Social media

We have discussed the role of a social media in the class already indirectly. This time, we will be focusing on how the roles of professional historians changed with the ‘introduction of history’ into Web 2.0; a ‘design’ which encompasses information sharing and, as the proper  terminology goes, participatory actions.  We are experiencing internet information sharing all over the place—in our workplaces, at our leisure time by chatting and exchanging e-mails with friends or co-workers. It is inevitable these days. Even older generations are turning more and more into this, once one may have called it, ‘a crazy medium.’ However, it is a definitely useful medium in sharing historical information with the audience as well. Museums, in order to be more attractive, and thus be able to survive financially, are turning more frequently into, at least sharing some information on their exhibits online, thus creating ‘a craving’ to visit their institution. Museum curators, as one of the articles that we read, are turning more into blogs,-creating  them with an aim of causing traffic’ to visit and pay the ticket by physically visiting  their place. Some of them, and rightfully so, are creating weekly blogs in order to maintain their active approach—so it wouldn’t be seen as if they have given up on their efforts to attract more audiences.  One article suggests that museum curators are still the main force in shaping those blog discussions, and by that, they are still ‘showing’ their authoritative approach. In my view, they have to—however, they still should be open to suggestions and, when appropriate, criticisms.

The social media is not only used to attract more visitors to museums, but also to make suggestions to the museums. If museum curators are flexible and are not totally ‘stuck in the past’, they should be receptive to innovative thoughts of Web 2.0 users, provided they are thoughtful and time worthy.

Many historians are also using social networking sites to gather valuable information on various projects that they work on. For instance, collection of digital artifacts about an event that happened; a memory of which may fade away with time, is an important element of data gathering and data managament. Many of us are currently working on a variety of projects; while collecting data for our purposes,we may be using social networking sites, exchanging electronic information that we may find valuable to us when preparing our exhibits.

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Power in no power

All of our technological advancements mean close to nothing when there is no electricity. Almost everything that we utilize on a daily basis requires electricity—would it be a cell phone, a CD-player (I know that they start to be considered ‘ancient’ nowadays) or a computer. No power, no information. As the CCSU’s website states in its cancellation announcement: “Communications. With the unprecedented power outages and the resultant poor or spotty access to informational media such as internet, email, telephones, and cell phones, this is a very challenging communication environment.” It is indeed a very challenging environment…some people have lost their logical senses of how to behave without electricity…of course, it is definitely an uncommon event which was very difficult to forecast given the fact that October is usually a rather mild month weather-wise. However, for some folks it was a very first time that they were not able to talk on their cell phone or be connected via facebook with their peers for an extended period of time. They really saw this unprecedented power outage as a ‘catastrophic event’—because a ‘day without facebook is a day lost.” I am not exaggerating—I’ve seen people who are so used to being connected to the internet almost at all times—to me, they are addicted to it. They check their sport scores and read other things while walking up and down the stairs…Why?? When I and my wife went away for several days back in July, we said to ourselves: we will not go online for the duration of our nine day stay. We definitely kept our word without any problems—we would have continued that way if our vacation did not end :( While I do recognize that internet and all of those good things that our world ‘provides to us’—we do take too many of those things for granted. Sometimes, I do think that the world is advancing technologically too fast—we don’t have enough time to get accustomed to one discovery, and then another one takes place. I just want to ask…can we slow down just a bit??? Put your laptop away…do not log into your facebook…do not check your e-mail…the world will not come to an end!!! :)

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My Digital History Views

Digital History class takes us in various directions in looking at history from a different, digital perspective. It is definitely an interesting subject matter that with today’s and tomorrow’s fast changing technologies is worthwhile exploring and investing. Digitizing documents, making them much more accessible to a wider (word-wide audience) should be praised and appreciated. Most of the readings in this class have been very interesting and informative. They made me  think of history in a totally different way; that history is not only going to the museums and libraries to gather resourceful information, but also looking at those documents online (maybe some website has them :) and/or contributing to an online project myself. I cannot wait  when I finish my project that actually has to do with my ancestry; however the topic that I am planning on covering does not have an official  ‘website representation’…at least not yet…:) As I mentioned, most of the readings in this class have been interesting….unfortunately, it cannot be said of the readings that have been assigned for this week…information that the authors mentioned was mostly presented in vague ways…what was said on many pages, could have been shortened to only a few…but I am not complaining :) Tagging (folksonomies) and metadata seem to play important roles in helping to identify documents online that one may be looking for. Maybe someday (I hope in maaany many years from now) someone will tag us with a note attached “contributed to the development of digital history significantly”:)

