BLog # 14 Delays and Setbacks

I think that most people are sharing the same problem as I am. Midterm week is upon us and our work and there have been slightly delayed. Nevertheless we are all pushing through and I want to wish everyone good luck on the work they have.

Last week I commented on how I will be doing my essay on Ukrainian Canadians in the Second World War.  Due to the lack of sources, I decided to switch topics looking at the origins of certain Ukrainian Nationalistic groups like the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its counterpart in Canada the Ukrainian National Federation. In the oral history I am listening to, Joe talks a lot about his experience with the OUN in Canada. More so then he does with his experience in the Second World War.  Due to the lack of sources and the amount of information I can draw from his interview I think this is a good change.

As discussed last week by Eva, there is a lot of controversy with the OUN particularly dude to their involvement with the Nazi’s. In my paper whoever I plan to write about the origins of each group. How they were formed, and their involvement with Ukrainian Canadians in Ontario are some questions my paper will seek to answer. It should be noted that I will not be writing my paper in the standard argumentative fashion as most essays are comprised of. It will be an encyclopedic entry about these two groups.  As I understand this topic of controversy which is associated with the OUN is what Eva will be writing on. So I will happy leave the debit on Ukraine to the Ukrainian.

As for my progress in coding academy, I have to report that I haven’t made any progress. There have just been too many things on what with the essay, mid-term from another class, and actual work that I do in order to pay for this education. I will have to delay this lesson in coding for next week when I have more time to work on it.

Blog # 13 Getting Started

So due to time constraints on my work schedule and because a truck load of homework has been dropped on my lap for this week, I have taken the liberty of writing my blog a lot earlier so I can get it done on time. This week my group and I have started looking into the oral histories which we will be using for the website for the MHSO as well as the focus for our Essays due in February.  The oral history I have chosen is about the story told by Joe Romanow.

As I write this I have only gotten through two of the four audio files which have been posted by our MHSO contact. His story is really interesting as he recalls tales of why his father and mother moved to Canada, or the fact that he was a World War II pilot who was stationed around the coast of France then transferred to become a transport pilot in London. One of my personal favorites of his story is when he begins to talk about his Post-War activities, such as gathering information for Ukrainians who were tuck in Allied Germany and were looking for ways to get out of the Country.

While I don’t as of this moment have a specific topic on what to write about in my essay, I have looked into some general sources such as Ukrainian immigration to Canada and their experiences, areas in Toronto in which they have lived in, and aspects of Ukrainian nationalism in Canada.

This week in coding academy, my group worked on using Python syntax. Again this type of coding was not really difficult for me as I have work with some of it during that course I mentioned two blogs ago in High school. The concept of variables and making calculations is straight forward and for me, easy to work with.

Blog # 12 Brainstorming

I think that this week my blog entry can be summed up by one word: brainstorming. To be completely honest, I don’t think I have ever been exited to create something like this before. On Thursday, all of us discussed the idea on how the website was supposed to work. I envisioned an idea of the layout being similar to that of a mind map. The user would click on certain headings and the site would re-direct them to another page containing that specific information. It would also cater to the users learning style. Not everyone is akin to the conventional written learning, so oral and visual information will be presented for the reader to learn about our intended group.

Liam, Paul, Eva, and I, all met up on Thursday to discuss with our “boss” so to say about what the Multicultural Historic Society of Ontario wanted for their extension to their website. We narrowed it down to one of two groups which our website will focus on: Native Americans or Ukrainians. As I am writing this the groups is learning towards the Ukrainian group. We were supposed to make a final decision on Monday, but since I was not able to make it to the meeting, I am not entirely sure what group we have chosen. However, I am sure that the meeting went well and when I catch up with them on Thursday, we will be set on the right track to create this extension of the MHSO’s website in no time.

On a very quick side note: my coding academy experience went well. This week I finished up a section called “web fundamentals” were it basically outlined the basic functions of Html, like adding pictures, creating links, and bolding text. This lesson was quick to do, because we have already practice these things in class. I do however feel as if once I venture in new aspects of coding it will begin to present a challenge. So I apologize in advance about the ranting this blog will become in the future.

Blog # 11 Strengths and Weaknesses

I can’t say that during the winter break I was able to practice any of my coding skills. Activities like playing drunk Halo with your friends do not require anyone knowing how to work CSS or javascript. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one who felt that they needed to brush up on their coding. All of the member in my group admit to this, and since this project requires a lot of expertise in this field, we all thought it was a good idea to practice via Code Academy. This introduction to coding comprised of seven lessons which gave us a basic introduction to different types of code.

While taking the lesson on Java script I began to remember a lot of the things which I learned back in my tenth grade coding class. Booleans and “If” statements are examples of code which I have worked with before for one of the assignments I had to do in the class. With another classmate, we worked on making a casino blackjack game with would allow the user to make bets, pass on cards, etc.

