Ending my Civil War digital project

Digital Project Reflection for Ending the Civil War in April 1865.

After creating a “blogcast” commemorating the last month of the Civil War for this course, I must admit it is one of my proudest achievements—at least from grad school. I planned to drop posts on at least 4 dates that correspond to significant historical happenings, The timing worked out perfectly so that I was able to reference other sesquicentennial events, and it landed in the last half of this semester. It was seemingly meant to be.

My modest stats determined my moderate success of over the month:

  • 190 visitors
  • 9 referrer sources
  • 6 countries
  • 5 posts
  • 1 person pleased as punch

The sound recording process was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be, and I rather enjoyed it. I now have a basic proficiency in Audacity, and know how to upload to Soundcloud and then post onto WordPress. I have included a link to my blog on my resume now as well. In that way, this class has contributed to my skill set ways I had originally desired.

Design revisions were being considered, but ultimately I like how the general design is bold and simple with the colors highlighting what should be highlighted. The external sites I posted to stood out well and complemented by project with secondary and primary material from the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the Civil War Trust.

In a somewhat unexpected outcome, co-workers and friends have taken time to tell me how much Civil War history means to them or their family. I have heard stories and made deeper connections with people by creating and disseminating this digital project. So, that’s awesome, too.

Two games: 1066 & Jamestown


“The 1066 Game gets you right in amongst the battles, allowing you to directly control every barrage of arrows, cavalry charge and defensive stand taken by your armies. Mini-games add to the tension of issuing commands, and a distinctive portrayal of medieval warfare is delivered by the striking visual and dramatic animation.” –So says one of the game’s sites.

If you don’t know the history of the Battle of Hastings, watch this or this.

1066 purports to be a historical portrayal of the battle, but I’m confused how powerful the taunting tactic is in this game. I lost twice because my men kept being berated by insults such as “OOZING PUS WOUND” or “ILL-BORN FEN RAT!” My archers really couldn’t really defend against such a foul-mouthed offense.

Did it make me think about military strategy back then? Sure. Did it make me finally look up what the Battle of Hastings was? Yep. But, was the game fun to play? Not really, because it’s bit cumbersome and inconsistently balanced. I would attempt to move some of my men, and then the computer I was playing would fire off some arrows, some insults, and then even move some men–all while I couldn’t do anything. Bloody frustrating, that is. Cool animations though.


The Jamestown Online Adventure gives a “choose your own adventure” style of learning about how colonization works. According to its own descriptor page, “[i]n 1606, some 105 adventurers set off from England to try and establish the first permanent English colony in the New World. They settled in what is now the state of Virginia and called their colony first James Fort, and then James Towne, in honor of James I, the King of England. The early years of the colony were nearly a total disaster.”

I like how you learn about geography, how the land was being carved up, and where it would might be best to try to live along the coast–or not. No matter what choices you choose, you get a report telling you how you would’ve fared, and then explanations about how it really was under the headings “now we know.” I wish the window/viewer for the game was bigger so that the text was easier to read, especially for the report when the text gets heavy and historical. (Hopefully we could prevent the tl;dr tendency.)

Jamestown is finite compared to 1066, so if I had to choose between the two I would choose the sodding archers and the enemy’s archaic put-downs. Both taught me a bit more about history though, so both score points in my book for that.

Mobile Interface Theory: New Frontiers for Art Projects & Historical Learning

Jason Farman, in his book Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media (2012), explores how mobile media has changed / is changing how people interact with their worlds. Farman first establishes a theoretical framework of embodiment and sensory-inscription—which I interpret respectively (and simplistically) as space in direct relation to our lived experience and how we read the world. His approach to mobile communication, gaming, storytelling, and performance art all spins out of these ideas.


(Dr. Farman is on Twitter–betcha didn’t expect that…)

One of the quotes that distilled his big idea the most for me about all those things came in his fifth chapter: “Mobile technologies have transformed the categories of synchronous ‘presence’ and asynchronous ‘absence’ into simply a social proprioception of ‘continual co-presence’” (108). If we attempt to define proprioception as the recognition of one’s multiplicity in a place (physically and virtually simultaneously), I believe we can better begin to understand how to appreciate the possibilities of a mobile interface that can enhance our experience of places (physical and virtual). If we can see ourselves in relation to other things in the world that we cannot literally see, what does that mean for the things we interact with digitally via a mobile interface?
If “space is produced as a multiplicity of perception and inscription,” and “our mobile devices produce spaces that are experienced as a collaboration between information, representation, and materiality” then critically examining how all of that converges should help us better understand our current era (13). Farman is quick to point out, however, that technological obsolescence must be acknowledged as a limiting factor in these discussions, but these questions will most likely stay with us as long as most of us have some kind of mobile information device. Because we probably won’t do away with our phones anytime soon, and because we are still generally concerned with cultural progress, the ideas and questions raised in his book are worth considering.
Farman uses Walter Benjamin’s “Angel of History” in order to illustrate how “movement forward (progress) is a storm that leaves a trail of wreckage in its wake (obsolescence)” (136). And because Farman is interested in space he points to how digital environments will also become part of that technological wreckage once users feel as if the connections or incentives of a digital environment have “slowed or plateaued.”


(Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus and Walter Benjamin… I was expecting something more like a Gustav Dore illustration, but that’s cool.)

Farman’s invocation of Benjamin (which also a favorite passage of mine) made me also reflect on the other examples of mobile media practices he cited throughout his book that seemed to keep storytelling alive, or digitally dig up history. For example, how can we as conscientious citizens continue to interrogate power structures such as corporations or the military/police, while at the same time using products or methods created by them? The art project San Francisco ←→ Baghdad readjusts Americans’ geography while also acknowledging fallen soldiers, which resonates with critical thought about war and imperialism (49). Another favorite project of mine listed in the book is Streetmuseum, because of its ability to exploit the notion of “implacement” as a profound learning experience for students and citizens (check out the powerful image and caption on page 41).
If that kind of technological engagement found with Streetmuseum can be amplified, and perhaps gameified, I think there is great learning potential there. Similarly, [murmur], or something similar to it, seems like it could continue to proliferate as a historical community project—or, a fictional mystery based on local history?
Because computing truly is pervasive for most of us nowadays, it behooves us to explore and challenge the new meanings that are produced by our collective and historical interactions. Studying how information visualization interacts with locative media will continue to produce new ways to play with and critique the convergence of material and virtual spaces. I look forward to hearing about those kind of new projects.

Audacity & Soundcloud = free & easy

Basically, these two digital audio tools are the best (that you can get for free).

Audacity Screen Shot

Audacity is a free open source digital audio editor made by a couple of dudes at Carnegie Mellon 15 years ago. It has been downloaded since then by at least 76.5 million people, and supports over 30 languages. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

It looks scary at first, but I was surprised how easy it was to use and how well supported it is with its own wiki and more. You can record directly into the program, drag and drop other audio files, and make multiple tracks. You must then export from Audacity to use elsewhere because the program uses its own unique file type within the software.

In my limited experience, I’ve found the Audacity Wiki super helpful. Most of what you are wondering about has already been answered, or categorized so that you can even anticipate/explore other issues/options.

You can also watch videos/screencasts like this one to help you with improving vocal qualities by exploring normalizing, noise removal, compression, equalization, and hard limiting.

And now, a little about SoundCloud. Originally founded in Stockholm, but headquartered in Berlin, SoundCloud is privately held company that allows users to upload, share, or listen to recordings for free up to a point. (SoundCloud gives you 170 free minutes of uploads.)

 [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/198852891″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

As you can see by this paragon of an example, SoundCloud also allows you to embed an image with your uploaded material. A lot of money has been poured into development, and so it has other cool features like concurrent play with site navigation. You most likely have seen this player recently embedded in sites or linked to on Facebook. Distinctive features include how easy it is to share or embed, as well as it waveform comment section.

If you are starting out with audio editing and sharing, these two tools have made themselves the go-to options because their simplicity and ubiquity.


April is the Cruellest Month: Ending the Civil War in 1865

I propose to create blog and podcast to commemorate the ostensible end of the American Civil War in the month of April, 1865. This site will provide text, photos, and audio (maybe video?) to succinctly tell the story of the end of the war. (Above is a working title, below is a photo from Richmond in April, 1865.)


Major events to be covered will include:

  • April 2nd, The Fall of Richmond
  • April 9th, Appomattox Court House
  • April 14th, The Assassination of Lincoln
  • April 26th, The Death of Booth

In addition to that those featured dates, I will also create a page of “Annotated Enumerations” that will cite significant numbers associated with the war (e.g. numbers of dead, numbers of resulting Constitutional Amendments, number of total battles, numbers of people emancipated, numbers of books written about Lincoln and/or the Civil War, weather stats for DC, interesting parallels in dates/time, etc.) So, I’m looking at 5 to 6 blog entries over the course of the month, some of which will have a brief podcast associated with it–if not all, I am still assessing pricing and practicality.

The audience for Civil War history is ridiculously vast. How will my blog/podcast be different from what already exist? Mine will only focus on April 1865 and will be mainly overview punctuated with vivid descriptions and depictions of events and letters. My intended audience will be high school students as well as life-long learners. I will attempt to distill many facts and aspects into a punchy and pithy presentation that stays passionate and informative. (Definitely aspiring to Crash Course delivery and factual presentation.)

I will also attempt to plug my site into already existing sites that are public history related (or at least link to them and hit them up via social media) and I have a couple friends who could give me an assist on the web, and in particular social media. I will evaluate the site by keeping track of site visits and links, retweets, etc. via Google Analytics. Sites that are somewhat similar, or will be source material, include: