In Defense of This Project

Over this past semester I have worked in a group of three historians to influence the digital identity of an archival collection through the production of this website. This project has  been an eye-opening experience because it required us to investigate the relationship between history and modern digital platforms.

Throughout this process, I encountered several major challenges. We began with choosing a collection, researching that collection, and imaging how it could be portrayed in an interactive component with two other groups from a Games Programming course. My academic and personal schedules did not allow for much extra time this semester. So, I had hoped that we could focus on a collection that resembled one of my other projects. The collection we chose, The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (MDFF), is similar to my thesis because it is a key piece of Western North Carolina history.

However, research was a challenge due to the massive amount of boxes in the collection. We decided to limit ourselves to documents from the 1960s and 1970s to save time on research but these dates also proved to be challenging. The most coveted aspect of our collection, the music files, were not recorded during that time and so they did not strictly fit in our time frame. We went ahead with the music because MDFF is a historical festival and the music in the recordings was still representative of the collection.

Still, as the project and semester progressed, the amount of research and necessary extra time was significant. As a group, we struggled with time management and procrastination. I believe we recognized this in each other because we shared similar learning styles. We were very compatible and worked incredibly well together. At some point, each of us reminded the rest to stay on task. Our group dynamics were also helpful when it came time to make big decisions such as changing our theme. Once we all looked at our website options, deciding on a layout was very simple. We also initially struggled to collaborate on our contract. Early on in the semester, when we were asked to write out our project in a contract format, I did not have a thorough understanding of what was expected of me. Our contract has changed several times as our understanding of the project has developed. I think that what made our project a successful learning experience was the fact our contract was not permanent, but that it changed and grew with us.

These challenges did not limit our benefits of the project. Though we faced time restraints, a massive amount of data, new technologies, and procrastination, our experience as a group was a positive one. I have come away from this project believing that history can successfully be displayed on multiple digital platforms. By creating these websites we have built digital identities for these collections. We have published imagery, music, and information beyond what a Facebook page or billboard could. Specifically, we have made these collections interactive. If they exist only in Special Collections, these collections are narratives buried in boxes. There is no easy and quick way to uncover them. However, putting them online increases their accessibility to the public. Then the interactive components make them attractive and entertaining. We have essentially organized a lot of information on the festival and presented it to the public in a digestible format. Doing this preserves the information in a more widely visited archive; The internet. While some historians may recoil at the idea of working with technology, the time is coming when we must all adapt to our audience’s digital preferences. I think this project and others like it are important for historians to participate in for both the group experience and the digital insight.

 

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5.1.2017 Meeting with Games Students

Today we met with the Games students to review our presentations. It would have been nice to practice but unfortunately all of the students involved with MDFF are rushing to finish their individual parts. The history team spent most of our time together reviewing the Hypothesis comments on our website and coming up with solutions. From reading through just the Google Doc comments Dr. Pearson sent us we (as a group) need too…

1.find cohesive citation format
2. add primary citation information to every page
3.cite Lunsford’s most recent bio
4. Add and about page
5. Add a links page for games and og website
6. remove comments section
We are all responsible for fixing our individual pages. But there needs to be a greater emphasis on checking each-other’s work. However, among our group is a lot of stress and tension that comes with this time of year. Many of us feel lost that our feedback was so bad, though we agree that more could be done. The questions I prepared for today’s meeting are…
1. Is it acceptable to delete our references page and place full citations at the bottom of each page?
2. What would our new ‘about’ page need to include? we would like to avoid personal information.
3. Please clarify this sentence from our comments: “Any improvements in the site will be taken into consideration in the final group and individual grade, but of course they will not “count” as significantly now as they would have if you had don’t them before the due date.” Frankly, what is our current grade and what is the highest possible grade we could achieve now that we are working past the due date?
4.In your opinion, is a links page the best way to go with presenting the games?
The Games students seem to be in a similar rush and are hurrying to fix all the problems they can. I am happy that someone from every group is available for this Saturday’s presentation practice!

4.28.’17 Class Notes

Our blog post  or our paper defending our contract is now due on May 3rd, reading day. Here’s what should be in it:

The syllabus says – Wednesday, May 3: Reading day/no class, but paper/blog post due by 5 p.m. reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted. Description from the assignment section, above: At the end of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice.) This paper (1-2 pages in length or 500 words) should reflect on the process of creating a website, and it should defend your group’s project as contracted.  Examples of Reflections/defense of contract posts can be found on this page: http://course.centuryamerica.org/

We should discuss any major changes (like theme) that had to take place. You should somewhat include your productive failure blog without copying it. Continue your reflection as it were. What did you learn from this class? How will you use it in the future? Use this paper to connect your experience in class, in the group, as a group, reflection, and suggestions.

