Final Project–Skating Soviet: A History of Olympic Figure Skating

Hi everybody! Happy almost summer 🙂

For my final project, I created a website, linked here, to house the stories of former Soviet figure skaters at the Olympic Games. Initially, I was hoping to include all sorts of fancy tricks and tools like timelines and maps and clever icons. While I didn’t quite fit all of these features in, I am pleased with the result of the website, which is really more of a blog. I used Google Sites because I wanted my platform to be simple and easy to use, but I also wanted to create the website without asking too much of myself and my technological skills (which are minimal). Google Sites allowed me to get creative, create clean and functional web pages, and also include videos and images. The content centers on eight Winter Olympic Games from 1968 to 2022, and each page highlights certain skaters or scandals or significant moments that took place during those games. I loved the research aspect of this project, and I could have happily continued researching all these intriguing stories. If I do continue working on this site, I would love to expand it to become a definitive history of Soviet skaters in the Winter Olympics.

Were I to go back to the beginning of the semester and start this project anew, I think I would choose to challenge myself a little bit more technologically and use a platform such as WordPress or Wix to create my site. I loved the ease of Google Sites, but I think it would have been more of a learning experience to experiment with a more complicated platform. But now that I have all the content, I could always try to move the site onto another platform.

I hope you find some of these Olympic Games as fascinating as I do. So much of figure skating is beauty and elegance and athleticism, but there is a lot of behind-the-scenes craziness at play too. Hopefully, this website gives its visitors some insight into how complicated and often problematic the figure skating world is. I love skating dearly, but I recognize how messed up elite figure skating can be. Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I am so proud of my finished product!

–Molly Foster

Reading Responses: Mobile Media, Place, and Mapping

This week’s readings blended theoretical approaches to the study of space and place with the technological tools that have been developed over the last few decades. This blend of the theoretical and practical can help those within the fields of history, museum studies, anthropology, etc., better understand individual and communal relationships with their surrounding environs. The readings, though each had a distinct focus or a specified case study, informed each other in significant ways, allowing for a layering of information and comprehension on my part (although when anything too tech-y appeared, my comprehension flew out the window). Here, I will give a brief overview of the readings and then provide a few discussion questions for each work.

New App City–Durington & Collins

This article emphasizes an anthropological approach to studying place and space through the lens of the “Chongno Alleys” app. This app was created by the District Government of Chongno, in Seoul, Korea, with the hope of “highlighting lesser known places of interest in Chongno.” The app allows tourists to this region of Seoul to step away from the stereotypical tourists locations and leads them towards a more authentic tour of the region, focusing on significant trees, local coffee shops, smaller art galleries, and student murals. The project brought the stakeholders directly into its creation by collaborating with neighborhoods and local organizations to decide which spots should be highlighted in this app’s tours. The app, perhaps indirectly, emphasized this unique tour of Chongno through its imperfect mapping tools, which often led tourists astray from the original destination. The wandering and meandering that resulted from these minor mishaps led tourists to discover even more of the district than they were expecting to. Happy little accident, as Bob Ross would say.

Bob Ross GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Durington and Collins stress the significance of apps such as Chongno Alleys for anthropological studies, and they ponder why anthropology has not yet put more stock in studying apps. They write “apps show how institutions and other powerful agents are trying to structure the meaning of cities by combining mobile media and social media through organizing embodied narrative experiences.” We’ll see this in the other readings as well: studying cities through an increased use of mapping tools and technology provides an additional layer of information about individual and communal understandings of the cities they live in, and those they visit.

Questions for New App City

How might an app like this ensure that visitors are not only seeing these lesser known locations, but also being given the proper information and context to understand the locations in relation to the city as a whole?

How does an app like this change when it is being run by a government agency versus a historical society or a museum? What are the implications of this?

Should these apps fully replace monographs and articles, or be just another tool to contextualize the information from monographs and articles?

