60 Second History

By the end of its first year in 2018, Tiktok gained over 1 billion views on its content–and the numbers have only continued to grow (https://facts.net/lifestyle/entertainment/tiktok-facts/). Recent demographic trends indicate an increased diversity in the user population on the site as more adults are downloading the app. Educational content has expanded to include information on professional development, science lessons, knitting, cooking, yoga–and–you guessed it–history. As an experimental digital history project, I created Tiktoks focused on historic preservation using the hashtag #streethistory. My ultimate goal was to focus on a single neighborhood and share specific location-based histories through short videos.

I ultimately created 12 videos of varying lengths/styles, with the majority focused on the neighborhood of Georgetown. I included multiple sites from the African American Heritage Trail (https://www.culturaltourismdc.org/portal/web/portal%20/georgetown-african-american-heritage-trail) and utilized the National Park Service website in addition to community history websites as my informational sources.

While Tiktok videos are limited to 60 seconds, the amount of information that can be conveyed in a series of videos is substantial. Posting videos as a series not only increases the amount of information you can include, but it also increases your video’s visibility. The Tiktok algorithm operates through AI programming, so if you consistently post as part of a series, your videos will be shown more frequently. As a social media platform, Tiktok is a fast-moving beast that rapidly generates new trends. Working as an individual, I had the capability to create personalized content on my own account. If I was working as part of an institution, the process may have been a little slower, but just as worthy. The potential of education on Tiktok is enormous–with millions of users and thousands of hours spent on the app daily, it poses a new frontier for social media engagement.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this project and had a lot of fun exploring DC and capturing history in various places around the city. While creating the Tiktoks did take longer than anticipated (60 seconds isn’t a lot of time, and you have to find a good mixture of upbeat tone, information, engagement, video splicing, voiceover, etc.), it did get easier over time and is feasible as an institutional project. The most challenging thing I have personally wrestled with throughout this project and throughout our digital history class is the difficulty of balancing engagement and education. How can we, as historians, create content that is appealing to a wide audience but still educational and impactful? How do we balance engagement and education? Can we be funny and factual? How do we build works that intrigue, engage, and educate?

Facing that challenge head-on is necessary as we move forward in our careers. Utilizing Tiktok to experiment and work on balance was a gratifying and thought-provoking exercise. Interaction with the various corners of the internet is increasingly relevant and necessary for academic professionals. So many communities and audiences are available, if only we know where to look–and have the courage to proceed.

This is a critical issue that institutions will be contending with for decades to come: There’s just an enormous, humongous, gigantic audience out there connected to the Internet that is starving for authenticity, ideas, and meaning. We’re so accustomed to the scale of attention that we get from visitation to bricks-and-mortar buildings that it’s difficult to understand how big the Internet is—and how much attention, curiosity, and creativity a couple of billion people can have.

Michael Peter Edson

I’ve truly enjoyed this class and working with each of you! I hope you continue to follow along on my Tiktok journey and again, if you’d like to be featured, just let me know. Collaboration and suggestions for improvement are always welcome! Feel free to drop any questions for me in the comments about Tiktok as a platform, the balance of engagement and education, or the importance of the internet to our academic futures.

Goodbye Farewell GIF - Goodbye Farewell Han - Discover & Share GIFs |  Harrison ford, Lin manuel miranda, Gamer girl

Great work this semester everybody, hope to see you in person someday soon!

I’m Not Cool: A Saga

When I first started my Tiktok adventure, I didn’t realize how much time, effort, or energy individuals put into creating 30 second videos. I won’t go as far to say that I respect Addison Rae, but I have a newfound admiration for creators. Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned many things about social media and wrestled with questions of audience, engagement, and professionalism. I have also learned that no matter how many times I listen to it, I’ll never enjoy the sound of my recorded voice.

