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.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reviewing Digital History

For my review I decided to look through Civil War themed archives one of the reasons being that archives are usually what I like to look through while I am doing research myself and, as of right now, I am hoping to focus on the Civil War/Civil War politics. After searching through various archives I decided to go with: The North Carolina Sesquicentennial Archive ( ) in association with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resource.
The website has been updated as recently as 2016. I don’t know what was added or revised in 2016 so I cannot say how current the scholarship is; but I would have to say that more than likely the website was published sometime between 2011 and 2015 (the monuments section has not been updated since 2010) so I can’t imagine that the information would be too out of date. I do want to make it known that most of the archival information on the site is not directly on the site, it is linked with the North Carolina Archive collection; but I decided to review this “archive” because it does include up to date scholarship and it is accessible to those attempting to study Civil War/North Carolina history. So I have considered it an archive because it can be used for the exact same purpose.
My first opinion of the archive was that it does not prove to be very user friendly (at least not for me) I am used to using archives and databases where the information is much more obtainable. The task bar (?) at the top of the home page includes: “home, mission, committee, themes, timeline, history, education, events, maps, and monuments.” You have to scroll down on the page to get to the topics that one might actually be utilizing the site for. That’s when you get to the records (most of them).  This archive includes topics such as: “Tar Heels at Harpers Ferry, Tar Heels Pitch in: North Carolina’s Contributions to the Civil War, and Sherman’s March through North Carolina.” That part is well organized and easily accessible; but I believe it would have been more so if there had been a tab for “topics” or something of that nature at the top of the task bar instead of having to scroll down the page. Now, the theme of the archive, I found to be quite apparent. The theme is North Carolina’s role in the Civil War. We see that in the title: North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial. The title, even though simple and straightforward, could also have been a little bit more specific. It could have been something along the lines of “Celebrating” or “Remembering” the Civil War in North Carolina. The theme of the archive does become apparent rather quickly; but not immediately because I found myself wondering at first: “Is this an archive about North Carolina Civil War history or is it an archive sponsored by the state of North Carolina about Civil War history everywhere in order to celebrate its 150th anniversary?”  There is a timeline, which I did not really appreciate. The timeline is just basic text and you can click on a year at the top and it’ll bring you to that year’s timeline of events in North Carolina but there are no visualizations. I think that the timeline could have been much better utilized if there would have been links to records associated with that date or even including records or visualizations with the timeline.”  I don’t much about creating these sites; but I don’t think adding a link to a relevant document/record somewhere else on the site would have been that difficult or costly. This is especially because when you click on “maps” there are several maps that link to other sites to give you more information about that specific battle, etc.

This archive does not make use of updated media and some of the links I have found are inaccessible. I would have really liked more access to animated maps or even the use of visualizations such as graphs, photos, etc.  This DEFINITELY would be great as an exhibit and I know for a fact that there is one in Henderson county about Civil War/North Carolina history; but I do not know if it is associated with the State Department like this site is or with the county (I am pretty confident the museum I am thinking of is county-run) but the point is that this would be very useful as an exhibit. Contrasting any exhibit with a digital archive, I would prefer the digital when I am looking to contribute to my research and try to find something very specific. I would probably use this site if I were focusing on the Civil War in North Carolina; but for anything else I believe I would leave it be. There are much better archives and resources out there; but this one does the job that it was meant to.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Analyzing Visualizations

