How can we all contribute to digital history? (readings 1-4, 2/10/21)

The first reading, “The myth of Amateur Crowds: A critical discourse analysis of crowdsourcing coverage” is a study of the effectiveness of crowdsourcing and who participates in it. The author is arguing that people tend to be dismissive of crowdsourcing because they assume the participants are under-qualified. People tend to assume only amateurs contribute to crowdsourcing, which makes the information or contribution unreliable. However, the author of this article is challenging that notion and arguing crowdsourcing is an effective measure to create a community and it is often professionals who contribute. The research shows that people engage with crowdsourcing and those people are often well educated, professionals in their fields. In terms of digital history, this is an interesting thought for museums. How can museums crowdsource to create communities and have a shared authority? Can crowd sourcing be used within the digital history communities?

The second reading, “Building a Volunteer Community; Results and Findings from the Transcribe Bentham” is a case study on how the online transcription service used crowdsourcing to find participants and create a community. While most participants did not become permanent volunteers, it was still an important study to learn how to engage a community and evidence of how professionals participate. But it also pointed out something interesting in that the volunteers did not engage with each other. What does this mean for digital history? How can a more lasting community be established through crowdsourcing?

“Dark Matter” is an article about how technology and websites are the future of museums because it is a new form to engage with people and share information. It also points to how people contribute to the internet. How they utilize platforms to engage with each other. Because of this it is important to know how museums and histories contribute to this information sharing. In that same vein, how can people engage with museums and contribute their thoughts? Shared authority is important in digital history, so how can online formats crowdsource and interact with viewers?

Finally, “Why I wasn’t Consulted” demonstrates how people want a say in what they participate in. They want to be involved and their opinion to be recognized. It is essential for creating a shared authority within digital history because visitors want to share their knowledge to engage. How can you consult visitors in digital history? Digital history (and public history) is dependent on viewers, and therefore it is essential they are consulted. Can you think of a digital history that you as a viewer were consulted and how you connected to it?

The essential theme to these writings is how can we engage our viewers? How do we share authority and help viewers create meaning? Digital history can reach so many people and they need to feel participatory in the conversations. So, how do we do that?

Introduction: Ricky Sanchez Yarza

Hello everyone. My name is Ricardo Sanchez Yarza but you can call me Ricky, I am an undergraduate student at American University and I am currently working towards a BA in History as my major. I am originally from New York City as I was born there, but I was raised in southern Florida for the entirety of my life. I enjoy reading books written by historical figures of the past. My attraction to history began at an early age as I grew up travelling to different parts of the world and learning about the different cultures of the world inspired my curiosity to dive deeper into the subject of history as part of my academic endeavors. Recently, I’ve been working on improving my research paper writing skills and essay writing skills and I am always open to improving my written communication abilities. I am excited and eager to learn more about digital history.

I am curious and excited to learn more about the ways digital media is used to study and practice the theory of history. I enjoy viewing art and I believe art is a beautiful way of communicating history. As a boy, I would visit history and art museums whenever I had the opportunity to travel somewhere else in the world. I spent some time as a boy, learning things about different cultures that exist around the world, and enjoying art became another way for me to appreciate the nature of historical works. I had a fun time in Washington D.C. I visited museums like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Gallery of Art. I think learning about history has motivated me to take a closer look at how our world has maintained itself throughout the course of life on our planet. I am fascinated by how much we can actually learn from documentation of the past and I would like to see how the digitalization of history through the use of media makes an impact in the way we explore the past.

Intro: Emily Lefeber

Hello everyone! My name is Emily– I’m a first year in the Public History MA program. I grew up in a small town in western Iowa, where I’ve lived most of my life. For my undergraduate, I attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. I studied History and Political Science during my undergrad, along with earning a Museum Studies certificate. During my undergrad I worked at several museums, including the on-campus museums where I ran the children’s programming for ages 2 – 10. For my undergrad honors thesis, I studied the League of Women Voters of Iowa and their activities related to defining citizenship after between 1920 and 1940. My research interests are women’s history broadly, but also looking at intersectional identities and structures of power. Like in my honors thesis, I continue to be interested in theories of citizenship and political history.

I’m currently working as a Teaching Assistant with the AU Department of Critical Race, Gender and Culture with Professor Irene Calis for Gender, Politics, and Power class. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m also working as a Substitute Teacher at a handful of districts near my home here in Iowa. I substitute teach at any level, though my favorite is middle school.

