Digital Project Draft: Julie’s San Francisco

My original goal for this project was to create a place-based historical experience for the Julie American Girl doll character and books, much like Colonial Williamsburg serves for Felicity. While I still like this concept, the execution has been more difficult than expected.

Julie’s story takes place in 1974 San Francisco. There is a lot happening in San Francisco in the 1970s—environmental movement, women’s movement, disability movement, gay rights movement. However, few of these movements have tangible places connected to them that work as a tour’s or educational material’s focal point.

So, I’ve switched to telling the histories I can with the places mentioned in the books and in places that have similar themes to the books. I am still working on putting all of my pins together—the research and photo finding process has taken longer than expected—but I do have a handful of pins uploaded at the moment. These give a sense of the type of narrative I am writing for each pin.

One thing I am struggling with is how to tie the tour together with a cohesive idea. At the moment it is just a scattering of history that relates to some aspect of the Julie books. This might be the end result, but I think the tour would be more meaningful if it had an overarching thesis of some sort.

One thing that I am considering is developing mini-tours under the overarching Julie tour, specifically one for Chinatown and one for the environmental movement since these are the areas in which I have the most content. However, this would further exacerbate that lack of focus for the remaining pins, so that is to be determined.

The two below pins/topic areas are ones that I want to include, but am currently struggling to find an angle/location. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for them:

  • Haight Street—Julie lives on this street and it is an iconic San Francisco landmark, but I’m really not sure how to approach it. Haight Street was the center of the 1960s Hippie & Free Love movement, which is great and all, but that focuses the narrative on sex and drugs and I don’t think I can do those topics justice in the space that I have.
  • Feminism—feminism and women’s equality is a major theme in the books and an important part of 1970s history; however, there is absolutely no good event or landmark or museum in San Francisco to use as an entry point/place

What’s Next?

  1. Add more pins to the tour and continue to edit the existing pins.
    • Please let me know if you have ideas on titling the pins. I have a mix of things at the moment.
    • Sometimes I struggle with what date to use both because some of my pins span decades of history and because HistoryPin does not allow circa dates. Any thoughts would be appreciated (ex. Ghirardelli and Science for the Future).
  2. Develop an order and overarching narrative for the tour.
  3. Perhaps create supplementary material for the tour. (This seems unlikely given my time constraints, but it could be good to have a lesson plan type document outlining how to use the tour in a classroom and/or as a girl scout activity. It would also be useful to create a marketing flyer/brochure.)

The tour itself.

Digital History and Its Collaborative Future

American Historical Association’s (AHA) came up with a set of guidelines that had not been not uniform prior. “Guidelines for the Professional Evaluation of Digital Scholarship by Historians” clarify the policies associated with the evaluation of scholarly work in digital forms.

The AHA defines digital history as “scholarship that is either produced using computational tools and methods or presented using digital technologies.” It also invites employees to consider digital methodologies when evaluating a historian’s candidacy, just like any other skill or tool.  

What do all historians have in common? The shared commitment of all historians to the informed and evidence-based conversation that is history can smooth our discipline’s integration of new possibilities. With agreement on the purpose of our work, new and varying forms of that work can be seen as strengths rather than impediments.

Responsibilities of History Departments

  • They should inform themselves about developments in the digital context of our work. E.g. Library and IT tech training are available in many universities.
  • Departments should review and revise written guidelines that define the expectations of ways that colleagues might use digital resources, tools, and networks in their scholarship.
  • Digital scholarship should be evaluated in its native digital medium, not printed out for inclusion in review materials.
  • Departments should consider how to evaluate as scholarship the development of sophisticated digital tools.
  • Departments without expertise in digital scholarship should consider enlisting colleagues who possess expertise in particular forms of digital scholarship to help them evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the work before them.

Responsibilities of Scholars

  • Before initiating a digital project and throughout the course of the project, you should be prepared to explain and document its development and progress and its contributions to scholarship.
  • Seek support and guidance in preparing your promotion or tenure portfolio.
  • Bring colleagues into your project, taking advantage of opportunities to explain how your work contributes to the scholarly conversation in on-campus forums, professional meetings, and print or online publications.
  • Historians who are experimenting with new forms need to be especially clear about what they are doing, what opportunities it offers, what challenges their work presents to their colleagues, and the impact of their work on the intended audiences.