David Staley defines visualization as “any graphic that organizes meaningful information in multidimensional special form.” He gives us some examples of visualization which include: maps, diagrams, panoramas, schematics, charts, and time series graphs. (xi) To clarify, he mentions that no, visualizations should not be considered illustrations or even “decorations”; but the “main carrier” of meaningful information. In his introduction and most of the first part of his book, Computer, Visualization and History, Staley recognizes the fact that visualizations have often taken a back seat to the written word. He refers to historians as “word people” who associate anything serious with the written word. “Historians have written history for hundreds of years. Despite the allure or computer visualizations, we might find it difficult to break this institutional habit.” What I really like about Staley’s book is that it focuses on a variety of ways in which history can be represented through visualizations with and without the computer. Staley mentions that most historians see the computer as nothing more than a word processor and a email sender, being that for the most part, I feel uncomfortable using the computer for much else myself, I really enjoyed this reading.
At first glance it looks like Staley is putting the visualization on a pedestal and saying that it is the new frontier and we should it embrace it; but, as I continue to read, I noticed that he is making his case more for equating visualizations with the written word.  In some ways, visualization can be more appropriate or maybe even more useful such as when the historian is trying to convey information that is not necessarily in linear order. I found it interesting the way Staley refers to writing history the same way someone would refer to writing prose or fiction. I had never considered writing style when writing history myself. He mentions “a historian’s linguistic choices may result in different accounts of the past,” which means that regardless of intent, the historian will make the conscience decision to either include or not include certain facets of the past and this alter the way we learn the information. When reading this, I thought of a quote from Abraham Lincoln that I like to use in discussing him.  In writing to Horace Greeley, Lincoln says, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Even in that instance, I had to pick and choose which section of the quote was enough and how much of it I needed to further emphasize Staley’s point. Typically if you have a historian/writer who is anti-Lincoln he could choose to use the quote this way: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it…” and be done with it. This is a direct quote from Lincoln regarding slavery and it has been used to assist the storyline that Lincoln was not interested in freeing any slaves. You could also take the same quote and use a different section of it to make the point that Lincoln has always been “The Great Emancipator” we all wish him to be. Of course there are better and more examples I could think of; but this seemed to be the simplest one. My point is (if it hasn’t been made clear already) is that in this way, I agree with Staley. Originally, this whole chapter caused me to become slightly irritated with him because you could absolutely do the same thing with a visualization. That was before I gave him the chance to further explain himself.
I had always been under the impression that if a little effort was put in, you could do what you can to recreate the past.  Staley references Louis Mink’s quote: “The job of this historian is not to reduplicate the lost world of the past but to ask questions and answer them.” Staley spends a long time giving examples of things such as photographs, primary sources, videos even historical landmarks and asserting that, bless their heart, they could try all they want but they are never going to recreate the past. This struck a nerve with me as I thought about this one Civil War reenactor I remember reading about in Tony Horowitz’s book Confederates in the Attic who went through the most extreme conditions I have ever heard of to try and recreate the historical experience for viewers (and possibly himself). Now, I am not  going to spend time going into detail about this man and what he did (or what his name was) because that would be getting off topic; but I had always thought that if anyone could make the past come alive it was people like him but then Staley dashes my hopes (again). He says essentially that we will never have the ability to recreate the past with words or images or anything because we don’t have a time machine. In this way he is putting visualizations and images on the same level. Both are biased, neither is better than the other and neither will ever tell us EVERYTHING about what happened. Only being there can accomplish that goal.
I also want to briefly talk a little more about my personal feelings. I have always been a visual learner. In fact, when I teach, I will never show a PowerPoint slide without an image and I love sharing videos with my students. I don’t mean that I make them sit through Ken Burns and Crash Course every day because I am lazy and want the video to do the work for me; I have trouble learning with nothing but text. As for the individual mentioned who referred to visualizations as a “distraction” he obviously has never tried to teach because I cannot imagine teaching without them. First of all, I would have the most difficult time talking about a battle with nothing but the written word. Sure, I could convey the information that way; but I think the true meaning would be lost. I am glad that Staley talked about film as a secondary source because I plan on using animated history maps and scenes from “Gettysburg” to help teach my students. Without a doubt. I remember being a student myself and listening to Dr. Gannon describe a battle in detail but not really understanding until I saw that animated map. There are a variety of things a visualization can do to help teach. It gives us an example of space and time, what it might have looked like, what the individuals involved in the event may have felt, etc.
I think I may have gotten off the topic of digital history in this blog post; but, I really enjoyed reading Staley interpretations on visualizations and applying to them to what I know and what I’ve experienced.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What is GIS?

