Balance and History: A Proposal

Writers of revisionist history look at the events of the past that have been taken for granted, investigate, and bring to life stories that were forgotten, ignored, or misrepresented. While they can be reviled by those who hold that interpretations of history are not wrong by virtue of being traditional (and not all revisionist claims are true) their work can serve an undeniably vital purpose of bringing to the forefront stories from history that have been ignored, giving us fuller view of history (http://history.howstuffworks.com/historians/revisionist-history.htm).
The internet presents us with an opportunity for utilizing the possibility of revisionist history as a learning tool. To do this, I propose creating a web site that compares traditional and revisionist views of history. On the home page of this website, visitors would find a timeline of historical events. When they clicked on name of an event, they would be taken to a separate page for that event. On that page there would be a description of the event from the traditional point of view, another from the revisionist point of you, a counter-argument from the traditional side, and a counter-argument from the revisionist side. This page would also include pictures of the event, which would be selected to try and create a balanced view of it (ie both sides are represented), trying to realize the practical potential of using pictures as a tool of communicating history that a previous post on DigHist.org spoke of.
Obviously, many website have interactive timelines of events. And there are a number of websites, such as publicagenda.org and FactCheck.org that compares different views on political issues. The goal of my project is to create a website that is like one of these sides, but where the comparisons being made are about history rather than politics. As far as the literal use of this idea, I did not find websites that seemed to correspond to what I am imagining this would be.
By the end of the month, I could a webpage bought from wordpress.com or Dreamhost. I would then spend the month of March doing research on one or two historical events. Then, in one or two weekends, I could play with the graphics of the site and get the text on, which I imagine would not be terribly difficult and easy to access information on. What is great about this is that it is a continuous process. After the end of the semester, I could keep researching and putting the views of different historians (all cited of course) for different events. It would be a continuous process.
To promote the website, I could submit it to Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.com), an online directory recommended by Web Marketing Today (http://www.wilsonweb.com/articles/checklist.htm). I could also utilize my facebook and twitter accounts. And finally, using the recommendations of Communicating Design, I have devised the following personas for this website:
John Ambrose: John is a student of history of American University, majoring in Political Science and minoring in history. He has a major paper to write involving interpreting an event, and his paper will probably combine elements of politics and history. He wants his work to cover as both sides as best as he can, and the classes he has taken have already opened his eyes to issues of bias in the way history and the news are told. The website would be a great place for him to begin his quest, especially since the bibliography it would include would enable him to find more in depth sources to read.
Sam Everest: Mr. Everest is an average citizen, sick of all the spin and interpretations. She too, would like to get a view on events that is more impartial. While he lacks the time or interest to go and read mountains of books on certain events, having a list of different arguments at his fingertips would make him feel very well rounded.

2 Replies to “Balance and History: A Proposal”

  1. I absolutely love the idea of this project. Plenty of research papers demand this kind of information. Having all these sources in one place would be so useful. My question is would you provide text summaries of the arguments or would you just let the sources be on your website as is? Also, how would you link to the original sources, in a footnote or some other way? I look forward to seeing this in action.

  2. I like this idea a lot. One point I might mention is that some people in the history community react badly to the term "revisionist." The response being that all current writing of history is by its very nature revising the historical record. That is just a point about terminology though. The concept behind what you are doing, the kind of point counterpoint approach is a great idea. One way to frame it might be to just focus in on fights in the historiography between different view points.

    You draw some great comparisons to a few other websites and have a generally solid approach to the plan. I think this sort of project could be very useful for teachers. So you might think about making them your primary audience.

    I would have liked to hear a bit more about what exact technologies you would be using. For example, if the goal is to build a timeline you might think about using something like dipity. WIth that said, I get the sense you are planing to work on your print proposal, so I won't go on too long with comments here.

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