Tools and Reviews

Zotero is one of those tools I’ve heard about a lot, and played with a lot, but for some reason I’ve never been able to remember to use it for any real length of time. However, I nevertheless think it is an extremely adaptable tool that could be used in a plethora of ways for our group project. My group is working on the James Farmer collection, and I think we could use Zotero in several ways. We’ve been talking a lot as a group about how to connect the material we have of James Farmer to the larger narrative of hi life and works, and Zotero would be the perfect way to do so. We could easily collect works about James Farmer outside of his lectures in Zotero, and share a live updating bibliography on part of the website we created (History of the Information Age did something similar to this last semester). It would serve as an additional resource for those visiting the site, and would show our research. Another way that is less pertinent to our topic, but nevertheless interesting, would be to use Zotero as a way to keep track of a comment thread on sites like Reddit or Digg, or a more specific political or historical forum. Since Zotero lets you take screen shots of the website, you could use it to  show the comment thread from it’s beginning, or to follow particular threads within a larger discussion. Or, you could use it to gather together screen shots of different comment threads/forums about a communal topic.

A blog could easily be used for more than personal reflection. While that is what it tends to be used for, it can easily be used for more than that. It can be used as a way to track research on a topic, as a place to organize materials around a common theme (a photoblog, for example), or as a place to spark discussion. Omeka could easily play into this, as could Zotero.

 

There were several things about the sites that we looked at that I’d prefer to avoid, such as  the use of Times New Roman and Arial in graphics, and the use of an “enter” button. For example, while I thought the information on The Emancipation website was interesting and well thought out, I found their layout to be confusing, and that the design took away from their validity. The design is old, and therefore I initially perceived the information on the site as being dated too. The French Revolution site gave me the same feeling. While I liked the idea of the website, the layout of the images was cluttered, and the fonts they chose were unprofessional. The Valley of the Shadow, on the other hand, was more interesting to me. I dislike enter websites, but the map-like layout was simple, easy to navigate, and visually appealing. However, it took too long to get to information, and navigating back was difficult. So while it was a creative idea, and the map idea was intriguing to me, overall I found the design took away from the appeal of the site. I also greatly enjoyed the Archives website. Like much of the UMW website, it is fairly simple to navigate and clean-looking. I am looking forward to using this for our group project! The Guilded Age website was I think my favorite for organization, but  I find Times New Roman to be very disconcerting online (it doesn’t translate well online I think), and that took away from my appreciation of the site overall.

The site I explored more fully was the Europeana Art Nouveau Exhibition. I greatly enjoyed the website. The design was simple, clean, and easy to navigate. In the Commerce and collectives site, they had a giant floating ‘i’ on the right corner of the image that, when clicked, took you to a larger image with more information abut the image. Also, in the musical instruments website, the ability to zoom in on the instruments was very interesting. It made the site seem more professional (they had high quality images, at least) and it encouraged the viewer to spend more time on the image, which I enjoyed. All in all, I thought the website was very well put together, and encouraged the viewer to spend time on the materials and information they presented. It was a very successful use of Omeka.

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