To put it into a simple definition, GIS or geographical information system is a way for historians to try and tackle issues with space. Peter K. Bol writes that GIS presents “a platform for organizing data with temporal and spatial attributes—population, tax quotas, military garrisons, religious networks, regional economic systems, family history, and so on—representing them graphically and analyzing their relationships.” GIS also gives historians a better look at/understanding of maps while allowing them to go beyond simply mapping. To be even more specific, HISTORICAL GIS refers to the ways in which researchers take advantage of geospatial technologies for research and teaching by combining geohistoire (an idea of historian Fernand Braudel which maps human activity where possible), historical geography and spatial as well as digital history.
Kelly Anne Knowles refers to GIS as both a “superb tool” as well as something which is “problematic” for history. GIS is superb because “it allows one to visualize the geographic patterns embedded in historical evidence, examine evidence at different scales, aggregate date from smaller to larger units, and integrate material from textual, tabular, cartographic, and visual sources provided that they share common geographic location” and problematic simply because it relies on mathematics. Mathematics is an issue for most historians who tend to focus on images rather than quantitative data.
Let’s take a look at some of the case studies included in the reading. The first I am going to bring up is “The Salem Witch Trials Archive” which use primary sources such as court documents and proceedings which took place in the colony. The archive becomes a great resource for a variety of historians studying early America. In addition to just being an online archive the project has taken on an aspect of GIS by linking biographical information about those involved in the Salem witch trials (those specifically mentioned in the documents) to the locations of their homes. Of course, it is obvious that it shows the researcher where each individual lived; but for what purpose? The creator of the Salem Witch Trials archive, Benjamin C. Ray uses GIS in his project to illustrate that “witchcraft accusations did not reflect clear geographical and social divides between Salem’s merchant class and less wealthy farm families, as the prevailing view has long contended.” As you can see, this is an example of how GIS can answer questions that have long been invisible to researchers.
I spent a lot of time also looking at chapter 10: “What Could Lee See at Gettysburg” because I am passionate about Civil War history and I wanted to see how GIS is making an impact in that realm. The historical question being asked is, of course, in the title. However the bigger question would be: “why is it so important to know what exactly Lee saw at Gettysburg?” Historians want to know why General Lee gave the “go ahead” to what would eventually be known to historians as “Pickett’s Charge” in which Confederates were simply massacred. To me, the obvious response would be to look at what Lee had to say about the event, or a soldier from either side who was present. Perhaps that way we could get a good idea of what transpired to cause this disaster for General Lee. Of course, we can try and see what Lee saw by visiting the battlefield itself. The National Park Service has been working hard to maintain the battlefield for historians and tourists alike. So why GIS? Why do we need it when it is possible we could find out from an eye witness or even go to the preserved battlefield ourselves? There are several other questions asked within the chapter itself. “Can the evidence of sight be used to test the credibility of generals’ post hoc justifications, such as Longstreet’s explanation of his long counter march on July 2? Did the Union’s possession of Cemetery Ridge give Major General George G Meade and his intelligence officers’ superior knowledge of the battlefield and enemy movements in addition to providing them more defensible positions?”  Knowles makes the argument that both Lee and (union) General Meade would have been excellent resources due to their expertise in topographical mapping which they both gained at West Point.
GIS is able to assist us in this endeavor by doing what the generals in 1863 could not. “GIS uses a digital model of the terrain to determine points and areas that are, or are not, theoretically visible from a known viewpoint.” Curtis Musselman, cartographer and GIS coordinator at Gettysburg National Military Park has created renderings of historic roads and lanes, fence lines, property boundaries, and buildings as they stood in 1863. “He also provided a digital elevation model (DEM) developed for Adams County by a private firm in 1996 and a set of contour lines at five foot intervals that had been interpolated from the DEM. The elevation data meets the US Geological Survey’s national map accuracy standards for 1:4,800 scale mapping.” The digital terrain that has been created using GIS is a simplified version of the reality. What makes it stand out to researchers is that it provides us with information that even the great generals did not have: the big picture.
What researchers ended up discovering was that General Lee had an excellent view from the Lutheran Seminary on July 2, 1863. There is a monument to Lee at the park where it is believed he was supposed to have watched the final assault. “Standing with his field staff on the edge of a copse of woods near the center of the Confederate’s line of attack, he would have had a fairly clear view across the undulating fields to his objective…the GIS viewsheds help one imagine what might have gone through the minds of soldiers and commanders that fateful day.”
Another component of GIS is offering students to make new discoveries about history using technology.  For students who are living in a world where they look up everything on the Internet, the realm of digital history and GIS is a perfect fit. Students can apply their skills with technology to mapping, organizing files, building databases and most importantly, complementing their writing with a visual representation. In addition to this, using GIS will allow students to find spatial data and have their own visual representation of history without having to imagine what it would look like or what effects geography made on the resulting history. GIS also helps students frame research questions and engage in analytical thinking. For example, students might be compelled to ask themselves: “What is spatial about this research?” “Why does space matter?”
How did rivers affect the eventual manufacturing?” etc.

