Movin’ on up.

This week, with the (hopeful) submission of all our essays behind us, the task that lies at the forefront of our colossal mound of work is that of the creation of our website. We have our content, now it’s time to focus on the building blocks of this entire project; the actual physical website.

First off, we need to obtain (through conducting) the audio interviews that will encompass the “the People” part of the website. This task will progress as fast as the Ethics board of at the University will let it; approval would ensure our ability to start conducting the actual interviews. In the mean time however, making sure we maintain constant interaction with the contacts that we have already established regarding our project is crucial. This is to ensure that the interviewees understand that they will be conducted in the near future.

The purpose of the site is not only to be one that is extremely informative regarding historical information about Toronto’s Regent Park, but to also serve as a visually appealing multimedia preservation initiative. To do this, we first need to find old (preferably black and white for effect) pictures from the local archives, and contrast them to pictures that we have taken ourselves. This involves frequent travel to and from the Park, which I see as a gift in disguise; the more time we spent on location, the tighter our grasp on knowledge (whether it be cultural, historical, architectural) of Regent Park.

Progress is good, more progress is better.

Hurdles

Things are getting done, one hurdle at a time.

The new requirement+ interface just hushed my biggest fear of this entire project (the actual site itself) And historical information regarding demographics and housing within regent parks are free-flowing, to the point of having to pick and choose articles based on relevancy. I’d MUCH rather have too much research than too little, so this is some good news from team Regent Park.

In my previous post I expressed concern regarding the Ethics approval form from the University of Toronto. Turns out that all we needed was a quick sit-down session with all the members of the group to hash out the finer details of the actual form in order to complete it in it’s entirety! Now all that should remain is the fine-tuning of the form, combined with actual submission and finally, hopeful approval.

 

The Fine Script

This week poses a huge task which determines our ability to continue with the project; the completion and further approval of our interview methods and questions by the Ethics department of the University. Whilst I know  that our methods and questions will fall well within the guidelines of what is determined to be ethical,  I have fears as to how long the authentication process might take.  The key here is to use our time wisely, which is why further research and cataloging will occur during the wait period between the submission of the form and the beginning of the interviews.

The interviews are going to be crucial parts of our site; it will allow the audience to further connect in a non-visual way to the “People of Regent Park”, and will also provide us with our own primary sources to cornerstone the “History of Regent Park” part of the website. Therefore, it is crucial that the faster that these interviews get done, the faster we can move past the daunting task and proceed onto more important ones like the development and beautification of the website itself.

Hit the Ground Running

With constructive work meetings with Matt (our “sponsor”) and within our own group, coupled with meetings further scheduled in the near future, productivity is hardly going to be an issue with looming deadline for the proposal.

However, this couldn’t be the least of my worries.

I’m concerned about the sheer workload that will undoubtedly follow the essay proposal, whereby the daunting task of creating an interactive website within the lesser part of three months becomes a reality. Will the project be complete by the time the deadline is due? The pride and stubbornness already invested into this project won’t let myself and my teammates say otherwise (if they so let me speak on their behalf). The main issue here lies within whether we manage to implant the idea in which we have installed into our minds upon a computer screen. More specifically, a web browser. Our website looks like what it should be, simple yet complex, elegant yet dense. However, it hasn’t seen more than a piece of paper at this point. How complex will the procedure of taking this idea and turning it into a concrete piece of historical documentation be?

Whilst my sentiments might sound pessimistic, that’s not exactly how I feel about the project and the work that lies ahead. Consider it more of a nervous excitement. Cautious optimism, if you will.

Civilization III and HistoriCanada Patch Download Tutorial

Hello History Hackers!

This is a quick (hopefully not overly vague) method of downloading the video game Civilization III and the HistoriCanada patch, which allows players to replicate events surrounding Canada’s History based on the Civilization III game platform.

Enjoy everyone, Good luck :)

Disclaimer:
THIS WILL NOT WORK ON MACINTOSH IOS, OR OTHER APPLE PLATFORMS. UNFORTUNATELY THE “HISTORICANADA” PATCH IS WINDOWS SPECEFIC.

Step #1:
Head over to the Steam Online Store. The specific link for the Civilization game is here . Feel free to explore the site, you’ll find a bunch of amazing games at (usually discounted) prices.

