Show and Tell: Take a Virtual Dive on the Titanic

The Virtual Dive of the Titanic on the Discovery Channel Site allows viewers to explore the technology surrounding the dive down to the Titanic ruins. It is a good tool with a lot of information, but doesn’t give much background on the Titanic or allow you to explore the wreck itself.

 

 

 

The introduction allows you to explore each vessel used in the dive process. By clicking on the ship, the floats, and the Mir diving pods, the user can learn more information on each. Then you are ready to proceed to the dive.

You fill the sub’s ballast tanks to add weight to the Mir 1 and Mir 2 in order to dive. The dive is in the perspective of the Mir 2, looking out over the Mir 1. The virtual tour allows you to explore the fiber optic cable that attaches the subs to the ship. It event provides a diagram that compares the width of the cable to a pencil eraser. Next, you have to engage the sub’s thrusters to begin a slow corkscrew descent (100 feet-per-minute to the sea bottom). The view from the portal is now completely dark as we are now virtually 800 feet below the surface. The external lights are off in order to conserve battery power. On the side, we see our depth in relation to the Empire State Building (40th floor). We continue to dive by using the thrusters until we reach 3,000 feet (over two Empire State Buildings). The dialog on the bottom of the screen tells us that the cabin temperature is 54 degrees. Finally, we reach the bottom at 12,600 feet (10 empire state buildings) after two hours and the external lights are turned on to explore the wreck. We can now read about the wreck or the safety concerns of the fiber optic cable.

The wreck information is incredibly extensive. It is focused on the wreckage itself, with only one sentence introduction about the voyage and sinking. I didn’t know that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have reported the wreck will most likely collapse within the next 50 years. It also discusses the guidelines they released in 2001 for research, exploration and salvage of the ship to preserve the wreckage as long as possible (which are not legally enforceable).

Next, the information reveals more about the corrosion and deterioration of the wreck including scientific reasoning for deterioration and how humans have interacted with the wreck, what they’ve left behind and what they’ve removed.

You deploy the X-bot rover (which you see through the small portal window) and can control it using a joystick on the screen. The pilots relay on historical experts and computerized 3-D model of Titanic to guide. However, you only get one view of the wreck. There is no ability to look at different parts of the ship.

The Virtual Dive tool was initially created in 2005 in anticipation of the live broadcast of images from a live dive that year. It is a very informative learning tool and easy to use. However, I think it would have been served with a little more flexibility in the exploration of the ship and more images of the wreck itself. I can see how this keeps the focus on the technology used for the dive, but it ended up being disappointing because there was really no point to giving the user control over the pod when there is only one view you can see. Taking the viewer step by step on how the technology is used is definitely beneficial. Especially to young learners.

Reflection on History as Told by the Internet Project

Here is my digital project, http://interpretivehistory.tumblr.com/ . I can’t believe it’s finished, but that it is probably because I could have continued trolling the internet for quirky history sources forever had I not had finals in the way.

As suggested by feedback from my pitch, I went with the tumblr route for my digital history. I don’t know that tumblr was the best platform to use for the project I originally had in mind, which was intended to be 5-10 analytical articles on different examples of how the internet has reinterpreted history. It was difficult to use multiple mediums in one post in tumblr and it doesn’t offer the same flexibility WordPress and other blogging tools I have used have.

However, as I began to explore more sources of digital interpretations of history, I found my project evolving into a collection of infographics, videos, articles, blog posts, photos and other links that tumblr was the perfect platform for. When I began expanding more on my posts, I realized that short explanations of each post could distinguish a voice of the thread. The descriptions also served as a way to tie each source individually to the narrative of the tumblr and connect them to patterns in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do with fewer, longer posts. I did write one longer essay, but I realized that it did not fit as well into the sequence. I am in part to blame for that though, considering that I chose to research conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.