I switched my project from my original conception of oral history as social justice into a more neighborhood- history focused approach. My ultimate goal is to convey that every street and every location has history–whether it is beautiful or simple or unknown. History is layered, and observing accessible history around you is a great way to engage with the past.

I’ve created 7 videos so far that focus on accessible “street history,” many of which are specifically located within Georgetown. I’ve visited a few sites on the African American Heritage Trail, and have oriented many of my videos to include references to African-American history (which is one of my main historical interests).


Street Series: Georgetown, DC. African American Heritage Trail, Emma V. Brown Residence. #dc #history #blackhistory #fyp

♬ SUNNY DAY – Matteo Rossanese
This is not my best video, but rather an attempt at something short! Emma V. Brown is cool, you should look her up. She actually taught a school for neighborhood children in this house!

In the coming weeks, I will be making new videos (with my face in them, very scary concept) that explain why “street history” and neighborhood history is important. I am considering referencing preservation groups in DC, or explaining more about historic preservation in general. My biggest problem is striking a balance between historical education, aesthetically pleasing footage, and engaging material. Any and all suggestions are welcome! What would you like to see a video about in DC? Is there a specific type of content or subject that you feel fits into this vision of neighborhood preservation/accessible history?


Street Series: Georgetown, DC. The oldest neighborhood in the district. #georgetown #dc #historicplaces #FreeFreeDance #fyp

♬ 2 / 14 – The Band CAMINO

Also, if you know of any Tiktok algorithm hacks, please let me know. I’ve used a variety of different hashtags, but it is still difficult to have people see the videos. If you want to star in one of my Tiktoks, I can also arrange that. You will not be famous, by any means, but you can participate in my historical street campaign. Join the revolution!

Please let me know what you think, and if you have a Tiktok, feel free to follow/like/share. I will follow you back and like any Tiktok you make with an animal in it. As a bonus, I’m leaving you my most-liked and viewed video. It is not historical. It is of my dog, but I’m sure you’ll like it.

Best Wishes,

Shae Corey

Talk Digital to Me: Class Readings 3/17

As many of us grew up in a technological age, full of digital pets (tamagotchi, anyone?), digital sports (Wii Tennis is the only tennis I will play for fun) and alternate digital lives (Sims, Webkins), we may think we understand what it means for something to be “digital.” However, to fully embrace our roles as digital historians, we must look beyond our simple understanding of the word and look at the history of the digital and what lies beyond what we usually see presented on the screen. Jonathan Sterne’s article will show us how to conceptualize the digital vs. the analog, Caroline Arms and Carl Fleischhauer give us guidelines for preservation practice with various digital formats, and finally Jefferson Bailey’s article demonstrates the journey of physical sources through digital evolutions.

P.S. Questions at the end of this post will be further discussed in class so if you start thinking about your answer now, by Wednesday you’ll probably be ready to talk about it.

In Jonathan Sterne’s article “Analog,” he discusses the complex lineage of the term “analog” and the increase in its use as the word “digital” began its meteoric rise at the end of the twentieth century. He argues that analysis of the words themselves, their use, and their relationship reveals that the connection between the analog and digital is of better use to us as a complicated web, rather than a stark separation of difference. In order to enrich our historical understanding and broaden our interpretation, we must expand the analytical use of both words. This is accomplished by seeing them not only in opposition to one another, but as strange companions in the interpretation of history. Listing the digital as a “villain” does nothing for us as historians, in the same way that a nostalgia for “analog days” teaches us nothing about history. If we cling to the commonly accepted binary of digital/analog and equate it with even more accepted binaries such as material/immaterial, real/symbolic, we lose the richness of the word and lessen its analytical power. Sterne argues against these accepted conceptions of reality and argues for the use of media theory as an alternative:

These are cherished fallbacks, but they actually push us away from some of the
most important questions media theory can ask today: how meaning and collectivity work together; how symbols and technologies both define what it means to be human and how humans fit into the larger world, ethically, ecologically, politically, historically; and
how we might live well in the large-scale societies we now inhabit.
” (42)

Sterne ultimately argues for the use of media theory to expand conceptual understanding of the digital by moving past the digital/analog binary. Now that we’ve opened our minds to the breadth of interpretation for the digital, we can look at the complexity of digital formats in Caroline Arms and Carl Fleischhauer’s guidelines from the Library of Congress. They track the detailed specifics of preservation and best practice in digital formats for different file types. I won’t get into too many details, but the content is important for us as historians to consider for the future of preservation in the digital world and in our own projects to know what will be sustainable and what may become unusable over time.

