Final Project Reflections

My project analyzed  book lists posted by forum members on in order to look at reading preferences, debates, and basic assumptions and values held by Civil War hobby historians.

When commencing work for this project, I made the guess that hobby historians of the American Civil War would be callous and simplistic in their responses to each other online, that they would be uninformed about scholarly debates pertaining to the Civil War, and that they would also be swept up by counterfactual possibilities of how events in the Civil War might have occurred. In other words, I did not expect to find a lot of scholarly, civil discourse and debate.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that hobby historians of the American Civil War on the website tend to hold reasonably educated views of the Civil War, are quite well read, and tend to value smaller details like source citation more than I thought they would.

I found that sampling forums that had a large number of viewers and posters was the best method for finding out how online hobby historians discuss their Civil War knowledge. I found many reading lists posted by forum members, which allowed me to ascertain that many hobby historians absorb themselves in historical fiction of the Civil War.

I think one area for improvement, had I been allowed more time, would be to sample other websites on the Civil War and their online discussion forums pertaining to books on the Civil War. While this website I examined was a favorite among hobby historians, I think a broader range of sites would have added some depth to this project.

This project was fulfilling because I got to witness how hobby historians outside of academia survey Civil War literature and what their preferences are for renowned Civil War historians. I think the project is important because it can help to broaden the viewpoints of historians of the American Civil War when looking at how history buffs outside academia absorb their history.

Show and Tell: Games on the History Channel

I sampled two video games from the history channel website to grasp a better understanding of what we’re studying this week. The first game is a good tool for teachers  of geography in a game entitled “Place the State.”

This game, in part a puzzle, requires players to fit the state shaped image into its correct location on a blank map of the United States. There are no borders of the states on the map so players are required to place the state into its location precisely. The player is timed while performing this requirement. Once the player correctly places the state into its exact location on the blank map of the United States, the player is asked a historical question about that state.

For example, after a player has correctly placed Washington state into its correct location, he/she is asked from which country did Washington’s territory come from as a result of a treaty signed in 1846? Of the four choices, the correct answer is: Britain. The player can choose from a beginner, intermediate, or expert level, which correspond to the difficulty of the questions. This game would be both a quality testing tool or a fun competition for teachers of geography and American history. It is also a great way to brush up on America’s states and their unique history.

The other game, Top Shot, is a shooting challenge that requires players to hit an array of targets. A player can choose if he/she wants to shoot arrows at a bulls-eye or guns at clay pigeons or swinging targets.

The easiest version of the game is the archery version because the target is stationary and does not involve shooting at multiple targets, like players are required to do for both clay pigeons and moving targets. Another version of the game is called “memory challenge” and requires players to look at a board covered in different color squares. Then the board is covered up and the game asks you to shoot at the squares that you remember being red.


Euclid Corridor History Project: Climb Aboard

This user-friendly, highly interactive website allows viewers to take an online tour of Cleveland via “the silverline,” which was created in 2008. The silverline is a bus transit line that goes from downtown Cleveland along Euclid Avenue near the Cuyahoga River through the city heading east, until it ends in East Cleveland. It has many interesting stops along the way.

The website divides the bus route into seven different districts, each filled with sites of interest for the online viewer to explore. The euclid corridor history project is a great method to explore a lesser-known American city that does not get much attention as its westward neighbor Chicago. It is highly educational, fun, and filled with interesting tidbits to inform viewers about Cleveland through its new public transit bus line.

This website is didactic in that it provides an excellent look at inner-city Cleveland with a detailed summary of the city’s major historical, community, and tourist attractions. Because it is a very user-friendly website, it would be able to attract a vast array of both tourists and students interested in Cleveland’s history. A viewer can find out details about different Cleveland neighborhoods and their culture, history, architecture, and people.

However, the site has more features that does not limit it to merely an informational tool on Cleveland’s history through its modern bus line. The site also features a section devoted to Cleveland public transit information. Unfortunately, the links I found were not active and did not take me to the sites related to farecards, routes, timetables, and special passes. There are also other sections on the site relating to public events, attraction, news and weather that also failed to take me to the offered links on the site. In this sense, the site is not yet complete but still has potential.

The website also needs to incorporate more facts and information about the silverline bus system itself. There are numerous reasons to appreciate this triumphant project of urban planning.  According to the Wikipedia website, “each bus has a GPS locator on board, which allows automated traffic signals to give the Silverline buses priority at busy intersections, keeping them moving as much as possible.” Moreover, these silverline busses are environmentally friendly, as they run on a diesel-electric hybrid motor that makes driving through Cleveland rush hour less hazardous to the Cleveland skyline, vegetation, and city residents.

These silverline busses are also highly available to the residents of Cleveland, as they run every 5 minutes each weekday morning and afternoon through rush hour. The busses actually run 24 hours, 7 days a week, albeit with fewer busses during the late night and early morning hours. Bus lines like the silverline are a safe way to enjoy a weekend night out on the town with friends at the bars and not have to worry about who is driving home or who is going to pay the expensive rates for a taxi cab.

Overall, this site serves as a concise teaching tool for either students or tourists to glean a better knowledge of Cleveland. It is not yet complete (or has been cast aside and neglected) and could include more information about this cool new bus line. Yet, it does feature interesting and significant information about Cleveland that would satisfy the curiosity of both students and tourists alike.


Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms: Chapters 3 & 4

In presenting the complex discourse, terminology, and debates surrounding the issue of text, Matthew Kirschenbaum’s purpose of writing this monograph is didactic in that he hopes to add “to the repertoire of activities we are able to perform as scholars of electronic literature and digital culture” (115).

Chapter 3 is a case study about the game Mystery House, its disk image and its entirety of digital information. Mystery House, created in 1980, is a computer game in which the player is locked inside an old mansion with the goal of finding a supply of jewels. However, as the game progresses, bodies of other people inside the mansion start appearing and foul play is at hand. It is up to the player to figure out who the killer is before the player is killed himself.

As Kirschenbaum notes, the space of the disk is finite and capable of holding only a certain amount of textual information. Within this world of text, Mystery House features a multi-layered environment for its players that help to engineer the codes that drive the game itself. This balance and interplay of textual forensics at work is one of the focal points of Kirschenbaum’s arguments. For example, when the player is inside the mansion gathering clues and notes about the committed murders, the game’s instructions point out: “a note of caution: carrying more than one note may be confusing as the computer will arbitrarily decide which one to read or drop” (131). As Kirschenbaum points out, this interaction created through the programming of the notes’ behaviors is a basic component of all digital media (132).

The illusionary world created by the computer itself in this game is also Kirschenbaum’s focus. He calls this “formal materiality.” Through this process, computers generate many signals that get processed in the span of a few mere milliseconds before viewers can detect glitches, errors, or misunderstandings in both the computer’s and game’s functions. Through formal materiality, computers give viewers the illusion of perfection when in fact there are many digital misunderstandings occurring within the computer itself. The first example of this illusory view took place in the late 1930s when German citizen Alan Turing created the world’s first computer. Kirschenbaum differentiates between the formal materiality of digital media from the forensic when he claims that computers and their processes can be proven to be identical while forensically they are more individualistic (157).

Chapter 4 deals with Kirschenbaum’s case study of Michael Joyce’s work of hypertext fiction entitled Afternoon.  According the to Wikipedia website, Afternoon tells the story of Peter, a recently divorced man who witnessed a car crash that may or may not have involved his ex-wife and their son.[1]

Through studying the digital aspects of this electronic text, Kirschenbaum reveals how Joyce’s allows him to analyze the “material negotiations” that comprise the text of Afternoon. Kirschenbaum points out that Joyce’s Afternoon walks a fine line by depending on the reader’s active engagement yet Joyce controls the engagement in that a vast array of choices, deceptions, and vagaries envelop the reader (165).

Kirschenbaum goes into detail about the hypertext writing environment of Storyspace. This complex atmosphere emerged from “computer fiction, artificial intelligence and story generators, word processing, desktop publishing, hypertext systems research, and interactive videodisc technology” (177). Because it leaves behind such a trail of evidence, Kirschenbaum argues that Storyspace is highly accessible for further study.

Kirschenbaum does a fine job in describing the digital nuances, methods, features of both Mystery House and Afternoon in chapters 3 and 4. What would have been more preferable would for Kirschenbaum to give an overview of both games and texts and to describe how the electronic nuances, functioning internally during these games and texts, would impact the viewer or readers from the outside. In other words, I found Kirschenbaum’s chapters too internally focused and without implications for how these internal digital functions affect players of these games. More examples from these games from a player’s perspective would have been a welcome addition.


Digital Project Proposal

For my digital project proposal I would like to create a website using wordpress that will consolidate information from travel books and other websites about the Battle of Verdun during World War I. It would seem like a helpful project to provide World War I history buffs with a website that will allow them to access detailed information about the battlefield to enable them to enjoy a visit.

Unlike Ypres in Belgium and the Somme in northeastern France, which are the two most popular battlefields for visitors, there is not a wealth of online visitor information about the Battle of Verdun. This battle tends to dwell in the shadows of its bloodier rival, the Somme. The Somme and Ypres are quite close to each other geographically and there are websites that provide visitors with history, analysis, visitor information and visitor experiences for those two battlefields. No one has provided an extensive historical website for prospective visitors from for Verdun, which is considerably farther away in central-eastern France.

Many people do not know that the Battle of Verdun witnessed just under one million casualties, which was the fourth most of any battle during the Great War. Hopefully this digital project will give both agency and a wealth of useful information to prospective visitors and traveling history buffs so that they can better enjoy a trip to Verdun.

I intend to create the website as a way for potential visitors of French World War I battlefields to learn more about the battles fought on the battlefields themselves as well as to provide visitor information about tours. I intend to include maps, photographs from the Verdun battlefield and from the present, recommend reading lists, my own analysis of the importance of Verdun, as well as those from acclaimed historians, and past experiences and stories from visitors and history buffs who visited the Verdun battlefield to show not only what potential visitors might expect to see on their visits but also how these battlefields touched and influenced visitors from the past.

While there are currently websites about the history of Verdun and tour information in French, there are no exclusive English websites that offer the same information. Many websites that I visited offer tourist information about hotels, desirable car routes, and nearby restaurants. While this may be helpful to some people, I am more interested in providing a website more focused on historical facts, scholarly analysis, stories, and past visitor thoughts and experiences about Verdun. I intend to conduct some of my research in French as many websites on this subject are in that language.