For our final project, Lauren and I created The Rest of History: A History Podcast. As our poster pictured above similarly indicates, The Rest of History sets out to explore histories that are often considered “obscure,” “marginal,” and “minority” related. Ultimately, the end goal of our podcast is to bring awareness and interest to histories that are not typically remembered by the public or featured in school curriculums. We hope that The Rest of History will appeal most to young adults who wish to see a greater variety in the historical actors most commonly talked about and taught. Lauren and I wish to challenge the age-old notion that history is boring!
Regarding the overall structure of the podcast, each episode featured either Lauren or I teaching an “obscure” historical topic that we found interesting. So, for example, in the first episode, I taught Lauren about the life, murder, and subsequent trial surrounding the figure of Bridget Cleary. Lauren asked questions that progressed the storytelling, effectively having the audience learn along with her. The second episode then featured Lauren teaching me about the adopted children of Marie Antoinette. In summary, our roles would basically reverse every episode. With this, Lauren and I also always made an effort to emphasize 1) why a particular topic is interesting and 2) why such an aspect is important to begin with.
Hopefully, the format Lauren and I pursued had a positive effect on listeners. Regardless, switching roles certainly presented Lauren and me with an opportunity to experience both sides of the host dynamic while also allowing us to equally share the brunt of the work.
By the end of the semester, Lauren and I recorded a total of 4 podcast episodes and storyboarded another 4. These recordings are to be posted on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and SoundCloud. Some of our other deliverables include a Redbubble store, podcast trailer, website, and Instagram. As a result, the practicums discussing Audacity, SoundCloud, Omeka.net, and WordPress.com proved especially helpful!
I’m sure Lauren would agree when I say that our podcast has been so much fun to plan and execute— we both learned a tremendous amount when it comes to the ins and outs of podcast production.
For one, The Rest of History presented me with an opportunity to learn how to research and storyboard for a podcast format. Specifically, researching a theme, aspect, or event for a paper is far different than conducting research with the intention of recording an episode. Of course, it should be noted that the methodologies of the history profession are helpful in both cases. However, simply stated, far more detail can be explored within the boundaries of a 10-page paper than will ever be effectively included in a 30-minute podcast episode. To further put this reality into perspective, the episodes Lauren and I recorded typically spanned about 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to any sort of editing. Yet, the rough outlines we prepared in advance of recording were no longer than 4 bullet-pointed pages.
While I would love to see our total edited episode time trimmed down, learning exactly what to include and cut in each episode is still a struggle. As a historian-in-training, it can be difficult to decide what is truly important when discussing a topic of your choosing— one that you are presumably passionate about. That being said, practice makes perfect!
Once all episodes are posted, I will update this blog with links!
Mission US is an educational media project that seeks to immerse young people in transformational moments from U.S. history. The organization is committed to teaching complicated and sensitive topics in American history with the hope that they can make a positive impact on history learning.
According to its website, Mission US sees its organization as taking part in the expanding body of “serious games.” Again, to Mission US, these games immerse users in historical and contemporary problems in ways that “encourage perspective-taking, discussion, and weighing of multiple kinds of evidence.” With this, the organization hopes to help develop the reading skills of students while simultaneously exploring rather challenging and, at times, emotionally heavy, content. All in all, Mission US offers a compelling tool for educators.
Mission US offers 6 historical games that span from the American Revolution (1770) to World War II (1941). For the most part, these games are cohesive. They have the same illustrative design and gameplay framework (RPG; Role-playing game). However, many of the adventure quests within each game remain unique. Often they require the player to partake in a similar mechanism but within completely different contexts. For example, City of Immigrants requires you to haggle in a New York City marketplace while within A Cheyenne Odyssey the player must navigate trading dynamics with a white fortsman. Apart from these initial parallels, many differences are present within this example alone.
