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Changes for Historians in a Digital World

The growth of the digital age has created an issue for the field of history. It adds new ways of research and sharing information, but it also can limit what people are willing to do when researching. It is a very happy thing to realize that there is an important article that can help you research, is already scanned and you can open it up without having to get out of your chair. That convenience can then backfire when there are no digital versions of what you need, and now you need to get up and search through physical books and journals. The appeal of how historians have researched for centuries is slowly being replaced with the appeal of everything being available at your fingertips.

Another major change is that the definition of what constitutes as a historical research project changes as well. There are more and more ways to present the findings of a research project other than a paper. Websites and podcasts now can share research in what might be considered more accessible and appealing to today’s age, who still want to learn about events of the past, but would rather listen to a podcast as they drive into work. While this can cause issues with historians who prefer the pre-digital process of historical research, those that can adapt to digital history can reach a boarder audience, while still keeping scholarly research and the root of their project.

I do believe that it is important for digital history to be apart of the education and work of current and upcoming historians. The digital movement is not slowing down, rather it is constantly growing and changing. Rather than fight these changes, the historical field should make the changes; create the change and make a new way to share the vast amount of history that surrounds us.

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The Middle Ground

“Lou” is a 33-year-old single father of two daughters, he works as a manager at a retail chain store. He was born and raised in Baltimore and has a bachelor’s degree in business.  

Can you define capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system that lets private corporations control our economy.

How would you explain your feelings on or relationship with capitalism?

I don’t really think I have a specific relationship with capitalism, I haven’t known any other system. I have mixed feelings about it because I think that in theory it is better in comparison to other economic systems. But it lacks certain levels of stability and I have seen the struggles that that lack of stability can bring to people who are in lower economic classes. I tend to feel that somedays I can lean one way more than the other but for the most part I hang in the middle.

Do your views on capitalism match with what your parents’ thought are on capitalism?

I would say that they have a more cynical view than I do. They are the reason that I am wary of the stability of capitalism. Growing up we were barely living paycheck to paycheck, and now a few decades later they are consistently bringing up some issues that they have found with our economy. They have also explicitly told me how they do not believe in the idea that if you work hard, you can make a good like for yourself, which is definitely where I have different thoughts.

What are your thoughts on the idea of being able to make something of yourself if you work hard enough?

I do believe in the concept; I do think that there is a limit to how much you can achieve by working hard depending on the opportunities you are provided. But I had more opportunities than my parents did when they were my age and I honestly believe that having experienced the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck as a child and seeing the stress it caused my parents, it is something that I wanted to work hard to not have my own children have that experience. Which is something I definitely feel I have done.

What advice would you give your daughters when they are older about living in a capitalist economy?

I actually have started, I think teaching them would be a better term, teaching them about the benefits of working hard, but also making sure that they are aware of the financial decisions that they make and that they also work hard on building a savings, if only for emergencies. And while now the financial decisions I am helping my nine-year-old is make is that maybe it would be better to buy two different dolls instead of the same one even though (he quotes his daughter) “She is just so cool and cute and what more do I need?” I am hoping that one day when it comes to bigger decisions, she will be able to make the best choice for herself, her situation, and her future.

Reflection

From the different interviews, I have conducted before I personally feel that “Lou’s” feelings on capitalism really do reflect the middle ground that many people stand on when it comes to capitalism. While he does not think he has a relationship with capitalism, I would say he does based on what he told me about his childhood (which I was told more of off the record) and how he hopes to help his children not feel that they have to learn about making money for survival, but for them to learn to make smart financial decisions in their future. I also had other questions planned than the last two but while we were talking I was interested in topics that he mentioned, like his children’s futures, and how he seemed to be able to see both sides of living in a capitalist economy.

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Lessons on Digital History

Alyssa K. Brown

I did not necessarily learn anything new by looking at Alyssa’s site, however, exploring her site did confirm the notion, the simpler the better. It was easy to navigate and displayed her different works and accomplishments that would be easy to share with future employers or contacts.

Footprints in the Digital Age

I really enjoyed reading this article, while the author, Will Richardson, was discussing the constant changes and adaptations to living in a digital age, it was still written in a conversational tone. I would say my biggest takeaway from this article was the importance of transparency. How it is better to be open about what you are sharing and not to be afraid to shares your struggles or failures as you work on projects, and how this transparency might help in the long run if others are searching you to see what you have accomplished and can see that you are capable of acknowledging your issues, but also showing how you worked through those problems.

