Final Reflection

For my digital project, I created a website focused on recreating the patient experience at the Washington D.C. St. Elizabeth’s Asylum. The site (http://stelizabethspatients.wordpress.com/) is multidimensional, in that it includes primary source collections but also has background information on the asylum, academic information on the state of mental health in the 19th century, and a bit of interaction for the website visitor in testing out diagnoses and symptoms. I’m quite excited about my site, but also know it’s still a work in progress and there is more I want to do with it.

Initially, I took on too large of a project, as I wanted to create an academic/collections site as well as a blog. One of the most important components of designing the site for me was to keep the patient experience at the front. What I ultimately did, and will continue to develop, is create individual patient profiles for each patient and have certain links (like if the site visitor clicks on “ingrown toenails” as a symptom, it will bring them to Jennie Fowler’s page). I also included parts of the patient story that affected their treatment, such as race, ethnicity, religion, and class. While I tried to design the site as if the site visitor was a newly-admitted patient, I found it very difficult to balance the interactive aspects of the pages with the academic/research parts, so I do think that component gets a little lost at times.

Future plans I have for the site include selecting a few female patients from various backgrounds and having the site visitor “travel” along with them throughout the pages. Each page will have it’s academic information, but also will have little quips from the patients that can be found in their patient records. With this aspect, the patient voices will be most prominent, but also site visitors will simultaneously be getting an entire person’s story, similar to when you go to a museum and they give you a card with a person and you follow along with them.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress of this site and want to expand it further as I continue researching patient files.

 

Jamestown Adventure Game

For this week, I tested out the Jamestown Online Adventure brought to you by History Globe. The game overall is very simple and does not take long to get through, but I think it’s an extremely useful educational tool. The premise of the game is you are the Captain of the new Jamestown colony and need to make various decisions regarding the settlement. The choices/stages of settling are:

  • Where to Land
  • Relationship with Natives
  • What sort of town structure
  • Who will be required to work
  • What do you want to search for
  • What do you want to plant

    “Village” Sadly Is Not an Option

In each stage you  have what I’ll call “lifelines”. There is the “Consult Charter” which brings you to highlighted passages from the Instructions for Virginia Colony, 1606, and there is “Ask a Colonist” which is somewhat like phone a friend. This option though, represents the mindset of the typical seventeenth-century colonist and does not give you the benefit of hindsight. Also, for some stages, you can “Ask a Native” as well. The Native point of view is pretty moderate, but there are some parts where her answers are relatively useless. For example, when you’re trying to determine whether to build a town, wood fort, or stone castle, she answers her people live in a village, which does not really point you in any direction.

What is interesting is as you play different scenarios, you discover your “options” become more limited at times. For example, if you say only indentured servants have to work, not gentlemen, your labor force become cut in half and you can only search for one out of: gold, fishing, hunting. If you make the gentlemen work, you get two options. Same applies with where you choose to land. If you land on a river, bay, or ocean, you can choose to fish. If you land inland, your options are limited to searching for gold or hunting. This took me a few rounds to discover the different ways your choices change later stages, and I wish there was something included that would say earlier and overtly what the consequences were.

When you follow the choices the original colonists did, you wind up being promoted to Governor of Virginia. What is interesting though is even the “right choice” or “best choice” can lead to bad results for your settlement. For example, when choosing where to land, both the Charter and Colonist point you towards the Bay Marsh (which is where the original colony was). This is strategic because it allows you to fish, but also is not on an island or unprotected area where Spanish warships can attack. However, in the conclusion of the game, your health rating is poor because the marshy area led to an outbreak of malaria, and the wood fort hindered good sanitation.

Promotion Time

In one round, I chose the absolute worst decisions for my colony, and in the end I had a great wealth rating, but bad health one as all of my colonists were dead. Literally.

Jamestown: Donald Trump Style

At the end of the game, you’re brought to an evaluation of your choices (as seen above) and then can go to a “Now We Know” page that gives you the breakdown of what actually happened at Jamestown. You can also print out your results to “compare outcomes with other students in your classroom!”

Now We Know

Overall, what I like best about the game is that it gives you analysis of each choice you make, not just a pass/fail (or live/die) outcome. The game really gives you insight into the positives and negatives of each choice you could have made. The biggest contribution of this game is that there was no “right path” that Jamestown could have followed. On certain things they chose poorly, others pretty well, and yet there was no perfect solution.

WordPress Blog Question

Hi everyone, I was wondering if anyone could help me solve a problem with pages for my digital project.

I was wondering if it was possible to create a new page, but not have it show up on the actual site… What I’m trying to do is create sub-pages that are linked to from another page. For example, I have a page called “Patient Profiles” and on this page there is a list of names. I want to link each name to a separate profile page, but I do not actually want these profile pages to appear in a drop down menu of any sort…. just sort of be only accessible through clicking the link on the “Patient Profiles” page.

Is there any way to do this? I tried making the page “private”, but don’t seem to be able to link to it then…

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

Show and Tell: Salem Witchcraft Trials

For my show and tell, I know it’s a few weeks before we demonstrate the other historical games, but I wanted to share one on the Salem Witch Trials. I took an undergraduate course, Witchcraft and Sorcery in the Medieval Ages, and my professor had us play this National Geographic game just for fun. However, it is very historically accurate and I think captures a good representation of the experiences of accused witches.