A Cheyenne Odyssey, 1866: Westward Expansion
For the purposes of this practicum, I have chosen to outline Mission US‘s A Cheyenne Odyssey. Like many of the games offered by Mission US, A Cheyenne Odyssey is a player-choice RPG that has a playtime of about 2 hours. Within A Cheyenne Odyssey, players inhabit the life and mind of Little Fox, a young Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is drastically changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and U.S. military expansion. Thus, as the Buffalo population diminishes and the U.S. continue their expansion westward, players of A Cheyenne Odyssey are given a direct window into the Cheyenne’s life, culture, and persistence.
An account is required to play all Mission US games. I gather that this is so players can easily access their save files. An email isn’t even required when creating an account, which, if you ask me, makes Mission US a fantastic option for in-class activities!
To the right of the game, Mission US offers a variety of resources about the history of A Cheyenne Odyssey, lesson plans for educators, a downloadable version of the game, as well as a thorough bibliography of the primary and secondary sources the organization consulted in the creation of A Cheyenne Odyssey. Mission US even offers players a general instruction guide titled, “Top 5 Things to Know Before You Play Mission US.” It reads as follows:
(1) Mission US is a role-playing game (RPG). In each mission, you’ll step into the shoes of a young person during an important time period in US history. While your character and many of the characters in the game are fictional, they are based on the experiences of real people. (You will also encounter some actual historical figures and witness historical events in the game!)
(2) There are no right or wrong answers. The goal of Mission US is to understand history, not to win. In each mission, you’ll meet a range of people with very different viewpoints, explore historical settings, and witness key past events — and will have to make difficult decisions. All of the decisions represent real alternatives that people might have encountered.
(3) You decide your character’s fate. Like other choose-your-own-adventure stories, the fate of your character is based on your choices in the game. Some of the choices you make will unlock different badges, which will also impact the outcome of your character’s story in the game epilogue. You can replay the game and make different choices to see how your character’s story might have turned out differently.
(4) You will encounter difficult and challenging moments in US history. Mission US covers some troubling topics, including racism, injustice, and war, many of which remain challenges today. We think learning about such historical moments is essential for understanding both the past and present. We encourage you to reach out to a parent, teacher, or other adults you trust if you have any questions about the content you encounter in the game.
(5) There is never just one story. Like any work of history, Mission US games are interpretations of what happened in the past based on careful research. Since they can’t capture the whole story, we encourage you to learn more about this history by checking out the additional resources for each mission.
For now, let’s focus on the mechanics of the game itself! First, the basics:
A Cheyenne Odyssey employs a variety of interactive gameplay features, however, for the purposes of this response, I will focus on 3 examples.
(1) Choices through dialogue. As mentioned previously, players can choose their own adventure. Choices appear within dialogue with other characters or through Little Fox’s internal monologue. These choices later influence Little Fox’s values and skills. The level of these values will later dictate what choices are available for a player to make. For example, Little Fox needs a certain level of “Horse Sense” to tame a horse. Training a horse will then provide Little Fox with the opportunity to pursue different side quests.
(2) The trade simulator. As part of the interactive gameplay, A Cheyenne Odyssey offers players a chance to try their hand at trading. Through dialogue, other characters demonstrate the mechanisms of the trade simulator. Many Horses will even give you tips on how to make a fair trade! A Cheyenne Odyssey utilizes the trade simulator as an easy and memorable way to present the intricacies of the trading relationship between indigenous peoples and U.S. forts.
(3) Moveable maps. I’ve played this game quite a few times. Doing so typically requires me to restart the game so I don’t happen to have any videos of this portion. However, I do have some wonderful screenshots.
As chief, Little Fox now has to lead his band through 8 seasons (2 years). As players, we are tasked with choosing a camp location each season and getting enough food to keep the members of our community alive/healthy. Each season, different camping sites are available. At the start of the season, you will choose a new place to camp.
When the train reaches the other end of the track, Part 4 will be marked as complete. We begin in the spring. Each potential camp has a description. Take the Hunting Grounds camp as an example:
To play strategically, the player will utilize these descriptions as clues to best prepare for the winter. That being said, this is still not easy. Oftentimes, the player ends up relying on the Agency for at least a season. Here, the threat of cultural conversion is very real. As a result, players must decide the worth of human life and culture as they grapple with remaining at the Agency or returning to their (food-scarce) camps.