Stella Swope

I really enjoyed Stella’s site, it is honestly what I would expect when looking at a photographer’s site. The gallery layout is a great resource to be able to show off multiple projects you have done. The only thing I would say is when looking, specifically at her designs gallery, I would have been interested in what the background and reasoning for these different designs were. But overall I love how she kept it simple and focused on sharing her projects.

Digital Tattoos

I think that the Digital Tattoos project is something that we need in today’s day in age. The ability to learn about how you are presenting yourself on the internet truly does matter and to be able to learn about what you can do to change how you share yourself digitally is an immensely important resource.

Controlling Your Public Appearance

The beginning story of this article was really interesting because when thinking about people who have a smaller digital presence, realize that even a simple comment can be the first thing that people learn about them. As well as talking about being a teenager and being afraid of your parents finding your secret social media account, it is something that a large number of people have gone through or are going through. This article can open one’s eyes to how people view them on the internet when they make little to no effort of controlling their digital identity.

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The Role of Copyright in Digital History

I looked at the discussion sections of the Wikipedia pages Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, and Tower of London in order to see the progression and changes made to these pages. The first thing that I noticed is that people were not afraid to ask any kind of questions, add information, make a comment, or discuss what is on the page. The contributions seemed to all be made in an effort to make the Wikipedia pages more accessible and understandable, as well as to make sure that the information being provided was factual, or at the least stated the fact this a certain fact is what is believed, but the lack of evidence behind these beliefs.

It was also really interesting to read the comments left because it really felt like everyone was working together on this one digital history project, and despite there being input from multiple people of different locations and backgrounds, their main focus was making sure that the wiki pages were factual, accessible, grammatically correct, and not missing important parts about the different topics, to the best of their ability.

For the MWC at UVA/UMW Name changes project, the Creative Common License is going to fall under the library’s jurisdiction and follow what is already being done in the way of copyright laws; as the site will not only be apart of UMW’s library site, but the library is also going to care for the site in the long run.

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Freedom for us Regular People

Shay is in her mid-twenties and she just graduated with a bachelor’s in art. She currently has a part-time job at a coffee shop and is pursuing starting her own business.

Do you think that capitalism is beneficial to your life?

I feel inclined to say yes, I don’t really know s*** about other economic systems. But like, I want to start my own shop and I think that that is a positive for capitalism because I can do that. There is a freedom that comes with capitalism for us regular people.

How do you think that capitalism impacts the economy?

As long as everyone participates in the economy I’d say it helps keep money moving. I don’t have any specifics because capitalism and the economy are the same thing for me.

How do you think that capitalism interacts with the media?

One of capitalism’s biggest resources is the media. People put so much money and thought into advertisement that it’s no wonder that it became a whole job field, but the media is, I’d say essential now for businesses to thrive. So you have the whole field of people working in advertisement that is a part of the economy, but then there’s the effect of good advertisement which increases sales which keeps capitalism moving.

What are positive/negative aspects of capitalism?

The biggest positive is the amount of freedom it allows for people to pave their own way in the world. I can’t say if the changes in prices are positive or negative, because like capitalism helps with the economy balancing on its own (ish.) But also the fact that everything in the economy is connected and influence each other, I could see one wrong move really taking the economy down, and I don’t want to deal with a Depression.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

Like I said I don’t know much about other economic systems. The only one I have some knowledge on is socialism, and the only thing I can really remember I think is that the government would be in charge of the economy, and I don’t trust the government (or even one single group) to be in charge of the entire f****** economy. (She also added in later “I don’t like monopolies, they feel rude”)

Analysis

Overall, Shay seems to have semi-solid beliefs from what she knows about capitalism, but was not afraid to show her uncertainty in her knowledge during the interview. It was also just really interesting to interview Shay partially because she is a good friend who I don’t have many serious conversations with, but because after she answered almost all of the questions she would say “hang on” and google something about capitalism to try and see if it would change what she thought or in her words “google is more reliable than my brain.”

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America’s Definition of Freedom

Ian is in his mid-fifties and co-owns a construction business. He is married and has three kids in some level of college. He has his general studies associate’s degree, and while he used to want to go back to school, he has lost that desire; but encourages his kids to complete their bachelor’s.

What is capitalism to you?

Capitalism is what allows me to make a decent living and pay for all three of my kids to go to college. 

What role do you see capitalism in your daily life?

