Archive for September, 2011

Blog Post for Week 5: Television

Friday, September 30th, 2011

While reading Edgerton for Thursday, I was intrigued in the amount of popular television shows that tried to incorporate historical events into the show’s plot.  Furthermore, I thought it was interesting seeing the show’s take on historical events like Dark Skies integrating alien life into major historical events of the 2oth century.  While that particular show did not catch on, I definitely think there is a market in television for historical documentaries, popular history, or even fabricated history in popular culture.  The major problems facing these kinds of shows is the relationship between actual historians and producers.  Edgerton believes that very few films and shows do what “real” historians do.  While I agree with him to the point that most television shows and films dramatize historical to some extent, I still find most of them very engaging and informative.  I don’t think that these shows can be cited as primary or secondary sources just yet, I do believe they have significant value in the lives of most people.


Friday, September 30th, 2011


Going along with our discussion this week about television, I feel that I have learned as much about history from watching television as I have from learning about history in school. I usually prefer to watch television to learn about history instead of reading a book due to the fact that history makes more sense to me if I can visualize what has happened. Watching television is an easy and creative way for me to do that. I think that television can also be viewed as a time machine because it allows you to feel like you are reliving the past. Watching the History channel is not the only way I learn about history on TV. I enjoy watching movies where fictional characters are present at “real” historical events. In the movie Forrest Gump, for example, Forrest was present at historical events such as the desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Watergate scandal. Although the events in the movie might not have been historically accurate, the movie allows its audience to see what main events in history were going on through the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s through the eyes of an ordinary person.

Early Photography Infographic

Friday, September 30th, 2011

I agree with Charlie – this infographic drove me crazy.

Once again, I’d only ever designed one infographic before this class, and it was for Professor Whalen’s Writing Through Digital Media class. It was on coffee consumption in the United States – how many people drink coffee, where it comes from, how much coffee the average person drinks, etc. I enjoyed working on it, and it was not difficult to find information on coffee consumption.

Early photography was an entirely different topic. While there is a fair amount of information available about early photography, it isn’t information that is easily conveyed graphically; it is mostly a collection of terms and dates instead of statistics. And I didn’t want to just do a timeline, because our last project had been a timeline, and that felt like cheating, somehow. And how do you talk about things like the calotype process, which isn’t commonly known about, without explaining what it is? A series of images might work, but I was limited by the fact that I couldn’t find any drawings that I could legally use under copyright, and my own drawing skills are minimal, and I’d never drawn anything on a computer.

As I struggled with layout and how to convey the information I wanted to graphically, I came to a realization. While infographics usually try to convey information visually to keep people from feeling underwhelmed, I couldn’t escape the fact that I had a lot of information which no way to convey it without text. Nor could I escape that the only real way I could think of to show off the information was in a timeline format. So I decided to try and make the piece feel more victorian, and as such, be more acceptably text heavy. After a quick google search, I found several examples of victorian pseudo-infographics that inspired my design.

Theory of the Seasons + Comparative Planetary Sizes Humboldt's Distribution of Plants in Equinoctial America, 1854

I pulled the victorian people from a fashion plate from the  late 1800s, and the images of the camera obscuras from a google patent. The two cameras in the background were part of an advertisement for a series of cameras from the early 1900s. However, I still couldn’t find any images I could legally use of the calotype process, or lithography, or even of the kodak brownie. So I decided to draw them. It was a rather long and involved process, which was made worse by the fact that I had never drawn anything on a computer before. But I am fairly well pleased with the end result.

This project was a definite learning process. It certainly (if unexpectedly) pushed me out of my comfort zone. But while the infographic/poster/thing still is a rather intimidating mess of text, hopefully it is still visually appealing enough that people will be intrigued enough to still look at it.

The television

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

This week was rough. Seemed like everything was due at the same time. So stress to the max. However this week was interesting. While I was writing my paper on the radio we were comparing them in class. I found it very revealing the way radio just failed compared to the television. I loved the in class videos of the commercials. Ended up showing them to my family after class.