Like many other components of digital history, it appears we still have a lot to learn about geospatial mapping; however, it is exciting to see how technology is playing a role in helping us understand the past and even take a look at images that were once long gone.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Pasts and Futures of Digital History

What is digital history? What distinguishes it from “traditional” practice in the field of history? What distinguishes it from the larger field of digital humanities?
As mentioned in “What is Digital History”, “digital history might be understood broadly as an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer, the internet network, and software systems…digital history is an open arena of scholarly production and communication, encompassing the development of new course materials and scholarly data collection efforts.” So what does that mean exactly? Well, I’d like to start by addressing the fact that like digital humanities, digital history isn’t the most popular and we have seen examples of historians becoming disenchanted. In “Promises and Perils of Digital History” we hear from two historians in the early age of digital history. Marxist historian David Noble says “A dismal new era of higher education has dawned…in future years we will look upon the wired remains of our once great democratic high education system and wonder how we let it happen.” However, none of this predicted chaos has come to pass. In fact, the field of digital history has been on the rise.
It was mentioned in “The Past and Futures of Digital History” that digital history was tailor made for historians. The author of the article itself mentions having an affinity for working online and with computers and in this technology age, history is now becoming more and more accessible and collaborative than anyone has ever seen it. Digital history is not just historical journals online or endless databases, it is also a resource for the “amateur historian”: the teacher, the classroom student, the enthusiast, the Civil War reenactor. Because of this new digital world we find ourselves in, information is more accessible for non-historian. In fact, a few years ago Yahoo listed 32,959 history websites providing information for virtually every archive, museum, house, site you could possibly think of.  In “Projects and Perils of Digital History” we are told that “almost every historian looks at the computer as basic equipment.” One of the projects mentions is “H-Net” which is a “large, active, differentiated, participatory, and convenient network of historians of all levels talking to one another about our common passion.”H-Net is simple and straightforward—the desired of effect of the being influenced by the digital world.
Not only has history become more accessible; but we are seeing a larger capacity to hold information (a 120 GB hard drive can hold a 120,000 volume library that can be accessed right at your desk!), more diversity (more people can access this information than ever before) and more flexible (the experience of consuming history has changed drastically).
It is also important to note how digital history differs from the giant umbrella of digital humanities. In digital history, we tend to focus on collection, presentation, and dissemination of material online whereas digital humanities focuses more on creating than organizing or defining anything. Digital humanities and digital literary studies have different focuses, for example. As Stephen May mentions: “I’m not saying that the presentation of material online is not part of digital literary studies: electronic scholarly editions and manuscript collections such as The Shelley-Godwin Archive are longstanding parts of that field, but, as the current debate indicates, at present they are not its predominant focus. To clarify, historians are going to focus on getting the information and not so much in creating any type of visualization or creation.
Digital history is not a perfected art form. 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.” Some of those questions might be: how do we give credit to every contributor? Should every contributor be recognized for their contribution? After all, “historians as professionals are not trained to play well together. We go alone into archives, commune with the dead, and come back. But most digital history projects are collaborations. Within the discipline, there are resources for collaboration: for example, librarians and archivists. In terms of digital humanities training, the library field is so far ahead of us. Now, I think, history graduate students are getting better at engaging with digital tools in their teaching.” And that is true. Each new generation that decides to come to this field will be more adept than the rest of us as well as be able to bring new ideas and new ways of envisioning/studying history.
Of course these aren’t the only issues. How does the digital historian or even the digital history students do about reliability? How can we determine what is authentic on the Web. We tell our kids to stray away from particular sites such as Wikipedia due to its ability to be edited; but, now we can see that sites like Wikipedia are using citations and becoming more and more reliable tools for history students.