Capitalism is a big part of my life because the economy is. I work for a business that is hired to build homes. People would not have the ability to spend their money to design and build a house if it would not for the freedom that allows people to spend their money on what and how they want. 

How do you think capitalism has changed over time?

The ability to spend money has gotten faster with new technology, although I still think checks are safer than sending your money out over the web. There are also a lot more self-started businesses and more ways to start businesses on your own than there were thirty years ago.

What do you think of other economic systems other than capitalism?

I think that other economic systems lack the freedom to make decisions about what to do with the money that you earned. I know that there is a whole debate about socialism and how better equality comes with socialism, but our reliance on the government grows. While it seems like that is not a big deal in the beginning, I see the definition of freedom in America changing from more government involvement in a socialist society.

How do you see people’s views of capitalism being generationally different?

The needs of capitalism shift based on what the needs of the people are at the time. Money and beliefs held different values in the past. Capitalism had to have some effect on changes in the economies of the past but how people use their money had and still has a larger effect on capitalism.

Analysis

Ian seems to have realistically positive views on capitalism. He also discusses how people spend their money and the importance of them being able to spend their earned money how they wish is important to the continuing flow of the economy. Overall I think that he does believe that capitalism is the best choice of economic system for America. 

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Digital History Project Reviews

The 2019 Rosenzweig Prize Recipient winners Robert K. Nelson, Justin Madron, Nathaniel Ayers, and Edward Ayers website, American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History is a great example of what technology can do to help the field of history expand its reaches to the world and modernize ways of sharing information. The site is simple but appealing, while at first it might seem odd or concerning that there is no form of a search engine or any pages, once you scroll down the information is all available. It is all well labeled and does not make it hard to either find a specific page or to explore what is available. Underneath the actual content of the site is more information about the purpose and creation of the site. Considering the fact that the site is only one page and simple in set up it is effective and appealing.

The site Valley of the Shadow is a decent site but does quickly show its age the second the site is open. The setup of the pages is very basic and the site does not have certain features that are common on more modern sites, such as the ability to click the site’s title at the top of the page and be taken to the home page. While the blueprint style of searching is a nice feature in thought it does make moving between pages somewhat of a struggle and there is an overwhelming amount of links to click on to actually get to any pertinent information. While the purpose of the site is good it could use an update.

The site Emile Davis Diaries does seem to be older, it does not seem to be as old as Valley of the Shadows. Despite being a bit older in appearance, the site is appealing and relatively easy to navigate. It is a nice touch that when hovering over the numbered tabs at the top of the page dates appear, which helps a user have a better idea of how the information is sorted. While the page could use a few stylistic updates it is still functional and not overly confusing.

The site Black Women’s Suffrage does have a more modern look to it compared to the past two sites reviewed. The site is appealing and it is easy to search through to find specific information. It is a bit more of a complex site when it comes to all of the information that is being offered, there are a number of links and pages to go; however, this does also show that the site is a more current site that is being monitored and updated by the creators.

Using all of the information that I have found while looking at these different sites there are a few points that I will make sure to take into consideration with my group’s site. From what I have seen the sites that are simple when it comes to organization and appearance are not only easier the site will be to use but will have a more timeless look (to the best it can) and not become overly dated in the future.

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Omeka Site Reviews

DIY History (http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/)

The site DIY History is well organized. The main page has hyperlinks to make finding what you’re searching for easy. The about page is informative in not only providing information on the purpose of the site and how it came to be but also information on what software they use. Under the about page there is also information about who can participate in transcribing for the site, which is helpful for those like myself who like to transcribe and this is a good opportunity to work on gaining experience. The Transcribe page is very well set up, not only is the transcription there but also an image of the original document so one can look at both. There is also a translate tab where translations of the original can be made and posted to be more inclusive to other languages. The style of the website is simple but effective, the colors are not distracting but help with making distinctions for separate tabs.

St. John’s College (https://digitalarchives.sjc.edu/about)

The site St. John’s College is well done. The about page is not only informative with information but also with contact information that those using this site might need for further assistance. The main thing I noticed about this site is that it makes good use of hyperlinks, they are not under or overused and also stand out against the surrounding text. The simple color scheme of the site is not distracting to the information. The collected information is easy to search, there is an all items tab to search all collections, there is a list of collections to find what you might be specifically looking for, and there are also specific tabs for locational collections. Under these locational collection tabs, hyperlinks are well used and there is more information about these separate collections.