Cuneiform Texts

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

For the first project, I chose to make myself uncomfortable. I had never researched cuneiform text before. I had no idea where to even start. Luckily, the University of Mary Washington Library had several sources on cuneiform texts. Only archaeologists wrote a few. A historian and a computer programmer wrote the other two. I attempted to prove a fact postulated in a text read in class that stated a linkage between computer programming and cuneiform text. I failed. Even the computer scientist’s writing failed to provide pictures or sources of cuneiform tablets to reinforce and back up his statements. I changed the focus of my project based upon the sources in hand. The books and articles I had discussed the progression of language from pictograms to cuneiform, or pictures to text. When I attempted to make pictograms, I could see the conscious decisions made by the scribe class to progress towards a more text and syllable driven language. It is hard to think about a shift of pictures representing ideas to those ideas becoming sounds and basic letters, but that is exactly what happened. At first, scribes to account for tithes to the religious temples used the pictures. Later on, cuneiform began to be used to write histories, laws, and lineages. Scribes into cuneiform wrote the Code of Hammurabi. I would only have been able to understand the progression by actually practicing the creation of the tablets. Try it some time.



Thursday, September 29th, 2011

This infographic drove me crazy.
This was not my first infographic – I created my first one last spring for Whalen’s Writing Through Digital Media class.
At the end of that presentation, I realized that my biggest problem with infographics is trying to find a good way to lay out the entire image.  My first one, on the basics of being transgender, was a long, vertical layout with no exciting way to bring it all together.  I seemed to forget this going into my second graphic.
I made the same mistake again – I just went for it.  According to Twitter, I started the graphic on September 9 and in a few days I switched to try another layout. Here are some layouts I had:


As you can see, I had a lot more information on the image in the beginning.  In the end I decided to cut down the information so that people would read it and not feel overwhelmed.
This lasted until this weekend, when I switched to a horizontal view, putting the map of the US in the background.  Last night I finally settled on putting the graphics on the map and the information off of it.
I am proud of this image, but I’m not in love with it.  Comparing this to the trans one, my heart wasn’t as in this as it was in the trans one.  Granted, it is hard to compare the trans infographic (an identity that I have) with the Pony Express (a form of communication I picked on a whim), but still.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed creating this.  However, I was frustrated by creating a good layout and it drove me crazy.
I’m not an artist, I only dabble in image creating/editing software and graphic design.   That is why for me, projects are always the most difficult in the beginning because I never have any idea of how it is supposed to look.  Once I get going with an overall idea of what the final product will look like I get excited and motivated.  But, for whatever reason I couldn’t (and still can’t) figure out how I want this piece to look.

Even as I look at it I just thought of a better way to lay it out.


I’ll do that later in the semester.  For now, I need to get out of the 1860.

Telephone Project! 9/27 & 9/29

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

This week I had to do some research on telephone for my project. I thought this project was really interesting and different. It was kind of difficult to keep it limited to 300-500 words just because as a history major I feel like we are so used to writing at least 4-6 page papers. You just don’t feel like you have enough information there, even if you answer everything you need to. I really enjoyed Kyle, Mike, and Joe’s presentations in class of their projects and I thought they all did a really great job. This week my discussion group was also working on getting our readings together for next week’s discussions. I’m excited to talk about advertising and propaganda since last fall I did my 299 research on propaganda of World War II.

Newspaper Production in the Life of Joseph Pulitzer

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The spread of information through newspaper print and publishing went through a massive makeover at the turn of the 20th century.  From the early 1900’s to the present, journalists have followed 3 major rules: “accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy.”[1]  These three rules have established modern journalism as people know today.  This radical system of publication was the creation of one man named Joseph Pulitzer.