Step #2:
Clink the link that reads “Add to Cart”, and proceed to further click the link that reads “Purchase for myself”

Step #3:
You will then be prompted to create a Steam account and download the Steam client. You will have to pay $2.49 for this game. Rest assured, with my word as a recreational gamer (and as other more intense gamers will undoubtedly testify similarly), Steam is a trustworthy company that will keep your credit card information safe and secure. The purpose of the Steam client is to engage the gamer in a program that has its vast catalogue of games carried by the Steam Company available online, to both download on the spot or play and download at a later date. Furthermore, the Steam client ensures that all the games that you’ve downloaded over time will be saved to your now-online Steam account, allowing you to play the games that you desire on a computer that isn’t the specific one that you downloaded the game upon.  It’s extremely interesting to note how that works; how technology and the internet have made the concept of the video-game CD obsolete.

Step #4:
Make your way to a new website; this one being the site for The History Game Canada, more specifically known as HistoriCanada. The exact link for the download page is here. Taking some time to scroll through the remainder of the pages would prove extremely beneficial as to how to game works. It mentions on the site itself that the game was merely meant to be the “What if…?” regarding Canadian History, whilst the site’s intention was to be one that answered the questions surrounding “What was…?”. The site itself displays an external search link for Canadian Encyclopaedias, and also boasts a Forum. Unfortunately, clicking upon the forum link revealed itself to be dead, displaying the evident age, and (lack of) recent relevancy of the game.

Step #5:
The instructions on how to manipulate the HistoriCanada patch on Civilization III is available on the HistoriCanada website, which reads:
1)Download the History Game Canada installer using the link to the left
2) Run the installer
3) Wait for the installer files to extract, this may take several minutes
4) Follow the on-screen instructions
5)Launch the game using the Desktop shortcut or start menu installer.
6) The game works in most situations running Windows Vista and 7, but testing is not complete.

Step #6:
Have some fun with the game! The extremely popular RTS (Real Time Strategy) game genre is one that puts the power of moving and controlling vast amounts of troops in war-themed specific events, at the hands of the game player. Manipulation of the general landscape through mass expansion, coupled with the diversity of troops available to be controlled should provide an enjoyable gaming experience  Furthermore, the HistoriCanada patch allows players to further specify their gaming experience, to isolate the overarching theme of the game between the years 1525 to 1763 in Canada.

Hope this helps!

Immersive History: Games and Simulations

Historical games are the future of gaming.

Broad statement, true. True statement, truer.

With games like the Assassins Creed series already achieving mass appeal and popularity over recent years, and the Medal of Honour-type games that dominated recent history, it is evident that games based off historical events have a very prominent niche within the gaming stratosphere.

It’s evident where the appeal for these games lie; the ability for the player to fully immerse themselves within locations and events that shaped the world as we know it today seems extremely appealing. The action-packed, adrenaline inducing story lines, coupled with the blood and gore now mandatory with most video games creates a recipe that would also appeal immediately to the vast majority of the gaming demographic; teenage and early-twenties males.

It’s only in due time that the niche grows and eventually explodes, finding games based off historical events seeping into other genres of the gaming universe, eventually taking over.

I’m all for the growth and popularity of historical video games, the increased popularity would in time make the subject matter more relevant, making extremely interesting historical information that would otherwise go unnoticed susceptible to the technology and further research available in today’s society. Plus, let’s be honest gentlemen (and female gamers), how amazing would an Assassin’s Creed movie be?

The other half of me is overjoyed that historical games are being used to educate children on the importance of History. Children will never lose the eternal need to play games, so why not incorporate historical information with it? Let the kids learn about Napoleon’s failure in Russia by being Napoleon in Russia.

This whole topic about video games has me feeling like a kid in a candy store, I hope that fact isn’t too blatant. Childhood nostalgia has found me downloading Civilization III on my laptop, coupled with the new view that the game can not only bring forth several (perhaps too many) hours of fun, but also copious amounts of relevant historical knowledge.

The game’s almost done downloading. When it has, I’ll see you guys in March.