What is the Spatial Turn? and The Spatial Turn in History–Jo Guldi

Jo Guldi’s two articles explaining the history of the Spatial Turn, and how the Spatial Turn has been understood and used in history provide another remarkable look at how the modern technology of GIS has changed our perspective of place and space. Guldi defines a turn as retrospection, and defines the spatial turn as the moment, or moments, when “scholars in history, religion, and psychology reflected on our nature as beings in space.” What is the Spatial Turn is primarily an overview of this moment, and a brief description of the roles played by GIS and mapping tools since the 1960s. The Spatial Turn in History gets more specific to the issues regarding understanding the nation in history compared to understanding the city. Landscapes have power, and Guldi proclaims that “modern history started with a landscape.” Experiencing land and landscapes as more than just spaces in the world, but rather as definite proof of a nation, and thus a national identity, has informed our modern conception of nationalism. Guldi writes “such description of the nation as a landscape contributed to persuading their [19th and 20th century authors] readers that there was indeed a nation, unified and monolithic, that reflected the process of historical change, such that the history of that nation could be written.” The spatial turn in history was naturally exacerbated by the development of modern mapping tools which allowed for such a wider grasp of one’s own national landscape and relationship with space and place, as well as that of others outside of one’s community.

Questions for The Spatial Turn

In what other ways, apart from the validation of a national identity, can the spatial turn play a significant role?

How would the spatial turn have been different had mapping tools like GIS not been invented?

A Place for Everything: Museum Collections, Technology, and the Power of Place–John Russick

Russick’s article discusses his development of the Chicago 00 project, which had the goal of implementing “historical images of Chicago into the city’s central business district via an augmented reality (AR) mobile app.” Standing on a street corner, a tourist to Chicago in 2022 could potentially bring up images on this app of what that same corner looked like thirty, fifty, ninety years ago, bringing them as close to that particular history as possible, until we perfect time travel, at least. Russick discusses how each item in the Chicago History Museum’s collections has an intimate connection with space(s). All these items originated somewhere, moved through space, and ended up somewhere else, and now Russick must find a way to give meaning to these items whether inside or outside the museum. He is dealing with both the Digital Turn and the Spatial Turn, where those who may once have visited the physical museum are now expecting to learn the information digitally, while also desiring a connection to place, and to a place’s distinct identity. Because of this complex moment, Russick has to ponder what it means to have all these physical objects in the museum, far away from their places of origin, when so much learning “increasingly occurs in a digital format.” He grapples with being neither a “technophile” nor a “technophobe,” but he also recognizes the huge influence that striking a balance could have. Implementing digital technology in the form of Augmented Reality around Chicago can increase public engagement, but it can also show the museum where their collections and information are lacking, and where they need to rely on their communities to fill those gaps in knowledge.

The homepage of the Chicago 00 Project

Questions for A Place for Everything

Using Russick’s questions, whose job is it to make collections compelling? Is it the responsibility of the curator? And if they are not compelling, do they belong in a modern museum?

How can we center justice and activism through a project like Chicago 00? How might we tackle this project in areas where the available collections are minimal, but the stories are abundant?

Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era–Mark Tebeau

Mark Tebeau takes the city as his topic once again, this time looking into the Cleveland Historical Project, “a mobile interpretive project,” and its use of oral history and sound to invoke memory, nostalgia, informal learning, and interpretation in Cleveland, Ohio. The project has amassed a huge collection of stories, and each one has been built out on Cleveland Historical’s website to include text, images, videos, location, and metadata. Tebeau writes that Cleveland Historical focused on a “dynamic curatorial process” that brought community members into the project to help reinvigorate “understandings of place and community identity.” In addition to this communal practice, Tebeau also discusses how the. project relied on the use of mobile devices to record many of the sounds of these moments “in situ.” He gives the example of “listening to Rick Calabrese recount the story of his family’s produce stand in the West Side Market, while standing in that context” and says that this experience “underscores and evokes the sensory and experiential context of the market, which remains a vibrant commercial center for individual and commercial consumers in the region.” Sounds provide greater emotional context for any historical moment, but they become even more poignant when experienced in the same places where they would have first been created. Tebeau’s article does a lovely job explaining the importance of oral history and sound to excavate the history of Cleveland, while also exploring the increased use of mobile technologies to achieve the project’s goal.

A screenshot of some “Featured Stories” from the Cleveland Historical Project’s website.

Questions for Listening to the City

How do we choose worthwhile sounds for a project like this? What makes one sound more evocative of a place’s identity than another?

For a fun personal moment, what sounds from your hometown, or from a place that is important to you, would you want to be included in a project like this?