After moving to New York from St. Louis to take over the failing New York World, Pulitzer began to change the layout of the newspaper immediately.  The first difference in the World that could be seen was the headlines of the newspaper.  Before Pulitzer, the World published newspaper with boring headlines that took up too much space, for instance: “Bench Show of Dogs: Prizes Awarded on the Second Day of the Meeting in Madison Square Garden.”[2]  Just a few weeks after Pulitzer took the reigns at the Herald, headlines looked very different: “Baptized in Blood.”[3]  The story summarized the deaths of 11 people at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on a Sunday where a riot broke out.[4]

These luring headlines enticed readers to take a look, but the stories themselves made the people, and more importantly, the editors want to read the newspaper.  Pulitzer’s formula for success was very simple, to write a story so simple that anyone could read, but also so colorful that no one would forget.[5]  Another technique Pulitzer encouraged his journalists to incorporate in articles were interviews.[6]  A new idea at the time, Pulitzer wanted the voices of the city to be heard as in the articles the World published.

In complete harmony with pushing the boundaries of the text itself in journal articles, Pulitzer in addition integrated pictures into the stories he published.  As Jack Shafer states in “The Lost World of Joseph Pulitzer,” halftone photos, dramatic and comic illustrations, inset graphics, hand-lettered headlines, and buckets of color enlivened these artful pages.[7]  The picture inlayed with the text of an article gives the World a three-dimensional quality that is very real and engaging with the reader, a quality only the World possessed at the beginning.

At a time when radio wasn’t for sale to the public, television was still a theory, and film had not reached its full potential, the newspaper was the only source of information and even entertainment.  Pulitzer was able to give the subscribers of the World both the entertainment they wanted, and the accurate information they needed to live their lives.

[1]               Judith Sheppard, “Playing defense,” American Journalism Review, September 1998, 49.

[2]               James McGrath Morris, “Man of the World,” Wilson Quarterly 34, Winter2010, 28-33.

[3]               Ibid.

[4]               Ibid.

[5]               Ibid.

[6]               Ibid.

[7]               Jack Shafer, The Lost World of Joseph Pulitzer, (accessed September 28, 2011).

Martin Luther and the Printing Press

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

When Johannes Gutenberg began working on the printing press in 1436, he created what can be considered one of the most ingenious inventions of all time.  It would lead the way for a massive wave of printed books to be sold all across Europe.[1]  This revolutionary invention paved the future for many great writers.  It also paved the way for the rise in fame of one German priest in particular.  That man was Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was not only a priest, but a professor of theology who started the
Protestant Reformation.[2]  For him to be credited with this, he needed
something to help spread his preaching out across Europe.  That ended up being Gutenberg’s invention, the printing press.  In 1517, Martin Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Mainz, protesting his dislike of buying indulgences.  He added something in the letter, which would later become the famous Ninety-Five Thesis.  Luther would argue that the sale of indulgences was a violation of the original intention of confession, and that Christians were being lied to by their own church.[3]

In January 1518, Christoph von Scheurl and other friends of Luther translated the Ninety Five Theses into German, since it was originally written in Latin.  They then printed and copied it, making it one of the first documents to be done with the help of the printing press.[4]  Within two weeks, copies of the Theses had spread throughout Germany.  Within six weeks of that, the Theses had been copied across Europe.  Luther’s writings reached France, England and Italy by 1519.[5]  This greatly increased the notoriety of
Martin Luther, and it also made many other people across Europe protest the ecclesiastical structure of the Catholic Church.

Another huge impact the printing press had on Martin Luther was the Luther Bible.  Luther went through many different areas of Germany in the 1520’s and picked up on many of the different dialects.  Luther then combined all of these dialects when he wrote the Luther Bible.  It was not the first German translation by any means, but it did standardize the German language and bring up a strong surge of nationalism in Germany.[6]  Luther was quoted as saying “I have so far read no book or letter in which the German
language is properly handled. Nobody seems to care sufficiently for it; and every preacher thinks he has a right to change it at pleasure and to invent new terms.”[7]  Above all though, the Luther Bible did what Luther needed it to do: spread Protestantism.

