James Farmer Progress

February 27th, 2012

For this week, our group finished the group contracts and continued pushing forward on our individual assignments. Michelle and I started looking through and uploading the video, but ran into some problems in the uploading process – the videos, even compressed down into small quicktime files, were too large for vimeo’s basic account. We tried uploading the video to youtube, and it uploaded successfully, but it couldn’t be played because the video was too long. There are ways to increase the video length you can upload on youtube, but I’m not sure at the moment how one goes about doing that. It seems to be offered at random by youtube itself…? Another thing we should look at is different file types. It seems to me that I should be able to compress the file down to the appropriate size, but I don’t know how. Clearly, google and experimentation will be necessary. As for the workload, Michelle and I are talking about splitting the work of uploading and subclipping by going to the media lab whenever we are free and uploading a video and while that’s processing sublipping it into key story parts. Those we can then use for making the trailer. It should be interesting to see what we can figure out!


February 21st, 2012

For our blog post this week, we were supposed to listen to a ted talk about Wikipedia and look at several historical Wikipedia pages. I greatly enjoyed the TED talk – while wikipedia is not a place to site, I have always found it an interesting place to start looking at material (potential primary sources, for example). It was fascinating hearing about how such a large website is run and monitored. While I think in many ways Wikipedia deserves all of the cautionary tales  surrounding it, I don’t think that means it  should never be used. Instead, I think that means people should think critically about the material they find on Wikipedia. One rarely finds articles that are so bad that they indicate something completely preposterous, like that Pocahontas and Mao were good friends. Rather, one has to look through the material cited and determine if you think the sources are both creditable and properly sited. In some ways, you could say that wikipedia requires that the viewer do what one is supposed to always do with historical documents.

The two articles that I ended up focusing on were the article on Casablanca the film and the article on the Franco-Muslim War. Both of these pages were extremely heavily hyperlinked and included many citations. The materials cited all seemed fairly legitimate, included a large and varied collection of subsections. The Casablanca article, for example, included categories on the plot, cast, and production, but also on things like initial response, lasting impact, and influence on other works.  The Franco-Mongol alliance article broke down how the relationship between the two countries worked, but also the many overtures and myths that contributed to the eventual alliance. Finally, the article discusses views from different historians and reasons for failure. Also, both had extensive revision history. Many of the most recent edits were fixing simple things, like typos or gramatical issues. Nothing appeared to be incorrect, and I was impressed by the sources both articles used. While neither article is something I would site in a paper, I would consider looking at the sources mentioned as a starting point for a research paper.

Building Contracts

February 11th, 2012

For this week, much of my group’s focus has been on building our group contract. We have run into several (thankfully small) glitches, which affect our end goals. First of all, we thought we had the audio and video for all of the 13 lectures, but it looks like we have duplicates of several lectures. We are working on getting that sorted out, but it is slowing down our transcription and summary pace. Similarly, the audio and the video files we have are not linked together, so relinking them could prove to be a challenge. The video quality is also somewhat poor – we are not sure if we are going to try and recapture the footage or not, in an attempt to increase the video quality. It might not change the quality much at all, since all of the footage we have is on VHS tapes. But some of the video quality is very bad, and it might be worth trying on the off chance that’d it’d work.

As far as division of labor is concerned, it was actually very easy to work out who would do what. We all had pretty clear ideas of what we  wanted to do in our groups, and thankfully no one seemed to want to do the same thing! This made writing our contract much easier. While we will all going to help each other out as necessary, it was nice that everyone was interested in doing something different.

Google Map-Fu!

February 1st, 2012

For this assignment, we were supposed to create a map in google maps and in google earth of a place of our choice. I chose to do a map in Paris, from the apartment my family and I stayed in several years ago, to the restaurant we went to the night we found out we were going to be stranded in Europe for Christmas. I did a jing webcast for ds106 a while back which tells the story in more detail, so if you are curious, go here.

