Archive for April, 2014

Edgar Snow Social Media Campaign Proposal

My Edgar Snow Social Media Campaign will combine everything I’ve learned through UMKC’s Public History Program thus far, including digital humanities, an introduction to GIS technology, Web 2.0 basics, and take advantage of resources through Creative Commons and Open Access. For that reason, my target audience for this campaign will be prospective additions to UMKC’s Public History Program. This includes, but is not limited to, UMKC students already in the History Department, UMKC students in other departments, students at community colleges, and prospective students not yet in college. For this campaign, the emphasis will be on the fact that UMKC public history students created the exhibit. My aim is to attract college students and prospective college students to the exhibit to showcase the UMKC Public History Program’s digital historian’s work. I think that a program that offers students the opportunity to actually create something with marketable skills can be a very attractive feature and it can also be a ‘hook’ to bring in an overlooked audience. This audience will be drawn to the exhibit for academic and career choice reasons. By attracting a broader, and perhaps neglected, audience the Edgar Snow Exhibit becomes more than just an exhibit–it will turn into inspiration that will draw prospective digital and public historians to our university and therefore, to the resources housed in that university. This includes the Edgar Snow Collection which will be housed in UMKC’s new reading room.

In order to reach my target audience I will be creating a Facebook page and a Twitter account that uses hash tags relevant to Kansas City students. The Edgar Snow Project and Exhibit will be front and center on both of these accounts as a way to advertise the upcoming event and also to showcase the public history student’s work on this project. I’ve chosen to title both the Facebook and Twitter pages The Edgar Snow Project and Exhibit to include the creative process. The idea is to promote UMKC’s Public History Program, as well, so, in addition to the Facebook page and Twitter account, links to other relevant UMKC Public History news and information will be made available through these sites.

As a way to truly showcase the student’s work and process, visitors to the Facebook page and Twitter account will be able to visit the student’s WordPress blogs. This will not only give visitors more information on Edgar Snow, it will give viewers and prospective public history students a glimpse into what they can learn in the UMKC Public History Program. Prospective students and those interested in digital humanities will be able to see a public/digital history course, first hand, through the student’s blog posts. By employing Web 2.0 structure and concepts, The Edgar Snow Project and Exhibit will serve as a platform for the UMKC Public History Program. By promoting one, we will also be promoting the other to bring in a more diverse audience.

Twitter will be the main mechanism of this social media campaign by employing the use of hash tags. Tweets like “Check out the Edgar Snow Project and Exhibit,” and “See what UMKC digital historians are up to,” as well as relevant links will be posted weekly with hash tags such as #mcckansascity or #mccpennvalley. These are a few of the Kansas City Metropolitan Community College’s Twitter hash tags. College students and prospective college students will be directed to the Facebook page where visitors will have access to more information about the Edgar Snow Exhibit, as well as the links to the student’s WordPress blogs. These blogs will continue to be updated on a regular basis and give visitors a “behind the scenes” look, if you will, into the work of a digital historian.

My social media campaign is designed to attract prospective public history students by inviting them to see the work of current public history students. Since the Edgar Snow Exhibit is an actual exhibit that will be live and fully functional, prospective students will get a taste of what they can expect in the UMKC Public History Program. I’ve chosen prospective public history students as my target audience because I think that people who already know who Edgar Snow is and why he is important to Kansas City and UMKC history will not require any additional “gimmicks” to come and see what this project is all about. At the same time, by targeting these potential public history students and offering them a glimpse into the making of this project, younger people–people who might not necessarily be interested in Edgar Snow but might be interested in the technology used to create the exhibit–will become interested in what else the UMKC Public History Program has to offer. The fact that the Edgar Snow Exhibit will be online, I think, will make it more attractive to a younger audience. In this case, by promoting digital history and the latest technology used to create the exhibit–the latest Neatline plug-in, for example–potential students will view the exhibit for inspiration and ideas, and perhaps walk away with a greater interest in digital history that may persuade them to keep the UMKC Public History Program in mind when it comes time for these young students to decide on a major or academic path.