Mobile for Museums–Sharon Leon, Sheila Brennan, Dave Lester, Andrea Odiorne

This article from the Center for History and New Media continues to explore many of the topics we have been discussing throughout the class, and also connects to the other articles in this post. This is one of the older resources within this set of articles, which in some ways allows us to see how far the development of mobile technology within museums has come in the last thirteen years. The paper addresses some of the roadblocks that museums face when attempting to implement mobile technology to their exhibits, as well as provides some suggestions for the best ways to begin this implementation. One particularly noteworthy section of this paper focuses on how to track visitor engagement through social media platforms and digital spaces where visitors can comment on their experiences. They give the examples of The Mattress Factory and the National Air and Space Museum–both used mobile “to engage visitors in social networking” in order to provide quicker information to the visitors while also gaining information about the visitor experience. While perhaps outdated now, the article touches on problems that began with the introduction of digital technologies to the museums that will surely continue for years to come.

Questions for Mobile for Museums

How should museums address the issues of visitors being so attached to mobile phones that they do not engage with the exhibit, while also implementing programs and resources via mobile phones? How can museums keep visitors engaged on their phones when distractions like social media may be pulling visitors away from the museum content?

What cannot be made mobile? What are some limitations of mobile technology that museums might not be able to get around?

That’s the long and short of it. Looking forward to hearing all of your feedback and to some exciting discussions on Wednesday!

Practicum: SoundCloud

Hi everyone! For one half of this week’s Practicum, I’ll be taking us through some of the basic features and functions of SoundCloud. Many if not all of you have probably heard of SoundCloud, or maybe even uploaded some music to it, and if you have, then I expect a link to that music in the comments. Anyway, SoundCloud is most well-known as a music-sharing feature where some big names have gotten their starts, such as Post Malone, Kehlani, and Kygo. But SoundCloud also has the potential to be useful for historians in various ways, which we will go over shortly. First, let’s figure out how to use it!

The Getting Started Page for SoundCloud. Answers related to making an account, sharing your music and sounds, and helping others find your profile can be found here.

At its core, SoundCloud is a platform where users can upload any audio. Opera? Yes. Thirty minutes of a keyboard typing? Sure thing. Hip Hop songs that will be famous before we know it? Absolutely, yes to that. Once you create an account, agree to the Terms, and log in, you have access to all of these sounds and then some. Then you can begin to follow artists and “labels” and your friends’ accounts to get a glimpse of what they are creating and listening to. As you listen more and more, you can add tracks to your library so you have constant access to these tracks whenever you need them. Each track has additional information attached to it such as how many people have liked, commented on, and shared the track, related tracks, the artist or creator’s profile information, and different tags associated with the track to help you find other tracks that have similar tags. The information can feel a little overwhelming at first, especially if, like me, you are brand new to SoundCloud.

This is my landing page when I log in to SoundCloud. Since I have not listened to many tracks or liked anything yet, this page will show me mostly random tracks. Once I start listening more, this page will adapt to fit my music taste.

If you’re the creative type, and you want to upload your own sounds to SoundCloud, it’s relatively simple, but you will have limits with a free account. You can upgrade to SoundCloud Go for a monthly fee of $4.99, or to SoundCloud Go+ for $9.99. There is a student discount for SoundCloud Go+ that you could take advantage of, especially if your digital project includes sounds. Without the upgraded versions of SoundCloud, there will be advertisements every now and then, which can be frustrating.

 SoundCloud recommend certain file types for uploading over others. The recommended formats are WAV, FLAC, AIFF, and ALAC, but SoundCloud will also accept OGG, MP2, MP3, AAC, AMR, and WMA. SoundCloud can also only accept uploads up to 48 GB, so if your file is larger than that, you will have to adapt it. For those who are excited about sharing tracks to SoundCloud but don’t know where to begin, SoundCloud has great resources built into their website to help even the most inexperienced SoundClouders get their tracks ready to go.

These are just some of the resources that SoundCloud provides for new and experienced users!

As fun as it is to search through tracks and lesser-known artists and innovative creators, we need to know how we can use SoundCloud for history. I see four main applications for SoundCloud within the history field. One of these has definitely been tapped already, but it could be even bigger. Oral histories, as we have read, are some of the most treasured primary sources we have. To be able to hear voices from decades ago detailing their experiences or certain events creates an unbeatable emotional bond. If we search for “Oral History” on SoundCloud, we will see that there are quite a few hits. While they are not heavily followed (the most popular of these accounts has 251 followers), they are here and they are putting forth oral histories that we may not have access to otherwise. There is the Busselton Oral History Group, the East Texas Research Center Oral History, the Scottish Parliament Oral History Project, and many more. With SoundCloud being so accessible, budding oral historians might find that SoundCloud is a great place to begin collecting, organizing, and presenting their histories for bigger audiences.