As for the gameplay, you need to collect one unit of food per person. You start with 100 people, so you need 100 food for the first season. You need to maintain your band’s health at “surviving” or better. Otherwise, members will leave or die. You get food by hunting, trading, and raiding. You are given 3 actions each season, except in the winter.
By the end of Part 4, Little Fox must decide to either settle his people on a reservation or be considered an enemy of the United States. The game continues further into Part 5 and the Epilogue.
The interactive features of A Cheyenne Odyssey, impressive audio track, and well-researched information elicit an affective response in the player. It is clear that the designers of Mission US know what they’re doing when it comes to immersive game design. They have taken something so simple, specifically the act of clicking a computer mouse, and turned it into an impactful historical experience.
Moreover, the game creators respectfully cover the time period and culture of the Northern Cheyenne in a way that didn’t feel unusual or forced within the context of the gameplay. This was mostly executed through really clever dialogue. Through dialogue, characters were able to effortlessly reveal important cultural and historical information that made the experience more enriching than I had initially expected. Personally, I find such a design element impressive in its own right.
I also appreciate the fact that A Cheyenne Odyssey has achieved a perfect balance between being an RPG and an educational game. That is to say, many games of the same genre often lean rather heavily into the educational aspects. In particular, these games are often very dialogue-heavy and, subsequently, will have players making a choice every 5+ minutes. Of course, such a structure is fine, but not necessarily as attention-holding as a Mission US game. I would like to reiterate that Mission US appears to take the educational aspects of its games seriously. Their thorough research and interpretations are a testament to that. But the main difference between Mission US and other games of the same genre is that Mission US takes the mode of the game seriously as well. They find the vehicle of engagement just as important as the content, and they are better for it.
At this point, I have played A Cheyenne Odyssey (and City of Immigrants) quite a few times. I mean, I am still finding new side quests every time I engage with the game. Generally, I think this is a great option for educators— I know that I would have loved to play something like this when I was younger. I even had a good time playing it now!
Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito’s Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (2014) explores the daunting challenges presented by the preservation and conservation of new media art from both practical and theoretical perspectives. Ultimately, Rinehart and Ippolito argue that the vulnerabilities of digital media are propelling today’s culture towards total obsolescence. In other words, the authors claim that cultural objects like movies, mp3s, installation art, and interactive games will all be lost if we do not work harder to identify the underlying factors affecting preservation. Thus, the goal of Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory is to slow the disappearance of obsolete culture by inspiring readers to reexamine and improve the ways that social memory serves contemporary and future societies.
For the purposes of discussion and as addressed within the syllabus, this response will focus on the chapters titled “New Media and Social Memory,” and “Only You Can Prevent the End of History.”
Structure and Important Terminology
Throughout Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory, Rinehart and Ippolito diagnose and investigate three threats to the preservation of new media art and, in turn, twenty-first-century creativity:
New media art relies on rapidly changing software and hardware. This can often speed up processes leading to obsolesce.
Insitutions apply the same preservation methods that were developed for more traditional mediums to new media art. This often proves inadequate.
Complicates access with intellectual property constructs. With new media art, intellectual property is often the only property that is recognized.
Significantly, Rinehart and Ippolito note the complicated relationship between technology, institutions, law, and ephemeral artifacts. That is to say, these elements often oscillate between being ardent allies and the worst of enemies. As a result, understanding the full rippling effect of each threat can prove quite difficult.
In discussing the complicated threats posed by technology, institutions, and law, Rinehart and Ippolito refer to the following four strategies for rescuing cultural genres and gadgets from extinction:
Default preservation strategy for many cultural institutions.
Stored culture remains in suspended animation.
Longest term preservation strategy for traditional media, shortest term preservation strategy for new media art.
A cultural object is preserved by creating an audiovisual facsimile.
This facsimile looks the same, feels the same, and even behaves the same.
The object employs a different medium to function properly.
Upgrading the technology of the cultural object to the current industry standard.
The look and feel of the object can increasingly depart from the original as upgrades continue.
Most radical and powerful of the four preservation strategies.