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Digital collections and digital preservation

Garnering information to be presented online in a form of internet projects is an interesting phenomenon that is increasingly used by various professionals (and ‘ordinary folks’) to convey messages on given topics to the wider audience. It is an important medium that is utilized more and more to archive information that, if not collected fast as the certain event unfolds (usually tragic events), may be lost forever. As the terrorist attacks of September 11 unfolded, many internet websites of major news networks, newspapers or even blogs were changing minute by minute; they were presenting the horrific first time reactions as the tragedy was unfolding. For instance, as ‘Digital History’ authors emphasize, if it had not been for the Library of Congress and the Internet Archive not acted immediately to capture it, the (changing websites of the New York Times) would have been gone forever. (162). Now, many of those first accounts can be retrieved by, many times researching them online (some of them are published as ‘regular books’).

Organizing an internet archive is a time-consuming undertaking that requires not only the original author’s work, but many times, also contributions of its viewers who feel passionate about the subject matter. In order for the site to be attractive to the possible contributors, it needs to be ‘kept attractive;–by, as the Digital History authors indicate, frequently changing (or rearranging) the physical layout of the page-thus indicating that this website is well and active. The project needs to be ‘advertised’ through social networking sites (it is the easiest and the least expensive way of promoting it).  Also, the topic of the archive needs to be chosen carefully. If someone is very passionate about collecting virtual artifacts about a topic whose number of experts and potential contributors is very limited, he/she should expect that this site will not generate too much traffic and possibly will not have sufficient information to keep it alive on the web.

Also, many researchers are undertaking various ‘history projects of the past’ where they want to preserve documents by digitizing them and making them available to the public of events that have occurred even centuries ago. Contributions (mostly from scholars from numerous educational institutions) is encouraged.

Establishing and maintaining digital archives online are crucial in today’s world to capture the evidence and experiences of events as they were unfolding. Events of today (hopefully no more tragic ones will occur) will be examined ‘minute by minute’ by the researchers of tomorrow.

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Internet retailers vs. ‘regular’ bookstores

A very interesting online article (The Long Tail: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html) reveals that today’s internet marketing tools are making certain items already ‘forgotten’ to be brought back to today’s, one may think saturated market. Certain items (in the mentioned case, a book entitled Touching the Void) that were published many years ago and whose success was not mentioned in hundreds of thousands of copies sold—all of the sudden are making a comeback. Why? It is all because of the internet software that is used by various retailers online. As the article mentions, Amazon.com is a perfect example (probably the most popular one). It creates an additional market for items that cannot be found in stores anymore, and on top of that, you do not have to pay any taxes (but those things are changing rapidly while many states are trying to find an additional source of income). I have experienced buying items online by simply looking at ‘suggestions’ that appeared to next to the item that I was originally intending to purchase. Marketing is a key to success—and as we all know, the ‘regular’ books are unfortunately are going ‘under’ (partially to the growing trends in internet purchasing). Borders recently declared that they are going out of business. They haven’t kept up with the pace of today’s changing market environment. That is very unfortunate.

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Digital scholarship

Digital scholarships are an interesting part of today’s approach to bettering our research techniques. Honestly, up to this point, I did not pay too much attention to them and I was not aware that it was a growing trend among many scholars. It seems to be an effective tool in reaching out to the public in order to obtain valuable comments; and in that way, the public may contribute to the successes of those projects. An interesting commentary by Lisa Spiro about her experiences in doing digital scholarships is a valuable resource for those who would like to explore this idea further.. She describes the way that she has been ‘evolving’ for few years as newer and more advanced computer technologies were becoming more widely available to the public (TAPOR, Zotero). Her journey in this digital scholarship world was not necessarily an easy one—with some ‘stubborn’ members of the academia who did not believe that such a creation as digital scholarship is worthy of their time. Digital scholarship, as the name indicates, requires a person (or a group of people) to know some aspects of creating such an item on the www but also, it encompasses ‘regular research’ abilities of those who are putting it together. For instance, certain documents are not available in a digital format, therefore they have to be found in libraries, museums, etc.-and then eventually converted into a digital format. Digital scholarship is unique in a way that public may contribute to it by contacting its creators/contributors. As Lisa Spiro explains, through her communication with other scholars whom, I believe she had never met in person, she was able to see a different perspective on the topic that she was working on. Working on the digital scholarship requires some time to work on certain digital experiments—to make the project more appealing to the public. If something is ‘eye-catching,’ then more likely someone will spend more time going through it and eventually submitting suggestions (if one feels passionate about it). I believe that digital scholarship is an extremely valuable tool that can be utilized in order to obtain a much more balanced approach to the subject matter described.