It’s clear that there are a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to studying history digitally. I think that, with anything else, we will be able to grow and adapt and make these tools work for us in ways we can’t imagine even now. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Debates in Digital Humanities

For this week, I read “Debates in the Digital Humanities” and I focused on the chapter which deals with teaching. Being that I am a teacher myself, I figured that that was the best chapter for me to read. There were several articles in this chapter that I found intriguing; but, for the purpose of this blog, I am going to try to only focus on two: “Digital Humanities and the ‘Ugly Stepchildren’ of American Higher Education” by Luke Waltzer and “Looking for Whitman: A Grand, Aggregated Experiment” by Matthew Gold and Jim Groom. (To be completely honest, I chose the latter because Walt Whitman is my favorite American poet).
                Let me start off talking about those “ugly stepchildren”, and yes, by “ugly stepchildren”, Waltzer is referring to the humanities. I’d like to start off by looking at why he puts the humanities in such a derogatory way. Having received my Bachelor’s degree in the humanities, this part of the article stuck out to me. “Most universities have failed to relay to students why studying humanities is important or relevant in this context, and so it is with little wonder that ever increasing percentages of students are landing in nonhumanity majors, choosing instead courses of study that promise to certify them for a specific place in the economy, which may or may not in fact exist.” Back in high school when I was deciding where I wanted to go and what I wanted to get out of college, the thought that I may have a difficult time with a “humanities” degree did weigh heavily on me. Throughout the end of high school and all through college I thought that my best hope was to become a history teacher—turns out teaching is not for me! Recently I have found myself looking through various job opportunities so I would not have to return to teaching and found that, with my college experience, I did not have a lot of opportunities. In this way, I was thinking that maybe I should have decided to go with something that would have made obtaining a job easier. I also always thought, throughout most of my schooling, that if I had been better at math and science, I would have had an easier time in the job market in the future. To be more specific, I guess what I am trying to say is that this assertion is correct. Most students are frightened out of pursuing a career in the humanities—and this is where digital humanities come into play in the essay.
                Waltzer mentions that careers in digital humanities are on the “ascendance”. Especially with the new Office of the Digital Humanities (ODH) at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which opened as recently as 2008. Apparently “the ODH funded 145 projects from 2008 through spring 2011; and, while its annual operating budget of around 4.5 million dollars pales in comparison to endowments managed by many universities…the initiative has been extremely influential in shaping progression of the digital humanities in American colleges...and museums.” He also goes on to mention later on in the essay that “the digital humanities is no longer a field one arrives at through one’s research; it has become a destination in and of itself, a jumping-off point for the building of scholarly identity.” This “moment of empowerment” for the humanities is a huge stepping stone that seems to help bring humanities back on the rise! For example, I would like to look at some of the specific projects that were mentioned.
I would like to mention briefly the projects at both The University of Mary Washington and New York City College of Technology. Projects at these universities and more are bringing forth more ways for scholars and students to collaborate that have never been possible before. One of the projects to come out of these university initiatives was “Looking for Whitman”, a collaborative research effort to explore the poetry of Walt Whitman sponsored by both the NEH and the Office of Digital Humanities. The project took on different aspects of Walt Whitman’s life and came from four different research groups at four different universities. I’m assuming that, of course, there was some ground work to be laid; but, most of the work was done online. The purpose of the project in the realm of digital humanities was to serve “as an opportunity to illustrate how loosely networked learning spaces could be used to reimagine the possibilities for connection among students and faculty working on related projects at a disparate range of institutions.” I think that one of the most important parts of the whole experiment was getting various levels of individuals with various levels of education and from different parts of the country to collaborate in achieving one goal. The digital humanities are able to achieve this in a way that could not have been possible before. I went and looked at the project and it’s a fantastic resource the site makes it all of the information accessible and it is a tool I would definitely use with my own students.

To wrap up, I think it is incredible how the digital humanities are able to bring together scholars from all over the world and hopefully, we will begin to see a peaked interested in humanities among higher education students because of it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What is Digital Humanities?