This photo shows the first three options that appeared when I searched “Oral History.”
This photo shows the first three options that appeared when I searched “History.

The second application, much like Spotify, is for podcasts. If we search just “history” in SoundCloud’s search bar, and then choose “People” on the left side of the screen, we will see quite a few podcast accounts related to history. These are much more popular, with some of them having as many as 800 thousand followers. Clearly, these history podcasts are reaching a wide audience through SoundCloud. Some examples of the podcasts on SoundCloud are Disability History, a History of Mathematics, History of Mozart, and “BackStory,” which presents a huge range of historical topics. While not all of these accounts are actively posting on SoundCloud (in fact, some jumped to Spotify to finish out their tenures), it is a great reminder that SoundCloud can be used as a starting point. Creators can get their foot in the door, build a network and connect with others, and then perhaps move onto a bigger platform like Spotify or Apple Music/Podcasts.

Third and fourth go hand in hand. SoundCloud is home to all sorts of sounds and narrations, many of which could be useful in walking tours or historical exhibits. For example, if Sara or Jane needed some creepy noises to accompany their DC tours, they could use any number of SoundCloud sounds to accompany what their visitors would be seeing. Either through a QR code or a link sent to guests’ phones or some other method, a guest could feel an even closer connection to the history they are encountering, whether that’s through sound affects like wind whistling through trees (there are 250 tracks of this) or through recorded descriptions of whatever the guest is seeing. SoundCloud could work in a similar way in history museums or exhibits. Bringing these sounds directly into the exhibits, or incorporating QR codes or links to the sounds as visitors travel through the exhibit, would change the emotional and physical experience of the exhibit or museum, ultimately making stronger bonds between visitor and exhibit.

SoundCloud is an amazing platform for those who have the time, energy, and patience to get to know it. On a surface level, there is a lot going on, and it can easily get overwhelming and can deter potential users from uploading any material or even listening to any material. All the same, it is an excellent resource both for recording and uploading oral histories, interviews, or sounds that may come in handy one day, and for finding sounds and tracks that could be used in a museum or exhibit setting.

Happy SoundClouding!


Digital Project Proposal-Olympic Figure Skating

In February 2010, the only place you would be able to find me (when not at school) was glued to the television, watching Olympic figure skating. By that point, I had been skating competitively for four years, and I was convinced that by Sochi 2014, I would be on that ice. That Olympic ice. While that didn’t quite happen, my love for and interest in figure skating has remained. I still skate whenever possible, and I am still enchanted by watching figure skating competitions when they roll around. No other figure skating competition captivates the world in the same way that the Winter Olympics Games do. Consistently one of the most-watched Olympic events, figure skating draws audiences in with its stunning blend of artistry, athleticism, emotion, and daring. But there is a hidden history to figure skating that is worth exploring in much more depth: who gets to do it? Who gets to win? Who gets to dominate? I’ve paid close attention to developments in skating over the last twelve years, and more recently, I’ve begun thinking about how the national and international events of the 20th and 21st centuries have affected not only the music and the jumps and the scoring of Olympic figure skating, but also the most basic aspect of who competes in this event, and how they get themselves there.

Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova won the nation’s first gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Video courtesy of the Olympics.

Throughout the history of the Winter Olympics, certain years have brought more changes than others. The 1968 games saw the first athletes competing from East and West Germany, the Soviet Union, Romania, and Korea. Italy did not bring any figure skaters, or any athletes for that matter, to the Olympics until 1948. Chinese Taipei brought its first figure skater in 1994 and the Philippines brought its first in 2014. The 2022 games welcome the first Mexican figure skater in history. The conditions of the sport and of these nations have resulted in an incredibly western-centric quality within Olympic figure skating. I hope, with this proposal, to dive deeper into the specifics of some of these figure skaters, these Olympic Games, and these nations.

Ondrej Nepela Archives – International Figure Skating
Ondrej Nepala competed for Czechoslovakia at the 1972 Olympic Games, winning the nation its first gold medal in figure skating. Image from International Figure Skating Magazine.