“Figure1. “A team mans a Bazooka at the Battle of Osan. Members of the 24th Infantry Division, first United States ground units to reach the front, go into action against North Korean forces at the village of Sojong-Ni, near Osan. At right is Private First Class Kenneth Shadrick, who was killed by enemy fire a few moments after this photo was made, thus becoming the first United States soldier to die in the Korean campaign.” Photo by Charles Turnbull. Image from Wikimedia Commons.” TAGOKOR Article

Jefferson Bailey demonstrates both the potential degradation of materials over time, their reuse and their evolution through formatting by providing a biography of TAGOKOR’s “life.” TAGOKOR is a “file [that] contains 109,975 records, detailing twenty different categories of casualties, including those killed, wounded, hospitalized, missing in action, and captured.” Bailey analyzes the use and custodial care of the record collection as it worked its way through various digital formats. He argues that the  “regenerative nature of preserved records” allows them to be reinterpreted and gives them a “parallel history” through the history of their preservation.

“And so the biography of TAGOKOR, like all archival records, is one both already written and never completed, both continually becoming and terminally changeless, forever poised between incident and encoding, articulation and preservation, record and reinterpretation, finality and vitality.”

Each of these articles give us new ideas and information to ponder as we move forward in class. Do we need to define the words we use in describing the digital/analog worlds? What are the benefits of defining it? What does Jonathan Sterne say is the best approach to the analog/digital dichotomy? How can we use the Library of Congress guidelines as historians (digital or otherwise)? Is it every historian’s job to understand the potential degradation of digital materials and actively make choices to prevent the loss of the source? What does the evolution of the TAGOKOR file teach us about preservation? How does the way that we preserve things change the object itself? Does this cast doubt on archived materials? Or simply open the door to further, more complex forms of analysis?

All fabulous things to think about, and discuss, next time we meet. Until then, happy reading! Drop any questions for me in the comments or any topics you’d like to make sure we talk about together.

Ear-Splitting Silence: Oral History as Social Justice

“History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands.” Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 153.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot popularized the term “silences” to describe gaps in the archives and records of the past, and identify the missing pieces of history at large–empty space where minorities, the poor, and those that lack privilege lack representation, because their stories were not deemed worthy of preservation. America is currently wrestling with herself–issues of racism, poverty, and the systemic oppression of minorities have deep roots that are buried in uncomfortable histories that some people simply don’t want to speak aloud.

But other people need to speak–deserve to speak–and should speak, for their history to be legitimated and preserved. Oral history provides a solution of social justice that can address certain gaps in the archive and provide a more equitable understanding of historical events that inform our present.

SIF resized
Certain organizations have already embraced this idea and produce scholarship to help individuals produce oral histories that amplify marginalized voices.

I’ve personally worked with oral histories for 3 years now in various capacities, but every time I bring it up outside of the academic world, I get a bit of a head tilt and the question:

“But what’s oral history?”

This is sometimes what my face looks like before I explain. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing (I didn’t know either, most of my life), but it’s such an amazing resource, I wish it was more renowned!

The goal of my digital project would be not only to answer this question, but to publicize the act of oral history as an act of social justice. The year 2020 held numerous historical events that radically changed the fabric of our current world. A global pandemic, the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer after the death of George Floyd have all impacted us, and impacted our history. Many people found that the only outlet available to them was through the internet–accusations of virtue signaling and being stuck inside made many people feel as if they couldn’t help, and couldn’t contribute to any real social change.

