Becoming a Better Researcher

I’m on a mission to develop research management skills using technologies like Zotero. As I beta test my methodology on my master’s thesis, I’ll write about how well it works – how well it doesn’t. Blogs start July 13.

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Public Lives of Rural Women

Thesis Methodology for Rural Women Project: I am researching the public lives of rural women in a small county in South Dakota during the frontier era, 1880-1920, as the topic of my master’s thesis in Public History at the University … Continue reading

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Database Dissertation

Last week for my Digital History class I presented a digital history web site.  I chose this site because it focused on how to use a database methodology for conducting dissertation research. The Early American Foreign Service Database web site is a data visualization of a scholarly dissertation. Jean Bauer, while in the PhD program at the University of Virginia, created a relational database for her study about the nature of the Early American Foreign Service. As a result of this and other similar projects, Bauer designed and built Project Quincy, “a Django application with a MySQL that uses information about people, places, and organizations to trace how social networks and institutions develop over time and through space.”[1] Django is a web development framework and MySQL is a relational database tool. While this web site holds some interest for those studying the American Foreign Service, it is more interesting in the way it provides information about the design and structure of the data model and its visualization. The general nature of the design holds promise for other scholars conducting similar projects that “connect people with other people at a particular time, in a particular place, and for a particular reason, allowing the user to map networks of correspondence, the growth (or decay) of organizations, kinship, patronage, and early institutional development.”[2]

The strength of this site lies in its appeal to digital historians interested in the technical aspects of developing a data model to analyze relationships between people, events, places and organizations. There is considerable detail regarding the actual design and structure, helpful for technically accomplished historians looking for such examples. It introduces Project Quincy, a publicly available code set that could be reused in a different historical project. The weakness of this website is its lack of appeal to the general public, even those interested in the topic of the Foreign Service. Missing essays, needed to provide the contextual approach, reduce the value of this site to its technical approach.

More information can be discerned by connecting to the Project Quincy website, projectquincy.org, and then to the author’s web site, www.jeanbauer.com, last updated in 2013. Bauer’s web site indicates she became the Brown University Digital Humanities Librarian in 2011. Her Twitter account is active as of March 28, 2014.

While this website provides an intriguing glimpse into a digital history project with a relational data model, integrated with web site design, the site appears to be an inactive project that was not fully completed. This project reinforces the reality that maintaining digital projects over time, without organizational structure, is a tremendous challenge.

[1] Project Quincy. http://projectquincy.org/. Accessed April 6, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

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Wiki Work, Redux

Today I read seven articles on Wikipedia, written by historians, assigned by the professor of my Digital History class. I wish I’d read the articles before I practiced being a Wikipedia editor. Knowing nothing, I quickly reviewed a few tutorials … Continue reading

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Wiki Work

My assignment for my Digital History class this week was to update or create a new Wikipedia entry. I forgot. So, today I gave it a try. I started with ambitious plans to create the first John Plankinton wiki entry. … Continue reading

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It Happened Right Here

In an effort to inflict some discipline on my writing habits and to share interesting historical happenings I discover about my hometown area, I have been writing a local history column about Aurora County, South Dakota, since January of 2013. … Continue reading

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Twitter What?

Today I created my first Twitter account in the middle of reading a course assignment, http://webwriting.trincoll.edu/engagement/wright-2013/.  During the setup, I picked a few accounts to follow, but quickly ‘unfollowed’ them.  WTMJ4 must tweet ten times per second!  The two entertainment personalities tweeted nonsense.  All that’s left is a few people I know personally, my professor, and some theater and tourism sites in the Milwaukee area.

The author of the article provided some good examples for using this tool to teach journalism students.  The more interesting examples centered around the students tweeting individually with a shared hashtag, which turned it into a group event.  The students all attended the same basketball game, commenting and responding to each others’ commentary. As journalism students, their education focuses on observing events around them and documenting them in real time.  I can see how Twitter helps with that.

How does Twitter help historians?  The author suggests using Twitter to assign a research topic to history students and then asking them to tweet their findings. Another idea was to review a historical debate conducted on Twitter and use that discussion to support an argument.  I’m not so sure a debate in the cloud provides strong argument of much, other than their are strong differences of opinion in interpreting a particular topic. 

How useful is this for historians aspiring to pursue their profession outside of academia?  I’m curious if any of my classmates can see value in Twitter for Public Historians?  Although I can see it as a way to ‘market’ museum events, my imagination fails me beyond this.

What is Twitter?  Who is the audience?  What are the behavior’s of the audience?  What is the motivation to find and follow tweets produced by historians? Is it more useful as a group activity, engaging people in something that is event-related with some time limits, such as the basketball game example?  Is it a way for people to stay informed about organization or topics that interest them?  Do people want to get lots of tweets every day on the same topic? Do people spend a lot of time on Twitter?  How do they find the tweets that matter?I haven’t used it and I don’t have a sense for how or why people become engaged in this digital tool.  

I use and enjoy Facebook, but I’m having trouble ‘getting’ Twitter.  If you use and like Twitter, please let me know how you find it useful for students and teachers of history and other history professionals.  I want to have an open mind on this, but I’m not sold yet.

 

 

 

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Digital History Media

I am taking a graduate class this semester at UWM on Digital Media. One of the requirements for the class is that we blog about the topic of this course. As someone who studied computer technologies in the early 1980s, it is interesting to read the books that identify the genesis of ‘digital history’ in the early to mid 1990s. My digital experiences pre-date HTML code. I used something called ‘memorandum macros’ (it looked a lot like HTML) to develop adult-learning courses on UNIX and C Programming. It was a text-based word processor, useful for writing resumes as well. I still use my first public e-mail address from the early 1990s, but, before that decade, was using work email at the BellCore Training Center in Lisle, IL. It’s been about thirteen years since I quit working and teaching computer and security technology courses, but I’ve tried to keep up-to-date with new technologies for personal use – like iPhoto, iMovie, You Tube, and Facebook. I’m pretty good at Excel and Word, although a refresher course would probably be helpful as I’m sure I use the old tried and true more often than looking for the new, better and faster. I can even program in Access. I bought my first Mac in 1983 (used), but we always have both Mac and a PC at home – and I have to work with a PC at my non-profit job. I guess that makes me electronically bilingual.  I’m looking forward in this class to learning new tools that will help me more effectively produce and consume history in the digital world.

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More of the Plankinton Experience

Adding to our Plankinton experience, we are leasing an apartment on the third floor of the Plankinton building for 12 months. We leased the space to explore downtown Milwaukee on weekends, provide a writing retreat for me during the week, … Continue reading

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Use better sight to cite a site

It’s been awhile, but I’m back. In my newest endeavor to improve my skills, I have started writing a monthly local history column for the Plankinton weekly newspaper, The South Dakota Mail. As soon as I clean up the citations … Continue reading

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