The Chicago Style of Blogging

From personal experience, all the time that is spent formulating  correct citations for papers or research projects can be exhausting. Being a history major for my undergrad and now being a Public History grad student, it becomes a second nature to cite something in Chicago Style and make your sources accessible to others.  The reality of it is,although tedious, and sometimes annoying to do, citations fulfill a legitimately important purpose. Citations help guide the reader to the evidence behind their arguments, and help the reader form their own. In Bland Whitley’s article “Standards of Citation and the Internet” there is a great point on how “Link Rot” has become quite a conundrum in the world of digital scholarship.  The fear is that people are no longer caring where they get their information from on the internet, that they cite websites that are the easiest and the quickest for them to find what they need. This link laziness induces a sort of lost in translation effect. People that want to track down information, or websites can’t,  putting a damper on the collaborative aspect of scholarship. Without accessible sources, other authors trying to use the  information  to draw their own conclusions wont be able to.

Another highlight of the readings this week was the goal of reaching your target audience with  your professional blogs or  museum/historical society websites.  Professional graphic designers can work wonders, and turn a bland site into something creative and attractive. But there is a fine line between what is too much to cheapen the work, and what is just enough to get the attention that the work deserves.One of my closest friends is a professional graphic designer, and just seeing how she works with different software, and  that she has a book dedicated to hundreds of different fonts, it definitely can be a complex skill set. I do believe that if historians/professional or academic historians want to, without those skills, can make a decent website, especially with most helper sites that give you templates and tell you how to build it.  But on the other hand, I know that any website, or blog that I make would be inferior to the creative/technical genius of my graphic designer friend.I do think that sites that are easier to navigate, have a creative and interesting design and are unique to other sites (not with a generic template) can make it a site people will want to go to more often.  Historians and historical societies need this digital outreach and the right promotional tools to make people aware of their scholarship. If the funds are there why not let a professional help you promote your professional work?

 

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the professional historian in a web 2.0 world

One of the most useful purposes of social media for the professional historian, as any other person using social media is interaction.  In Stephanie S. Yee’s blog, her post “Social Media: Connecting Curators to Museum Patrons” introduced me to a few really insightful things. First of all I think the idea of Ask a Curator is really helpful, and I agree that this really does  help curators maintain “an authoritative voice in their fields” via web and these media sites. This more importantly allows  a curators expertise to be more accessible and interactive with the public. While Stephanie S. Yee was explaining this, she provided a link to another website Museums and web 2.0, more specifically an article by  Erika Dicker showing all sorts of graphs, images and factoids about curators and social media.  I really love the idea of promotion, and interactive programs/websites through social media sites for museums and historical societies.  Using these sites for  this kinda of interaction, can really build interest and reach out to more people than just by having even a museum website.  I think that web 2.0 gives professional historians and archivists louder voices, not leaving them in the background. Curators too often don’t get the credit that they deserve by the public. To really get the most attention with anything today implementation of social media sites and using the web for outreach is absolutely the way to go.

 

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Crowd sourcing

Crowd sourcing: is it plausible to have a collective interpretation, or a user based interactive work associated with societies or museums? The article “Grappling with the Concept of Radical Trust“held the  central theme of “radical trust.”  The article  addresses the notion that although open source sites such as Wikipedia do their intended services, museums and historical societies should play a more valuable role with the public. The other side of this is, that in accepting user generated content doesn’t  have to mean  people will abandon scholarly curation of our collections and interpretation of history.  Instead there is the need of  a force to help the public distinguish the difference, and to identify which content is from the public and which is scholarly.

In  ” Can Museums Allow Users to Be Participants?“, Matthew MacArthur raises a fascinating  observation about the present day importance of social networking on the internet. Crowd Sourcing  is the product of this “symbolic shift in emphasis  from the internet as a collection of pages to the Internet as a connection between people”. The idea of a folksonomy, using user based tagging to make the information more retrievable and allowing the web to form relationships between museums and people intimates an outreach to people that may have not know about this particular museum or historical society.

After  reading these articles, and thinking about society as this evolutionary move towards the digital world, I really do believe that museums and historical sites/societies just need to embrace becoming at least somewhat interactive. It is a  better marketing strategy, and having user interaction and promotion through web 2.0 for these places is really important to reaching people and acquiring more visitors or supporters.

 

 

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Project Proposal

For research projects, I tend to lean towards things involving strong women, who have some sort of impact in society or history. For my project , it is only fitting that I work on The  Readers Feast collection in the Gender Equity Special Collection at the CCSU library. The collection refers to a bookstore called Readers Feast that was opened between 1983-1995. It was a combined bookstore/ restaurant that offered a selection of books ranging from children’s books and cook books, to feminist. and gay and lesbian books.  This bookstore was fruit of the combined labors of  thirty local,  culturally diverse  people who invested in a unique venture, chiefly president Carolyn Gabel and co- manager Tollie Miller. These two women, along with the many contributors wanted to house a special community gathering place for people to eat, read and take in different cultures/lifestyles in Hartford’s West End.  Unfortunately, with the emergence of national bookstore chains also meant the demise of Readers Feast.

