My digital public history project this semester was to create an online archive of the covers of college football programs throughout the years. When I began work on a project for this semester I had initially planned to create an online hall of fame for the university because the digital hall of fame that the university has, I thought, is lacking in some areas of information on different athletes. I found out very quickly that the information was just simply not in the special collections. This caused me to have to change tracks. One thing that I found plenty of when looking for athlete information was old college football programs. This was something that had always peaked my interest because the older programs always had some type of cartoon image that dealt with the individual game they were playing, and not different athletes like the newer programs.
When I found all of the different programs I began to question why the programs had changed to be images of athletes on the cover. An answer hit me when I was watching FS1 and Jason Whitlock went on a short rant about college football athletes being exploited the entire time they are in college in order for the universities to make more money. He specifically talked about the marketing of college athletes who are not allowed to make any profit off of themselves. That is when the idea hit me that the universities are marketing the athletes in an attempt to sell more programs. The universities are exploiting these athletes on the cover of the different programs because the athletes are not allowed to make any money off of the covers or off of anything that bears their image.
After deciding on this angle, I had a hard time finding different pieces to use in my project. Part of my problem at first was the approach that I was taking when talking to different people about getting pieces. This issue was specific to universities. I have a friend that worked with the SID at Arkansas State University, and I convinced him to run my project by his former boss in an attempt to find programs. The response I received was less than ideal. I understand why. My project came off as accusing he and his colleagues of exploiting young athletes for monetary gain. Needless to say I never heard back from the SID at Arkansas State. I ran into the same issue with University of Louisville, Arizona State University, and the lovely University of Louisiana- Lafayette. I have friends working with the athletics departments at Louisville and Arizona State. I never heard back from these institutions so I had to change my approach to sound less combative and accusatory. The new approach worked, and I was permitted to use the digitized programs from the University of Tennessee. I was also granted access to programs from a couple of individuals’ collections.
Once I had the pieces, the site was simple enough to construct. I elected to use a simple format because the individuals that might be looking at college football programs online would not care to use a very fancy and hard to use site. I separated the programs into collections based on the decade they were printed in. I began with the 1920s because there was very little from the years before 1920 available. I then ran the range of the project all the way up to this year because it is the most recent programs available. I also had all of the programs thrown together in the items page as a separate way of viewing them if someone would rather look through a less organized view of the programs for whatever reason. I made the site searchable by school name, team nickname/mascot, year, and current conference. I did this to make it easier for someone to find a specific team or year that interests them.
This project should be able to help anyone that views it better understand the changing marketing strategy of college football. The NCAA was already sued for using the likeness of athletes in video games (NCAAF) without compensating the athletes. Under their own rules, the NCAA could not allow the athletes to be paid for their image being used, so they decided instead to stop making the video game. Looking at my site might make people, like myself, question how that was unacceptable but programs can be sold with the athletes picture on the cover without the athlete being compensated.
For my physical public history site, I traveled to Baton Rouge to go to Magnolia Mound Plantation. This plantation was a well kept example of public history. The plantation has two tour types that someone can go on. There is a guided tour that allows you to go inside of the house, and an self-guided tour that only allows the individual to tour the grounds and look in a few windows. The reason I was given that one could not enter the house on the self-guided tour was so the artifacts in the house did not get damaged or do not wander away from the property. I elected to pay a little more and take the guided tour. The guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the house and the families that had lived there. The guided tour focused almost entirely on the house. The tour guide took me room to room telling me about the different artifacts in each room and a little history of the home and the families that resided there. The tour then took a short walk to the outdoor kitchen where we spent five minutes being taught about the history of the kitchen and a few of the different cooking utensils. This is where the guided tour ended and I was able to freely roam the grounds of the plantation. Overall, the tour was informative and interesting.
There was one thing I would change about the plantations narrative/story that is given during the tour. Slaves were mentioned first thing when you walk up to the house, but only in so far as the amount of money that the original owner spent on them. This was used to say that the slaves were treated relatively well and to justify the switch from lavender farming to cotton and other crops. The slaves were then mentioned only three more times. Once was in reference to the different duties that slave children would have around the house, and the second time was when we were in the office of the original owner of the plantation. In this instance, I was shown a ledger where the cost of the slaves were written. This was nothing more than offering proof for a previous statement. The final time was when the guide worked in the narrative that the slave population on the plantation started at around five, but by the end of the Civil War it was around seventy-seven. This was never really expanded on, rather it was said almost in passing. I believe the museum and plantation would be strengthened by adding more of the slave story to the narrative in order to give a more full story of the plantation and its inhabitants.
