Library Historical GIS Conference. Last modified March 2004.

            Thomas argues that spatial history and digital history can go hand in hand. Spatial history allows for the researcher to look at history from several different angles—something non digital histories would have a difficult time achieving. This is accomplished through archives, visual maps, graphs, etc. To support his thesis, Thomas quotes Paul Carter’s The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History. In it, Carter defines spatial history as something which “does not organize its subject matter into a nationalist enterprise…recognizing that the future is invented.” And “questions the assumptions that the past has been settled for once and for all.” By looking at history through, say, a series of maps, we would have the opportunity to answer questions we may never have even thought of before.
Thomas, III., William. "What is Digital Scholarship? A Typology | William G. Thomas III." Railroads and the Making of Modern America (blog). December 2014.

            Thomas organizes digital scholarship into a typology (as the title suggests). Thomas argues that digital history can be divided into the following: Interactive Scholarly Works (projects that use both archival materials and tools to deal with a critical concern), Digital Projects/Thematic Research Collections (The most well defined of the group that are used to support research, have multiple authors and combine tools and archival materials around a historiographically critical problem), and Digital Narratives (born digitally and feature work of scholarly interpretation which may change with every update if necessary)
White, Richard. "What Is Spatial History?" Spatial History Lab, February 2010, 1-6.

            Spatial history, as defined by White is beneficial because scholars of various backgrounds may have the opportunity to collaborate on one project (undergraduates, visualization specialists, historians, geographers, etc.) Also, the main focus is on visualization instead of text and these visualizations focus on digital history aspects. For example, they should be interactive and/or display data that would be much more difficult to interpret without the use of a computer. Most importantly, spatial history projects should be updated as much as possible and always remains open ended to take advantage of these updates. Spatial history is such an important partner to digital history and just the field of history in general because as a standard definition, historians focus on time and space and what better way to study chronology than through spatial visualizations? (For example, these digital visualizations are the most effective way to view change over time). White also adds many visualizations of his own to the text which is best enhances his thesis. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reviewing Digital History Annotated Bibliography

Writing and Reviewing History in the Digital Age
Blevins, Cameron. "The New Wave of Review." Cameron Blevins (blog), March 7, 2016. Accessed        April 10, 2016.

In his blog, Blevins is able to discuss clearly why a review of a digital project as almost as important as the project itself. Blevins emphasizes the importance of a review in general in a field that is mostly based on collaboration and peer review. He also delves into why it might be important in understanding the project itself. Not that the project is bad or hard to understand; but who is someone like Blevins who is a nineteenth century American historian able to get a deep understanding of Vincent Brown’s digital project on the Jamaican slave revolt. Does Brown actually do what he is supposed to do? Does he actually demonstrate the narrative in an engaging way? Reviews of digital history projects ranging from the tweet to the scholarly article let us know how the projects fits in with the existing literature and what we are supposed to obtain from the project and use it comprehend a particular subject.

Georgini, Sara. "Reviewing Digital History." The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History      (blog), January 20, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2016.  

This blog is another useful tool for determining the effectiveness of reviewing digital history. Like Blevins, we are reminded that reviews of digital projects help us to understand the larger picture: Where does this project fit amongst the pantheon of sources linked to this topic. The interviewee, Dr. Jeffrey McClurken goes on to explain the importance of digital history and how it is emerging and becoming more and more useful amongst historians (despite the fact that it is nothing new). Because digital history is now being taken advantage of more than ever it more important to be able to understand how to use it effectively.

Dougherty, Jack, and Kristen Nawrotzki. Writing History in the Digital Age.

This book is unique in the fact that it embraces reviews. Readers were able to add their own reviews and have them be seen in the margins of the book. The authors of the book make the argument that most people are not willing to use the internet to take advantage of its most useful sources when it comes to studying history. Tools such as blogs and social media can be incredibly helpful when it comes to presenting research and theories, etc. They have shown this by using digital media to let readers critique and review their work. They make the argument that digital history will eventually change the way of how we communicate with each other even more than it does now.

Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

This is another book where readers were encouraged to review the book online. The author seeks to explain what it takes to develop proper digital history knowledge among scholars, etc. For example,  one of the arguments that I focused most on is the chapter by Luke Waltzer “Digital Humanities and the ‘Ugly Stepchildren’ of American Higher Education.” Waltzer refers to the humanities as the “ugly stepchildren” because most universities fail to instill any type of regard for humanities in their students. This chapter and much of this book argues how important the humanities are to students and how, despite popular belief, it can play a large role in their future. Like the title of the book suggests, there many debates (including this one) thoroughly discussed which will help any newcomer to the topic get a better understanding of the field they are about to delve into.

Guldi, Jo, and David Armitage. The History Manifesto. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Although this book doesn’t seem to be well liked among the community of historians (based on the review), in it, Guldi and Armitage attempt to make an argument that history is losing its importance and historians are losing their prominence in the world along with it. The book attempts to give a solution to how we can change that. To solve these problems, authors suggest we return to a “long duree” and focus more on the big picture than a “microhistory”.  The book makes the argument that we shouldn’t get rid of our microhistories altogether; but that we should use them to compare it to the big picture.

Blevins, Cameron. "Mining and Mapping the Production of Space." Journal of American History, June 1, 2014.

Blevins has introduced his work in mapping and explained in very simple terms. The effectiveness of this essay comes from the several interactive examples that the reader can take advantage of while going through. For someone like me who has a difficult time with subject these tools were very effective and emphasizing Blevins ideas on mapping tools, etc. Blevins asserts that “digital methods are not any more or less valid than traditional approaches, but they do provide a different entry point into the historical archive.”

Gibbs, Fred, and Trevor Owens. "The Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing." In Writing History in the Digital Age. University of Michigan Press, 2012.;rgn=div1;view=fulltext;xc=1#7.3.

The authors of this essay assert the idea that working with data is exploratory. Most historians are focused on associating that data with math (something that usually doesn’t mix with the historian) or that this data can primarily be used as evidence and evidence only. The effectiveness of this essay is that it reminds us of the variety of ways in which we can utilize data. Even if the digital history project itself is not entirely good or not entirely successful, historians can still use that data to answer various other historical questions. Data also gives us the opportunity for collaboration.
Lichtenstein, Alex, ed. "Reviewing Digital History." American Historical Review, February 2016, 140-86. Accessed April 10, 2016.

This article reviews two different digital history projects: Digital Harlem: Everyday Life, 1915-1930 and Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative. Mostly what I was able to obtain from this source (other than the fact the Digital Harlem program faced some problems and harsh critique) was that digital history reviews are helpful when trying to improve research as well as the project as a whole To me, the negatives of these reviews were also prominent in the article as well. The Harlem project was not shown in a favorable light; but it is possible that the review was looking at the project out of context or maybe that the project was not being reviewed in the time period it should have been reviewed in. The project itself appeared to be out of date (not having been updated recently). What I associated most with this article was this question: “Is it possible for a digital history project to be judged unfairly?” and “What constitutes as an unfair judgment?”

McClurken, Jeffrey. "Digital History Reviews." The Journal of American History. Accessed April 10, 2016.

This is a vital set of guidelines for anyone wishing to study the digital humanities. According to Dr. McClurken, “digital projects are complex, and because of versioning and because projects may take directions that the software creators never intended, it raises all kinds of questions.” In this article, many of those questions are answered including: “How do we give credit to every contributor?” and “Should every contributor be recognized for their contribution?”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

History and GIS Bibliography

History and GIS
Abshere, Caitrin, Lucas Farrell, Andrew Feinberg, Thom Humber, Garrott Kuzzy, and Charlie Wirene. "What Could Lee See at Gettysburg?" Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. By Anne Kelly. Knowles and Will Roush. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 235-66. Print.

          Despite the fact that the Battle of Gettysburg is one of the highly researched events of the American Civil War, it has been highly scrutinized most specifically General Lee’s order that will eventually lead to his biggest defeat and become known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Researcher Anne Kelly Knowles use a digital elevation model (DEM) in order to create a triangulated irregular network (TIN) using GIS. Knowles’ research and work with GIS has helped historians gain a better look at the battlefield’s original historical landscape. This chapter in Knowles’ book demonstrates how GIS can be used to help answer historical questions that maybe believe to be lost to time or even geography. Knowles recognizes that similar work and geospatial analysis can assist historians in understanding other battles as well and provide “many valuable insights into military strategy, the wisdom of command decisions, and the experience of war.”

