waze|PARKS: Project Reflection

the office party hard GIF
We did it!

Congrats on completing the weirdest semester of all time! We are literally living through history…digitally…woah

Anyway, I am very happy to update you all on my digital project for this semester. Take a look at the conference poster below. FYI- im not sharing my whole project on this, but let me know if you want to see it!

I couldn’t figure out how to do the link and download thing that others have so here it is!

My project has remained pretty similar to my original proposal, as this is an idea that I have had for some time now. It was great to have the opportunity to develop this idea further, and almost create a “proof of concept.” As Brown notes in Communicating Design, there is still a lot to be done in the deliverable process, but I created a few deliverables that I knew would be critical if I ever decide to develop this further. Creating these deliverables included researching both Waze and the National Park Service fairly extensively.

Waze currently has a feature called Waze Local. If you are a frequent user, you may have noticed the banner ads that pop up advertising McDonalds and O-O-O-O’Reilly Auto Parts when you are at a full stop. According to their data, these ads (along with map pins and promoted searches) have resulted in increased Waze visitation. I relied heavily on their data and framing to create a one-pager that fits with their brand identity – giving me the best chance to have a successful pitch to them. I also created an 18-slide presentation with accompanying notes for a pitch to NPS.

I researched the recent financial history of the National Park Service and included that information in my one-pager to Waze. This helped inform a potential contract and cost. The NPS park websites were immensely helpful in identifying parks along the route, verbiage for the audio notifications, and text for the “see more” section. Included in my project is a list of the sites along a road trip from New Jersey to Florida with this accompanying information.

Before I get to challenges and such, here are some screenshots of my project:

Example of the banner/audio notification a user would see
A list of the 19 sites that are mapped.
An example of the breakdown information for each site listed


Unsurprisingly, the current pandemic provided some challenges. Chief among these challenges was the inability to user test with friends, family, and other Waze users. This would have given me a better understanding of what information should be included in the “see more” sections, how long the audio alerts should be, and if they would actually use something like this. While this testing might have been possible via a questionnaire, I do not believe it would have been as effective as driving with them and playing the audio every few minutes.


Beyond finally having an excuse to work on a project I have been meaning to advance for years, this class taught me a lot about the intricacies of creating meaningful outlets for digital history. I think all of us understand that digital components will be a fixture in future humanities projects, but this class proves that we can look to the past and present to see examples of how it is already a fixture. As training public historians, we have to take the lessons and readings from this course and bring them into the field. Hopefully, this will help us answer the eternal question of public history: How do we engage the public in and with history?

Stay safe kiddos! It was a great semester and I miss you all. Thank you, Trevor!

im out GIF
Peace out!

Press Forward: Practicum

Greetings peers and friends! I hope everybody is doing well in these ~wild~ times.

As with many of the practicums we have looked at this semester, PressForward is a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. PressFordward is a free and open-sourced WordPress software plugin that aggregates content from your favorite websites in one place. Essentially, Press Forward reads RSS feeds that allows you to curate (I know this is a hot-button term) and redistribute content from the back-end of your WordPress website. Their website makes it easy for users to download and learn how to use the software. The “resources” tab on their website compiles FAQs, Presentation Slides, Workshops, Research &r Reports, and Microgrants ($1000) given by the PressForward. The website also houses a full user manual and starter guide for anybody interested!

Digital Humanities Now is an experimental “publication that highlights and distributes informally published digital humanities scholarship and resources from the open web.” DHNow uses PressForward to aggregate content from hundreds of feeds and blogs that produce scholarly content. Each week, the editors-at-large scrub through the content and nominate them to be disseminated. One of the coolest aspects of this project is that any of us could apply to be volunteer “editors-at-large” and assist DHNow to identify and disseminate engaging works. One thing to note, the higher-ups at DHNow are all related to the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

Those interested in subscribing to DHNow can choose between the Editor’s Choice, News, all posts, and even their unfiltered feed. Allowing users to see everything that “didn’t make the cut” is a really interesting example of the mass amount of information that can be compiled by the PressForward software.