My digital proposal is for a timeline and if I can figure it out, a map embedded within the timeline. The timeline would begin in 1924, with the Chamonix Olympics, and would include 6-8 other significant Olympic games, ending in 2022. Each year would reveal which countries were represented in men’s and women’s figure skating, as well as which countries were new to the year, which athletes represented the new countries, and what the stories surrounded their entrance to the Olympics. I hope to include photographs, and later, video footage, of the figure skaters, as well as any newspaper articles regarding their entrance. I also hope to include primary sources about the political or cultural developments in their countries at that particular moment. For example, with the 1968 Olympics, I would explore how the post-World War II and Cold War events in Germany affected their Olympic representation in figure skating. At the same time, what was it about 1968 in Korea that allowed three figure skaters to represent their nation for the first time. Why then? These questions and more are the proposed purpose of my timeline. The Olympics are a massive topic, with too many ins and outs to discover in just one timeline, but I hope by narrowing the topic down to just figure skating, and just a handful of Olympic Games, that I can begin crafting answers to some of these fascinating questions.

–Molly Foster

“But is that interesting?” — How TikTok is Changing America’s Conception of Dance

Print Project Proposal

How do we define dance? How do we categorize good dancing and not-so-good dancing? How do we decide who becomes nationally or internationally recognized for the years of hard work, dedication, and practice that professional dance requires? For a long time, these questions looked towards very specific outlets for their answers. Ballet companies fostered and trained the best ballet dancers in the world; elite dance studios around the country became famous on YouTube for their intricate and meaningful choreography; hip-hop groups like Jabbawockeez and Les Twins made it big on competition TV shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, World of Dance, and America’s Best Dance Crew. But each of these outlets requires immense talent, years of technical training, and, frankly, some serious resources. Is this the future?

In the last three years, there has been a dramatic shift away from traditional modes of dance, beginning with Gen-Z and slowly moving into the millennial generation (whichever one that actually is). The exponential growth of TikTok’s popularity in recent years, helped in large part by the pandemic, has created a space for your average human to gain incredible fame and fortune through…dance? But is it dance in the same way that we have come to think of dance, or is TikTok dancing its own separate realm? This is the research question I am considering for this print project. Are we gatekeeping dance by not considering TikTok dances to be of the same caliber as traditional dance, or are we diminishing the expertise and work that professional dancers have cultivated for years? Maybe both. Is it right that a TikToker can make exorbitant amounts of money for a dance he or she choreographed in ten minutes, while dedicated choreographers who have been working diligently their entire lives might never reach that same level of repute and financial stability? And who gets to make these decisions?

These questions are not easily answered, and they are probably too convoluted and intertwined to deal with all at once. So, my research proposal needs to shrink. In order to begin looking at some of these questions, I propose to narrow my view of the TikTok dance world. I plan to research the most-viewed videos in each of the most popular dance categories: ballet, hip hop, jazz, contemporary, modern, and tap. Within this set of highly-viewed videos, I hope to analyze what type of person is performing the dance—are they a professional dancer, someone who is taking dance classes or studying dance in some form, or a completely untrained dancer? Or maybe somewhere in between all of that. I also hope to analyze the comments on these highly-viewed videos. Who is commenting what, why are they commenting, and do any of the comments reflect upon the origins and creators of these dances?

My hypothesis is that the majority of TikTokers gaining fame and money for these dances are untrained, yet entertaining, who are dancing for the joy of dancing, as well as for the sexual nature of many of these dances. If this is the case, and it will surely be difficult to figure out if it is, then we have to consider how dance will change on the national or international level. Although dance is a broad topic, and it would be best to consider each dance style as its own topic, there are general trends within dance that we can considere as TikTok becomes more and more prevalent in our culture.

Without a doubt, TikTok is making amateur dance much more accessible and very easy to find—people simply need access to a smartphone in order to get acquainted with different styles of dance, and they usually stumble across dance on TikTok without even trying. It was not that long ago when one had to attend a dance performance, plan to watch one on television, or watch an older recording of one if they wanted access to various dance experiences. So, the increased accessibility to dance seems like a positive function of TikTok, but it is the lack of originality, meaning, credit, and history that is turning TikTok into something potentially challenging to the field of dance as a whole. I hope that this research project can begin chipping away at some of these big questions revolving around the TikTok dance world—a world that is becoming more powerful by the day.