For my digital write-up I chose the Museum of the City of New York (http://www.mcny.org/). Overall, the website was very easy and simple to follow. The site had a good home page where it featured the various exhibits at the top of the page. The site took me a minute to figure out how to go between the different pages without having to click on and go to a specific “story” or “exhibit.” The reason for this is that the drop down menu that contained the links to the different pages on the site (Stories, Exhibits, Collections, etc.) was tucked away nicely in the top right hand corner of the page. It was not hidden, but it was also not where you could just glance at the page and see it. This in and of itself is not the biggest issue, but if there is anything that I believe the Museum of the City of New York can improve upon it would be the location of the links to the various pages. This would help everyone navigate the site easier in order to better use the site for whatever purpose one might need to use it for.
One of the things I most enjoyed about the site was the “Exhibitions” page. On this page, they have listed and setup all of the exhibits that are currently setup at the museum. This is nothing new from other sites that I have been to , but the difference in this site and other is that this museum also has future exhibits in a separate link towards the bottom of the page. They also have two other links at the bottom of the page that are different and add something positively to the site. They have a separate link for online exhibits and one for past exhibits. This is something that I think more museums should utilize because it gives the viewer an insight into what is coming, and what the museum has previously done. It can help an individual plan their trip to the museum as well as getting them excited about what the museum has to offer.
The readings this week revolved around games. As someone who enjoys playing games as much as the next person I was curious to see how the idea of education through games could be used, or improved upon. After the readings, I was left with a couple of impressions. First, people will find reasons to be offended, even if the game or lecture or whatever it may be is mostly historically accurate. The idea that Civilizations IV is offensive because it deals with colonization and offers fewer options to play and progress as a Native is laughable. This is like arguing that the new Call of Duty is offensive because it does not allow you to play as the Axis Powers in any of the campaign modes, and the online headquarters is setup in an American setting and not a British setting. Civilizations is a game of strategy where you attempt to complete whatever the objective is in the quickest amount of time. Historically speaking, colonization occurred and with it many people died. The game does not place a value judgement on killing natives or even suggest that as the best path. Towards the end of the article, the author says that the game’s redeeming quality is that it causes the player to think about how history has been “whitewashed” and the evils that happened during the game. The authors, in all of their infinite wisdom, miss the point of the games. It is to have fun and pass the time. Very few, if any, play civilizations (or any other game) and look back afterward and think “man I sure do regret killing that person.” If killing the individual helped them accomplish the goal then they are more than willing to do it. This does not mean that a person that kills natives in Civilizations would like nothing more to go out to a reservation and kill all of the natives living there. It simply means they were playing the game.
I also believe that the majority of the people playing video games are not playing to learn something. Again, they are playing for enjoyment and to pass the time. If I had to write a paper on colonization of the New World, the last thing I would do is break out Civilization IV and attempt to use it as some sort of a source. I would go to a library or online and read about the colonization. The Article by Antley argues that games can be used as “platforms for building, and not simply consuming, knowledge.” I tend to disagree for the reason I have already stated. The only group I can see games helping to build a knowledge base would be younger children. I say this because it would be easier to begin building the foundations of understand a concept. Games are limited in what they can teach. An individual seeking deeper knowledge would get nothing out of most games. An example of this is the Jamestown game for the practicum. It would have been much more beneficial to a younger age group because they may not have much idea of the background, or the decisions that had to be made. I must confess, I went through the simulator, saw the results, but did not look into the reasoning behind the grade on my choices. I believe that my reaction would be typical of someone like myself on that game.