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Living and Learning with New Media-My thoughts on Digital Youth Project Findings

Today’s teenagers are using modern technology to communicate with one another, share ideas, join various groups of interest. It is interesting to compare how teenagers several years ago were spending their spare time and pursuing their own goals with today’s teenagers. In my view, teenagers of today’s world, contrary to the report by variety of authors who examined teenagers’ behaviors in today’s digital era (http://www.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7BB0386CE3-8B29-4162-8098-E466FB856794%7D/DML_ETHNOG_WHITEPAPER.PDF)- are losing comparing to the generations who ‘experienced’ their youth ten or even twenty years ago. I belong to the so-called ‘older school of thought’ which is in a way stubborn to get convinced that today’s teenagers are better off with technological advancements. In my view, many teenagers are losing control of their lives due to the internet. It is amazing how many lives are actually jeopardized because of the over usage of the world wide web. People get addicted to being online, to chatting with others, to having their internet profiles updated daily. Some of them, can’t live without the internet. Their blood pressure goes up if they can’t get connected to the internet. Some got themselves into psychological problems where the intervention (many times costly and lengthy) of a specialist doctor is required. Of course, if the internet usage by teenagers is ‘under control,’ it can be beneficial to them. Many teenagers experience problems of differentiating between the real world and the world in the cyberspace. It has negative connotations to many families, schools and entire communities. I disagree with the findings of  the mentioned report. I am not suggesting that we, as a society should be ‘stuck’ in the past. I am however doubtful that today’s fast changing digital environment will be used in mostly positive ways by today’s teenagers.

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The Collaborative Web

The Collaborative Web-it presents both, advantages and disadvantages to obtaining information that is of high quality.
Allowing the public to ‘intervene  in the scholarly works’ of others is controversial in nature due to its authors’ intentions of ‘skewing’ the information that
in other previously written sources is presented differently. Wikipedia, a collaborative internet-based encyclopedia is an excellent example of such a medium which allows its users/collaborators/administrators to express their knowledge on many topics; in many cases it contradicts traditional findings in already published ‘book-version’ encyclopedias. However, Wikipedia’s advantage over other ‘book-version’ encyclopedias lies in its accessibility as well as its constantly growing number of available articles on subjects, that the editors of traditional encyclopedias would not care to mention. As Stacy Schiff explains ‘Apparently, no traditional encyclopedia has ever suspected that someone might wonder about Sudoku or about prostitution in China.’ Probably, these (any many other) topics would not have passed through examinations of ‘book-version’ experts to be published there simply on the notion  that it could have lowered (that is what I think they would think :) its educational standard if printed. One of the most amazing features of Wikipedia, is the ability to choose a variety of articles in many languages. I use itself, as an occasional reader of this web-based resource to compare the quality of articles written in English and in Polish. I was considering to joining Wikipedia as an occasional contributor, but due to the lack of time and the danger of getting ‘too involved’, I decided to stay away from it :)
In my view, Wikipedia can only be used as an additional (or recreational) tool to gaining more knowledge. It should not be used as a main source of information due to its informational unreliability. Many thousands contributors may have several thousands views on a given topic. Despite the fact that there are contributors who are ‘overseeing’ the quality of Wikipedia’s entries, it is impossible for anyone to monitor the accuracy of the information that is presented. “Wikipedia remains a lumpy work in progress. The entries can be read as though they had been written by a seventh grader: clarity and concision are lacking; the facts may be sturdy, but the connective tissue is either anemic or absent; and citation is hit or miss.’ (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/07/31/060731fa_fact)

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Digitization and copyright

The digitization of history and the copyright issues arising from it form an interesting argument—how much freedom does one have in using somebody else’s thoughts taken from the cyberspace without mentioning its source. Digitization of almost everything that is found around us is definitely a challenge for the older generations of our society. It is also a challenge for presumably younger people who more frequently than ever before are using internet as their either main or secondary sources. How do we quote, how do we make sure that somebody else’s intellectual property is protected—and thus how we make sure that we protect ourselves from being accused of committing intellectual theft? There are some interesting points that are raised by various scholars.