Baby Penguin GIF by MOODMAN
(mid-post penguin wiggle to keep your attention)

Another organization that uses PressForward is dh+lib. This website is particularly targetted at promoting librarianship of digital humanities resources. Similar to DHNow, community members volunteer to serve as Editors-at-Large and sift through the RSS feeds, nominate the highlights, and write up short posts. These posts are released every Thursday. Every Wednesday, dh+lib publishes longer-form content that is produced solely for this platform. Unlike DHNow, visitors to the site can see the most recent blog posts right on the home page – so subscription required. In many ways, this is a better set-up as it allows for people to engage with this information, without being bombarded by posts.

Overall, PressForward is a pretty interesting resource for anybody looking to push out the content they think is interesting, without having to sift through their favorite websites themselves. For those of you with blogs: Consider how you can use PressForward to produce content for those of us who are stuck at home.

im out take care GIF

Stay well!

waze|PARKS: Digital Project

So I stayed pretty much on track with my initial proposal and I created a mock road trip from New Jersey to Florida and mapped all of the NPS sites along the way. In total, there were 19 sites on the route that would add less than ~30 minutes (round trip) to the overall trip. For each of these sites, I sourced the audio and “see more” from the NPS website. While this was much easier than familiarizing myself with the ins and out of every site along the way, it is also presumably what would be done if this app were actually created and verbiage was to be drafted. Each site also lists how much time it would add to the trip, the site’s (non-apocalypse) hours, and any relevant fees. All of this information can be found on my google map!

Yes, I did look in the middle. Believe it or not, there are no sites in the Carolinas within a 30-minute road trip

I also created a mock one-page proposal to Waze that outlines the scope of this project, various NPS statistics, and the suggested contract for something like this. I may be a little under-qualified to actually pitch to Waze, but this would be a good starting point if I decide to take this project to the next steps. After Waze accepts this proposal and signs me on with a massive salary, the presumable next steps would be to pitch this project to NPS. This is where I really shine.

Waze currently has an initiative called Waze Local, which partners with local and franchise organizations to create targetted ads while you’re driving. I found a presentation that they used in the past and photoshopped it to mimic my presentation. This presentation includes screenshots of what I intent the interface to look like and it outlines the different features. And yes, it is very hip.

Here is a little taste

The map (with all verbiage, basic site info, and distance), Waze one-pager, and pitch presentation to NPS are the three deliverables I will complete for this project. As of now, I have all of mostly these done. I just need to compile them in one package and write the presentation notes for the NPS pitch.

Oral Histories in New Media

Oral history interviews can be a challenge for many historians, especially those who spend a lot of time in the archives and prefer to work alone. Unfortunately for those historians, oral historians inherently require non-traditional research methods and co-creation. Doug Boyd, in Designing an Oral History Project: Initial Questions to Ask Yourself, and Michael Frisch, in Oral History and the Digital Revolution: Toward a Post-Documentary Sensibility, provide insight into how historians can develop oral histories and package them for modern media.

Boyd lays out nine framing questions that he urges any historian embarking on an oral history project to ask. These questions can be seen as mini-missions one must complete before they can proceed on the greater quest (you can tell I am a big fan of gamification). Perhaps the best way to discuss Boyd’s work is to examine these questions individually.

Bear with me…this will be a long, but super informative post!

“Why are you doing this project?” should be the first question that every (oral) historian should ask themselves when tackling a new project. Boyd urges to write down the answer so it can become the guiding framework when embarking on the rest of the project. Not only will the answer advance the project in the intended direction, but it will also allow you to effectively describe why you are interviewing that person when they inevitably ask.

“What is your desired outcome from this project?” should be the next question. Answering this question will allow you to create a project that most aligns with where you want it to live once completed. If you want it online, it needs to be high quality. If you want it to be broadcasted, there are additional things to consider depending on the platform. Regardless, you need to recognize that the oral histories are the product.

“What recording equipment will you use?” is the next logical thing to consider, once you identify your outcome. You need to consider whether you will be producing video or not, what type of microphones, the compatibility of your devices, the learning curve, and your budget. The video question is perhaps the most difficult to answer, but it also comes at a hefty price tag, something many projects cannot be flexible with.

“What are your budget needs?” Is a question that has to be asked in conjunction with the previous one. Although this question may seem repetitive, it goes beyond the question about equipment and into the overall production. Who is transcribing? How will you disseminate the project? Who will design the website? All of these factors have a major impact on the budget.

“What is your level of technical expertise?” may be one of the more sobering questions you have to answer. A young historian may be tempted to overestimate their capabilities, while an older historian may dismiss their abilities because of their iPhone illiteracy. Either way, it is important to understand that your answer to this question will directly impact who you will be asking for help and who’s time you may waste.