Class discussion:

  • Consider the importance of questioning the author…
  • We are more comfortable texting and posting online then we are in person. We are less likely to speak/act in person…
  • Are my beliefs the same as my digital identity? is my digital identity the same as my digital citizenship? If they are different, do they ever appear differently?
  • There is a democratization online that does not necessary exist in our 3D space….
  • There is a really odd balance between what is private and then the freedom of being whoever you want. In some ways we sacrifice privacy for vulnerability in the face of expression. And in some ways expressing more, makes us more vulnerable.
  • The trends are super interesting as far as age considered because we will eventually reach a point where our children will find those posts. I do not know how many people experience that now, but it will definitely happen to most people eventually. This also calls one of our previous readings back, the on about the young girl and how much she was on social media and how she constructed it. She only had but 25 photos? Because she was making a statement and controlling how she was interpreted.
  • “I think to ask for order on the internet would be asking if there is order in the world already.” – Ethan
  • There is a time lapse because younger generations tend to pick up on trends faster than older generations and we are becoming the older generation. There is a very visible difference in the skill-set of each generation now.
  • Wikipedia – I am constantly telling my students who  struggle with history always answer these 3 questions first: Author? Date? Place? Those together create context. But within digital arenas context is constantly changing and I believe students are behind the curve on context analysis. They do not yet realize how important a good source is.
  • I dislike the change from book in classrooms from computers in classrooms because I am not accustomed to it. I think we are too reliant but that opinion can be distracting. It separated me from my students because they will not make the effort to come to me, I have to go to them on their level. Maybe drag a few of ’em back.

4.24.2017 Meeting with Games Students

Today marks the beginning of the end! We will now meet regularly with games students to go over our presentations. Today, we spent most of our time testing out the games that the other groups have been working on and building our presentation.

Both games look awesome and are coming along really well. The Timeline game took it upon themselves to create True/False quiz throughout their game using the information we gave them. They also edited some of the provided music to fit their scenes. The Roll Call game has created what looks like a really professional game. So far, I am very happy with both of the projects.

Last Friday, Carole Schroeder, who is working with us on the Roll Call game, began and shared our group presentation on Google Drive. She did a fantastic job creating it! Part of today’s meeting was spent working on our slides. We will be presenting before the games students and I am the ‘lead historian’ for our group. We only have a few minutes and a few slides to talk about so we are still deciding what should go on the slides and what we should only talk about. One big question we have is how much of our research should we include in our presentation considering the time limits. We also compiled a short list of things we would change about our final website draft. We did this just in case we are allowed to edit after we are graded.

Productive Failure Blog

Developing a website has not been a smooth journey. Even though I consider myself lucky to have worked with this group and topic, we definitely had our struggles. More than anything, I would say our biggest challenge was time-management.

Time-management became a real problem later in the project. All of us, especially Andrea, found regular time to go over the collection at the beginning of the semester. For a while, we were all taking in information, keeping notes, and trying our best to be efficient. However, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival is a huge collection. We eventually realized that we would not be able to cover it all and began to cherry-pick documents by date. Our struggle really set-in as the semester progressed. We all separated into our own topics and began working more independently. The one time a week that we could all meet was the most inconvenient time for all of us. As communication waned and commitment was spread across other major projects, we all drifted into a production-limbo. Our biggest rush was right before the first draft. Since we had become distant and idle, there was a lot of scrambling to find out what everyone had been working on, how much was there left to do, who was covering what. It came out that our website template was very difficult to deal with and that I could not even access it. Needless to say, our first draft was not spectacular. Unlike breaking something or editing text, we had developed a habit that could only be broken through diligence. After our first draft Andrea and I took a better look at the website. We all decided to change the template, the fonts, the colors, and resolved to let Ethan and I work through his login. Since then, we have regularly met and communicated. We are constantly coming up with To-Do lists for the next meetings while keeping the work as individual as possible. I think the resolution to our problem was persistence. While it was easy at first to find time for the project, as other classes picked up we all had the tendency to put earlier deadlines before MDFF. Staying vigilant and making this project a weekly requirement was essential to completing it.

Despite the unfamiliar complexities, I never felt cornered. There was always someone to reach out too. If this project has taught me anything, it has taught me to the value of our library staff, Special Collections and Media Labs included.

4.14.’17 Games Students Meeting

To Do List:

  • Provide info for each Roll Call along with research citations and music citations.
  • Resolve some photos from current auditorium for reference, Not sure if actual photos will be possible.
  • Provide music citations for Timeline game and brief info on each event.
  • Productive Failure Blog

Most of what we need to do will be covered by our final draft this Wednesday. We will simply need to make all of that information readily available to the Games Students and possibly tweak the information so that it does not repeat exactly what is written on the website. Otherwise, it seems like our dig. hist. group and games groups are content to focus on their individual parts. We came together and now have separated with different goals. Most of their questions now revolve around how to upload the games to the website and what-not. Those are questions that we as dig. hist. students cannot answer.