Also, some members of the academia are urging to allow the public to have an extensive (if not all) usage rights to any works published online. ‘Alma Swan (Key Perspectives and Enabling Open Scholarship, UK) stressed this concept of “access” and defined it according to her concise, factual and strong definition of Open Access as “immediate, free (to use), free (of restrictions) access to the peer reviewed literature and data”. “Immediate” means that no embargo is suitable with Open Access.’ (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march11/giglia/03giglia.html); I had to mention the source of this quote :) Issues of open access and open data are used often when describing this subject.

It is interesting to see how various members of the academia view this subject. Some of them are reluctant to apply any (or most) of those measures into real life, but others are moving forward with utilizing today’s technology. However, there does not seem to be a uniform agreement how to use it within the law boundaries. There are also numerous websites that allow anyone to publish their own scientific findings—‘To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons’ (http://creativecommons.org/about). Interesting aspect of this web and research resource allows the users to, according to its authors to use ‘a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.’
The copyright laws in the cyberspace, as Cohen and Rosenzweig describe, are technically the same as the laws applied ‘in real life.’ However, I agree with their point of view that ‘in practice, the answer is not that simple.’ (195) One has to be extremely careful when using an online scholarly work.

I have to deal with the copyrights issues on a weekly basis. Being a DJ at the local non-commercial radio station requires anybody playing music on the air to adhere to certain rules and regulations pertaining to copyright protections. For instance, our radio station is not allowed to broadcast any Top-40 songs which are 10 years old or newer unless they were performed ‘live.’ If the station airs such a song and gets ‘caught’ by the FCC, or anybody who cares, then there can be a hefty fine. Therefore it is stressed over and over again that we cannot play those songs.

Copyrights in the digital world, music world or in any other media are crucial in protecting somebody’s intellectual property—however, in my view, some of the laws on the books that provide these protections last too long (lets say…for 80 years since the first publication—and then if the author or his immediate family has enough money to hire a good attorney, they can be extended for much loooonger…)—and are detrimental to many of us who are trying to use them as our resources.

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Defining Digital History

Defining Digital History can be interesting and time consuming aspect. Few decades ago, I do not think the word ‘digital’
had its proper meaning in the dictionary. Nowadays, almost everything seems to be ‘stemming’ from this word. “We live in a digital age”, “you have a digital camera” or your ‘class paper should be in a digital format.” Myself, being in a way a bit ‘old school’ (due to the fact that I was born during ‘an analog era’), the digital era is sort of a concern. Sometimes I think that the world is pacing too fast with its technological advances (and yet we do not know the cure for cancer…) History can also be digital. During the past few years more and more historians are turning into the world wide web to provide its readers with their historical views or with their research. As Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig present in their Digital History book: Almost every historian regards a computer as basic equipment; colleagues view those who write their books and articles without the assistance of word processing software as objects of curiosity. History teachers labor over their PowerPoint slides as do sixth graders preparing for History Day. Email and instant messaging has broadened circles of communication and debate among dispersed historical practitioners, scholars as well as amateur enthusiasts. (http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/introduction/)” Their work provides readers with ideas how to familiarize with the subject matter. The internet is a valuable resource for many people under certain conditions: if they know what they are looking for and if they know how to differentiate between valuable sources and junk. There is definitely more junk online than in the dumpster. This is for sure. We can probably find more usefull items (percentage-wise) in a garbage bin than online. I guess I am digressing a bit…As the authors of the Digital History emphasize, historians these days have multiple audiences–potentially they can reach thousands, or even millions of viewers (readers). They can try convincing the audience to their views by using a variety of techniques: from blogs, power point presentations (either by posting them online or by, for instance presenting them over an online conference with other scholars/professors/students). They can also be in a form of other digital media (audio or video)–by, for instance sending their youtube videos to their scholar friends or by posting and embedding links to them on various social media networks. Digital History eases an access to many historical materials that up to this point would have been inaccessible by many. Ancient or medieval documents can be only ‘clicks’ away. In many instances, one does not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to fly to a particular location where a documents of interest are stored. She/he does not have to waste time to travel. It is definietly an issue of convenience that makes historical research more approachable and affordable to many.

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