Knowles, Anne Kelly., and Geoff Cunfer. "Scaling the Dust Bowl." Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 95-122. Print.

In this chapter Geoff Cunfer compares his research with the perception of the Dust Bowl as dictated in Donald Worster’s Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930’s. Cunfer argues with Worster’s theory that capitalism and over development of lands played a major role in the Dust Bowl. Cunfer is able to use spatial analysis to determine that not only was plowing during the 1920’s a major cause; but it was the extreme droughts as well. Cunfer is able to map newspaper accounts to find that “dust storms are a normal part of southern plains ecology, occurring whenever there are extended dry periods.” Cunfer shows that it is possible to combine traditional historical research methods (newspapers) with geospatial technology (GIS). Cunfer also shows who one might take advantage of geospatial technology to make an historical argument.

Knowles, Anne Kelly. "GIS and History." Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 1-26. Print.

In the opening chapter to her book, Knowles introduces GIS as both a “superb tool” as well as something which can be “problematic” for history. This chapter asserts that GIS is superb because “it allows one to visualize the geographic patterns embedded in historical evidence, examine evidence at different scales, aggregate the data from smaller to larger units, and integrate material from textual, tabular, cartographic, and visual sources provided that they share common geographic location” and problematic because it relies on mathematics—an issue for most historians who prefer to focus on images rather than data. I decided to include this chapter in my annotation because it is usual for people like me who needed an introduction to GIS, what it was and how it can be used effectively amongst historians.
Ladurie, Emmanuel LeRoy. "Immobile History." Interview by Alexander Von Lunen. History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations, and Reflections 2013: 15-24. Print.

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is one of the first to use computers in historical research with his early work focusing on quantitative studies and regional studies. Ladurie admits that even though he has worked with computers in the past he is still more of an “intellectual director” and is still not very practical when it comes to using computers. Ladurie also asserts the importance of collaboration when it comes to digital history because without his team he would not have been able to complete the task at hand (despite the fact that he experienced issues with the students the fact remains that he was not an expert on all aspects that it took to complete the project). Ladurie also talks about a sort of “immobile history” which is how social and economic trends will prevail over a certain length of time (growing cities omitted). Most importantly, these shifts (or lack of) can be seen bet through GIS. For me, Ladurie was able to introduce the positives and negatives that go along with studying history geographically or through geospatial technology.

Lünen, Alexander Von, and Charles Travis. "GIS and History: Epistemologies, Reflections, and Considerations." History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. N.p.: Springer Netherlands, 2013. 173-93. Print.

In this essay by Charles Travis we are asked to decide if GIS methodologies will one day become known as some great scientific advancement and whether or not it will change the way we learn and study history. I have been asked this question several times through various readings and it would appear that so far the answer to this question is: yes, of course. Travis claims that, despite the hesitancy of historians to fully embrace digital technology when studying history, we have used similar tools for many years; now we can just do it on the computer whereas before that was not a possibility. I appreciate the inclusion of the various time-space maps that were constructed in order to demonstrate the life paths of Patrick Kavanaugh. When trying to understand various history concepts I find it most useful to see visualizations as well as try to work with the tools myself. The ability to create this map help create a narrative or explain a concept without the use of text.

Olsson, Gunnar. ""Thou Shalt Make No Graven Maps!"" Interview by Alexander Von Lunen. History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations, and Reflections 2013: 73-87. Print.

Gunnar Olsson is a human geographer who deals with planning and its consequences looking at the relationship between “distance” and human interaction.  Olsson has spent time looking at the “geographical inference problem” and what we can draw from geographical information. In this interview Olsson asserts that historical maps and GIS should not be considered the same thing despite the fact that, on occasion, they tend to try and answer the same questions. Maps can be used as either a primary or secondary source that will help historians tell a story whereas GIS is something that can be created by itself;  it also important to note that you need several of these maps to create GIS. Olsson also mentions that it is important for the historian to know when it is appropriate to use these digital tools and when it is not. He calls historical geography an attempt at “reading the landscape” and find as many way of understanding as is possible. This is quite useful insight for someone who is trying to understand these various tools especially when it comes to geospatial history. I find this helpful in the same way I find helpful Cunfer’s research on the dust bowl. When is it appropriate to use GIS and when is it not? How can we use these two tools together and what can that ultimately achieve?