The American Historical Association’s Role

  • The AHA gather historians experienced in digital scholarship into a working group that will keep itself informed of developments in the field and maintain a directory of historians qualified to assist departments looking for expert outside reviewers for candidates at times of tenure and promotion.
  • The AHA consider this working group as a resource that could also help to foster conversations using AHA Communities, and produce regular pieces for the AHA’s blog AHA Today, and Perspectives on History related to digital scholarship.
  • The AHA sustain a curated gallery of ongoing digital scholarship so that historians can learn directly from one another as they conceive, build, and interpret new forms of scholarship.
  • The editor of the American Historical Review considers implementing more regular reviews of digital scholarship, means for featuring digital projects, and peer review of those projects.

Besides normalizing digital history from top-down, scholars should open up to public. History, digital or not, needs to be accessible to the larger public. Rebecca Conard reviews and praises Historians in Public: The Practice of American History, 1890–1970, by Ian Tyrrell (2006) as extremely important, especially for bridging academic historians and public historians but does not shy away from criticism. According to her, Ian Tyrell demonstrates that from 1890 to 1970 the historical profession “adapted to and influenced its changing publics more than the profession is given credit for, though not evenly and not always apparent. (Tyrrell, 2). Tyrrell focuses on mass culture, the classroom, and the particularistic audiences associated with marketing history as a discipline relevant to state legitimation and public policy. (252) Conrad claims that Tyrrell argues that all history if public history and identifies public intellectual the same as public history.

Do you agree with Tyrell that all history is public history? How effective do you think are the AHA guidelines and how could they encourage people to follow them or on the other hand enforce them?

Digital Project Draft: Augmented Reality Poster Set

Since proposing to create an Augmented Reality (AR) experience to accompany a poster set produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what the medium of AR is uniquely positioned to accomplish. I’ve also been inspired by our class discussion about accessibility and inclusive design.

One key aspect of inclusive design is providing access to content in a variety of languages. The State of Deception poster set, which focuses on Nazi propaganda, is already available in 10 languages. Because AR allows you to layer labels (or other media) on top of existing content, I wanted to investigate how digital text translations in Spanish might be layered on top of printed English posters.

I used the browser-based HP Reveal Studio to create Spanish-language “overlays” for each printed English poster. Through image recognition, the HP Reveal phone app (available for Android and IOS) layers digital “overlays” onto an image. This video shows the results of that effort:

This video is a screen recording of my phone screen as I used the HP Reveal app to scan printed posters and overlay digital Spanish-language labels.

My original plan was to design an English-language AR extension for the existing poster set. To that end, I’ve also created a few examples showing how AR can be used to deliver additional digital content beyond what is already printed on a poster. Because Nazi propaganda is central to the poster set, I thought it would be interesting to pair digital images of propaganda posters with a relevant printed poster from the poster set, and contextualize those digital images with on-screen explanations of the techniques that Nazi propagandists used to communicate their message.

I have adapted content from online resources that USHMM has made available to classroom educators, as well as from the State of Deception online exhibition. The objective of this AR content is to provide broader context for how the Nazi regime used propaganda, and to encourage users to think critically about what propaganda is and how certain, common techniques are used to communicate propaganda messages. I also wanted to offer a different type of content that users would not otherwise access if they were only viewing the posters. Here’s a video of the 5 AR interactions I’ve created so far:

This video is a screen recording of my phone screen as I used the HP Reveal app to scan printed posters and overlay digital images and English-language captions.

You can download this file to examine each screen of AR content more closely:

What’s Next:

I’ve identified at least 5 additional pairings of printed posters + digital propaganda images, so I plan to create at least 5 more AR interactions.

I like the simplicity of the interactions and graphics I’ve already created, so I plan to continue refining the current visual style and functionality.

Because I’d like to complete a formative evaluation with Museum audiences for both the Spanish language AR experience and the English language AR extension, I will also create a testing plan and draft survey instrument as part of the final version of my project.

Digital History Project: Accessible History

My project is an app proposal/framework for an LGBTQ tour app that incorporates accessibility features to model that idea that accessibility is important in interpretive media that deals with the LGBTQ community.

NB: Presented below is my practically-final framework document but, as you might notice, no prototype. Why would a nearly-finished project come without the prototype? Well, long story short: the technology. But also the work in finalizing a working document takes quite a bit of time! So you will all see the prototype or sketches soon and for now my foundational document.

