Fireside Nation Reflection

The opportunity this class provided for us to build an entire project based on whatever we wanted to learn is probably the most effective thing a class can do for a student. Not only did we learn to use a digital tool, but in the end we walked away with a tangible deliverable that can be used on a CV or resume, which is exactly young professionals like us need.  I wish all classes were like this; a lot of the time I produce papers that are too specific or too contextual to be used as writing samples. With Fireside Nation, I have something that demonstrates a skill that I have that I rarely get to display.

Regarding Fireside, I really appreciate the feedback that I received at the poster session. I only wish that it was a real conference, and we had more time to discourse. And I’m not entirely sure I’m finished with this project.  I’ve set up meetings for next week to discuss the site with the department head, to receive some possible GIS mapping training, and to also get training in finding funding to continue.  Over the course of the semester, I sort of got attached to this project, and I’d like to see it through if it is at all possible.

But there are of course problems with it.  It would of course need a real server, and not my aging PC.  Additionally, the site as it is needs a UX clean up, as it does not function the way I’d like it to.  And the site could not start off the way it is conceptualized right now.  It would have to be a far more localized site, because a national discussion may be a little too ambitious, and the equipment to handle such a thing would be too expensive. That said, with a serious upgrade to the map, so that it could handle multiple layers of data rather than a simple plot point, this project on a localized scale could tell a beautiful story.  The distinction that I tried to relay at the poster session is that this site’s potential lies in its ability to carry out hundreds of interviews at one time; as I’ve mentioned, it does not follow oral history best-practices, but it does have strengths that can be considered a trade-off. If you’re an interviewer trying to tell a story about a particular space, think of the advantages of crowdsourcing your interview!

But all in all, the experience was fantastic.  I learned a great deal about ColdFusion, but I also became much more fluent with JavaScript in the process, something that I did not anticipate but which will pay huge dividends.  While I was doing my research (and yes, programming a website requires a massive amount of research), an entire new world of programming strategies opened up to me. I feel like I’m on track to become a real programmer in the future, and it is a very gratifying feeling, and it is so much fun! The digital really provides new worlds for historians to practice their craft, and particularly for public historians, the possibilities are endless.

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