The article written by Allison Marsh caught my attention this week because of a couple of statements. One of those was that the younger generation does not respect or really want to take part in the digital world when it comes to history. They would prefer to have things done the old way, and as such they require more in depth training in order to be able to succeed in a digital history environment. The first part of this is the idea that “digital natives” don’t care for digital history and would rather have more traditional sources. I tend to agree to this not because I think that this younger generation is necessarily scared of the internet or what it offers, but because that is the way we have been taught. Growing up in the early parts of the digital age we were initially taught the push back mentality. In grade school, I was repeatedly told by teachers that the internet is not a reliable source of information, and that anyone can post on the internet and no one is fact-checking the information so it might be incorrect. We were taught that books were the best way to get information. This is because the teachers that were responsible for teaching us came from a time when there was no internet and book knowledge was the way to get information. That is not a knock on them, but it just shows their inherent bias against the internet and the digital age that led them to pass that information down to us. It was not until high school that teachers began to begrudgingly tell us that we could use the internet for good purposes, but even this came with the warning to not trust everything you read on the internet, and if possible fact check that information in a book. Even though the “digital natives” now know that the internet can be a reliable source, and where to look and how to evaluate a website, we still have that little voice in the back of our heads telling us that the internet is the devil. This has caused a lot of the people in our generation to prefer books and more traditional learning methods over the internet and the abundant knowledge and crazy that it provides.
The second part of the article I mentioned earlier was that Marsh believes our generation needs more training in the technologies than just a tutorial. I may agree with that but what kind of training are we going to get, and who is going to give the training? There are only so many people that have intricate knowledge of these technologies. Are they going to have to hit the road and go around teaching this school to school? Are we going to rely on the teachers that do not trust the technology or that don’t understand the technology fully themselves to pass on the information to the next generation? Wouldn’t we be better off with the status-quo of the “black box application” that Marsh hates so much. At least with that, students won’t be taught incorrectly, but can learn it as they go on their own, and make these sites work for what they need them to do. We don’t all have to be experts in technology to be able to use it effectively.
I am planning to have my project revolve around football programs. The archives has dozens of programs dating all the way back to the 1920s. I intend to digitize the programs, at least the cover of the programs. Over the decades, the covers of football programs have changed. If you go to a game today, the programs almost always have athletes on the front in some capacity whether it be a game photo or a team photo. That was not always the case. Programs used to have art on the front that was specific to the game that was being played. I would like to open this project up to crowd source the digitization of various programs from different institutions. The goal is to create a digital archive and potential map them based on their locations. This project has significance because there has been a debate raging over the last decade or so about maintaining amateurism versus paying college athletes. One of the arguments for paying them is that athletes have become exploited for profit by the institutions. Jason Whitlock, a sports analyst for Fox Sports has commented on the issue saying that athletes justifiably feel as if they are being taken advantage of by the colleges and the NCAA because everyone is allowed to market and make money off of them except for the athletes themselves. There was recently a court case that was settled originally in 2014 O’Bannon v. NCAA that ultimately stopped EA Sports from creating its NCAAF video game series because they were using the players’ likenesses without compensating them. The NCAA would not allow the players to be compensated because that would break their amateurism status and make them ineligible to compete at the collegiate level. This project is not seeking to affirm or negate that idea, but to show how the covers have gone from match-ups and rivalries with cartoons of the mascots to individual players and teams.
When it comes to designing a good web page for digital public history, the article by Steven Krug is important. It walks through basic human online behavior that one should keep in mind when creating a web page. The analogy he uses to really bring it together is that most people view websites not as books, but as a billboard flying past on the highway. I think this is probably the best way to look at it. Like Krug says in his article, most people don’t go to a site to look in depth at something, but rather for the speed at which they can look at something. very few people go to a website and dig through every detail or read every word that was posted. They go online and look at the pictures and the bold words, and if those are interesting or catch their eye then they may look closer. When creating a website it’s important to keep this in mind so you can design the project in a way to catch someone’s eye. I did find it interesting and a little ironic that Krug says, “we act as though people are going to pore over each page, reading our finely crafted text,” while he is carefully crafting a sentence and organizing his article in this way even though he knows that people probably won’t look at it that closely. Jokes on him though because we were assigned it to read.
The other article I was drawn to this week was the article by Zeldman. I did not find this article extremely helpful mainly because the entire time he was angry at everyone and came off as thinking he is the only person who really knows what’s going on when it comes to web design. However, he did make a good point that stuck with me. He argued that good designs are similar to designs that are already used. Essentially don’t try to reinvent the wheel. This is something that I think will be helpful as we create our digital projects. If we use current sites as a template, we will create a decent site.
