Another late update

Matt reminded us in class that the blogs have been neglected so I’m updating mine, even though it’s late.  This week we made a l0ot of progress but also had some frustration.  Eva and I scheduled to go to the MHSO and finish uploading images that we could then put up on our website.  Unfortunately, someone has the scanner booked solid until tuesday so our work will have to wait until then.  However lots of other things have been completed.  I helped Anesty a bit with his Joe Romanov information and it gave me a good idea on what to create for mine.  I want our interview descriptions to be symmetrical so this really helped.  I also went through an insane amount of photographs trying to figure out what would look good oin the website.  On top of that Paul and I found a plugin called flipbook that makes the images in our gallery appear as though they are being presented in a scrapbook instead of the typical boring gallery display.  It’s down to the wire on this thing, but we have everything besides our popcorn app and scanning complete.  Really looking forward to see how the website looks!

Weekly Update

This week, and a few times in previous weeks, I have been visiting the MHSO archives and exploring the data and images they have.  The person I’m focusing on for our group, Stanley Frolick, has a wealth of information on him including interviews, pictures, and other information.  My favourite part of seeing all this is the amount of pictures he has.  Out of all the people in our group, he has the most information on him and it’s really cool top learn about someone who was so heavily involved in the Ukrainian community and what contributions he made.  The pictures come from a variety of places including passport photos, Ukrainian community photos, and family pictures.  The way they all come together is fascinating.  The only problem I’ve been having here is I’m not exactly sure how to go about bringing these images to our website…  Eva got a great idea for putting a header of Ukrainian immigrants up and managed to retrieve it so I’m hoping she can teach me how to use the machines there.  Usually when I go Cathy is somewhere is not in for that day.  She’s in today and tomorrow though so hopefully progress on this front will be made!

 

Website update from last week

Feels like it’s been ages since I last updated this blog..  I’m going to first update what I did last week and although it’s pretty late, it wouldn’t make sense to skip such an important step.  Then tomorrow I’ll update what I’ve done for this week because I’m pretty excited about it.  Last week the majority of my website contribution was in what I could create content wise.  Everyone in our group was given a section of Ukrainian Canadian history to look at and I was given the role of the Church.  What I found was anything but your typical narrative, instead I found this section of Ukrainian history to be fascinating.  Coming from a monocultural society, many Ukrainian Canadians hated the Canadian Catholic system, much of which as Matt explained to me was due to the Great Schism.  Of course I’d heard about this but I hadn’t seen it applied to Canadian history.  If you get the chance to read up on it I highly recommend it.  The Ukrainian community brought with it a completely different outlook which was met by resistance.  Needless to say it made for a great paper and really good content for the website.  However, I needed to fix up a lot of what I had written in the essay for the website content.  I’m really happy with what I have prepared, even though it took a lot more time than expected, and I’m looking forward to uploading it later tonight.  Much of the other work I did this week had to do with research at the MHSO in Kelly Library and isn’t completely finished so I’ll have a blog post updating that later on this week.  Hope everyone elses websites are going great!

Website update week 3

This week, despite a small road bump with our meeting on thursday, we were able to gain access to a lot of the information that the MHSO has available that isn’t accessible to the public.  Going through these documents I really got a lot more excited about doing this assignment and working with the MHSO.  I picked my oral history to focus on and chose Michal Kyjovsky, but unfortunately his collection was in Ukrainian.   I ended up reassessing the collection and chose Stanley Frolick.  Listening to his history and going through some of the documents with more detail really excited me about starting my paper and getting content for the website ready.
Also this week we narrowed down each of our groups topics to do research.  There was a lot of hesitation about picking a topic, I initially thought that there would be information just handed to us and we would be putting it up on the website.  But, I like this a lot better because it makes what we need to do for our essays a lot clearer and gives me more freedom to choose something that I enjoy.  One thing I was curious about Matt is I know that we are supposed to be putting these essays onto the website but some of the material I have I dont think will translate very well to my section.  Also, since I have two major “topics”  for my portion of the website, an oral history as well as my research trying to incorporate them into my essay would fragment it and not make for a very good essay.  Should I focus on my oral history or my research.  I was thinking about stringing my oral history through my research in the essay but again, I feel like that may come off as very forced to someone reading my paper.

Website update week 2

This week our group got a grasp on how we would be handling our projects and what our project would be on.  This week my job was writing up about the challenges our group may face along with with the annotated bibliography for our groups proposal.  Many of the sources we’re analyzing look at the Ukrainian community in Sudbury, something that I didn’t expect to see.  The main thing we accomplished this week was establishing a foundation for our project and outlining goals and a timeline for when we expect certain areas of our assignment to be completed and uploaded.

