Andy Lewis Final Project,-77.058491,10/bounds/38.421197,-77.415547,39.359666,-76.701435/paging/1

For the final project of Digital History I set out to compile a list of religious buildings in or near the Washington, D.C. area. The project would be digital because it would be created and displayed online, on a website demonstrated in a class practicum called Historypin. The project would be historical because it would collect the religious buildings that have some kind of historical relevance to their faith tradition and to the city of Washington in general.

The project was created when I was driving down Mass Ave and noticed just how many religious buildings one has to pass if they are leaving the main campus of American and heading down past Embassy Row and into downtown D.C. I was further inspired when I noticed that there was not a regularly accessible list of historically significant religious buildings to view or visit in D.C. online, and I resolved to rectify the gap. This meant that the goals of the project were pretty simple: create a collection of buildings that are significant to the history of Washington, with the intention of capturing as much diversity as possible. The project was also expected to be informative and visually engaging, which is why the format of Historypin was selected. Historypin permits one to create a collection of places on a map and to provide the pins with photos and short descriptions, which was perfect for the project.

The project drew on many of the ideas and lessons presented in the class, especially the ones that emphasized the new abilities that the digital historical field could provide for the collection, maintenance, and presentation of history. For sure, Historypin is very user-friendly, but without the class the very possibility of the project would simply never had occurred to me, not to mention that I might have the ability and the tools necessary to create it. The concepts learned in class provided the idea, and the practicums were super helpful in determining how I would bring the idea to fruition.

In the end, I learned quite a bit from this project. It was super entertaining to do the research on the 45 buildings I ended up selecting for my collection, and almost as fun finding pictures and blurbing useful information about their histories. The project challenged me to learn and use digital skills that I would not have had otherwise, from using digital resources to synthesize information to using a digital platform to create a publicly available collection. I certainly learned a lot more about the history of religious buildings in the D.C. area.

I really liked making my project and I am happy with how it turned out. I was able to include nine different religions and many more religious traditions and denominations, and I think it is pretty accessible for anyone who is curious about the content to navigate. There are also many avenues I could take for expanding the project, if I were so inclined, like getting into contact with the featured religious institutions or working to sort the collection more clearly along various demarcations, like architectural style or building age. For now, I think I will finish with saying that I am glad I chose this as my final project, and I am satisfied with the result.

Digital Project Draft

Here is a link to the HistoryPin I have been working on:,-77.075488,10/bounds/38.512904,-77.391345,39.16007,-76.759631/paging/1

So far I have like 45 pins of various religious buildings scattered throughout the district, with a few just outside. I did my best to systemically include every religion and religious tradition I could find, but I think I could include a few more variations. For example, some more eastern Christian churches are needed beyond just Orthodox Cathedrals.

Besides adding some more buildings and perhaps culling a few superfluous buildings out, the work I have to do is this: edit and augment the commentary/description of each building to explain why the buildings are historically relevant, and add pictures to each building so as to be aesthetically pleasing and visually engaging. If I wanted to do a lot more it would be to add some organization so its more usable, like marking them all by religious tradition or ward in DC or something. I am not worried about completing this in time.

Understanding Digital Content Practicums

Demo Mystery House:

Mystery House is a very simple computer game that involves a character moving through an old Victorian Mansion during a murder mystery. It is a classic scene. The player sees graphics of rooms and items  and controls the view and movements by simple word commands like “open door” and “take candle.” It is a bit difficult to use, but fun when you figure out the mechanics.

There is not too much to explain, as the instructions for the game are very simple. You can only enter short phrases, and when it doesn’t understand it will tell you it doesn’t know how. The plot is that there are 7 people in the house, and one of them is a murderer, and you need to somewhat figure it out.

The game is mostly relevant though because of its use as an example in one of the readings. I only partially understand how it works, so I thought it wisest to just quote the section:

“Mystery House, a 1980 game for the Apple II, allows a player to explore an abandoned Victorian mansion. the game presents players with graphics showing different rooms and places in the house and text describing what happens as you move through it. the details of the game aren’t particularly important for this example.

After downloading a copy of a disk image of the game, a bit-for-bit copy of an original 5 1/4 floppy disk on which this game had been saved, it is possible to boot the game up in an Apple II emulator and explore it. You can also take a copy like this one and explore it through a Hex editor. A Hex editor is a computer program that lets you read the actual binary data that is laid out on a disk. At this point the disk is a really a virtual thing. The disk image file is a bit-for-bit copy of how information was laid out on an actual floppy disk, but we have no idea where that original disk is or if it even exists anymore.

When Matthew Kirschenbaum did exactly this–downloaded a copy of a disk image of the game from the web–and started looking around in it with a Hex editor, he found something unexpected. As a reminder, text encoded inside a file is itself interpretable and renderable outside the file. So when exploring sectors of a disk with a Hex editor, the editor can render text as it is actually laid out on the disk. What Kirschenbaum found was text from two completely different games, Dung Beatles from 1982 and Blitzkrieg from 1979. As is the case with digital storage media, the information on a disk is not erased when deleted. Instead, the space is simply marked as empty. As a result, when you poke around in the actual sectors of the disk, or the bit-for-bit copy of those sectors in a disk image, you can find traces of files that were overwritten. The end result is that some decades later, by exploring sectors of this copy of the disk, it is possible to learn what had been on this disk before the Mystery House game was saved on it.