Website Assignment

I feel as if more often than not, the arts receive a significant amount of favour in the eyes of historians. I conducted an experiment to prove this hypothesis. I collected a small sample size of 5 post-graduate students, and asked them if push came to shove and they had to write one essay; either on the History of Visual Art or the History of European Football, which they would choose. A unanimous pattern became apparent, as the hypothetical History of Art essay prevailed. Upon asking one of the students why they made that decision, I found myself agreeing with her when she stated that she made her choice “because art is more historical”. Upon asking her to further elaborate, she mentioned that there would be far greater resources that lay within the topic of the History of Visual Art, than the History of European Football. There would simply be more books, websites and primary documents that would relate directly to the artistic topic. A quick Google search proved her statement correct; there were very few websites dedicated solely to the history of the sport. I tallied about 5-6 sites contained useful information regarding the topic of European Football. I then took my investigation to a personal level and proceeded to find websites that related directly to the history of my favourite sport; Hockey. I always thought of Hockey as a sport that had a historical past that was deeply embedded into the soil of our country; so imagine my shock when I found a mere 3-4 sites containing relevant information regarding the history of Hockey. Most of the useful historical sites were blogs, but I was absolutely stunned to find a plethora of relevant, interesting historical information regarding the sport in a website that revolves around a location extremely close to home.

The Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) is located right here in Toronto, and boasts some of the most extensive and interactive hockey exhibits known to the sport. It is directly affiliated with the wealthy National Hockey League, which entitles it to a hefty amount of income as far as budgets are concerned. This is displayed within the building itself, which is extremely up-to-date and visually appealing, making it any Hockey fan’s Mecca. Having been there many a time and witnessing the visual and historical prowess that the HHOF displays in its actual building, I was anticipating the same in its website. Due to the fact that it was affiliated with an extremely high-grossing company, I was hoping for a sleek, stylish website design with an extremely interactive interface and media coming out its ears. I was not disappointed. However, I was not impressed either.

The front page was extremely visually appealing, with bright colours and attractive pictures littered throughout its entirety. However, I couldn’t help but feel as if the layout was extremely text-heavy, giving the website a cluttered first impression. It is evident that the site is consistently updated with recent news, as an interesting picture gallery that the site uploaded revolves around the cancer-awareness movement called “Movember”, and it’s relation to hockey (Hockey’s Memorable Moustaches).

The actual act of navigating through the page is an absolute disaster. The top bar of the website is scattered with drop-down menus that clog up and inhibit the user’s interaction with the page. The sheer quantity of these troublesome drop-down menus also creates the feeling of claustrophobia as you navigate through it, making it extremely unappealing. However, the site has some extremely useful information regarding each and every one of their exhibits, with fantastic pictures coupled with useful historical information on each exhibit’s page. The main exhibits page displays an interactive map of the actual HHOF, and the site regarding the exhibit on the Montreal Canadiens Dressing Room displays the usefulness of the pictures and the extent of the historical information regarding the exhibit. Whilst this method is extremely useful, it can’t help but reek of being outdated. In today’s technological age, many other historical websites (with significantly less money) are able to create an interactive video-tour of the exhibits, which prove even more useful and visually appealing to the user of the site. Unfortunately, the theme of out datedness runs rampant throughout the site.

Upon clicking the Face-Off Interplay link at the navigational bar on the top of the page, you are brought to a website that would not look out of place on the internet in the late 90’s. The whole concept of the “Face-Off Interplay” seems a little redundant, as most of the information there could be easily summarized and placed under various other sub-headings. It is from this page that users can access the audio and video files in the site. The site boasts massive amounts of video of hockey old and new, yet it is evident that the interface was mishandled. Yet again the site provides the information, but does not organize it in a way that would prove easy for the user, instead resulting to small text and video files that would not be found if the search engine in the user’s browser was not used.

All in all, I can almost understand and justify the fact that historians would rather dwell on subjects that they are familiar with; on a subject that they know enough about to either organize and classify themselves, or known enough by others to have been organized clearly beforehand. For the average hockey fan, the website might be more than substantial, but it is more than evident as to why the position “Hockey Historian” is found few and far between.

Designing Digital Projects

This week’s readings were extremely useful in displaying the fundamental and necessary skills to create a web site that would not only display historical information, but make it extremely accessible and enjoyable for users who’s intentions aren’t solely historically based. I feel as if the ultimate goal of these websites ( and in a few weeks our websites ) are to make history palatable for the average internet user.