In addition to this, we also went through numerous sources provided by the MHSO and tried to decide which ones would be useful in our project.  Most of these are written up in the annotated bibliography and described.  I found the oral histories to be the most beneficial aspect of these because not only were they interesting, but they gave us an idea of what to expect when preparing for our website.

We also met with our contact in the MHSO which went very well.  It was explained to us that the Multicultural History Society of Ontario’s websites purpose is to provide resources for people to research and understand the multicultural environment of Canada.  While the website has been pretty much completed, they are looking for a sample site to be made to demonstrate what can be done with this information.  Even though the outline was ambiguous, I really liked this because it gives us a lot of wiggle room to try many of the examples we have seen from the website reviews.  Depending on the MHSO’s opinion of our website, it may be added to their site which is exciting.  We have also been given our website and are really looking forward to posting on it and getting the website started.

 

First update on Assignment

The first week of working on the assignment made a lot more progress than I expected.  The biggest thing for me was a program that Paul recommened I take called Code Academy.  For anyone who find the idea of writing or reading a lot of the javascripts for web diesign it is incredibly helpful.  It’s an interactive program that isolates areas of code and teaches you how they work and how you can apply those scripts to your own pages.  For anyone reading this who’s interested the link is www.codeacademy.com .  You don’t need to make and account or anything and it’s 100% free.  I feel a lot better about creating a webpage.  In addition to this I was looking up cool features that can be applied to a website and found some good ideas that I’m going to bring up when our group meets on thursday.

Each member of our group also chose one of the ethnic groups and was asked to learn what they could about them to apply to the website and build it up.  However, the only information I could find, without going down to the museum, was the reference numbers for microfilms.  I also accidentilly stumbled upon Mesquite High School’s Car Wash Fundraiser. Beyond the books in Kelly Library, there isn’t much I can do without actually making it down to the museum myself.  Our group is meeting before the next class and we will discuss when we will go down to the museum.  I will be going to the museum next week though and describe what I learn from it in my blog.

We also got an email back from Cathy Leekam after Eva sent an initial message saying that she could meet with us thursday afternoon or friday, and that she would be able to meet us on campus at Kelly Library or in the museum.  Super excited about this because if we need to meet with someone quickly it looks like we will be able to find someone on camups.

Educational Games

I understand that using video games can be really helpful in understanding things in a historical context.  Although I haven’t played it, I heard besides the Assassin in Assassins Creed 3, everyone was there during the Civil War.

Video games would be a great medium for getting historical facts across to the gamers.  These games have become so incredibly efficient at delivering a sense of accomplishment that it would be simple to incorporate historical events and themes without changing what people love about their games.  The way everyone I know seems to play videogames we could end up with a generation of people who’s heads are filled with historical facts rather than being able to recite all the Pokemon.  They will learn history because by wasting their 20’s playing video games, and will escape their dissatisfaction (and learn more history) by playing more video games. Rinse, repeat.

The only thing I was concerned about when reading this is who would be in charge of content?  I used to play video games years ago and 80 percent of the games available were awful.   There was a subsection of awful so bad that it defied all logic.  The gaming industry licenses the rights to make games on their console.  In the perfect world this would be a good way to prevent developers who would misuse the medium.  However, when it comes to these developers, bad stuff accumulates with the good and the more successful they are the less anyone tries to stop it.  That’s because as long as money is coming in who cares?  The most successful console will attract diseased games and because it’s successful people won’t care.

In this sense it’s sort of like Wikipedia.  I can be a very useful tool in getting information across to people, but you need to be wary of where the information is coming from.

Website Review

For my website review I looked at the website www.ancientcivilizations.co.uk.  The website was created in 2004 by the British Museum and looks at ancient civilizations from around the world.  Using popular topics such as ancient Egypt, the user is able to look through areas like religion, structures, and technology.  You can choose whether or not to browse by an area of the world, or if you don’t have anything specific in mind, a theme.  The project is aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 14 as well as their teachers, but hopes that other groups finds the website useful.  The website interested me because of how easy it is to navigate and find information in the site.  By clicking on one area of the map the user is launched into the various practices and structures of the ancient world.  Also, giving the user all the power to navigate the site and explore ancient civilizations for themselves interests children more because it allows them to find what interests them and allows them to explore that topic.

The approach of the website is to create a user friendly and interesting website where younger children can explore ancient historical sites.  Information is organized thematically allowing students to understand particular civilizations in themed contexts.  The purpose of this is to allow them to make their own connections between societies of the past as well as to allow them to channel their own understanding of ancient civilizations, and to ultimately broaden it.  For instance, when exploring the city of Mohenjo-daro the student can click the area of the city they want to explore and then click on whatever areas they want to learn about.   The website works to create an educationally sound online resource that can be used both independently and in the school setting.   Also, by using artifacts from the British Museum’s collection, there is an attempt to get the user interested in visiting the museum and learning more there.

