Sierra Solomon- Baltimorean, Historian and Yogi

Hello, my fellow historians and digital media enthusiasts.  My name is Sierra Solomon, a proud Baltimorean who now resides in the trenches of Reston, Virginia.  Two things that are helpful to know about me are: I’m a huge dog-lover and yogi. I have an amazing 6-month old fur-son (puppy) named Roshi.  Roshi is named after two great characters from two great animes, Naruto Shippuden and Dragon Ball Z. Aside from puppy training and anime binging, the remainder of my free time, aside from studying, is dedicated to yoga.  I practice Bikram yoga faithfully. Bikram is a style of yoga composed of twenty-six postures in a room set at 105 degrees. It may sound torturous, but it is a great way to relieve stress, meditate and energize you to tackle the hard work that comes with graduate school.  

Prior to enrolling in American University’s Public History program, I received a Bachelors in Political Science and Pan African Studies at Kent State University (Go Flashes!).  Before college, there was always a burning curiosity for understanding why and how race mattered in my quality of life and the way American society was structured based on institutionalized racism. Post my undergraduate studies, my experience in the workforce heightened my desire to understand, transcribe and share the Black experience to mass audiences in hopes of breaking down boundaries that impede social progress and high quality of life for all people. My journey to study Black experience narratives, specifically Black women, Black images and race history, is what brought me to American University. The question of how to utilize digital media to share these histories with the world is what brought me to register for this digital history course.  

There is no doubt that digital media has revolutionalized information production and delivery at a rapid pace. Digital media makes content more accessible and interactive with physical proximity to a physical insititute no longer a barrier for exchanging information.  Information can reach a wider, more diverse audience in real time, in comparison to traditional museums and historic sites. This placeless space for information sharing is an ideal tool for historians seeking to create shared authority and engage in contemporary history.  

The optimism of digital history is not why I enrolled in this course.  A grasping skepticism of whether digital media presents more harm than good as a base for information sharing.  How can scholars regulate and preserve historic content on a virtual platform? On a platform where anyone can drive a narrative and publish content for millions of people to see simultaneously, how can historicans publishing evidence-based research compete?  The public is bombarded with mass information night and day, what can historians do to present their work in a way that does not get drowned by the competing stories? I trust these questions will be resolved by the end of this course along with learning other tricks of the trade to improve my understanding of digital history.

An Introduction to Sean

Hey all!

My name is Sean O’Malley and I’m a first year Public History M.A student. I’ve held numerous prestigious positions in my life, from “Dishwasher” to “coffee-guy” to “hey can you get the garlic knots for Table 12?,” but upon finishing my History undergrad at AU I felt like it was time for a change. Now you might be wondering, “how can he give up a life in the fast lane? How can he walk away from a life of plain-black polo shirts and Eaux d’Ail for a life spent in archives or museums?” The answer is fairly straightforward, as it all essentially boils down to Enrico Fermi’s lesser known “Time Spent Smelling Like Old Garlic Bread—Time Spent Enjoying History” Principle. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I love garlic as much as anyone, but all the same I came one day to the realization that I simply enjoyed studying history more. Over the course of my life I have enjoyed reading, talking, and writing about history more than I enjoyed reading, talking, and writing about garlic bread. And so, here I am.

On a more serious note I was drawn to Public History for a few reasons. As much as I enjoy talking to people about history and as much as I believe in the necessity of historical education, I don’t feel that teaching in an academic setting is the right path for me. My reluctance to pursue a career in the classroom has done little to change the fact that I cannot envision a life for myself in which history plays no part, and it was this feeling which eventually led me to American’s Public History program! While my precise career path is admittedly still a work in progress, I currently hope to work my way into museum education.

In terms of what I hope to learn from this course, I am very interested to learn more about digital projects and platforms like Omeka and of the challenges/difficulties in attempting to create digital archives. These are two subjects about which I know very little, so I am excited to fill those gaps! I am also particularly excited to read Critical Play and learn more about games as, for better or worse, means of disseminating a historical narrative. Video-games were actually the first form of media with a historical bent that really captured my attention as a kid, so I feel a personal connection to the topic. It is odd to consider this now, but as I think of it, I probably would not be writing this post if not for Age of Empires II.

Anyway, a wise sage I just made up once said “the best way to end an introductory blog post is to list your most ridiculous, yet still fervently held beliefs,” so here are just a few of mine.

  1. Everyone should play Dungeons and Dragons, or some form of Pen and Paper RPG at least once but ideally with some degree of regularity.
  2. People who play a Druid and insist on summoning 8 Wolves every time combat begins are not to be trusted nor is their behavior to be condoned.
  3. There is no difference between stirring your fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt up with a spoon and shaking it before opening. Both methods are completely normal and I should not be attacked about this belief as often as I am.
  4. Swamp Thing is cooler than Superman because the former is a spooky earth elemental and the latter is a pair of pleated khakis given sentience.
  5. Etrigan the Rhyming Demon is a great character, but one that cannot function without a talented writer behind him and as such, it is better to have a story line without him than with him if no such writer is available.
  6. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are best when spooky, but cheesy and ridiculous is also an acceptable tone.

With that out of the way, I look forward to meeting and spending the semester learning with you all!

Introduction to Sasha

Hi all! My name is Sasha Jones. I am an undergraduate senior majoring in Journalism with a minor in Law and Society. I’m mainly interested in pursuing long-form print journalism, however, I also have an interest in multimedia (and serve as the Multimedia Managing Editor for The Eagle). Outside of the classroom, I am currently the newsroom intern at Education Week, where I report on education issues and policy.