What are “digital humanities?” It seems like a brand new concept in the study of history, art, literature, etc..; but, it goes well beyond that. Yes, digital humanities definitely contain new ways of research and understanding that before the era of the computer would have been much more difficult. For example, the book mentions collection building and how different the process of compiling and organizing information has been made that much easier with the use of online cataloging systems, etc. The example that is used is in relation to the ancient Library of Alexandria. “The Library of Alexandria is said to have held roughly a million scrolls, representing work works numbering in the tens of thousands. Twenty centuries later, Google Books has scanned, to date, around 14 million of the estimated 130 million printed books housed in physical libraries worldwide,” giving the historian/researcher “access to 500 times the entire corpus of knowledge seemingly available in the ancient world.” (33-34) for me, that is a mind-boggling statistic. Usually when I think of conducting research, I imagine having to immerse myself in a stack of books at the library. Surely, I have always used my computer and even Google Books as a tool for assistance in conducting my own research; but, the possibilities available just at my fingertips had not struck me until I delved more into this book.
While the author is making the case towards acceptance of digital humanities he/she mentions, “Digital humanities…explore a universe in which print is no longer the primary medium in which knowledge is produced and disseminated.” (SG2) I understand why this subject may be hard to embrace being that I personally, feel a lot more comfortable with print; however, while looking at case studies  I am struck with how many times I have utilized and depended upon digital humanities for my own work and took it completely for granted. As a personal example, I tend to log on to almost every day. I have been working on a “database” for my family history and personal research for the past five years. The book mentions that one of the pros of digital humanities is the ability to communicate with others more easily, and I have found that to be the case with my work as well. A lot of the research that I have compiled over the years comes from networking with others around the world to obtain what I need.  This personal example of mine makes me think back to the Library of Alexandria example. Compiling the amount of research that I have without having to leave the state would have been a lot more tiresome without an online databases and archives.
Another thing that struck me was the example first mentioned on page 38 which mentions compiling and organizing Holocaust survivor testimonies. “Averaging two hours apiece, it would take a person 24 years to watch them all, [video testimonies in the USC Shoah Foundation Institute archives] assuming that he or she watched 12 hours every day of the year. There is simply no way we can process and make sense of the volume of cultural data…without the help of a computer to process, index, select, and cluster date on a comprehensible scale.” In conjunction with this example, the author asks if this dehumanizes the whole process of studying humanities. I see the point in this as well.  “Digital humanists engage with these environments not only because of their pedagogical research values, but also because humanist sensibilities are needed to challenge the seductive force of seamless presentations and to inject critically and skeptical faculties into otherwise ‘naturalized’ unnatural constructs.” (20). The assertion is made that in order to keep digital humanities “ethical” we need the association of humanists who, in my interpretation, bring life to the humanities .
After understanding what exactly the digital humanities are, it is important to discuss their impact on how we look at/study humanities. In the SG (14), the author mentions several ways in which digital humanities are helpful, one of these being the ability to integrate digitally driven research goals, methods and media with discipline-specific inquiry. This hearkens back to the example regarding the Holocaust video testimony and the question of we can integrate technology and humanistic thinking. The digital humanities will help us bring together the “traditional tools of humanistic thinking…with the tools of computational thinking.” With digital humanities, we will be able to better analyze the data by putting it in a neat, organized package. This example, I found to be one of the most important: develop critical savvy for assessing sources. Being a school teacher, I understand how difficult it is for my students to understand fact from fiction when they are doing online research. It is important for all of to learn how data is obtained, marked-up stored, etc. Hopefully, this particular way of studying the humanities will help us all ask the question: “where did this information come from?” Another important point for me (which I have found to be true in my personal experience) is that the digital humanities will give scholars (whether they be professional or my middle school students) the ability to work collaboratively. Digital work will make it more convenient to work in teams on large projects and share the information easier.

It might take me a little longer to try and wrap my head around other aspects of digital humanities, such as 3D mapping, etc. which is why I chose to focus on the aspects of the book that I have had personal experience with. I am interested in learning more and seeing where the digital humanities will ultimately take me.