Last-Week Reading Review

The reading I focused on this week was Critical Digital Citizenship by Maha Bali.

In her article, Critical Digital Citizenship: Promoting Empathy and Social Justice Online, Maha Bali writes “I suggested we reconsider what we mean by “critical,” and proposed that universities aim to promote criticality that centers around social justice and empathy as a more fruitful approach than one centered on skepticism and antagonism.” Since I am studying to become a teacher, this quote was like a hook for me. In history we are taught to ‘question the author.’ It is surprising how I did not learn such a reasonable practice until college. Recognizing bias is incredibly important in this field. However, Bali did not write much more on that point. Instead she focused on how the digital community could be used as a platform for Social Justice. I would have to entirely agree. Aside from my news sources, I get nearly all of my arguments from social media. For instance, when Pepsi recently released their ad with Kendall Jenner, I knew about it immediately because of Social Media. Bali believes that we can achieve intercultural learning experiences through social media but I found her article lacking specifics. Her research is good but social media trends are hard to pin down. I think that any social justice platform on social media would have to be very deliberate and persistent to turn likes into action.

4.3.’17 Hypothesis Review Session

Today we met with the Synagogue Website group to review the first drafts of each other’s websites. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for this meeting. I misunderstood the schedule and believed that we would not meet until Wednesday. I was also so convinced by my mistake that I did not double check the syllabus. Luckily, another student from class works with me in Special Collections and asked what I was doing there! I would like to discuss my reactions to the critiques of our website then

In my opinion we have to change our theme. I feel like most of this meeting was us explaining why we could not do something because of the theme. This is partially due to the fact that Ethan has fully taken on the appearance and function of the website. Andrea and I have only added our research. In fact, I cannot log in at all and have done all of my work through Ethan’s account. Changing the theme may not fix that but it will at least get rid of that header.

I would like to put one of the games on our home page, but since both of them apply to other tabs I am not sure that will happen. However, they interactions may make those pages too busy if they are added under these tabs. We may want to lighten up on some denser information under those tabs. For instance, Ethan created a much longer Honor Roll than we previously agreed on. It is great but adding a game to that and the biographies that are still missing would make a super long page! I think our home page could use some love.

Most of my work has been handling the music. I found that when I sat down to write my paragraph, I did not actually have a ton to write. I know the music but aside from transferring, digitizing, uploading, and sharing, I do not have thick research to fall on. I will definitely be responsible for adding music onto our website and that feels like a very daunting challenge. I will be spending more time in the media center over the next few weeks than I ever have!

3.31.’17 Friday Meeting w/ Games Students

So our website needs a lot of work. We were aware of that fact even after viewing the Synagogue’s website through Hypothesis before today’s meeting. Now we have a concrete To Do list.

While all of the music has been shared through Google Drive, each group needs to know specifically which track goes with which topic. One games group needs a track per time period and fact for their game, about 6. The other group need a track per Roll Call person which is roughly 7 tracks. Luckily, the trouble I have been having with converting the audio files into the requesting format is easily overcome by them. They can handle that portion.

Andrea needs to upload images to Google Drive. They currently are not in a usable file format so they must be converted before being uploaded. Andrea did upload them to Photo-Bucket which may have automatically converted them. We are working through that currently.

The Roll Call game in particular has asked for photos showing the current auditorium in use. They need to reference these photos when designing the environment in the game. This may take compiling a lot of photos in order to bring a full idea of the auditorium together. We might also reference the current state of the auditorium as well. However, google searches for the auditorium have not revealed much information. We may have to go out to pack and take pictures.

The Games students have not actually started working on the games yet, so they did not have much to report to us.

3.24.’17 Post-Break Meeting with Games Students

The group meeting on Friday with the Com.Sci. Students was very helpful and turned out a lot of good ideas. Both groups and had great games to show us and by seeing the games we were able to imagine a way to fit them into our topic. For instance one game will have a character walk around a dance hall or theater and stop at booths where interactive pictures from our Roll Call will be available. The other game will have a little squirrel jumping up levels and collecting items through a timeline of the Festival.

These ideas are the result of extensive discussion with both groups about how the information applies the the games they can create. We originally had ideas of playing a kinda of Dance Dance Revolution game but we found out that is not very feasible.

What has been decided is the lay out of each game and what the Gaming students ought to be working on before we meet again. For one group, it seems like all the need to do is redecorate their game. The other group has suggested recreating their game in order to make something similar, but very different. They have assured us that they can do this in the given time frame.

Going forward, the games students have been told to work on preparing the platform for the information we will provide. We gave them some numbers and topics to get them started like how many songs we will give them to work with and how many stops there will be on our timeline. We now really need to focus on this first draft due on Wednesday.