Print Proposal

For my print project, I would like to analyze blogs or forums for the show “the Pacific” on the HBO website.  Primarily, I would like to find out how much of it references academic work or the primary sources the series was based on.  The show focuses on three main characters who were real soldiers and two of them lived through the war to write memoirs.  I would be interested to see what bloggers are more interested in, the veterans perspectives or the academics’ perspectives.

More generally, I would be looking at what topics are the most popular for the show’s blog.  What do people want to talk about?  Is there a space for WWII veterans themselves to share their stories?  I know there is a section for viewers to share about their grandparents, parents, uncles, etc. experience but is there a space, anywhere on the website where veterans can tell their stories?  If so, is there a space for people to comment on the footage or information they are shown?

In looking at the comments, I would like to look at how much dialogue is taking place between bloggers.  Are people responding individually with no expectation of a response or are they reaching out in response to another post?  What is the purpose of this blog?  How is it fostering discussion of WWII?

The series cannot cover every aspect of the war so looking for comments that critique the show would be interesting.  What parts are they critiquing? Why? What grounds are they opposing a part of the show on?  Having two grandfathers who were in the Pacific, the show portrayed the brutalities they experienced.  There was not one homogenous experience, I acknowledge that, but I would be curious to see if there are any stories shared that contradict the events the show portrayed.

Studying the personality of the bloggers is of interest to me as well.  How do people identify themselves?  In a few of the posts, people identify themselves as history majors or having an interest in history.  How many people do that?  Are there any posts where people identify as not having been that interested in history or this part of history but were brought in by the show?  Many people speak of their families’ veterans with pride, how many people put that in the beginning of their post?

Overall, I would like to evaluate how the post is used to create dialogue about WWII in the Pacific.  Do people talk primarily about the show or do they bring in personal stories to contribute to the existing narrative?  History series have been very successful on HBO, what is it that keeps drawing people in?  Why do people go to the HBO forum to share their stories that they may not have shared or learned about if they had not seen the show?

Print Project Proposal – Evaluating Sequential Art

As discussed in class, sequential art may have some limitations in conveying meaningful historical narratives. Daniel J. Staley advocates the use of sequential art as a means of communication between professional historians, arguing through his own representation of German history that images, when arranged in a specific design, can present substantive accounts of history without the supplement of text. Allowing the viewer to discern connections between the images to piece together a larger narrative is, as Staley believes, a viable method of interpreting history.

However, Staley’s own example of sequential art (as well as his visual thesis) is a bit convoluted – and perhaps even lost – within his representation of German history.  Does this confusion stem from the method of sequential art itself, or has Staley just given us a bad example?

For my print project, I propose an evaluation of Staley’s example of sequential art among our own history department here at American University. Staley’s example online does not leave any room for other historians to comment and/or question his use of sequential art. It would be interesting to discover what our own faculty has to say about Staley’s method. For example, faculty would be prompted to answer questions such as: have they ever used sequential art to teach their own students about a certain historical topic? What is their position on using visual imagery without the support of text? Do they agree that Staley’s representation of German history is effective in conveying a meaningful historical narrative?

A second phase of this project would be to assess a new attempt at sequential art. I believe one of the most effective methods of using visual imagery is in showing a changing landscape. A sequence of images could be created to portray how a certain area has been developed, appropriated and/or exhausted over time. Some examples could include showcasing industrialization under Stalin in Soviet Russia, highlighting the emergence of electrical lines in rural America, or displaying the increase of violence throughout the Vietnam War. A second evaluation with the American University faculty comparing this new visual sequence with Staley’s representation of German history may allow us to figure out whether or not sequential art is truly a meaningful method of interpreting history.

Telephone, Telegraph, Internet: New Technology, Same Complaints?

I grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, home to the headquarters of “Research in Motion” – the maker of the venerable Blackberry. In a city where a large proportion of the population worked for RIM, including many friends of mine, I encountered a unique phenomenon. Although the Blackberry has lost much of its luster in the past year, it was not too long ago referred to as the “Crackberry,” denoting the fact that its users were often addicted to the device.

Despite the rabid addiction many of my friends had, I would often hear a growing number of common complaints – not about the device itself, but about the effect it was having on their lives.. Mainly, that with 24/7 email connectivity many people felt that they were pressured to work outside of normal work hours; that they could never truly leave work at the office; that the ability to be reached on the device at any time infringed on their privacy and sense of “down time.”

Although we think that we live in an age of cutting edge communications study, that has no historic parallel, this is a false assumption. Previous communication methods such as the telegraph and telephone revolutionized the world then just as thoroughly as the Internet does our world today. I would be interested to discover whether during the advent of the telegraph and telephone people had the same sort of concerns with the introduction of those technologies into their daily lives as we do today. Did some become “addicted” to using the telegraph to communicate? Did society lament that the ability to communicate through the telephone was diminishing our social mores and written communication skills? Did businessmen complain that with a telephone at home their bosses could reach them during off-work hours and that this increased their level of stress?
I intend to sort through historical newspaper articles to see what the general public was talking about with the introduction of each subsequent technology. Using digital tools such as “The Online Corpus of Time Magazine” I will be able to organize such a wealth of newspaper articles and mine them for keywords related to my subject of study. Once an appropriate sampling of articles have been obtained, I intend to use digital tools such as “Wordle” to see what types of words people were using to describe these new communications technology.

The purpose of this project is to make use of new digital analysis tools in order to help us understand how people in the past reacted to new communications technologies.

Print project proposal- The Irish Brigade at Gettysburg

One of the most popular monuments on the Gettysburg National Battlefield is dedicated to the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry regiments that formed the core of the famous Irish Brigade. This ethnically segregated unit was at any point during the Civil War the brigade with the highest percentage of casualties, in the corps (the 2nd corp of the Army of the Potomac) with the highest percentage as well. Basically, pick a bad spot on a battlefield in Virginia, and that’s where you found them.

Their monument at Gettysburg is somewhat out of the way, but still it’s one of the most popular. It’s a Celtic cross being guarded by an Irish wolf hound. For this project, I want to analyze visitor’s photographs uploaded to Flickr, as well as reviews on Yelp and Facebook to see what people have to say about the monument, why it’s important, and why people want other people to visit it as well. Why travel off the main drag near Pickett’s Charge to visit this monument? How do people use the monument in their photographs? These monuments were the earliest attempts by veterans, their families, and the government to try to memorialize what happened on these battlefields. In the grips of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, I’m fascinated by what places and monuments people identify with and feel are important.

I chose the monument at Gettysburg in particular because, while it was the bloodiest battle in US history, the story of the Irish is an often forgotten one. They and other immigrants, especially the German, found themselves outcasts in their new country. The issue of immigration is one that still grips our country, but now, when we look at this monument, no one would dare say they were not Americans.  By combining different digital outlets, this paper would provide readers with a chance to envision what tools they can use to memorialize places or people who are important to them.

Links for Potential Project Examples

In class I mentioned a few things that can work as examples for kinds of work you might consider. Now, again, everything on the syllabus is a potential example of something you could write about. Here are a few more.

So here are two articles I wrote that I think fit into viable papers.

Here is the paper I wrote about looking at how people engage with a monument via social media. Tripadvisor rates Einstein: Using the social web to unpack the public meanings of a cultural heritage siteThe International Journal of Web Based Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.40–56. DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2012.044681

Here is a paper I wrote about what people do with a historical video game.  (2010). Modding the history of science: Values and habits of mind in modder discussions of Sid Meier’s Civilization. Simulation & Gaming.  doi:10.1177/1046878110366277

In terms of text mining and analysis, I wanted to share this very practical step by step approach to using Vouyer to do text analysis of two speeches.