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Metagraph

In their essay, Gibbs and Owens promote their case for historical data and its successful application in the digital world: “At a minimum, historians’ research publications need to reflect new priorities that explicate the process of interfacing with, exploring, and then making sense of historical sources in a fundamentally digital form—that is, the hermeneutics of data.” It is important to see data as computer-processable information which may include various types of historical sources such as census records, etc. They also mention that the use of data in the humanities as very recently attracted a considerable amount of attention and they use the work: “Culturnomics” as a good quantitative study as well as good use of a digital resource (Google Books). Like in several other readings, Gibbs and Owens mentions that just because digital history has only recently gained popularity it doesn’t mean that historians have changed the way there are doing their work. “To some extent, historians have always collected, analyzed, and written about data. But have access to vastly greater quantities of data, markedly different kinds of datasets, and a variety of complex tools and methodologies for exploring it means that the term using signifies a much broader rand of data related activities than it has previously.”
The article asserts that a benefit of working with data is that it can be exploratory. They also mention that many historians and occasionally see digital history through a negative viewpoint because they often associate digital date with mathematics; but, working with data can be exploratory and be used without any mathematical “rigor”. The essay also reminds the reader that we are too focused on trying to use data as evidence only. We must also utilize date to help us frame research questions. “Data in a variety of forms can provoke new questions and explorations, just as visualizations have been recently described as ‘generative and iterative, capable of producing new knowledge through the aesthetic provocation.” The point of this assertion is to remind us that even when we have scholarly research that offers us “negative results” we should not be so quick as to discard them. We should use them perhaps to combine with other datasets and add to our historical knowledge base. The graph shown is used as evidence of this. It does not indicate any answer to any real historical questions; but that does not mean it should be disregarded as a useful tool. Historians can utilize this data and start forming their own research questions using tools such as Ngram.
While discussing his research project and his endeavors to “clean up” messy texts (i.e. newspapers) through a digital (and more visually appealing) metagraph, Blevins asserts that “digital methods are not any more or less valid than traditional approaches, but they do provide a different entry point into the historical archive.” I believe this point made by Blevins’ article asserts the effectiveness of data in the historical archive. Also, as mentioned before in a previous article, digital history gives historians the ability to collaborate which is not so easily done with written projects. Collaboration is important to further promote the ideas laid out by Owens and Gibbs because historians can collaborate and share their work with others regardless of if their project as a whole is successful or not.

In the essay from last week, Sternfeld was quick to criticize the “Digital Harlem” project due to its ineffectiveness to answer any real historical questions. One of the reasons that I enjoyed using this tool and one of the reasons I believe Gibbs and Owens would see the “success” of the tool is that it contains a vast swath of data that can be used in other projects as well as help historians to formulate new historical questions. The main idea that I got from the Gibbs and Owens essay was that we should not be quick to disregard digital history projects as being inferior to written projects. Also we should recognize the benefits that each project brings and not be so quick to shut it down as ineffective. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