The sites design is my favorite part of the website, it’s easy to navigate and very user friendly.  The website encourages the user to create their own way through the site and to learn at their leisure.  Very rarely I came across an area where I couldn’t navigate my way back to the main page but that was easily fixed by hitting the back button.  Information is presented in small pieces to make sure to keep the attention of the intended audience.  Also images are constantly incorporated which makes it easy to visualize what somethings purpose was.  Images are often interactive so you can click an area of the image to learn more about it.   For example, the mummification section in ancient Egypt shows various pots and an open and closed sarcophagus.  Clicking these items is encouraged to learn about the items and see how they relate to the broader theme.

At the bottom of the map there are options to explore the world through themes or to just go to a certain civilization.  The civilizations thrived in different time periods and a timeline can be used where the cursor is dragged to the time period you want.  When you first click it, it quickly goes over the entire time period and you can see civilizations rising and falling.  This was my favorite feature of the site.

Overall I really liked this website it gave me a lot of ideas for my project.  It is incredibly useful for demonstrating an effective way to organize a lot of ideas in an effective, easily accessible site.  The site also encourages the user to make their own way through the historical records and explore history for themselves which I found to be very effective in capturing peoples attention.  It’s easy for a highly ambitious project like this to become convoluted and messy, but I found this to be the opposite.  I enjoyed navigating it and think it’s a great introductory resource for learning about ancient civilizations.

GIS

Employing GIS brings so many new mediums to historians to analyze and becomes very helpful when trying to understand historical context.  Having history presented in maps, texts, graphs, images, ect make it easier to objectively demonstrate change over time.  Additionally, when people see a particularly strange set of data they can look further into that area to understand subtle hints in the data.  Focusing on verbal texts limits the historian, and while doing the readings I was thinking about how many things that are overlooked in history could be uncovered by utilizing these sources.

If we don’t use these other sources we have to put a tremendous amount of faith in these text based sources.  While we learn to find biases and try to look at things objectively problems still arise.  Most people were taught that spinach is high in iron, for proof of this look up Popeye.  However, this is a mistake people believe because of a typo made in an 1870 German study.  The study mistakenly put the decimal place for spinach’s iron content one place over.  This typo led people to believe that spinach had ten times the amount of iron.  This 140 year old typo still influences our perception of spinach to this day.  Even credible sources like Encyclopedia Britannica claim that spinach is loaded with iron.  If other sources were used such as graphs showing spinach’s nutritional value we would be able to easily see that spinach’s irons content is actually no more “loaded” then watermelon and no where near the level of red meat.

Getting information this way is a lot easier to process and allows us to get a lot of information without having to read an entire essay.  If GIS was used more to teach and understand history it could clear up a lot of misunderstandings people have about historical events.  A prevalent stereotype we have about the Native Americans is that they were primitive and environmentally friendly.  However, if a graph or images were used to look at Aboriginals tree clearing practices we would be able to see a much different story.  In fact, there is a team of Stanford environmental scientists who believe that this massive deforestation may have actually been the cause of a mini ice age in Europe. The way you historical information is presented is crucial.

Designing the Historical Website

Not only is it important to be aware of the information on historical websites but the presentation is equally important.  Underdeveloped websites tend to create skepticism and sites  representing certain institutions or societies demand more in terms of designs.  Looking at the websites that have been presented in class I also noticed something else.  One of the most important things to look for in a website was how the information is presented.  Some of the best designs are the ones that kept it basic, like the Chicago fire website.  Other ones, like the spider web site, were over ambitious and information got lost in its complexity.  I don’t think it’s only the visuals of the historical websites design that’s important its the way information is presented.

If I asked you if you wanted to watch a show about tricking child molesters into trying to molest children you would probably laugh in my face.  To Catch a Predator ended in 2007 but I only finally watched it earlier this week and I was instantly hooked.  The first episode I saw had a naked child predator covering his pixelated erection while Chris Hansen asked him why he was there.  Luckily he was only there to warn her about the dangers of chatting with older men online but there were many more predators.  They would get them to bring in specific items, I think to prove intent, which could range from condoms to an entire apple pie.  I’m not kidding, one of the predators actually brought in an entire apple pie.

Television does this with everything from watching people bid on abandoned storage units to watching middle class Americans being yelled at by the British.  Since the internet has so many capabilities it shouldn’t be hard to try and get people interested in the subject of the site.  If we capture the users attention judgements on the sites validity may not come into question as much.  An example of this is Assassins Creed 3.  I haven’t played my PS3 in years but apparently the whole game is historically accurate, every person you run into was actually present for the Civil War.  Of course this game had a huge budget and many historians do not have those sorts of funds.  However, with a captivating idea for a medium I don’t think all the flash is necessary for a historical website.  It could be as simple as narrating a youtube video of a well known street in British Columbia.