I like the direction my project took because it allowed me to see how the internet is being used to reinterpret history as a whole, rather than how a few different events are represented. I found that the continuous exchange of information in the digital age brings up historical content that would not otherwise reach a percentage of the audience it does on the internet. I didn’t think that there was much historical significance to a few of the sources I posted, but the amount of communication digital platforms facilitate connect people with the same historical curiosities, no matter how obsolete they may be. I also noticed that people are creating sources for mass communication with a stronger emphasis on visual media. I was also surprised to discover how platforms, both new and existing, are used to collect and catalogue historical context (tumblr included). There are obvious negatives to easily accessed reinterpretations of historical events and figures, and I did post on the drawbacks as well. However I was impressed by the diligent citing of most sources and amused by the creativity and diversity of historical interpretation using digital platforms. If I were to take a next step with this project, I would really work on promoting it to other history-focused tumblrs. I want to start a dialog among the internet history community about how the digital tools are changing the way history is communicated to the public.

I hope everyone at least enjoys the links! There are some really great finds in there if I do say so myself. I’d love to get your feedback!

History as Told by the Internet Poster

 

Project Draft: History as Told by the Internet

My project is up and running, although I haven’t been very good about updating it. I discovered that I am pretty much tumblr illiterate, but I am working on that! I have collected a series of links to fake historical information on the internet and will be posting them on a regular basis from now until the end of the project. I realized that the links themselves don’t really create a resource for digital history, so I am thinking about implementing a template to tie them into the theme of the project. Something along the lines of:

What the internet says:

What really happened:

What does this teach viewers about history:

I’m hoping that this template will allow me to present background research that will contribute to the overall conversation and purpose of the tumblr. As it stands now, the only explaination viewers have is the title of the page.

I think that this will help the posts to be more substantial and my tumblr to function as a digital history resource.  I have written one post on conspiracy theories of the internet, and have research for two more. The problem that I have with them is that the sheer length of the post doesn’t really fit into the flow of the tumblr. I also made the mistake of choosing 9/11, which has a more serious tone than the other posts. While I tried to integrate it by focusing on the absurdity of some of the claims as well as the absurdity of some of the evidence presented, but I’m not entirely sure that it fits. At the end of the day, people using the internet to promote the idea that 9/11 was an inside job is still a pretty dark topic. I’ve chosen lighter historical topics for my next articles, and they will be posted over the course of the next week.

http://madelineann90.tumblr.com/

Who Wants to be a Cotton Millionaire?

Cotton Millionaire is not as uncomfortable a game to play as its name may lead you to believe. The basis is that you are a consultant to an 18th century cotton entrepreneur in England. You are supposed to make decisions based on historical context and hope that your guy makes it in the cotton world. Your success is measured in little stacks of money. The game has its pros and cons as a teaching tool. First of all, it covers a broad timeline (100 years) and only covers broad trends as opposed to major historical events. This does allow it to focus primarily on the industrial revolution, which is what I assume it is used for. The audience of this game, featured on the BBC web site, seems to be children learning about the mechanization of England in the 18th century. Also SPOILER ALERT (I tell you how to win).

The introduction explains a bit about the industrial trending. At this point in time, cotton is already being spun in water-powered plants. Weaving yarn into cloth still took place on handlooms. The entrepreneur you are advising wants to start a new business that focuses on weaving cotton into cloth.

The decisions you must make are where to locate, who to employ, what power to use, and what future investments to make.

Where to locate:

Cumbria or Lancashire?

This is the only decision that gives background information before you make the choice. When you click on the map, you are given a blurb on each location:

Cumbria is set up near Kendal where the budding businessman lives. The area has fast-flowing streams and the local workforce has skills in textiles.

Lancashire is set up in south Lancashire near Manchester. The area has fast-flowing streams, coalmines and a skilled workforce but it means relocating.

I originally went with Cambria, because I felt that knowing the local work force and economic atmosphere would help in the long run. Also, I hate moving. Alas, this was not the right choice. Even if you make all the better decisions from there on out, you will still end up in debtors prison because you won’t have enough money by the time you get to future investments to make any. What I learned from this is that you didn’t have a shot at success unless you moved to the big city.

Who to employ:

Next your businessman must choose his workers. He has the choice between men or women and children.

This choice demonstrates the lack of political standards and the discrepancy in women’s pay. I think that it would be beneficial to include how this might affect your businessman in the long run by giving an idea of when it would become unacceptable to hire children.

What power to use:

Next your businessman wants to increase production. He must chose from waterpower, homeworkers, or steam.