Sacrifices a cultural work’s appearance in order to maintain its original spirit.
Replaces the obsolete with their functional or metaphorical equivalent.
Often witnessed in performance based art.
2:New Media and Social Memory
Rinehart and Ippolito define social memory as both what societies remember as well as how they seek to remember. In expanding this definition, the authors identify two forms of social memory:
Stewarded by culutral institutions like museums, libraries, and archives.
Similar to a computer’s memory bank.
Concerned with the form of the object of preservation.
Characterized by folklore and distributed.
Popular form of remembering.
Preserves social memory by “making it a moving target” (15).
Concerned with the working function of the object of preservation.
In summary, formal social memory often prioritizes the preservation of a cultural object in its original form as a way to ensure that it maintains a certain degree of historical accuracy and integrity. In contrast, those that engage with informal social memory strategies will often look to update and recreate the cultural object as their primary mode of preservation.
New media art includes artworks that are designed and produced by means of media technologies. Due to the nature of new media art, this medium often involves complex curation and preservation practices that make collecting, installing, and exhibiting the works harder than most other mediums.
With this, new media art often interacts with social memory, ultimately impacting it in one of two ways:
Changes the object of social memory –> Artworks, literary texts, census records, etc.
Changes the means of social memory –> Documentation, storage, records, etc.
Rinehart and Ippolito take this a step further by drawing a line of distinction between digital art, artwork that is born-digital, and digitized art, artwork that is created using traditional media that is later transferred to a digital space like ArtStor.
13: Only You Can Prevent the End of History
Here, Rinehart and Ippolito offer readers an optimistic view of the issues plaguing preservation through their own 12-step approach. Of course, the authors’ intention is not to provide specific solutions for every potential scenario, instead, their main objective is to provide professionals with a strategy that will effectively work towards ensuring the survival of new media culture. The “Twelve Steps to Future-Proofing Contemporary Culture” are listed as follows (222-233):
Curators: Update Your Acquisition Policy
Conservators: Move out of the Warehouse and into the Gallery
Archivists: Modernize Your Metadata
Collection Managers: Renovate Your Database
Institutions: Start Collecting New Media
Programmers: Connect Data across Institutions
Lawyers: Help the Arts Find Progressive Approaches to Copyright
Creators: Save in as Open a Format as Possible
Dealers: Invent New Economic Models
Sponsors: Fund the Preservation of Born-Digital Culture
Academics: Educate, Engage, Debate
Historians: Challenge Conventional Wisdom about Social Memory
Additional Questions to Consider
What assumptions about preservation did you have prior to reading Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory? Were those thoughts supported by Rinehart and Ippolito? Or, did they present you with new ideas to consider?
How, as emerging historians and public historians, can we best integrate the ideas presented by Rinehart and Ippolito into our own work? What is your biggest takeaway from Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory?
Thinking of your own work and previous class experience, how have you seen new media impact social memory? How does this compare to Rinehart and Ippolito’s analysis?
How does Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory fit with the other works we have read over the course of this semester?
Which aspect of Rinehart and Ippolito’s 12-step approach surprises you the most? Why?
If you were to write an updated version of this work (2014), what elements would you add?
For our digital project, Lauren Pfeil and I will be starting a podcast that will have a tentative eight-episode season. Specifically, Lauren and I plan to record four episodes while only briefly storyboarding the other four. As for content, the actual focus of this podcast would be on histories that are often considered “obscure,” “marginal,” and “minority” related. Ultimately, the end goal of this podcast is to bring awareness and interest to histories that are not commonly featured in school curriculums.
Regarding the overall structure of the podcast, each episode will feature either Lauren or I teaching an “obscure” historical topic that we find interesting. So, for example, in the first episode, I would teach Lauren about the life of someone like General Tom Thumb (a nineteenth-century performer with dwarfism). Lauren would ask questions that progress the storytelling, effectively having the audience learn along with her. The second episode would then feature Lauren teaching me an “obscure” historical topic. In summary, our roles would basically reverse every episode.