From a historical standpoint, the game is very accurate and well-research. Books cited in the Bibliography page include Devil in the Shape of a Woman and Salem Possessed. As you go along in the “experience”, NatGeo has included mini-biographies for many of the main characters, a who’s-who for those who haven’t seen The Crucible.

The game’s website construction is pretty eerie, which captures the feelings and dread of the witch trials in general. The only thing that maybe could have added to the font colors, dark background, and creepy creepy pictures is some haunting music in the background…. other than that, the website offers a good introduction, prologue, and epilogue, in addition to a bibliography. Another neat component in the “TravelWise” page that gives resources and directions to those who want to visit Salem and other relevant museums/sites nearby.

What I like best about this game, and it speaks a little to my own project this semester, is the point of view it’s played from. The game player is the accused witch. The assumed sex, which is not overt but becomes more identifiable later in the game, of the accused is a woman. This historically is representative of the Salem Witch Trials, but it would have been interesting for NatGeo to have a “male or female” choice and maybe take “men” down the path of Giles Corey or Daniel Day Lewis. (joking, John Procter)

Each page sets up where you are “the inn, the country road, the courthouse”. While there is the one main choice of the game “will you confess or not?”, in reality once you play the game you realize this choice is the only one, and it’s not much of a choice at that. While some could criticize this game for only allowing users to click the red words to go to the next page, I find this captures the actual experiences of accused witches immensely. In trials such as these, there were not many choices, and when you made a choice (such as to confess or not) you pretty much went down a predetermined path. Not much room to save yourself.

One thing also I think this game could do better is elaborate on what accused witches had in common. On one page, it discusses how what those who died had in common was their professed innocence, but many works, including those cited in the bibliography, also emphasize gender, class, and politics as important to accusations.

And lastly, on a personal note, when you claim to be innocent and then it lists who hangs and “Procter hangs”…. well, personally that’s just creepy to see!

 

Quick Sidenote: The set up of the game, not sure if it’s an Adobe Flash thing, is somewhat problematic for me in Safari, the scrollbar showed up better in Firefox (in gray instead of black so you can actually see it!)

Digital History Proposal: St. Elizabeth’s Asylum Site

For my digital history project, what I really want to create is a site through WordPress that functions both as an educational site and an online collection. My research over the past year has involved case files of female patients at St. Elizabeth’s Asylum in DC from the nineteenth century. What I hope this site will ultimately do is trace the experiences of these female patients, but also interact with other sites that give a limited history and analysis of St. Elizabeth’s.

In regards to the structure of the site, I would like to set it up as if the site visitor is a newly admitted patient, making each subsequent page the next “step” in the lives of these patients. The steps I have outlined will be admissions, diagnosis, moral treatment, daily life and resistance, mental health evaluations, and death (not to be somber). The site will also have a page for analyzing the differences between nineteenth century medical rhetoric and the actual practice of medicine in the public asylum, as well as the role race, religion, gender, and class play. Creating such a site would also allow both the patients’ voices from the files to be heard, as well as the voices of doctors and medical authorities. The collections aspect would come in to play with uploading various parts of the medical records, such as mental health tests or patient intake forms.

In order to make it more “fun” if you want to call it that, I will also include a “blog” by various patients and doctors, using the medical files to reconstruct what they “might” have said. Though I’m not entirely a fan of this sort of conjecturing in academic history, I feel for this site the “what would they have said” aspect could bring another dimension to story. Also, I will use their words through quoting or paraphrasing where I can.

WordPress sites do not have the built in community that other online venues offer, such as Flickr, but to enhance the publicity and connection of the site to a wider public, I will integrate a Twitter feed featuring one of the patients as the Twitter “user”. The site would be interacted with both through WordPress and through Twitter, as the Twitter feed would also connect to other Twitter users. Some example are Twitter feeds that recount Civil War diaries or institutions that are involved with digitizing history online, including the NYPL’s “What’s on the Menu?” feed. I personally follow the Univ. of Iowa’s Transcription Twitter and others and find that to be a great way to connect and stay up to date with changes. (They also tend to follow you back…. which is where I’m going with this.)

There are a number of other sites, including those of the NIH, Asylum Projects, and Historic Asylums of America that discuss St. Elizabeth’s. However, their sites tend to emphasize more the physical construction of the asylum and, if any inclusion of patients, focus on its use as a military asylum during the Civil War. While these are both important components that will be included in my site, what I hope to do is push my blog further in making it analytical. Female patients are widely negated from any discussion of St. Elizabeth’s, and the patient voice is often lost as well. I hope for my digital project to reconstruct the daily experience of the women, as well as include documents from that period that discuss female patients in a more public venue. For example, I plan to include both the origins of the asylum through bills put forth to Congress as well as newspaper articles from the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun that detailed the committal of women.

This digital project will give many layers to this one topic, from patients voices to media portrayals to autopsy procedures. It will be both “interactive” in the sense the patients will be blogging, but also will be extremely informative on the history and use of St. Elizabeth’s.