This choice educates on the technology changes happening at the time. If you go down the homeworkers root, it tells you that you are about 20 years behind on the times. The waterpower is ok, but people investing in steam will eventually replace you. With steam, you come out even because it is expensive to invest, but are then rewarded for your forward thinking. This is where the timeline issue comes in. At different points in the century, waterpower would have been a more sound investment considering the newness of the steam power technology.

What future investment to make:

Your final decision is to help your businessman continue to invest in his business in order to improve efficiency. He can spend his money on better machinery or on improving working conditions.

As far as I could tell, this is the only point in the game when the same option will turn out differently based on the decisions you made earlier in the game. In one case, I had located in Lancashire, employed women and children and invested in steam power. Because I had the money to keep the machinery up to date, I flourished. Another round, I had invested in waterpower instead of steam. While new machinery was still the better thing to invest in, I was still not as successful as I would have been in my investment had I had steam powered technology. There is only one track that will get you to absolute success. If you don’t end up in debtors’ prison, you could also be undercut by other businesses who did hire the right people or invest in the better technology.

 

There are obvious limitations to the design of the game. There are only four decisions that you make over the course of the plot. I can see how the game would engage children learning about the industrial revolution, but I would imagine that it would have to be heavily supplemented with other teaching resources. I didn’t learn that much from playing the game, but it did get me to spend more time and attention than I would have given it had the same amount of information been in a reading. There is only one track to success, and you aren’t given an explanation of how a different choice would have been more beneficial to your business. Fortunately, the game is very quick so it is easy to play multiple times to find the best scenario.

Database as a Genre of New Media

The Database Logic

Manovich structurally compares media and traditional databases. The organization of traditional databases falls under the basic categories of hierarchical, network, relational, and object-oriented. Each of these is created in a way that best reflects the type of data that is being organized.

The user interacts with a database in three basic actions: view, navigate and search. New media is often credited with allowing users to interact with the subject matter in a way that traditional means wouldn’t allow. For example, a digital textbook includes tests and exercises for readers to take that engage and help to solidify the information. They are created around the way that the information is consumed.

The author brings up several examples of how the media has changed the database by negating the narrative. He discusses how CD-ROMs were able to bring museum collections and artifacts of important historical figures to people in the way that excluded the narrative created by an exhibit. By being able to explore a museum’s collection chronologically, by artist or by country, the user does not have to walk through a deliberately planned exhibit. It is much simpler to look for that one painting in a search bar than on a museum map, but what is the historical community losing in the process? Curators and designers alike have spent time researching and placing these pieces in context, are we undermining their work by providing back room tours to anyone who orders the CD-ROM?

He comments on the nature of the Web as it lends itself to database development, and I can’t help but think of the September 11th database that we looked at a couple weeks ago. Manovich claims that web sites will always grow, but when they stop, does that make them less reliable?

I would also like to comment on Manovich’s flare for the dramatic. He claims that the defining contributions of Nietzsche (whose name was misspelled), Lyotard and Berners-Lee that “The world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records.” This may be true, but I must ask why is the stream of data we collect today different because it is digital? Have we, as humans, moved beyond our capacity to organize the data we are subjected to that we must use a database to structure our thought process?

Data and Algorithm

Manovich’s discussion on the technicalities of databases revolves around the constantly changing nature of media, and the organizational nature that exists in computer logic.

Here is what these two things boil down to:

Algorithm—A process or task that a computer can execute based on a sequence

Data structures—An organization for objects (ie lists, graphs, arrays, etc.)

This is also where the dilemma of the digitizing movement comes in. A computer can only organize the information it can read.

Database and Narrative

I agree with the author in his parallel of algorithms in computer games and in narratives; users must identify the logic behind the sequence in order to understand the creation as whole. What I am not sure about is his qualification of what makes a narrative. He defers to the scholarly opinion that a narrative must have three “distinct levels consisting of the text, the story, and the fibula.” I am surprised that with all of his theories on how the new media has redefined databases that he did not explore how it may have changed narratives as well.

If you look at the new timeline layout of facebook, do you see a narrative or a database? On one hand, it is a collection of thoughts, photographs and communications of one person. It can be seen as a collection of primary historical sources that the user documented about his or her life. On the other hand, we see a profile where the person has a chance to narrate his or her experiences, as they want the world to see them. Is it possible that the database and the narrative are closer in the world of media than Mr. Manovich thinks?