Proposal: a methodology and best practices for creating an accessible LGBTQ history app

Need and purpose: as a high percentage of LGBTQ people are disabled and the disabled are often otherwise unserved by mobile apps, making a habit of having universal, accessible design in these sorts of apps is imperative.

Discussion: Around a third of LGBTQ Americans are disabled, a percentage larger than the general non-LGBTQ population. In this statistic, a need emerges, and in the context of apps in the area of history and interpretation this need is acute. As a largely detail-heavy, often visual method, historic interpretation is an area in which the disabled population is likely to be left out.

Considerations made when creating a mobile app generally focus on making it as accessible to the general population as possible with as little extraneous detail as can be managed. Unfortunately, many of these extraneous details happen to be related to accessibility. Knowing that there are so many LGBTQ users that are disabled, however, it’s important to be aware of what is left out and what needs to be near-mandatory in any interpretive app. Unpacking the issue, the areas in which accessibility in an app, especially interpretive app, can be summed up in the following areas (not a comprehensive list):

Visual: limited vision, blindness, colorblindness, visual processing issues.

Auditory: limited hearing, deafness, auditory processing issues.

Tactile: discomfort with vibration.

Cognitive: sensory sensitivity.

Mobility: inability to access interpretive sites, difficulty accessing sites, limited range of motion in hands.

The wide range of disabilities that can impact an interpretive mobile app may seem daunting at first and deciding upon your audience may make it tempting to start with a process that aims to make the app accessible after the fact. For example, the interface may be presented in a way that is engineered to be streamlined but artistically appealing, however, in these considerations the needs of the visually disabled are left at the wayside. Take a look at your favorite app right now. Does the app present on first glance an option for the blind like screen reading or voice commands? Is the color scheme usable for the colorblind? Are there unnecessary scrolling parts or transitions that might be difficult to process for some?

A framework for accessible app UI: in order to explore the process of creating an accessible interpretive app I began to consider the creation of an interpretive tour app focused on LGBTQ history in the Washington, DC area. The process was broken down into the following parts:

  1. Establishing the app idea and general functionality and initial layout
  2. Planning functionality and layout to incorporate base accessibility functions
  3. Sketching out both a layout and a flowchart demarcating the accessibility areas
  4. Focus testing the proposal with those with disabilities
  5. Applying focus test suggestions, then testing them with a second focus group
  6. Beginning work on the overall app

As one can see the first two steps are essentially the same but with one important aspect attached, the need to go back to the drawing board, as it were, included promptly after the initial planning. This is not an attempt to increase workload, but rather it is a method of acknowledging existing oversights in the UI process: generally, even the most attentive and aware will forget functionality that serves particular populations.

For the purposes of the proposed interpretive app, the core considerations align with a brief checklist:

_ Is opening the app easy for everyone (no unnecessary buttons, sounds, text, scrolling)

_ Does the app have methods for access beyond button push (voice commands, button input from external devices)

_ Is the app visually appealing without being inaccessible (color scheme fits the colorblind, fonts are bold and clearly identified)

_ Is the functionality capable of presenting information accessibly (various options for information presentation)

_ Is it fun

The process begins by filtering every decision through basic rules of design for accessibility. This effort is important to begin at the visioning stage of app development and can be summed up in a basic (but not comprehensive) way as such:

  • The app should be navigable by voice command, screen tap, or external input (if possible)
  • Buttons and other visual elements should not blend together, this includes in the case of being indistinct to those with colorblindness
  • Any text should have a voice component and any voice component should have a transcript
  • Alerts and notifications in-app should be gently tactile and on-screen in a noticeable way
  • Customization of sensible functions like vibration and voice narration should be logical and simple
  • Users should not be forced to use functions that are potentially not usable for them (for example, voice command functionality)

The next part of the process, implementation, is followed by another set of steps and consideration for use in the focus group testing:

  • Is the focus group representative of the populations impacted by design elements?
  • Is the app tested both live and for basic functionality?
  • Are there scripts for specific live and functionality tests that can determine if all focus populations can access a specific function?
  • How are the focus group suggestions to be assessed?

Finally, implementation of the suggestions from the focus groups should follow the following considerations:

  • What is missing?
  • Where in live testing is there the most difficulty?
  • What functions are difficult or an obstruction?
  • What functions are unnecessary for the app?

From there, app design should proceed.


Material Design, Accessibility

UX Collective, How to make an app accessible?

Apple, Human Interface Guidelines – Accessibility

Android Developers, Accessibility Overview