Oral history can provide an outlet for young people to engage with the world around them and improve the historical record–if they KNOW about it and if they have the appropriate resources. My digital project will center on two objectives: teach people about oral history as a practice, teach people how to use it as a form of social justice.

I am currently planning on utilizing Youtube and Tiktok to create short, educational videos that will engage audiences and provide a large amount of resources (for example: places to submit your oral history interview for archivization, where you can record oral history interviews online, if you can do it with your phone, etc.). I am also hoping to get in contact with oral history organizations and ask for permission feature some of their interview content. I will center these two platforms in a blog format site (most likely WordPress) that will provide links, articles, and extended resources mentioned in the videos.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know, I would love your feedback. Additionally, since many of us were in the oral history class last semester, if you would like part of your interview featured or referenced on the site, I am more than happy to set that up. If you want to be featured on the Tiktok, also let me know. We can get famous together.

Also, I am currently looking for name suggestions for the site/Tiktok since I am terrible at striking a balance between too much of a pun and something cool. Help a girl out. Let’s get oral history on the map, and make it a process that anyone can do with a little bit of training and a little bit of Tiktok.

Forrest Gump, You’re A Fraud

Before anyone asks me to step outside for a fight, I will begin by saying that I actually love Forrest Gump. It is an entertaining and fun movie that almost always makes me cry a little bit. However, our loveable Tom Hanks does not teach us history. If you’ve never seen Forrest Gump, it follows the life of one man who ends up witnessing or being a part of the majority of historical events in the latter half of the 20th century. He fights in the Vietnam War, reports the Watergate scandal as he watches it happen through a glass window, and comes in contact with John Lennon, Elvis Presley, JFK, and a bunch of other famous icons. I’ve had multiple people tell me that it’s a great movie about history. The entire thing is a work of fiction–the historical events that “occur” mostly center around popular culture in the 1960s and 1970s, and are kitschy recreations of the war and American life. All of this to say that the question I’ve been asking myself recently is:

Are we doing history a disservice by translating it into film?

What is the purpose of utilizing history in film? Is it a backdrop for a love story (Pearl Harbor)? Is it an attempt to educate about certain events or individuals (Hacksaw Ridge, Unbroken)? And why do so many of our movies somehow end up involving World War Two?

Team Danny–forever.

I am proposing to analyze the different uses of history in film making, with a specific focus on the prominence of World War Two movies. Historians can have a role in filmmaking as advisers, but their recommendations are often compromised. The American Historical Association seems to be optimistic about the future of historical consultants in the media industry:

“An increasingly sophisticated audience is demanding greater historical integrity in media productions. Producers of documentaries, dramatic films, and educational programming often hire historical consultants to advise on costumes, scenery, props, dialect, and content accuracy. Most television networks and large production companies will require the services of a historian, and some consulting firms specialize in media productions and the entertainment industry.” Are they really, though?

If you haven’t watched JoJo Rabbit…you should and let me know what you think as a historian (it’s meant to be satire, as a heads up).

The questions I will be answering are as follows: Does fictional filmmaking ever do history justice? How much historical inaccuracy is acceptable in a film? Can film teach history, or is it always doomed to fall into speculation and fabrication? What role does the historian have in critiquing, supporting, or condemning “historical” films?

I will be using a variety of popular films for analysis in addition to the writings of historians in defense of film (or in opposition to film as a medium of history education). I am hopeful that the audience for this type of research will be broad–I think the appeal lies in using well-known films and keeping the research questions wide enough to interest a large and diverse audience.

Let me know what you think! Do you have strong opinions on the role of history in film? How does the translation of history into a digital and visual medium benefit us? Are there any World War Two movies that you loved? Any that you hated? Drop them in the comments below. Looking forward to your recommendations!