“…For I see what benefit it has brought to the churches, that men have begun to collect many books and great libraries, outside and alongside of the Holy scriptures…”[8]  Luther was referring to the benefits of his spread works, but also how men needed to fully respect their religion.  The printing press allowed for Martin Luther to become one of the most famous priests this world has ever known.  It also allowed for Luther to push the Protestant Reformation and standardize the German language.  Without Gutenberg’s invention, Luther’s successes would have been very limited compared to what they were.

Albert Kapr, Johannes Gutenberg: The Man and his Invention (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 172.

Edward M. Plass, What Luther Says: An Anthology (St. Loius: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 2.

Martin Treu, Martin Luther in Wittenberg: a Biographical Tour (Wittenberg: Luther Memorial Foundation, 2003), 15.

[4] Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, trans. James L. Schaaf (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985-93), 203-206.

Walter Kramer and Gotz Trenkler, “Luther,” Lexicon van Hardnekkige Misverstanden (Nederlands: Bert Bakker, 1997), 214-216.

Mark Antliff, The Legacy of Martin Luther (Ottawa: McGill University Press, 1983), 11.

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 12.

[8] Martin Luther, Works of Martin Luther with Introduction and Notes (Philadelphia: A.J. Holden Company, 1915), 7.

The Telephone-Process & Complications

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The telephone is one of the pieces of technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that is said to have numerous creators, though Alexander Graham Bell is given the most of the credit, as he was the first to patent it in March 1876. Entitled, “Improvement in Telegraphy,” that was exactly was Bell’s telephone was intended to be. Casson describe how Bell “toiled at his musical telegraph and he dreamed of replacing the telegraph and its cumbrous sign language by a new machine that would carry, not dots and dashes, but the human voice.”1 Rather than the complicated codes needed while using the telegraph, normal human speech could be sent and received without actual face-to-face contact. Coe describes Bell’s first telephone communication, “Bell’s famous transmission, ‘Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!’ took place on March 10, 1876. It is part of the myth and legend of the telephone, and by many it has been assumed that this was the first intelligible transmission of human speech.”2

But Bell’s call was not the first time human speech had been electrically transmitted. Elisha Gray had used a liquid contact transmitter before which allowed for the necessary current for speech transmission to be established. It took forty weeks to get the telephone to do more than make strange inarticulate noises.3 And once it did “speak.” Bell realized that this liquid transmitter would not be suitable for commercial use.4 Bell’s telephone had a single magnetic unit that acted as a receiver and transmitter. This was one of the major complications as it was frustrating to the user that they had to constantly be moving their head to use it both ways.5 Loomis describes “the first commercial telephone in 1877” as “a box telephone, about the size and shape of a breadbox. This instrument [telephone] served as a receiver, transmitter, and calling device all in one…And its single opening was used for both talking and listening. The awkwardness of this arrangement led to the development, later in 1877, of the hand telephone.” 6. Another complication was that two telephones were directly connected to each other, preventing either party to call anyone else. These were not the only problems in the early use of the telephone however. Speaking of George Maynard, who was in charge of the telephone network in the Washington, D.C. area, Loomis states, “From 1877 to 1879 [George Colton] Maynard also wrote dozens of letters complaining, often bitterly, about shoddy workmanship, faulty design, and instrument failure due to loss of magnetization, corrosion, and the absence of quality control.”7 Although the early telephone had a complicated process of sending and receiving information, it was still able to succeed through new developments and innovations that made it less awkward than the first and an overall better quality machine.

  1. Herbert N. Casson, “The Birth of the Telephone: Its Invention Not an Accident but the Working Out of a Scientific Theory-Bell and Watson Teaching the Infant to Say Words,” 12672-12674, in The Worlds Work Vol XIX (Doubleday, Page & Co., 1910), (accessed September 28, 2011).
  2. Lewis Coe, The Telephone and Its Several Inventors (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1995), 2.
  3. Casson, 12674.
  4. Coe, 2.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Richard T. Loomis, “The Telephone Comes to Washington: George C. Maynard, 1839-1919,” Washington History 12, no 2 (Fall/Winter 2000/2001): 27, (accessed September 28, 2011)
  7. Ibid, 28.