Project poster and reflections

Hi everyone,

For starters, here is my project poster:

you can download my poster below!

I learned a lot this semester. It taught me the powers and dangers of the internet when it comes to history, something I had never fully considered before this class. I also appreciated the various practicums we used throughout the course. I would have struggled to find all of these tools on my own, and watching y’all demo them made me feel very comfortable with even the most finicky and difficult software (looking at you, Aris). Lastly, our discussions often inspired me or challenged me to be more critical or to explore the depth of history on the web, which helped me grow as both as a historian and as a person.

When I decided to pursue a digital project, I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to build an interactive map because I feel participatory engagement is crucial to learning in the digital realm, but otherwise I was starting from scratch. When I landed on ArcGIS StoryMaps, it felt right but definitely daunting.

So, I started to embed myself in my research, scouring various databases and websites for elusive monuments and groups. Once I found a majority of the monuments that fit my criteria, I started to build the map. I had a near disaster when I lost half my points when my site reloaded before I saved (talk about a heart attack) and spent too many hours trying to figure out short cuts and ways to tweak my map so that it would present well.

Once I had a map, the rest of the site sort of wrote itself as I talked about what I was seeing and how that compared to what I was reading about these monuments. I found that these monuments carry on a historical legacy but have some new features about them that set them apart from previous memorials. In the end, it was a fun project and definitely a skill I am glad I learned. I want to keep working with it by updating it as necessary.

This process blended all the reading we finished throughout the semester and taught me how to think creatively and skillfully regarding digital websites and exhibits. As professionals, these skills we’ve practiced throughout the semester will be invaluable as our profession slowly embraces the opportunities the digital world continues to offer those who want to preserve and interpret the past.

Here is my final project, and on a similar note to Amanda’s post, you can follow me on twitter at @joshnreynolds . Congrats on making it to end, y’all

#Twitterstorians, What I learned and How I’m Using It

Over the course of this semester, we have seen and read different sources and practicums designed to take history into the digital world. Slowly but surely, historians are embracing this new platform and using it to connect with different audiences. The practicums we studied showed me how vast the field of digital history is and the different tools that exist. As museums, institutions, schools and other forums for history start to embrace the digital world these tools are available to help curate content and reach broad audiences.

I found Twitter to be a fascinating realm for digital history. Professionals are starting to use social media to communicate with each other and the general public. I had not seen this trend on social media until I started graduate school. It was continuously communicated that Twitter is a great step for emerging professionals.

The downloadable version of my poster is below.

After I interviewed the nine Twitterstorians, I made my own professional Twitter. I wanted to start making connections and developing my own network of historians. My interviewees also addressed how they handle trolls and hate speech on Twitter. They recommend using the block feature to create a respectful community, which I intend to use as well. I am excited to become a Twitterstorian and start to establish myself among peers. Though, I will note that I am using mine to listen, watch, and seek occasional advice. I have already asked for advice and gotten really helpful feedback, Twitterstorians are a supportive community. After this project and my brief time on professional Twitter, I would recommend if you have not already you make a professional Twitter.

Digital history is a more accessible and oftentimes more engage forum for audiences. As the field embraces the digital world, it is our job as emerging professionals to use the resources available to us.

Thank you all for a great semester! If you are on Twitter follow me @agallagherhist 🙂

Print Project Update: Digital Folklore on TikTok

Since my proposal, my print project has changed a good deal. As I did further research, and I realized that while there certainly is folklore on Reddit, much of my interests showed examples that seemed to limit the capacity of users to partake in folklore practices or create legends. For example, the r/nosleep subreddit has an extensive set of rules, which require viewers to only post original stories, never break character in the subreddit comments section, etc. which fundamentally limits the process of creating and sharing a legend. As a result, I aimed to find what I thought was an incredibly current, viral example of folklore in action: the Randonautica app and the subsequent TikTok trend that grew out of a gruesome Randonautica story.

For my project, I have been evaluating the user video creation and response to Randonautica on TikTok, placing this phenomenon as a case study for the theoretical concepts discussed in digital folklore and digital ethnography. I have tracked the most popular TikTok videos that follow the randonaut adventures of users, looking at views, likes, and comments, as well as mainstream responses through articles and other forms of social media, to understand the impact of User-Generated Content (UGC) on the capability for folklore to spread quickly, powerfully, and ultimately for a very short amount of time (as it seems to be for all TikTok trends).

Please find a draft of this paper attached below, and let me know your thoughts!