I’ve always been interested in history and education. I actually started my undergraduate with the plan to apply to the UI College of Education to be a history teacher, but ended up decided to go towards museums instead. Public History seemed like a natural continuance of these interests, one which could have broader application that earning a masters in Museum Studies. In my future, I hope to work in programming, or outreach, or maybe exhibitions. One thing I know for sure is that I want to make things that will help people learn in creative and engaging ways. I’m looking forward to learning skills in this class that will help me do that.

Outside of work and school, I love to play Nintendo games (Animal Crossing New Horizons anyone?) or Stardew Valley. I’m also a sucker for a bad period drama — currently watching Reign and just finished Bridgerton. I love a quiet day at home with my fiancé, Alex, and my cat, Sherlock. Once restrictions are lifted, I look forward to visiting museums again and moving to DC.

Introduction: Mia

Hello! My name is Mia, and I am a first-year graduate student in the Public History master’s program at American University. I moved to DC a couple of weeks ago, and I have enjoyed experiencing the first snow of the year!

I took a walk last weekend and made a little snow pal!

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where I attended Samford University for my bachelor’s degree. During undergrad, I studied French and Global Studies (an interdisciplinary history major), which gave me a lot of flexibility to explore a variety of classes across departments. My university also had an oral history department, and I enjoyed helping them interview people from local communities. I learned so much about Birmingham’s history from their stories, and I was excited to help preserve their memories through the interviews.

After I graduated from Samford, I wanted to find more ways to combine my interests in history and community engagement. I took a break from school to explore public history opportunities. During summer 2019, I worked as an intern at the WBHM radio station (Birmingham’s local NPR affiliate) for their StoryCorps “One Small Step” project. After I completed the internship, I moved to Warren, Ohio to serve as an AmeriCorps member with the Ohio History Service Corps. My host site was the Trumbull County Historical Society, and I really enjoyed planning and facilitating projects with different historical organizations throughout the county.

I am excited to continue learning about public history methodology as a graduate student. After spending some time with historical societies and museums in Ohio, I am hoping to use this opportunity to learn from public history professionals and historical organizations throughout the DC community. I am currently doing a fellowship with the White House Historical Association to conduct research for their Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood initiative.

I have had some experience with digital history through oral history and co-creating a suffrage history website for my AmeriCorps position: For the most part, I enjoy learning about new software and figuring out the mechanics of digital programs. However, I still feel uncertain and inexperienced when it comes to creating digital content for a public audience. Although I have accounts on various social media platforms, I have not posted on them in years. Blogging also feels like an unknown resource for me. Through this course, I am hoping to become more comfortable with using digital resources to connect people to their history.

I’m excited to learn from y’all this semester!

Intro- Shaan Budhwani

Hello, everyone! I’m Shaan Budhwani, and I’m in my second semester of the Public History MA program. I’m originally from Houston, Texas, where I did my undergrad at the University of Houston, but I’m really excited to be here in DC! My schoolwork has been all over the place; I’ve written historiographical papers on Islamic Spain and Muslims in the United States, as well as done an oral history project on Norse pagans in Houston. I also taught geography for two years back home, as well! For my personal interests, I enjoy reading and writing. (Fiction, that is. The thousands of pages of readings from classes, maybe a little less.) I also like video games and love traveling, so this pandemic has been good for one, less so for the other.

The last trip I was able to go on before the Dark Times

I’m really excited for the public history program, and I liked where my first semester went! I’m primarily interested in archival studies, and my eventual career goal is to work in either an archive, but I always like to keep my options open, and I’d be just as happy in a museum, the National Park Service, or wherever else I end up. Here at American, I hope to refine my public history skills, especially with archival skills. Being in DC, with all the museums and archives, was also very important to me to connect with the world of public history. Learning how to make those connections is probably just as important as what we actually learn in the classes.

I’m very interested to see what’s in store for us in this class, as well. Already, some of the tools like Historypin look really interesting and useful! I’m particularly interested in digital archival, as these kinds of online archives have been a lifesaver in online learning. I’m also interested in interactive digital history, like video games, and how we might be able to use these to get people more engaged in history. I’m looking forward to our big project, since I’ve always learned best by doing, and already have lots of ideas in my head. Here’s to a great semester!