The readings this week were about digital archives and what that really means and looks like. The article by Brennan discussed the importance of digital archives to museums. I found some of the statistics she provided interesting. The statistics telling us that 70 percent of history museums only offer a summary of exhibits and all on their website, and nothing else like an archive. I do not know the numbers now, but it seems like that would be higher. Even though it’s five years down the road it seems like the vast majority of museum websites I have been to have no archives or anything other than a brief overview of the museum and maybe a couple of summaries of the exhibits.
The online archives we had to look at for the practicum this week were pretty good archives. The September 11th and the Shelley-Goodwin archive seemed to be the two easiest to use. It may have been just me, and probably the fact that the Shelley-Goodwin Archive is very small and limited. The Digital Public Library of America was not very difficult to use, and I did like the map and timeline tabs. This was the only archive in the practicum this week to have those options. I like those options because it allows the user to be more specific or to more easily compare different regions and different times even within the same region. Obviously not every online archive can have a timeline or map feature, but if they can I think it adds something to it.
This weeks readings were all about ways to take jobs away from historians… well not really, but that’s what it sounds like. A few of them deal with crowd sourcing historical research. This makes sense from an institutional standpoint because it saves time and money. If you can get people to do the work for free then why would you pay a fully trained historian to be on staff to do the exact same research? Instead of hiring a bunch of individual researchers for a project such as the Children of the Lodz Ghetto, the museum can just hire one or two fact checkers to go behind the civilian researcher and make sure they are not reaching in their historical interpretation. This and the Transcribe Bentham project are good for institutions if they can garner the interest from a lot of people because they can save money and focus their researchers on more pressing projects or on projects that need a higher skill level. On the flip side I can see this harming the trained historians of the world. There will always be a job for someone to create the website, but if institutions begin to crowd source more of their research opportunities there will be less opportunity for individuals that are trained in history. The article about the Children of the Lodz Ghetto ended talking about “Citizen History” encouraging people to become historians. “We believe that Citizen History can encourage more people to become historians.” Even if this is true they don’t notice the inherent problem they are creating. The more crowd sourcing or Citizen History they create may create more historians, but it also creates less jobs for historians, so they are expanding the field but shrinking the job market.
The majority of our readings this week was about how to evaluate digital history. At least that’s what they want you to think. Both of the articles from the Journal of Digital Humanities actually gave some type of advice on how to evaluate digital scholarship, but the “guidelines” (I use that term loosely) to evaluating digital history from the AHA weren’t really guidelines at all. The title of the article is “Guidelines for the Professional Evaluation of Digital Scholarship by Historians,” but I challenge you to find more than one, maybe two actual guidelines in the entire article. Full disclosure, I hated this article because I don’t think it is effective, and it’s just Fake News.
- First things first, this article is too long winded. It’s supposed to be guidelines for evaluation. There’s no reason to spend time patting yourself on the back for creating this committee to come up with “guidelines” and having such a great definition of “digital history.” Along these same lines stop trying to sell people on the goodness of digital history. If people are reading an article on how to professionally evaluate digital scholarship they probably have a handle on what digital history brings to the table and are just looking for tips on how to view it.
- After the AHA finally finished congratulating themselves they move on to give their glorious advice. Their advice to institutions is to ask yourselves questions. The second question they want you to ask yourself is, “How is your department planning to evaluate work presented as part of hiring, promotion, tenure, or other review in a digital medium?” So…. your guidelines/advice to institutions of evaluating digital history is for them to ask themselves and determine for themselves how to evaluate history? That’s brilliant.
- “Departments should consider how to evaluate as scholarship the development of sophisticated digital tools.” Let’s just keep this going. “Departments need to consider how they will deal with work in a digital medium that exists in a process of continual revision, and therefore never exists as a ‘finished’ product.” Okay, one more. “Since digital scholarship often includes collaborations, departments should consider developing protocols for evaluating collaborative work.”
- Once again, this is just brilliant. Let’s write an article giving advice and guidelines and then tell them to do it for themselves. This whole article is just ridiculous.
- Then the AHA goes into the responsibility of of the scholar… WTF does the responsibility of the scholar have to do with the evaluation of digital history. Although I do have to admit that this section actually gives advice, but the advice has nothing to do with evaluation or anything.
Anyway I did learn something from the AHA, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.