AHA Review

“To do digital history…is to create a framework through the technology for people to experience, read and follow and argument about a major historical problem.” (D. Seefeldt, William Thomas, AHA Perspectives).  The thought that digital history might be becoming the norm for burgeoning historians may seem a little far-fetched; but it seem that as we explore the Internet and conduct our research we are beginning to see more and more digital history projects. Some may be simple timelines and others are giant, complicated archives. These projects serve up a “blend of historiography, narrative, and interpretation” that may be more difficult to accomplish in the written text and the best digital history projects will find new and innovative ways of interpreting data and information that will make the possibilities appear endless. This is a vast difference from the archaic written text that we feel so used to and comforted by. In saying this, I still personally feel more comfortable with the written word and expressing my work that way; but these digital history projects are remarkable and I believe that is what is being emphasized in this review of digital history.
The AHA article review two digital history projects: Digital Harlem: Everyday Life, 1915-1930 and Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative. Let’s begin by looking at Harlem. Joshua Sternfeld’s review of this project calls it a successful attempt to “‘overturn the traditionally unilateral relationship between historian and audience’ and bring new life into a crucial period in African American urban life.” The authors of this project proclaim that Sternfeld was not able to grasp what was actually trying to be accomplished. The authors argued that Sternfeld “does not really engage with the spatial visualizations that it produces. He is drawn to maps limited to one category of record and one layer, maps that can be relatively easily interpreted.” The question must be asked: “Why was Sternfeld not able to understand the purpose of the project? Are the researchers at fault for this?”  When looking at the project myself, I was able to see both points of view. First of all, I loved how easily navigable this site was. It was easy to put into context life experienced by African Americans in this urban area over increments of five years. You also have the ability to narrow down which crimes blacks were arrested for (abortion, burglary, beatings, etc.) you also have the opportunity to look at the crimes in a particular section of the city as well as on a particular day. “One advantage of its origins as a research tool was its interactivity: users could search and map whatever data they wanted.” This digital history project accomplishes two tasks: what was life like for African Americans in Harlem as well as serve as a record collection that is visually appealing and easy to manage. The only thing I believe that this project was missing was a comparison to white crime (if there was something, I must have completely overlooked it) I believe that that would serve Sternfeld’s interpretation more appropriately to compare how often blacks and white were arrested and for which crimes.
                Next I will go on to review Slave Revolt in Jamaica which was described as a project which “illustrates something that is difficult to glean from simply reading the textual sources” and which makes the “definitive case” for the strategic and “tactical sophistication of the insurrectionary slaves.”  My favorite component of this project was the animation used to express change and movement over time. Zacek asserts that the animated map makes two scholarly contributions.
 “First she agrees that its spatial analysis allows us to gain better purchase on limited sources…however by extracting locational information from these records and plotting the combatants’ movements in space, the map allows us to view the archival evidence both against the grain…and along the grain….Second, Zacek welcome the way the map convey s a sense of how people experienced the revolt as an unfolding sequence of events.”

 I believe that is definitely something that cannot be accomplished via text.  To compare the two projects, I definitely prefer the Harlem projects because you are allowed to see all the data at once as well as change over time. That is still accomplished a little in Jamaica via the timeline on the bottom (you can see that most of the action took place in July and then you can go on and click on the individual events to find more information). I also didn’t’ find this one to be as visually appealing; but it was a little easier to navigate.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Under the Macroscope

This week’s reading is: The Historian’s Macro scope: Big Digital History. Authors Shawn Graham, Ian Milligan and Scott Weingart use their expertise in the field of history to promote digital history and its importance in our understanding of history. Graham is currently an assistant professor in the History Department at Carleton University where he has been teaching classes on methods in digital history as well as ancient history. He has been a part of the History Department since 2010. Ian Milligan is an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Waterloo teaching digital history, web archives, and the 20th Century Canadian History. I tried accessing Scott Weingart’s page; but the link was either dead or not functioning properly at the time. Weingart is a doctoral candidate in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University. This is a well put together team, Graham and Milligan will be able to bring the historian point of view pair it with Weingart’s expertise in formations and computing. The authors of this work have constructed it like a blog which I found to be very user friendly. The work will also be easier to read for those viewers who are more comfortable with the digital and informational medium.
I like the fact that the authors have decided to make available a draft of their work online because I believe it will greatly help their work and serve their purpose well. I believe that the authors decided to do this because they wanted to make their work accessible and make a statement about how digital work increases the accessibility of their research. I also believe that this is an effective way of presenting their work to a larger audience. I think the publisher may have agreed to this arrangement because it increases the likelihood that a wider audience will be purchasing the actual book than may have been the case before. The authors know that a digital field is the best way to promote work and reach the widest audience possible.
The tagline: “An experiment in writing in public, one page at a time, by S. Graham, I. Milligan, & S. Weingart” is good introduction for the rest of the work. In addition to this work being accessible to the general public the readers can see that this is a constantly changing piece. As mentioned before, by making their research available to the public for free they are promoting the accessibility of digital works and more specifically digital history. Viewing audiences can also see that it is much easier to obtain the most up to date information possible through a digital medium as opposed to constantly buying new book publications. By making their research free online, the authors are conducting “an experiment” in whether or not the public will embrace this new(ish) digital medium. The authors also mentioned that the digital humanities are flourishing at this moment in our history when digital media is becoming more accessible than it has even been before.  They are hoping that their book will assist historians in embracing big data and combining it with their research.
According to the authors, this work is being constructed for mostly historians and possibly even burgeoning historians. They mention “if historians are to continue as leaders in understanding the social and cultural past, a shift in training and standards is required…using computational approaches like social network analysis and text mining enables new explorations of historical cultures and larger scale synthetic understandings of the past.”
The “book” has been divided into three major parts: a general overview of the field (the era of Big Data and why it matters for historians), an emphasis on hands-on textual analysis tools, and a strong emphasis on networks as a kind of analysis and as a powerful visualization. This is an effective way of constructing this book for those of us who feel uncomfortable with Big Data. For readers like myself it is necessary to begin the book with an introduction and lay out all the complicated logistics for the readers. Then, in section two it will be easier to take a look at some of the examples in digital technology that are provided.
I tried using some of the simple tools that was suggested by the book. This is a Wordle of Franklin Roosevelt’s Address to Congress of Pearl Harbor.