It also allowed me to indentify my strengths and weaknesses on the project. I would be lying to say that I did not run into any problems. While doing the Java script lesson, I was tasked to make the computer read calculate a certain value and display to me a prompt to indicate if the math expression was right or wrong. This was troubling for me because it required me to write this code by myself. When trying to write code from a blank page, I was stuck for a good couple of hours.

On the other hand, lessons in which I was required to edit text, I found that I flew through.  When editing code I seem to catch things quickly, however I am not very strong at creating it from scratch.  Hopefully I will be able to implement these qualities into our Project.

Blog # 10: Historic Gaming

It is always informative and insightful when this class has discusses how historians can present history in a number of different ways. We have already talked about incorporating our historical knowledge to websites and oral history, but this week’s readings touched a little closer to home, for me at least. As an active gamer, I am well versed in almost all of the games that these authors have touched based on such as Civilization III (ah the memories) and understand why they would suggest such an interactive medium to the study of history.

Certainly games defiantly bring an interest into the subject matter it is depicting. After playing the Real Time Strategy game Age of Empires II I found myself diving deep into the historical events that the game highlighted. I remember Googling what exactly happened when Saladin’s army attacked Jerusalem in 1187.

However, games which take place in a historical time period could also bring problems towards this interactive method in terms of publishing and the content that is depicted. Currently, “historical” based games are not known for their ability to educate gamers on the events which had happened. For example, triple A franchise such as Assassins Creed and Call of Duty are not interested in recreating a place in time for the viewer to learn from, but instead are only interested in selling the most copies. During the years since the first home gaming consul, gaming developers have become more and more like business (which, to give them credit, they are) and seek to create games which can be marketed and liked for everyone. Historians looking towards this interactive medium will be very disappointed when games like these place the player in a historical time period and say “Ramirez! Take out those Nazis by the giant Hitler gun on top of the Normandy Cliffside!”

This is not to say that all games are like this however. Age of Empires III and the Civilization games have actually went out of their to teach gamers about historical aspects and events which took place. The Civilization games recreate famous battles such The Battle of Trafalgar. In Age of Empires there is an extra section similar to an encyclopedia where gamers can read about the historical weaponry and the battles which took place in colonial America. Defiantly there is some benefit for using video games to showcase history. Obviously it can give viewers an interest in the time period it is depicting, and if done right can actually educate the viewer. But at the same time, the gaming industry is a business and publishers are not always keen on creating educational gamers for their player base. Games can pull you in into a world where you are someone else, save the world countless times, and learn about the world which is created by the developers. Can they be used to showcase history? It is all a matter of opinion.

Blog # 8: Free Internet

This week’s readings had us look into the idea of copyright and the idea of free software. Our readings involved this notion applied to aspects of software and programming; moving away from the aspect of, what Richard Stallman notes as developers controlling programs and thereby its users.

What I want to respond to is how this notion has translated to not only those in software, but to other facets of the online community as well. I’m not sure if any of you remember but last year thousands of interneties faced with a dilemma known as the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. Essentially these law would prevent internet users for viewing material that was deemed protected under this act; the definition of said material was so vague that almost anyone could claim protection for material they own. This was a huge deal for the gaming community, as we would long longer be able to watch our beloved “Lets Plays” or parody videos of our favorite games.

Now of course their we’re, and will still be, copyright laws that will try to protect artists material but this one is so far the most well known. I mean, if you can get google, wikkipedia, and reddit to shut down their sites to protest such an act then I would say that it is a pretty big deal. The whole point of this example is, that this idea of free software applies to most of the things you find on the internet. Just like programmers viewers are also unhappy about the commercialization of their internet. As Richard Stallman notes we need to think of free software as freedom of speech and we do that then a whole other realm of this digital age becomes accessible.

Blog # 7: Oral History

Ever since I enrolled in history here at UofT, I have always wondered why historians tend to focus on the bigger picture of things. It really didn’t bother me until the last couple of years where I started to feel as if historians tend to generalize an assumption about a particular generation or group of people.  Maybe that is just because of the courses I was enrolled in, but I felt that historians were evaluating their evidence similar to how someone in statistics would make a statement based on the majority of a percentage.

As Thompson notes, oral history allows us critically to approach the evidence in new directions which breaks us away from these over arching conclusions that we (as historians) tend to make. ( 24) It gives us a more personal look into history such as family life giving us insight into how exactly how internal relationships worked for the people living in a time period. (25) As Alessandro Portelli notes, oral history give us less about the facts and more about what certain events meant to people. (67) And that is what we strive for as historians: to uncover the meaning of a particular event. Oral history does this in a way that we can learn about how this on the individual level rather than the general one.

Website Review

The website that I choose to review is a site called Worldology.com. I first remember viewing this site when I was in high school. My European History teacher would use it to give us a visual understanding of where major events took place on the map. The site acts as an interactive time line that gives users an idea to where these events happened, while also giving information on significant events on the time period that the users is viewing.