After mulling it over in my head, I’ve come to the conclusion that creating this Website is going to be a lot like writing an essay. Not the essay’s that we’re (post-secondary students) accustomed to writing, instead think more along the lines of the overly-structured, broadly themed essays that we’re taught to write in Grade 9.

Hear me out here.

I often tell the secondary students that I teach to start out with a wide, broad descriptive line that states the overarching topic of their argument. The purpose of these lines is to engage with the reader, and to make the essay easier for the reader to relate to. In other words, first impressions mean everything. The visual design of our websites are the introductory lines of their essays. By creating a website that is visually appealing, the reader is given an instant positive first impression, enticing them to further explore the site. By further exploring the site, the reader will (hopefully sooner than later) get to the bare bones of your intentions upon the creation of your site; the thesis of your hypothetical essay.

The thesis is the relevant historical information in relation to the overall layout of the website. If the actual historical information flows effortlessly throughout the site without any obvious breaks or interruptions throughout, the hypothetical thesis can be considered complete and defended. By combining the concept of a visually appealing website with one that is also historically informative, the reader enjoys their time spent there. This would make the website more and more popular and relevant as time passes.

Somehow I can’t help but feel that I lost you; and if I did, I’m terribly sorry.

Perhaps I should leave drawing random parallels between things to politicians.

Piracy, Plagiarism, Citation

I’m torn.

More torn than the oldest pair of jeans you own.

More torn than the late-nineties hit single by tween one-hit-wonder Natalie Imbruglia.

(Look it up and thank me later)

I’m torn between GNU and the programmers. I can’t pick which side I want to get behind.They both post valid points, and even though these issues are brought to light within the “Some Easily Rebutted Objections to GNU’s Goals” section of the GNU Manifesto, it is evident the objections were not so as easy to rebut as thought. Stallman instead chose to present his rebuttals in overarching, sometimes highly childish statements. For example, when asked “Won’t programmers starve?”, he begins by stating that “I could answer that no one is forced to be a programmer.” Making statements like these are hardly going to get the backing of the internet community. Programmers, and computer literate people amass a large group of internet users, and I feel like he might of instantly lost the support of these people in relation to GNU (pronouncing the g).

What I’m truly torn about is my compassion for the programmers going up against my passion to learn and read and listen for free. I feel for the programmers. To be skilled within the art of computer knowledge is a complicated, tedious concept to master ( ask anyone in our class). These guys are well educated and versed in their abilities with computers and should be paid accordingly. However, the concept of free knowledge is something that I feel is priceless. To be able to learn about anything; whether it be facts or programming knowledge for free is something that is highly unpopular and unlikely (thus tuition fees, textbooks), and is something that must be taken advantage of and relished by eager, willing minds.

Maybe as I learn more about copyright information and free software, the answer will appear by itself. Until then, I’ll remain torn.

Oral History

History is too often viewed as boring and dry. This is (unfortunately) true. This is (even more unfortunately) the view that is instilled upon our youth maturing within the study of history. This isn’t due to the material; the content within the study of history itself is ripe with globally-influenced events that shape the world we know today. It is often the method that history is conveyed upon young minds that results in the boredom that too often accompanies the concept of studying and understanding history.

We’ve been convinced as a society that history books are the most efficient method of teaching the subject, and what’s even more unfortunate is that we’ve been generalizing history, studying groups of people as opposed to individuals. For example, we find in basic Canadian history textbooks the facts and dates and occasional primary source dictating the events of the war of 1812, but rarely more. To fully experience and appreciate history (in my honest, worthless opinion), one must be immersed in it fully, with as many bodily senses participating as possible. To relate to the previous example, if the textbook was simply formatted digitally, with audio primary sources; such as a veterans account on the events of the War of 1812, would prove surprisingly useful towards future understandings of the study of history.

This is what I find extremely interesting about Oral History. It takes the historians’ study of the subject and places them within the historical time period which comes into fruition by the mere sound of another voice. Instantly a bond is created between the historian and the subject ; a bond that can be described in no other way than extremely personal and above all other things, human.

Human history is interesting history. Interesting history is what enriches minds and creates drive and passion. We fund our public school history programs through our taxpayer dollars, the least we could do is make it interesting for the historians-to-be.