Digital Project Proposal

Madeline Shattow

There is an incredible amount of false information on the internet. From fifth-graders researching book reports to curious adults have all come across a source of misinformation. With the larger amount of contributors to the field of history, the internet provides a forum for conspiracy theories and new takes on historical events. For my digital project, I want to explore the reinterpretation of history on the internet through a blog.

For this project I will use WordPress and create a blog themed around historical discussions on the internet, primarily those that are far-fetched and far from general consensus of truth. Over the course of the month, I would like to create 5-10 posts on different internet finds.

One of the topics I would like to explore is the “If historical events had facebook” trend. These very clever creations are a humorous and creative look at the events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and World War II. Beyond discussing the actual factual accuracy, I would also do an analysis of what these pieces communicate or clarify to a wider audience. How would a high school student view this differently than a historian?

I also would like to look at different conspiracy theories and the information and websites surrounding them on the World Wide Web. Being from Massachusetts, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been the topic of every history class I have had since elementary school. Web sites, entirely devoted to what may have happened have broadened channels of information beyond those of the average history textbook.

One of the more entertaining Nicholas Cage films, National Treasure has also sparked the interest of the internet. Even the National Archives website answers the question “What is on the Back of the Declaration of Independence?” I want to explore how digital communications is used also to refute misinformation by historical sources.

While my interest resides primarily in United States history, I also want to explore other mass conspiracies that exist in popular culture. The Da Vinci Code and Opus Dei tells an entertaining story of a present day manifestation of an ancient conspiracy. I will explore the direction and topics of conversation prompted by a widely popularized conspiracy theory. While biblical history has an additional facet of “what is true,” I want to research the historical accuracy as displayed in digital sources.

In writing this blog, I will too join the world of web discussion on historical misinformation. I want to prompt a conversation with my comments. I think this blog will be a fun balance of humor and fact, paralleling historical truth with the entertaining narrative of the internet.

2 Replies to “Digital Project Proposal”

  1. Print Project Proposal

    Sorry! I realized that I never posted this! I was a couple weeks late with it and didn’t want it to get lost among all the digital project proposals. Now it’s just too embarrassingly late to post it directly to the blog. If it matters at all, here it is!

    For my print project, I would like to explore the evolution of facebook profiles that has lead up to the most recent development of the timeline. I want to analyze how it can be used to create a record of personal history. Since the timeline allows users to back add history in a sequential structure, people can now add pictures from their childhood and important life events.
    The first aspect of this paper would be a history on facebook itself. I want to present the development of the social network and its role in society. I would go through each version and update to create a timeline on facebook itself. I want to show the steps leading up to the most recent change of this social media tool. I want to parallel these progressions with the evolution of user interaction; discuss how the initial goal of the network (connecting and communicating) lends itself to becoming a narrative of personal history.
    The second facet of my paper will be an analysis of the new facebook by the theories of digital history. I want to address the historical validity of a facebook timeline according to theorists such as Martyn Jessop, Digital visualization as a scholarly activity and as a presentation according to designers such as David J Staley, Sequential Art and Historical Narrative. Because the new timeline comes with a new layout, I want to draw parallels between the visual design and its legitimacy in creating a historical resource. The new layout includes the “cover photo,” expanding on what used to be just the profile picture. How does this change the selection of a profile picture?
    The other piece I want to research is the usability of the new timeline. How does it make people see their personal history differently? I want to use blogs and public forums to gage general opinions on the new timeline. How do people choose their cover photo? What do they think that photograph says about them?

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