Defining Digital History: The Final Four

Hey everyone, I’ll be guiding us through the last four readings for this week! The first article, “Snapshots of History: Wildly popular accounts like @HistoryInPics are bad for history, bad for Twitter, and bad for you.”, is exactly what it sounds like. The article dives into a number of popular history twitter accounts that aren’t interested in historical accuracy, context, additional sources, or even proper photo attribution. The author, Rebecca Onion, briefly compares the historical blog that she writes with these popular accounts. She acknowledges how difficult it is “to hit the sweet spot between click-worthy intrigue and historical interest.” What is that sweet spot? How does that change depending on organization or social media platform? The author focuses on how the lack of additional context and information takes away from what she considers is the best aspect of history. She concludes the article by saying that these twitter accounts are creating dead ends which I COMPLETELY AGREE with. However, what is it that makes people follow accounts like @HistoryInPics (1.02 million followers) while @SlateVault only has 9,000?

“Digital History and Argument” was created as a white paper produced through a workshop. The document’s goal is to bridge the gap between digital historians/digital work and traditional historians/historiographical work. The white paper advocates for a two way street, bringing digital historians into historiographical conversations and traditional historians to digital history. The paper provides a number of specific examples I could go through, but there are a few questions I rather ask. Who is this white paper for exactly? And how can we best utilize its arguments? I don’t want to speak for everyone in the class, but I want to go on a hunch and assume that we all understand the benefits of incorporating digital history into historiographical work. The Colored Conventions Project is just as valuable to me as any other book or exhibit on the topic. Perhaps this white paper is to help introduce the importance of digital history or to persuade those who are on the fence about it. Maybe if a professor said your digital history paper or project isn’t real history, then you can bring this bad boy out. Realistically, I think this paper is a great way to introduce someone to digital history, specifically college freshmen who have had limited experiences with history.

Our next reading is a Medium blog post titled “DarkMatter: The dark matter of the Internet is open, social, peer-to-peer and read/write—and it’s the future of museums” by Michael Peter Edson. Edson discusses how museum professionals, librarians, archivists, and many more have been “participating in an extraordinary — the building of a planetary scale knowledge sharing network for the benefit of everyone in the world.” However, Edson notes that in terms of technology and the Internet, institutions have only tapped into 10% of its power. Edson points to the awesomeness of Hank and John Green and considers other ways people have tapped into the uncharted waters of the Internet. Edson concludes with looking into the multiverse, the limitless possibilities in which cultural institutions can truly connect with people via the Internet. Will cultural institutions be able to harness technology and the Internet better in the future? Will this require taking risks? Or is there a way for museums to experiment with little to no costs involved? Find out next time on …

Our final reading for the week was “More Crowdsourced Scholarship: Citizen History” from the American Alliance of Museums. This reading explores the Citizen History project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which investigates what happens if visitors help with the research of a museum. I LOVE this project and it truly highlights “shared authority” that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the public history program. It allows anybody, with time, to become a historian using online databases and research. As historians and emerging historians, what makes us worthy of this work/profession compared to those without “professional training”? Does working to train the public undermine current professional historians? Maybe if the history profession was more accessible, there would inherently be more voices in the field than there are now. I am excited to hear what everyone thinks about these readings!

Introduction – Bailey Murray

Hello! I’m Bailey Murray and I’m a second-year student in the general History MA at American University. Originally I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina and I received my undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Surprisingly enough, my Bachelor’s is in Child Psychology and it wasn’t until a lengthy trip around Europe and Egypt that I decided that History was my real passion. While American University is not the Egyptology and Education degree I soon hope to pursue, it has been an important stepping stone on my ultimate journey as I have gained connections as well as a proper introduction to the Historical field that I missed out on with my science-based undergraduate degree.

Digital history is a subject that I have until now, placed on the back burner because I was blind to the possibilities that were staring me in the face. Simply signing up for a digital history class has allowed me insight into the potential of the digital age and how it affects the way we interact with history. Personally, one of my biggest hobbies is playing video games, and my favourite genre is any game that involves historical fiction – such as Assassins Creed: Origins which is set during Ptolemaic Egypt. Naturally, that means I’m most excited for the part in our class where we discuss gaming, but, as I’ve perused the syllabus several times now, I am also eager to expand my capabilities with resources that may come in handy in a classroom setting to keep students engaged and learning.

Beyond traveling to Egypt in 2019, I haven’t actually done very much in the historical field that doesn’t resemble tourism. I hope that American is the catalyst I needed to begin my time in the historical field and I am eager to see what the future holds! I suppose a bit more about me as a person before I sign off since we will be getting closer as a class over the semester. I love to play games as I said earlier and I believe my project proposal will have something to do with such though I haven’t pinned down my exact topic. I am also an avid reader (I am currently reading Moses and Monotheism by Sigmund Freud), I adore DnD and other roleplaying games, and my secret talent is hand embroidery though I dream of the day I can buy myself a machine to do it for me.

Introduction: Joshua Johnson

Hey everyone! My name is Joshua Johnson and I am a first year graduate student in the Public History MA program at American University. I was born and raised in the Bronx in New York City. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Africana Studies and Classics in May 2021. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I always found a way to focus my final assignments/ projects toward a general audience (this probably annoyed a lot of my professors). Early on during undergrad, I knew that I wanted to focus on history but specifically engaged with the public. I originally thought that the only way I could do this was as a curator. I tried to develop the skills that I thought every curator should have and that is when I stumbled upon the public history program here at American University. I hope to continue to build the skills I have developed while learning more about engaging history with public audiences.

Through my journey of developing curatorial skills, I found the digital humanities field. I had the chance to learn and practice computational methods to collect and analyze data. I was introduced to things such as character network maps, APIs, and topic modeling. I got to put these skills into use during a summer internship and you can see some of that work here! Essentially, I collected and analyzed data from Reddit. Our research was dedicated to understanding online reading communities, and how specific authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Roth are discussed on the platform. I hope to continue learning about these skills in this course while exploring aspects I am less familiar with.

Overall, I am specifically interested in Afrofuturism, fashion curation, and digital humanities but my interests are truly wide ranging. My interests have led me to working on a number of cool projects like an archaeological dig in Pompeii, curating fashion exhibitions, and creating an online exhibition on the video game Assassins Creed Odyssey with Omeka. I am a science fiction nerd, athlete, gamer, and a fan of the NBA. I am excited to get to know and work with everyone in this course!