Worldology takes a geographical approach to understanding history and is concerned with major historical and political events that took place from the beginning of human settlement to current events in our time. Casey Fisher, the sites owner and created, states that Worldology was conceived as a way to make historical events more easily distinguishable and understandable for readers.[1] The idea of an interactive map was a way that he felt deepens understandings of these events by providing an interactive interface to accurately visualize the evolution of various nations and cultures.[2] Fisher wishes to complete this interactive format for the entire world, and plans to accompany it with consistent blog posts about his progress.[3] Unfortunately, his last blog post on the site was on September 16th 2009, where he lets users know that he has completed the interactive map of Iraq.

There is nothing flashy when one logs onto Worldology. Once at the home page, Users are immediately treated to a small scale version of an interactive map of Europe. At the top of the page, viewers have a list of options which can take them to another interactive map of Iraq, the websites blog, a timeline of major events listed on the map, and a list of various articles that link back to the historical map. On the interactive map, all one needs to do is move their cursor over the info key to get information about a particular event associated in the region it is on.  Aside from that, Wordology is quite plain and straightforward in its appearance, making it very simply to use.

However the webpage is not without its faults. Advertisements riddle the page with distracting information on the top and side of the web page. For example, when I first log onto the website, my eyes immediately went to the advertisements rather than the map. When advertisements are the first things that catch a viewers eye it hinders a sites claim that they are trying to make it distinguishable for viewers. This, on top of Worldology’s simple design, makes it look mediocre when compared to other scholarly websites, and may turn some users when looking for something which looks a little more professional.

Overall, I think that the site offers wonderful insight into certain events that happened in Europe to its respective time period. It gives a different insight then the conventional textbook approach of reading about events on a page. Viewers are able to physically see the boarders of Napoleonic France, and their retraction in the 19th century, as well as the movement of the front line during the First World War. However I would not use it for any type of research due to lack of citation. In the articles written, Fisher gives no indication as to where he cites his information. As one user puts it, I would not recommend this to those who are interested in researching history due to the absence of authorship.

 


[1] Casey, Fisher. Worldology, LLC, “Worlology.” Last modified 2009. Accessed October 14, 2012. http://www.worldology.com/about.htm.

[2] (Casey 2009)

[3] (Casey 2009)

Blog # 6: Google does not make us Stupid

Is Google making us stupid? I do not think so. Nicholas Carr discusses this idea in his article which is conveniently entitled after my first sentence. Carr has this notion that because people have shifted away from physically looking for information, to searching online, they seem to have lost their ability to critically evaluate things. He refers to statements made by his friends who note this change in their experience while blogging and even states that the Net is “chipping away his capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

Personally, this is an overreaction to say that one can no longer sit down and read War and Peace because the internet has deemed it so. However, I do agree with Carr however that this medium has changed our way of thinking. No longer do we have to spend hours on end looking for one phrase in a 2000 page tome. William Turkel notes that search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Ask use RSS feeds to help a user find the information they need by connecting it popular tags. This is similar to how neurons in our brains work. They make connections to things which are relevant to the subject that we are thinking about creating a whole spider web of ideas which are linked together.

Yes, some people are more inclined to skim though an article in order to look for that important piece of information, but that does not change their ability to critically use said piece of information and evaluate it. This is just a different approach to understanding something. This, to me, is not something that makes one “stupid” but just facilitates for a different way of understanding things. If I was not able to think critically then how would I be writing this 300 whatever blog critically responding to Carr argument? As his example from the University College London says, “it is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense.” Which is true, yet it has not changed our ability to critically evaluate things.

Gamer Rewards Blog # 5

One of the most interesting aspects that I found to come out of this week’s readings is the idea of “classic game rewards” (CGR) and the idea of giving contributors a sense of purpose when contributing to a website. Coming from someone who has experience in gaining, these rewards this idea makes sense. Often time’s video games will employ a system of achievements which allow players to gain points for completing certain milestones or objectives. Similar to what Shaun Graham and his colleges explained, these achievements makes the gamer feel as if they are progressing and making an obvious impact when trying to beat a game. This however is a competitive system used to show other gamers that they are better and more skillful at a game.

Some historical websites have already implemented this feature, such as ansesstry.ca and Wikipedia. Users who access these sites feel as if they are contributing in some way to their individual history (for ancestry) or to the collective of those who seek knowledge (Wikkipedia).  In their web article about gathering and preserving history on the web, Dan Cohen, and Roy Rosenweig explain how various 9/11 historical sites were created by testimonies contributions of people who had experienced the disaster. They did this because they felt as if they had a sense of purpose, to preserve the memory of such a historic event. These people who contributed obviously felt like they were making an obvious impact in preserving that moment.

CGR also gives us insight into how we can solve some of the problems presented in last week’s readings. Katherine Corbett, Benjamin Filene, and Graham Carr all brought up the idea of making history more accessible to the public. By giving people the opportunity to feel as if they are contributing to something that matters.