I really enjoy using Wordle. It helps give you the main idea of any written text and it is a great tool for visual learners. I used Voyant tools with the same speech and I couldn’t remember how to omit words like “the”, etc but I really like using it as tool and getting to look at the text word by word. Both of these tools are INCREDIBLY easy and can be utilized by any amateur.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The History Manifesto

In their book: The History Manifesto, Guldi and Armitage made an argument that history is losing its importance and historians are losing their prominence in the world today.  How can we make history seem more valid and how can historians regain that prominence and respect that they once held? The authors also claim that historians today can tend to be a little short sighted when it comes to studying history.  It is this short sightedness; the “Manifesto” says that keeps us from finding the truth and making their history count. Apparently, historians in today’s world are not relevant. I imagine that I would have to agree with this statement. I find that we very rarely get to hear the historian’s point of view when it comes to modern day topics. I watch a lot of cable news, especially when it comes to politics, and there are a lot of people that come and give their point of view on a variety of topics-especially this presidential election. In all the news shows that I have watched I do not recall anyone calling on a presidential historian or an American political historian to hear their point of view. The one and only time this election season that I have heard a historian questioned about their point of view was on the Colbert Show and he spent a small amount of time asking his guest, Doris Kearns Goodwin how she feels about the presidential election (it would make sense being that she is a presidential historian). I am pleased that she was interviewed for her stance; but do I think she would have been asked had she not been a pseudo-celebrity. Probably not.  So yes, I do think that Guldi and Armitage have a point and I would love to live in a world where historians are called upon for their wisdom and knowledge of the past to help us solve our modern day problems.  By layering these “patterns of reality upon each other” we will be able to gain even more insight such as “placing government data about farms next to data on the weather…” we will be able to “see the interplay of material change within the human experience.” This is the solution about how we make history count again.
To solve the current problems that historians are facing, the authors suggest that we return to a “long duree” and focus more on the big picture than what they refer to as “microhistory”.  They also suggest that we try and move away from taking historians and their usefulness for granted and instead turn history back into “engaged academia”.  To back up their “microhistory” theory, the authors mention that “In 1900 the average number of years covered…doctoral dissertations in history in the United States was about 75 years; by 1975, it was closer to 30,” and that dissertations have also “concentrated on the local and the specific as an arena in which historian can exercise her skills of biography, archival reading, and periodization within the perti-dish of a handful of years.” We need to look at the bigger picture and instead of focusing on these little details and biographies why don’t we look at the history of labor or women or politics, etc.  That is not to say that the authors want us to completely get rid of our “micro” studies. Instead we should take these small events and compare them with the larger picture.
In their critique of the manifesto, Deborah Cohen and Peter Mandler suggest that there is no basis for the Manifesto’s argument that historians do not face more on the big picture. In fact, they mention that “there is much more continuity than change across the twentieth century, and if anything, longer time scales had become more, not less, common as of 1986.” They will also claim that the Manifesto is biased because they are too focused on pointing out the advantages of the long duree when they mention “they needed to invert a crisis of short-terminism in the discipline in order to point out clearly toward the advantages of the long duree.” The response to Cohen and Mandler from the authors of the Manifesto is that their book was not meant to be looked at so closely and for every single detail and that Cohen and Mandler are “hanging judges.”   I would personally have to say that Cohen and Mandler get the upper hand in this argument.  I don’t believe that the biggest problem with the study of history is little picture vs. big picture.