We hope to gear this podcast mostly towards young adults. Particularly, those who want to see a greater variety in the historical actors most commonly talked about and taught. With this, we are not necessarily aiming to help young people study for exams— like Crash Course. Instead, our aim is to promote interest in historical topics— like Stuff you Missed in History Class and Drunk History. We want to challenge the age-old notion that history is boring!
To promote this podcast, Lauren and I will be creating a podcast webpage that will effectively act as our home base. Here we will upload show notes, transcripts, further/recommended readings, source lists, etc. This will also be a great location for an embedded feedback tool. That is to say, audience members will be able to submit thoughts, critiques, and even recommendations for future topics through our website. We will also create accounts on a variety of social media platforms in order to engage with audience members. Additionally, we hope to partner with some historical institutions in order to get promoted on their social media pages (ex: @aupublichistory). We will also post episodes on platforms like Spotify and Apple podcasts in order to reach a wider audience. Other ways we would evaluate the project include looking at Spotify/Apple podcasts analytics as well as social media analytics in order to get insight into engagement numbers. Maybe we’ll even start our own Twitter hashtag— the opportunities are endless! (also title suggestions are greatly appreciated)
Originally released in November of 2011 by Mojang AB and Microsoft Studios, Minecraft has revolutionized not only the structure and economic model of the gaming industry but the broader gaming experience. Specifically, Minecraft is not bound to the binary of winning or losing, instead, the game encourages exploration, resource collection, and imagination— a basis that was not necessarily the norm within the gaming industry prior to 2011.
With more than 141 million active PC users of all ages, Minecraft has doubled down on these features, priding itself on its ability to embed educational principles straight into the framework of the game. Reported to enhance creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and a global perspective, Minecraft is consistently ranked among the best games for young people.
The Introduction of Minecraft: Education Edition
As video games increasingly look to communicate ideas about the past, Minecraft is no different. Understanding both the makeup of their audience as well as the potential of their platform, Minecraft invited a whole new generation to build and explore models of the past with their release of Minecraft: Education Edition in 2016. Having already faced extreme amounts of success with the original version of the game, Microsoft Studios sought to expand the game’s impact directly into the educational sphere, effectively taking a medium that young people were already familiar with and transforming it into a useful learning tool.
My Research Interests and Goals
Simply put, I want to learn more about the relationship between gaming and history, including the benefits and downfalls of video games in a history education setting. In order to get a better sense of the design and success of Minecraft: Education Edition‘s history education components, I will focus my attention on Minecraft: Education Edition‘s History and Culture guide. Moreover, since each lesson plan and model world contains its own unique set of learning objectives, I will be analyzing three projects that are situated in a variety of historical fields and marketed towards different age groups in hopes of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the landscape. In particular, I have initially chosen four projects from among Minecraft: Education Edition‘s most popular: “The City of Florence” (updated in 2021) submitted by Marco Vigelini, “World War I Lesson” (updated in 2021) submitted by Phygital Labs, “A303 Stonehenge Through The Ages” (updated in 2022) submitted by Block Builders, and “Juneteenth Build Challenge” (updated in 2022) submitted by Minecraft Education.
In using these models as a lens into Minecraft: Education Edition, I hope to understand what makes these particular models more appealing and promotable than others on the website (and, more generally, other educational tools). With this, I am interested in the overall design of these world models, both in terms of content accuracy as well as the assumed role of teachers vs. students within the game.
I will also search to better understand the method by which these models are presented to educators and whether or not they are ultimately successful in completing their proposed learning objectives. That is to say, I will use these models to better determine the broader relationship between immersive videogame play and the potential for education. I find this particularly important in the case of Minecraft: Education Edition as the tool is designed to filter models based on country, region, grade, and subject in order to ensure that the educator is choosing a model that complies with standards of learning in their location.
Additionally, since Minecraft: Education Edition largely relies on community submissions, an oral history component would add a lot of structure to this paper. Interviews focusing on the small teams/educators that create the models as well as those who are implementing these models within the classroom space could be an interesting point of comparison. These interviews would also do much in the way of providing a behind-the-scenes look that would hopefully complement my own analysis.