The goal here is to bring in prospective students as well as an audience. My approach puts as much emphasis on the process of creating as on the content itself. In doing this, the Edgar Snow Exhibit becomes a tool for learning about more than history. This approach is interdisciplinary from the ground up because more than just history students will find the exhibit and creative process interesting. While my approach targets mainly college students, it can easily be expanded to include high school students, bloggers, journalists, life-long learners, weekend historians, hobbyists, technology buffs, etc. Additionally, I believe my campaign can also easily accompany other social media campaigns to broaden viewership.

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“Colonial Gardener” Reinforces the Concept of “Colonial Gardening”

I chose to play Colonial Gardener for this assignment. It reminded me of Nintendo’s Gardening Mama which I am not ashamed to admit that I was a tad bit addicted to when it first came out. (That is no longer the case.) Bryan Alexander, in New Digital Storytelling spoke about “immersion,” and how it “must progress over time.” (pp. 92) I got this sense of immersion from this colonial gardening game. Granted, it is a child’s game. However, the sense of urgency to tend to the plants was definitely there. The sound was calming, until a plant needed to be watered or weeded. When it got to be too much, the plants started to weep, and then die if I didn’t get to them in time. (Yep, just like Gardening Mama.) It may sound silly, but while I was in the game I felt that sense of urgency. And if a plant died, I felt it. Alexander states that “cut scenes, sound, and immersion…contribute to realizing [the] chapter 1 definition of story, including engaging an audience emotionally, progressing in time, and building a sense of meaning for certain audiences.” (pp. 94) The audience is clearly children, there is progression in the game, and emotional involvement is almost certain, even for an adult. The cut scenes were tailored for a child, of course, but that’s where I felt the most, I think, because if your plants died, it cuts to a scene of a weeping farmer holding a dead plant. As a historian, all I could picture was starving Pilgrims that first winter, because that was pretty much what was being implied.

I enjoyed the game. It was simple, so a child could definitely relate and picture him or herself as the colonial gardener. The sense of urgency created that emotional tie and facilitated the progression of the game. I thought it was a good way to maybe introduce a child to the dilemmas of providing for oneself in colonial times. Lives depended on good gardeners, so to speak. This game confirms that.

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The Almighty Dollar Stands in the Way of Progress, Yet Again

It all boils down to money, is what I gathered from the readings and the video(??). There are two kinds of people in this world: those that wish to contribute to society any and all new ideas and information for the sake of progress and enrichment, and those that want to make a buck. Okay, maybe there is a little gray in there somewhere, but I have to come back to the money, which is what copyright law is all about.

In an ideal world, a “Creative Commons” sounds like a wonderful idea. This suggestion that we “advocate a balance between the rights and needs of the “owners” and “users” of intellectual property, but a balance that favors the enlargement of the “public domain”—taken here to mean not just the formal realm of works with no legal copyright protection, but also more broadly the arena defined by fair use and the sharing and dissemination of ideas and creativity,” truly speaks of a genuine sharing of knowledge, which is what I hope all academics strive for. (Daniel J. Cohen, Digital History) However, as Cohen rightly points out, there are those who embrace Hobbes’ state of nature and demand what I’m sure they feel is rightly theirs. In our twisted world, what determines one’s value is the almighty dollar.

I can’t help but feel that it isn’t just that some people genuinely care about the transfer of knowledge and others don’t so much as they care about money. It can’t be that black and white. And, it’s not like there aren’t legitimate reasons for a person wanting some sort of payment in return for research and scholarship. However, in the ideal “Creative Commons,” that Cohen talks about, the payment for scholarship is knowledge that is available to all. In the real world a student has to pay for college, therefore that student is taught from the very beginning that obtaining knowledge comes at a price. Is it any shock that there are people, scholars, in this world, that maintain that ideology? In order for the Creative Commons to truly be successful, the initial knowledge obtained so that a person may be able to contribute to that commons, should also be free and available to all, shouldn’t it?

Okay, I totally took this assignment as an opportunity to take a jab at high tuition and our backwards government. But seriously, I support a creative commons. I feel that knowledge should not be held for ransom, whether that ransom be money or all the hoops one must jump through in order to obtain and use new knowledge. I mean, seriously, how is anyone supposed to venture out into society and feel like they are able to contribute when there are so many laws in your way? I feel that Lawrence Lessig’s, creative transparency, which allows for proper attribution, should be enough payment to any scholar who genuinely wants to contribute to progress and the future. It should be, but the real world demands money. And that, is the sad reality.