I had little to no problem making a map of this walk, although the streets we walked to the restaurant didn’t show up on googlemaps, so I had to free-hand the line. But nevertheless, I found the process to be easy and user-friendly. Google Earth was slightly more complicated, but only marginally so. My computer is old, and so Google Earth had difficulty running on my machine, and I repeatedly received errors saying that GoogleEarth couldn’t properly connect to the internet. Nevertheless, I persevered, and successfully created a tour of the same walk.

Sadly, I don’t think either of these tools is very applicable to my groups project. While there are certainly ways to apply it (for example, showing on google maps were James Farmer’s lectures took place, or something) I don’t think they would add to our presentation of the material in any significant way. An interesting project (but for another group!) would be to create a map of all of the places James Farmer protested, or places he lived over te course of his life. I enjoyed playing around with google maps and google earth, and will definitely make use of them in the future, even if not for this group project.

Below, I have embedded a link to my googlemaps map.

View The Journey from the Frog et Rosbif to the Three Little Pigs in a larger map

Second Week Review

January 28th, 2012

This week, our group was fairly productive. Sarah talked to Professor O’Donnell about the James Farmer’s lectures, and we found out that there wasn’t a copyright issue as had been previously expected. The issue lies in how much material we can put on youtube. Youtube has a 15minute limit on its basic account, but you can “add more” time to your upload length, but youtube doesn’t tell you how much is more. So that will probably be a process of trial and error. It would be depressing to have to upload these videos in chunks, because James Farmer is such a powerful speaker. It would take away from his impact. it sounds like O’Donnell thought we could upload the lectures to iTunesU for download, but I think it would increase the impact of the site if you could also stream the video on the site. Of course, if we can’t upload all of the lectures on youtube, this could be more difficult. A compromise might be to compile a ‘best of’ video (or series of videos) which would be watched on the site, and then provide a link to iTunesU so people can download the full video if they are interested. Sarah also got the audio files of the lectures, and we’ve all copied them so we can familiarize ourselves with the lectures without having to watch them.

We also have a direction we think want to go with our site. Tentatively, we think we want to do a sort of archival site, but more in the style of the Rare Book History blog Professor Mackintosh’s History of the Book seminar worked on last semester. We want the visual to be an integral part of the website. While we all agreed that archival sites are often the most interesting for research purposes, they tend to be visually uniform and uninteresting. We want to change that a bit. I, personally, am much more willing to sift though a website if I find it visually appealing, and forgive it minor mistakes if it is clear that the designers were trying.

Tools and Reviews

January 26th, 2012

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.

Hello Digital History World!

January 21st, 2012

My name is Caitlin, and I am a student at University of Mary Washington. I am a senior, and I am double majoring in History and Digital Media Studies. I took this class because I love the ways in which technology affects the word around us, and I find the way in which it has come to infiltrate even the most “technologically impaired” persons life fascinating. While I like to think I have a basic grasp of modern technology, I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like about either the technology itself or its evolution. Moreover, I took the History of the Information Age with Professor McClurken last semester, and greatly enjoyed the class and what we studied. Taking Digital History seemed like a way to continue that conversation, while simultaneously focusing my energy on a single group project.

In this space, I will be discussing my thoughts on the digital history, and more specifically, the evolution of my group project for this class. My group members and I are working on archiving and analyzing a collection of lectures by James Farmer. The source material is extensive, largely untouched, and only partially digitized. I am extremely excited to work with the audio and video we have, and to try and gain a better sense of what this remarkable man was like. I feel like this project will be both intellectually and technologically challenging, and I look forward to seeing what can be done!

Final Project and Final Blog

December 16th, 2011

For my last project, I worked with Ashley, Joe, and Nicole on a documentary about the evolution of the ds106 class. It was an interesting project on several levels. Personally, I was a member of Groom’s original ds106 class, and so charting the evolution was an interesting experience for me. I got to see how the course had shifted and refined itself, and talk to a number of people including Groom himself about what the course provides students with. I was particularly amused by the discussion of the Summer of Oblivion (something which ultimately did not make it into the documentary). I followed the Summer 2011 ds106 course peripherally via twitter and ds106.us, but had never quite understood entirely what was going on. As such, watching the videos on it and hearing Groom and Martha discuss the plot and evolution of the idea of Oblivion was quite fascinating. Sadly, our video was already quite long without the addition of a summary of the Summer of Oblivion, but personally I enjoyed finally figuring out what had been happening.