“Do you have enough digital storage?” is obviously very important to consider before you hit the record button. High-quality audio recordings result in very large files that need to be stored somewhere. In addition to “enough” you must determine whether you can store them in a stable enough place.

“Who is your archival partner/what is your archival strategy?” should be asked earlier, in my opinion. This will have a fundamental impact on many of the questions from above. No point in paying for video recording if your parter archive does not accept them.

“What are the legal and ethical questions you should be considering?” is a question that a traditional historian does not typically have to grapple with as deeply as an oral historian. In essence, oral histories are testimonies from living people who could lose their jobs, family, and friends if not handled properly. Make sure your narrator is giving informed consent and that they sign any necessary waivers.


“Are you ready?” is one that nobody can truly answer, but is nonetheless a question that must be asked. After answering these questions and doing all the appropriate research, historians should be as prepared as they can be.

Whereas Boyd’s suggestions are helpful before the recorder is turned on, Frisch’s article advises once the recorder is turned off. In this article, Frisch argues that new digital platforms allow for oral history projects to be more interactive on the internet. Users can, and should, be able to democratically access and search through the interviews. This approach will allow the projects to go beyond the binary of raw and cooked (another influential approach courtesy of Frisch) and allow it to continually be cooked in different ways, by different people. Essentially, the meanings of these interviews will no longer be up to the historian (or documentarian) but to the audience. The interviews can mean 100 things to 100 people, and are no longer used as tools to advance one argument.

This “post-documentary sensibility” allows for a more fluid dissemination of impact and meaning with the audience. Essentially, Frisch is arguing that technological advancements make it that historians must now recognize their shared authority with their audience. Frisch’s suggestions are compelling, but they are not without extensive work after a project would already be considered done. It is only a matter of time until somebody writes nine questions to ask when doing a project like this.


Forget the quadratic formula, Pythagorean theorem, MTV+Cops = Miami Vice, and all other great equations – I am proposing a digital project that combines the National Parks Service with a GPS app to create a virtual driving tour for road trippers and nature enthusiasts.

In this day and age, it is increasingly hard to compete for the attention of everyday Americans, and many historical sites are struggling to entice people. With the near-seamless integration of cell phones with cars, that competition continues even on road trips. GPS companies are constantly looking for ways to attract more users. Apple maps is integrated with Siri, Google Maps is easily searchable, Waze is great for drivers who want to be in the know (aka not get pulled over). No matter how you cut it, people are becoming more dependant on GPS systems to get them from point A to B. I think historical organizations can harness this dependence, and use it to increase visitor rates. All the while, the chosen app (which as of now is Waze) will continue to have high user retention and a unique aspect.

There are over 20 national parks and historic sites in Virginia alone, many of which are along major highways. These sites, which are steeped in history, have the potential to educate the millions of people that drive through Virginia every year without even requiring them to leave their cars (though that is encouraged).

Imagine a family driving from New Jersey to Florida to see grandma and grandpa. In between the voice notifications about directions and cops a half-mile away are the sporadic notifications about an upcoming National Park on the route. The family hears a 1-2 paragraph description (specific length based on user feedback and testing) about a National Park or site they are about to drive by. Following the description, Waze asks if you would like to add the stop to your trip. Part-way through the trip, the family gets a notification about the “Stonewall Jackson Death Site” at the “Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park,” just 5 minutes off of 1-95. What a great place for lunch! Now, the family is able to learn about the problematic history of the US Civil War alongside a couple on a cross-country road trip and a group of kids on their way to a spring break trip. Although that is a silly example, I truly believe it would be an enticing thing for all types of people.

This could be you! (minus the map)

I plan to create the verbiage and map for all of the NPS sites on two or three different road-trips within the United States. This project would not only map out the sites (most likely through Google Map’s my maps feature), it would also provide the spoken notification with timing, the “see more” verbiage, pricing/park information, and distance off of the road. It will also include screenshots of what I believe the notifications will look like within the Waze app (most likely though a photo-editing software). Outreach and publicity may not be very necessary, as it would be an integrated (optional) feature on Waze, but I will create at least two advertisements (one for NPS and one for Waze) that will promote this collaboration, in addition to a social media plan for each organization.

Let me know what you think, and if you would use it!