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A Different Way to ‘Do History’

We’ve talked about digital history. Now let’s discuss spatial history, or better yet, the spatial humanities.What are the spatial humanities? It’s perhaps too abstract to adequately define, but, it is essentially another way of looking at, and presenting the humanities that involves abstract and physical space. I’ll use history as an example. Traditionally history has been presented through chronological events. Richard White from Stanford University suggests that won’t change, but by adding the ingredients necessary to help the reader or viewer visualize space, too, the historian provides a clearer picture of the past. Humanists can do the same, by utilizing GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology.

According to a recent book edited by David J. Bodenhamer, (read my book review here), The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship, the use of time and space can be maximized by implementing GIS technology into humanities scholarship. The Spatial History Project of Stanford University asserts that history is chronological, but GIS allows historians to give “a graphic representation of the interrelation of time and space.” (White, “What is Spatial History?”)  These sound like really great things. Historians and Humanists are always looking for ways to better represent the human condition throughout time. There are problems, however.

The biggest problem in implementing GIS technology into humanities scholarship, that I gathered from these two readings, is how to translate cold and uninterpretable numbers and data to the interpretable sources required for ‘doing history’–or humanities. Studying the human condition is an abstract science, unlike the science used for gathering the data for creating maps. So how can there be any sort of union between these two disciplines that are at opposite ends of the academic spectrum? The editors of The Spatial Humanities nail this problem when they suggest that perhaps a language that bridges these disciplines is necessary. (Bodenhammer, pp. 8) This language has not been invented yet which is why, I think, there is some concern with using GIS in humanities.

Finally, is spatial history digital history? It doesn’t have to be. Historians have long used information from maps to write books and articles without producing a single pixelated byte. Historians may continue to do just that, however, by taking advantage of GIS technology, they just might be able to add several dimensions to their work. And, for those adventurous historians and humanists that do go the length and harness the full power of GIS, good for you.

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Analysis of a Social Media Program: Kansas City Museum

The often overlooked little museum in Old Northeast is undergoing an extensive and costly renovation right now. The Kansas City Museum is still, however, open to the public. But in the absence of a thorough hands-on experience (due to the construction), this museum takes advantage of the latest tools for digital history and offers an excellent online alternative. Kansascitymuseum.org is the museum’s official website.

When I first visited this site what immediately jumped out at me was the GLAMA banner that scrolled past. GLAMA is the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America. I clicked on the link and was taken to the GLAMA page where I noticed that the museum had launched an oral history initiative. This fits right in with the architecture of participation from Web 2.0. I am very excited to see that a local, small, historical institution has taken the principles of public history to heart.

Back on the museum home page I hovered over the Exhibits & Archives tab and saw that Kansas City Museum was also hosting another collecting initiative called Nuestra Herencia, an initiative “to assemble, preserve, and make accessible a collection of diverse materials that document Kansas City’s Hispanic Latino/a communities.”  As a member of this Hispanic community and an enthusiastic historian, this pleases me.

Additionally, there were Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Instagram buttons on every page. There were several collections, archives, and data bases available for public viewing. And volunteering or participating as a community curator was suggested throughout the website. This tells me that while this museum may be physically small and often times overlooked, the high quality and rich content, and the several different ways that this museum reaches out to the community speak volumes of what century they reside in. The difference in a decade, when it comes to technology, is immense and institutions that implement practices that encourage active public participation with others, with the museum, and especially with technology, appear to be the most successful.

There is always room for improvement, though, and the wonderful thing about Web 2.0 technology is that change is inherent in its principles. Perpetual Beta is a Web 2.0 concept that museums can implement into their best practices. The Kansas City Museum is physically undergoing change ironically. As far as suggestions go, however, I was very impressed with this site. They appear to have their Web 2.0 bases covered. When I visited this past summer the docent told me about the renovation and how expensive it was, so, my suggestion would be to include a money raising initiative to help with the cost. All I saw was a Donate button at the bottom of the home page. But, perhaps they have a wealthy benefactor at their disposal.

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