I helped film several interviews, and also cut together the video and inserted graphics. There were, of course, technical difficulties (there always are). There were more than we had anticipated, though, which made for an exciting few hours before the project was due. The computer in the dml was not enjoying working with us, and Premiere was repeatedly crashing, so to avoid this I ended up having to cut together much of the video in AfterEffects. AfterEffects is not designed for video editing, though – it is designed for graphics. One major side effect of this is that you cannot hear audio without fully rendering the timeline of video (a long, time consuming task, and one that crashed AE when I tried). So all of the b-roll (the video or images that played over the interview) was added to the video based on what I remembered the video saying, because I had no way of knowing exactly what people were talking about. It was quite an adrenaline rush, if in a terrifying sort of way. Ultimately, given the issues we had with technology, I feel like we managed to create quite a good product! I am quite happy with the overall result.

Final Project/Last Blog

December 15th, 2011

For my final project I decided to pair up with Abby and standardize all the citations on the timeline.  This was a challenge for me since I have never excelled at footnotes or citations in general.  I considered this to be a great challenge that I would over come and I did.  I got encouragement along the way from Abby and I was grateful to have her as my partner.  We got tripped up at first on how we were going to do the citations, however after that hiccup we were well underway.  We choose the style of the citation standardization with Professor McClurken and then sat down and did visual sketches of each type of citation we could possibly come across.  This helped me immensely considering I am a visual learner by nature.  Once shown I can almost always pick it up.  Abby and I discussed things like putting image source and source in front of all citations where they were warranted to help visitors to our blog understand what they were individually.

I enjoyed this challenge and hope to carry this with me into the future.  The things that I can look forward to taking with me through my college career is the ability to be better at public speaking, knowing how to make a documentary, and better understanding the digital world around me and how it and I effect the future of our history for the better or worse.  I think my favorite assignment in the class would have to be the print ad.  I had great partners and we had some really good ideas.  It was fun to take this random topic and do what you see only in magazines.  It was highly challenging, but I felt as though it brought our group that much closer and bonded us through out the semester.

If I could give a word of advice to my peers coming to take this class.  Don’t think this will be easy.  There will be times when you want to pull you hair out and just scream cause you don’t know what you are doing.  However that’s where the fun begins.  This class is not an individual effort it’s a group effort.  Without one it’s not the same as having all.  And remember while it may be stressful, have fun with it.

And in the spirit of the holidays. Merry Christmas!

My Christmas in my apartment style dwellings.

Final blog post

December 15th, 2011

Going in to this final project I was excited to be working on a documentary that was more personal and locally based then on the digitization of the library catalog. I was also slightly apprehensive because DS106 was something that never heard of until Joe had contacted me about doing a documentary for  the final project of History of the Information Age. For this project I worked primarily on the rough cuts and basic editing for the project. This worked for me from the standpoint of becoming a lot more confident in using Adobe Premiere. I also really liked being able to see all the footage that we managed to collect from 8 different interviews.  There was a lot of effort then went into the interviews and I was ever able to work another project like this again I would defiantly be interested in participating in the interviewing aspects of the documentary. Picking out the music for  the DS106 documentary was interesting because I originally had searched for something similar to the music used in the Library Catalog Digitization project. However we as a group ended up deciding to go with music that had more of a grunge feel to it, as that fit better with the topic of the documentary. Part of the footage that we ended up editing out that  I wish he had put into the documentary was  to role of digital identity in DS106. I thought it was interesting that Jim Groom discussed digital identity as something that he wanted students of DS106 to come out of class caring about. Charlie talked about his owned experiences with digital identity which was ultimately probably too personal for the documentary. Out of the footage that did not make it into the documentary the stuff on digital identity was probably the most interesting to me, especially given out discussions of it in class.