The disk image of the game is entirely informational; it is a sequence of bits that has been copied and shared with many different users. However, in the process of copying this disk, more than the informational content of the intended game was copied. By exploring the contents of seemingly overwritten space on the disk, it becomes possible to learn about previous uses of the physical object on which the game had been encoded. Aspects of that artifactual physical object have been carried forth in the informational world of replication.”-


Glitching, put quite simply, is intentionally messing around with digital files to produce certain artistic results. This can be done a few ways, but one example would be changing a photo file into a text file, removing and moving lines of data, and then turning it back into a photo to see the glitched picture. Another example would be trying to view an audio file as an image, which can get a little weird.


Here is the original image: Fenway.jpg

Now, I will change the extension from .jpg to .txt and open it in a text editor, and just delete some stuff. Here is the new Fenway.jpg:

Pretty weird, I just randomly deleted some of the text in the editor and it only darkened the image a ton, with some gray bars appearing at the very bottom.

Digital Project Proposal

For the digital project I would like to use a digital tool to document and present the religious history of Washington, D.C., particularly its religious buildings.

After some very brief web browsing I have determined that there is not any kind of definitive guide or database for historically significant religious buildings or institutions in our nation’s capital online, which is a shame because of the culturally and religiously diverse history of the country and the city. There are a few website articles that mention tourist-friendly churches and short explanations of skyline defining steeples, but nothing that outlines the historical development of the religious life of the city.

So, I would use something like HistoryPin or StoryMaps to use photos of the religious buildings that now exist to tell a brief history of the religious life of Washington over the last 3 centuries. For example, I could use a picture of the Washington National Cathedral to explain both the history of The Episcopal Church in the United States and how city designers had long planned and wanted a sort of ecumenical national house of prayer for the capital city.

Another example could be St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Downtown DC, which is the oldest Catholic parish in the city and even hosted British troops for Sunday Mass during the British Invasion of Washington during the War of 1812. There is a lot of history to be learned from this church alone.

It would not only be Christian churches either; the Islamic Center of Washington on Embassy Row would of course be included, and I think I would include the enormous LDS Temple just outside the city in Maryland. There is a Sikh gurdwara on Massachusetts Ave that I pass to go to work, and the city boasts some glorious historical synagogues.

I think it would be cool to create some kind of historical tour of the great buildings of the city, hopefully including buildings from many religions. It would be an opportunity to learn about religious history, DC history, and artistic and architectural traditions of many religions.

The tour could be fairly comprehensive while still being base level enough to only being hitting the highlights, so to speak, and perhaps there would be some sort of way to focus on a specific faith tradition.

This would be a fun project to make for me and I think it would actually be useful as a public history tool, not to mention something to show people that have already seen the boilerplate DC stuff like the Mall and the Smithsonians and such.

Print Project Proposal

For my print project, I am thinking about somehow studying how cultural influences affect different language wikipedias.

As you may know, Wikipedia has different sets of pages according to particular languages. In fact, there are currently 318 active wikipedia editions in foreign languages, such as French or Hindi. Interestingly enough, Wikipedia decided to make different pages for each language rather than simply translating the English page into the other languages, which means they have slight differences and discrepancies.

Studying the differences in accuracy would be interesting enough, but what I would like to research and write about is how the cultural background of the languages have actively caused foundational differences in their respective wikipedias.

For example, after some admittedly anecdotal research, cultural elements commonly associated with particular languages appear in their language wikipedias. On Spanish Wikipedia, it is far more common to find tabs that describe the subject’s religion. On Chinese Wikipedias, it is normal to have much more information on family histories and trees and such.

Researching this topic would be a bit complicated, as I would need to establish criteria to look for before I begin my search. Further, actually researching this criteria could be difficult without resorting to confirmation bias.

To some extent I would be required to rely on some preconceived notions about particular cultures and their affiliated language wikipedia, if only because that is what I have noticed when searching the different pages. While it is true that I have noticed that religion appears more frequently and more structurally in the Spanish Wikipedia than in the English Wikipedia, it would need to be conceded that I noticed because I knew the culture associated with Spanish to be more religious and interested in religious matters than English is.

This concession of course also extends to the Chinese Wikipedia example. However, I would not say that the research will be totally subjective: it would not be difficult to quickly research the same pages through different languages to get some sort of quantitative data on the prevalence of cultural factors. Checking 20 wikipedia pages of famous people past or present in English and in Spanish would yield measurable differences, and if the religious hypothesis was correct, the data would bear that out.

The paper itself would analyze this sort of research that combines quantitative study of wikipedia pages with qualitative hypotheses that are based on the underlying factors that form wikipedia pages. Indeed, it has already been mentioned many times in class and in readings that Wikipedia is itself aware that it is biased towards its contributors, who of course skew to be young, male, and frequently online. I would want to extend this commentary onto the foreign language wikipedias.

Because this is a history class, the study would be focused on the history aspects of wikipedia and how the cultural influences could continue to affect how modern readers of wikipedia perceive individuals and events in the past. It would be fascinating to study how a culture’s proclivity into particular attributes would shape how people understand the past.