I have also lived in D.C. area for most of my life, having been raising in Rockville, Maryland.

Although I have not taken a history course at AU, history has always been of interest to me. In high school, I took a two year course on the cold war. For this class, I hope to learn more about how digital media impacts how history is – or is not – told. I believe that multimedia forces a storyteller to rethink their work, and examine the story from different perspectives. Furthermore, new forms of multimedia and technology can be more inclusive of audiences who cannot or will not read and view traditional media. Still, inclusivity is often a challenge, and requires awareness that most storytellers should strive for.

I have also taken a class called Storytelling with Emerging Media, which seems fairly similar to this class in that it asks how journalists can use innovative technologies to reach new audiences. As such, I have reported using social media, 360 video and video games. I hope I can use and advance some of the skills that I acquired in that class in this one.

Although this class is a bit intimidating to me as my first history class in college (and most likely only as I’ll be graduating in May), I am excited to participate and learn from both Professor Owens and my classmates, who all seem excited and incredibly knowledgeable about history as a whole.

Outside of my education and work, I’m interested in art, film and music. My favorite museum in D.C. is the Hirshhorn and I often listen to rap and R&B.

Introducing Kaylee

Hello!

My name is Kaylee Redard and I am a first year Public History Masters student.  I am from Reading, Massachusetts, my favorite color is blue and I have a cat named Rogue.  I went to Franklin Pierce University for my undergrad, graduating with a Major in European History, double Minors in Public History and English, and a Women in Leadership Certificate.  Before finding the Public History world I wanted to be a teacher so I started in Education, but soon realized the classroom was not where I was meant to be.  I still love to teach, but I found education in museums is where I feel most at home.  I enjoy the freedom of informal learning that Public History provides visitors, young and old.

My internships at the Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site and at Susan B. Anthony’s Birthplace Museum gave me some experience with visitor education programs.  At the Longfellow House I helped with the Junior Ranger program and at Susan B. Anthony’s I created some educational interactive sheets for visitors to use while they visited the house.  It was at the Susan B. Anthony Museum that I first dabbled in digital history.  The museum is very involved with the community and its history and I was instructed to find historic places, describe them and geo-locate them for an app they wanted to create.  Laying the groundwork for this project was very exciting and different from other forms of education I had previously done.  Through this app visitors could go beyond Susan’s home to the world around her.

Now I am the Digital Intern at the National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon and also a Visitor Services Associate at the new National Law Enforcement Museum.  Both sites use digital methods to spread knowledge and interact with their visitors.  Digital history is a great way to connect with visitors; especially in the technological world we live in today and I look forward to learning all I can. 

Defining Digital History & Kicking Off the Course

I hope everyone is on track to enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If you’re looking for ways to honor the work and legacy of MLK, you might find this post of use.  The post presents it’s own opportunity to consider the ways that history is communicated and shared online.

As a result of the holiday, we are holding virtual class this week. That means that we are doing many of the same kinds of things we would do face-to-face in class but over our course blog. To that end, I’m thrilled that we have a series of great introductory posts to our work this week identifying and defining what digital history is and what it means for us to become digital historians.

Be sure to;

  1. Read this weeks course readings
  2. Read and comment on at least one of this weeks blogs
  3. Try out the sites and tools that are shared in the practicum posts
  4. Gear up for our first face-to-face class next Monday, January 28th.

Situating Digital History

We are lucky to start off our class this week with three great posts that can serve as solid examples of the kinds of writing and thinking we are going to engage in here on the course blog and in our class. Huge thanks to Emily, Haley, and Maren for kicking us off so well!

In Digital History is for Everyone, Emily explores issues around argumentation in digital history, issues in ethics around communication of history through different approaches to social media, and a range of ways to get involved and start doing digital history with various online tools and systems.

In Let’s Get Digital: Theorizing Digital History, Haley digs into a bit of the history of digital history and the potential stakes for the relevancy of historical work in the digital age.

In Introducing Digital: Saving the Humanities & Solving the World’s Contemporary Problems? Maren explores issues in the rhetoric around digital technology and some critical perspectives on the functions and effects of digital history.

Starting to Do Digital History

Alongside our work reading and writing about digital history we are also going to engage in hands on explorations of some digital history projects and tools. It’s worth noting, in keeping with some of our initial definitional work, even the claim about what it is to do digital history is itself a bit fraught. Clearly writing is itself a way that we do digital history too.

Laura has put together a great overview of all three sites/tools we are exploring this week for practicums (Wordle, HistoryPin, and PhillaPlace). Be sure to check out each of the individual sites and tools. It is worth noting that HistoryPin may well be a useful tool to consider using for course projects.

Along with those overviews, Isaac has put together a nice in-depth walk through of how to use Wordle to create simple visualizations of texts. Take some time to follow along with the directions there and see what kinds of results you can get.

Some reminders

So we are off to a great start! With that noted, I want to make sure everyone is up and running with everything you need before our first face to face meeting next week.

To that end be sure that you

  1. Reach out to me to get your blog account (there are a few folks that still need to get account’s set up.
  2. Post your introductory blog post. If you are having trouble getting your post up reach out to me and I can help.
  3. If you haven’t signed up for which weeks you are writing about/leading discussion on some of the readings and practicums do that soon
  4. Lastly, seven of you are on deck to get posts up about practicums and readings before class next week. It may also be a good idea to reach out to each other to coordinate who will write about what. Do not hesitate to reach out to me directly if you need any help sorting through what you need to do for those assignments.

Looking forward to seeing everyone next week and to following along with great discussion on the blog in advance of then.