In-Progress Report: Made By History Print Project Draft

As a quick refresher–I am doing an analysis of The Washington Post’s Made By History blog section.  The blog features pieces that connect current political events to their historical roots.  I separated my paper into three parts—exploring the blog’s content, analyzing recent contributor interview responses, and conclusions.

Part I: Exploring Made By History’s Content

In part I, I summarized and analyzed a recent piece in the Made By History section to showcase the kind of work and content the blog produces.  I chose a piece by Kyla Sommers called “The battle against D.C. statehood is rooted in anti-Black racism.”

Part II: Contributor Interviews

I sought out participants based on topic.  I chose three pressing political issues—DC statehood, voting rights, and immigration—and reached out to two contributors of each subject whose recent articles I found compelling. These are the participants:

Dr. Adam Arenson is a professor of history at Manhattan College in New York City.

Rebecca Brenner Graham is a PhD candidate in history at American University, an AU Public History Alum, and a history teacher at the Madeira School in McLean, VA.

Kate Masur is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University.

A.K. Sandoval-Strausz is the director of the Latina/o studies program and an associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University.

Elliot Young is a professor of history at Lewis & Clark College.

Robinson Woodward-Burns is an assistant professor of political science at Howard University.

I asked each contributor a series of five questions.  I condensed them for the purposes of this post:

  1. What motivated you to contribute to the Made By History blog?  When do you consider writing an op-ed or blog post?
  2. How do you view your contribution to the Made By History section? 
  3. What is the significance of connecting the present to the past?  And why do you think this—showing the public the utility of history and the work historians do—is important right now?
  4. What are your tips for historians looking to write op-eds? What makes an engaging op-ed?
  5. How is the Made By History blog changing the nature of how historians engage with the public?  What does this digital resource say about the emerging possibilities for new forms of scholarship?

The responses were really interesting, and I was able to draw conclusions about the blog from participants’ professional backgrounds and from their responses. For example, most participants do not consider this kind of work “scholarly,” yet every participating contributor either holds a PhD or is a PhD candidate.

Part III: Conclusions

I am waiting to hear back from Made By History co-editor Kathryn Brownell.  She is working on some questions that I sent her regarding the blog’s goals and to what extent she thinks they have been successful.  I currently have some very broad conclusions that I will hopefully be able to clarify more when Brownell gets back to me—hopefully by the end of the week.  I also found that I had a really hard time organizing this paper so any feedback on the structure would be much appreciated!

Print Project: State Rights

For my print project, I chose to pursue a study of state rights throughout 19th century American history. As I mentioned in my project proposal, the inspiration for this project came from my curiosity as to how a political philosophy, with roots over 200 years old, has managed to remain politically relevant up to the present day.

Before I even began collecting data and doing research, I established several guiding questions to help me throughout the creation of my project. These questions included: “Who advocated state rights? “Under what circumstances might these people have advocated state rights? “How did Americans’ understanding and relationship with state rights evolved overtime?” I also had to choose digital analytical tools that I thought had the best “fit” for my project goals, and in the end, I decided upon Google Ngram and the Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” search database. The former allowed me to help visualize trends between different key terms across time, while the later helped me find and accumulate primary source material in a quick and convenient manner.

To pursue this study, one of the considerations I made was to I restrict the timeframe being studied to 1800-1860. I had several reasons for doing so. One reason was that Google Ngram does not allow you to search years prior to 1800, so this marked a starting point for me. I chose 1860 as an end date because its before the Civil War and Reconstruction, which is when federal action increases drastically. I also broke up this 1800-1860 period into three parts, since Google Ngram’s line graphs will appear smoother if a longer time frame is chosen.

As I went about my research, I would utilize the search criteria for Google Ngram to help me locate periods of time when the term “State Rights” was utilized more frequently in literature, and relate it to positive and negative terms, in order to determine whether Americans understanding of the concept was constant, or rather, caused by political controversy. Once a flashpoint was identified, I would then use Chronicling America to analyze primary sources, and to determine differences between how Northerners and Southerners discussed state rights, if at all.

Because Ngram does not distinguish between regions, only frequency of the terms, using Chronicling America’s “search by state” function allowed me to search by Northern/Southern states, giving me a rough estimate as to whether one section of the US was talking about it more than the other. Additionally, Chronicling America has a feature where terms that you enter into the “advanced search” are highlighted on the page when you open up a document, which made reading the sources very convenient.