Archive for category Web 2.0

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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