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Digital Collections and Preservation

When addressing the issue of Digital Preservation and digital collections, there are many questions at hand. What should we preserve? What is the significance to this object? Will the files just be corrupt in 10 years are are the CD-ROMs and other older medias as the 150,000 of them that are at the Library of Congress?

There are many different arguments and opinions towards the change from analog to digital archiving, and both sides were displayed in the readings of this week. The negative outlook stresses the  issue  of the stability of technology (or more importantly the instability of technology ). The quality of these collections are also in question, seeing as there is not the traditional curatorial guidance involved.  The positives of collecting history through digital archives  is more diverse and inclusive and permit a larger amount of space, which can also be seen as a negative aspect, because managing that amount of space is concerning to scholars. Especially in Why Collecting History Online is Web 1.5 ,Sheila A Brennan and T. Mills Kelly you see both the pros and cons of a digital collection in the making. The HDMB project had become more work than expected, had exceeded the time allowed by their grant funding, and revealed technical and issues that had left the site still under the creators expectations.  The process revealed that digital collections have to not only have quality content, the right marketing tools for visitor attraction, an easy interface so users will not give up and move on from the site, and of course trust from the visitors so they will share their stories.

The inclusive and diverse aspects of digital collections  is really beneficial to the preservation of history. The more diversity and knowledge we can attain from the people involved in/with the things we are trying to preserve, the more well we can learn from them, and in a more well rounded way.

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Amazon, Netflix, and Digital Scholarship

I particularly enjoyed Lisa Spiro’s  Doing Digital Scholarship and Christopher Anderson’s  “The Long Tail” . Both of them deal with the way people react to the evolving resources we have available to us.

Lisa Spiro suggested that digital collaboration is more similar to traditional collaborative peer review (or co-editing) that is done with print articles than people assume. The stereotype of the “solitary scholars isolated in the library” ends up being more of a collaborative process to improve and edit their work.

Chris Anderson’s article, “The Long Tail” of business, references one of my favorite internet shopping networks: Amazon.  Amazon, by far, is one of my favorite resources for product research and online shopping . Amazon is fantastic when you can’t find a book or certain products at a store (or more so to buy things for a lower price than at some stores). Rhe product reviews are helpful in guiding you along to pick the right item for your specific needs.  I also use Amazon as a part of my research process. Usually, before any paper, when I am working on a topic, I use Amazon to do a search of the most up to date material is out there on the subject.

My boasting about Amazon is not unrelated. In Christopher Anderson’s article, he discusses Amazon as an example of a service that offers not only the popular, but also “niche” products. The customization components help to “guide consumers further afield by following the contours of their likes and dislikes, easing their exploration of the unknown.” Resources such as Amazon and Netflix present a goal similar to what is trying to be done with digital history, to use new technology and social networking to give you the “hits”, but also really help to  put  information/product out there which isn’t readily available or common, and making it available to everyone.

As a side; on Monday I came across a really interesting find.  While browsing Twitter, I came across a link Katrina Gulliver tweeted about the different international copyright laws on google books. I know that we had discussed copyright in class, but I thought I would share the link anyways. It was a post from the Shane Landrum’s  blog Cliotropic called “Google Books & its discontents“.

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Collaborative Web and Wiki-Guilt

When I was first introduced to Wikipedia, I loved that it gave a vast overview of different topics and explanations, articles seemed concise , and it took minimal effort to access just about anything you wanted. I should mention that I  have never viewed or used  Wikipedia  as a source for any of my papers. Every professor I’ve had would write specifically in the syllabus; “DO NOT USE WIKIPEDIA FOR RESEARCH!”Just as in my casual google searches, I felt like Wikipedia was a good way to gain a general idea or understanding that is more complex, in a simple way. Now I feel guilt when I feel the need to browse Wikipedia for clarity. I feel this innate shame because of its tainted reputation as a sort of  modern encyclopedia of errors.

After reading Stacy Shiff’s piece from The New Yorker “Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise?”  and paralleling  it to the piece by cofounder of Wikipedia Larry Sanger in his article “The New Politics of Knowledge”, I see not only the benefits of collaborative web, but also the concerns of its reliability as an adequate source. There are undoubtably good qualities in collaborative websites such as Wikipedia; providing current topic and updates, a place for people to  “Geek out”(term referenced from Living and Learning with New Media) and free and fast access to endless amounts of information that is updated frequently.  I agree with Larry Sanders that Wikipedia somewhat places ” Truth in the service of Equality”. Although, I also see how people can be experts without the official credentials and that truth is a somewhat permeable thing. But, considering that the people who do have credential are traditionally identified as experts, Sanders suggests that “knowledge is their life”, and they inturn improve chances of getting a step closer to the truth.

To be fair, there are people who are trying to create quality source material and use collaborative web as a resource for leaning and digital expansion within the classroom. By assigning students to research, write, and keep track of  their own Wikipedia article, teacher Jeremy Boggs is going along with concept(also discussed in “Living and Learning in New Media by Mimi Ito) that teachers must be exploratory and take the negative stereotype about the rise in internet/digital usage and prove that it can be a positive advancement. Although everything has the potential to be bad, collaborative web creates an interesting arena for everyone to contribute. Cohen’s article on “The Wikipedia Story That’s Being Missed” was very interesting because it took some heat off of the constant discussion of reliability of Wikipedia. The blog provided insight into the business aspect and how the other search engines are reaping the benefits from Wikipedia (Yahoo and Google) which was very interesting

I feel like a broken record, always ending entries with the same conclusion. Blogging, collaborative web and other digital tools are great, but they have the increased ability to become poorly executed as well. It is most important to stress quality control and to have a variety of sources when obtaining information.

 

 

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History is expensive…

Copyright,especially in the terms of digital copyright, is a topic which evokes confusion for historians. While reading Dan Cohen’s book Digital History, I gained a great insight into copyright, and the ever evolving laws around it. It was here in Connecticut that the first copyright law was passed in 1783, with Noah Webster’s spelling book. This set the first standard of copyright. Although the laws and regulations have changed, and extended throughout the years, there is still a major concern for the legal protection of peoples works. More so,  there is a new concern for how to copyright digital media.

Dan Cohen claims that the heart of the issue is really not so much copyright, but plagiarism, the worry of people stealing their credibility, which I believe to be very true. Although I do believe that the right credit should be given, the Library of Congress‘ digital collections, which are open to the public domain allows a promotion of  mass information exchange. Although open access and public domain save you the headache of dealing with copyright issues, I can still see how some institutions want to remain in control of who uses can utilize their artifacts or information . This brings up the point of digitizing history yourself. Overall, from reading Cohen,it seems to be a very costly process, and certain things can be very difficult to do without expensive equipment.  Creating digital collections, involves additional issues that go beyond copyright, like the technical difficulties and preserving the artifacts while digitizing.

Ultimately I believe that having things digitized is a great thing, especially for museums. I also believe that this should only be done if the right credit can be given where it is due!

 

 

 

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From the telegraph to google and far more in between

The Victorian Internet, was a surprisingly easy read and an interesting account of the historical timeline and cultural attitudes of the innovative Telegraph. The book showcased  the trials and tribulations in the development the various versions of the telegraph. Tom Standage  provides the reader with solid groundwork for his thesis, that there are great parallels between the Telegraph and the modern equivalent of the Internet. Reactions and similarities between the time of the telegraph and the beginnings of the internet show that we have more in common with the Victorians than we ever thought we would.

Another issue I wanted to address is the article Is Google Making Us Stupid? While I appreciate (especially from reading The Victorian Internet) the ability we have  to process and find information so fast and in our modern tech savvy times, it is also fair to say that is is making our society lazy. I myself am guilty of the “power browse” that Nicolas Carr refers to.Because access to things on the internet  has become so effortless, it has become wired in people of this age of technology to once again simplify.  I remember, even in high school, I had many friends who would use sparknotes instead of reading the literature assigned. We want easy answers, easy fixes, and fast. The internet age indeed equipped us to shallow browse,  over looking the actual resources that can be utilized through the web. We just need to remind ourselves  that there is good stuff out there ,we just have to look for it.

Using the internet changes the practice of “doing history” as well.  This being the obvious fact that it changes the way we retrieve information. The internet allows us to find information through a few simple steps instead of rooting through books in libraries for hours like the historians of past.

 

 

 

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Delicious tagging

I have just registered  for the public bookmarking site  Del.icio.us, and so far I am already seeing the research benefits. From  a few trial searches of general terms such as Digital History and Art, I could tell this would be a great tool. Without even having to be too specific to what I was looking for, I found a plethora of noteworthy reference sites.

This site is easy to navigate, simple, and straightforward.  Del.icio.us allows you to view the bookmarks that others have saved. This can lead you to great reference sites, and makes research more like a more useful/deliberate version of stumble upon (which can be found on Del.icio.us). The most obvious benefit of the site is accessibility to your bookmarks, especially for a grad student who is always on the go like myself.

Del.iciou.us and other sites such as Flicker and Technorati make information, images, and blogs  very accessible through organization, user tags and a bit of social networking. There are both positives and negatives to this method of web cataloging (as discussed in The Hive Mind: Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging). However,  the consensus is that it is  a positive to the development in Public and Digital History. Overall I really believe that this using web tools such as Dil.iciou.us is an efficient  way to find some great stuff in the vast entity of the every expanding internet.

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