Final Project Update – Blog #7

The time has come where this week, each group presented their websites to the class. I was unable to see the final product of Team Cobra’s work, but given what I have heard them accomplish in the past, I am sure it was beautiful. Seeing though the website of Regent park was a good illustration of how fluid website design and creation processes can be, given the difference in approach they used to layout their content. I liked the before and after images idea, and I also found that their essays were better presented and easier to follow than my groups website.

Overall though, I would say that I am quite happy with what my group and I have put together as out final project. Sure there are some blank parts of missing information, needed images, and some final touches that need to be added, but as a whole I would say our structure and content are there for a user to have a somewhat enriching experience. The only thing that I am disappointed with is the fact that we could not include an oral history component where the interviews could be listened to. I think that would have added a level  of information to the website that would truly elevate the information of Ukrainian-Canadians by providing that primary research component. Nevertheless I am still happy with everything else created, and looking forward to when we all get together and present our websites to the organizations and institutions we have all been working with for the past semester.

Final Project Update – Blog #6

So things have been going well with the website. I was in charge of putting images found so far online, but the real challenge emerged when trying to find a format or layout to display them. Issues with files sizes, layouts, complex plugins, etc., started to emerge, which became a real pain. Finally though I was able to come across a gallery plugin called wp Dreamwork that was exactly what I was looking for. Acting like a slideshow, images are on a timer to change every so often, but also have a tumbnail gallery so that users can free choose which ever one they want to explore. There is also an option to full screen images and zoom into a document to view smaller objects and words, which otherwise might be hard to see. Overall I am very pleased with this plugin and am awaiting further images from my group members to upload.

I also tinkered with the layout of the website, changing page names, and putting the about section now on the front page so that the user can become aware of the sites intent right away, rather than having to go digging for it otherwise. Follow this link to http://mhso.hackinghistory.ca/ check out the progress!

Final Project Update – Blog # 5

Team Amazing’s project continues to take shape progressively. Individually we are in the final stages of collecting information that we will be putting on our website shortly; it already has the desired layout. For my end of the research, I primarily did my work on-site at MHSO, looking through their archives of images, newspapers, clippings, etc. It is truly fascinating to explore that side of history, getting close and personal with the subject matter you are covering. I was mostly looking for information of Ukrainian business operations and their progressions in Canada, with a specific focus of business co-ops and credit unions. Looking through the different pictures, advertisements and articles associated with this topic, I was able to collect some and scan them on file so as to be able to put on our website.

In regards to finding specific images and additional information for my oral interview, I found out that a lot of information exists at the Archives of Ontario. I will be visiting this location later this week, so as to acquire more information and images that will complement any previous information I have acquired, as well as provide more depth of understanding for perspective users. I have also almost finished transcribing my oral interview into digital format and broken it into sections that I want to include online. Later this week I will be working with the group to add that material online, as well as an associated written portion, so that users can read and hear the interview both at once, making for a much more interactive experience.

I think overall progress is being made, but there is still much to be done. Hopefully this week the group and I can make inroads and have most of our information put online.

Final Project Update – Blog #4

As of this week, our project is in its finishing stages of acquiring all the information and content needed to move forward with our website. Once this is all done, we will be able to put it online and continue stylizing the layout.

Moving forward with our plan to incorporate oral histories in our sites content, I recently switched my person of interest that included much more in depth/ interesting coverage than the previous chosen person.

The person of interest’s name is Nestor Peczniuk, who was born in Western Ukraine and came to Canada a decade after the Second World War to successfully establish himself in Sudbury as a president of a business co-op and credit union. I was surprised  to hear how thorough a memory he had of his past and experiences, and overall I was able to get a good idea of how he became incorporated and aided the Ukrainian community in that city within a Canadian context. I have summarized his interview and made it available to other group members for review, with hopes that his information will be online, with interview passages, recordings, etc., alongside other interviews as well.

Moving forward I now have to finish my paper, which I had to change my topic as well given difficulties finding sources and information. Building off of the this interview, I wish to focus on how Ukrainians established themselves from a business point of view in Ontario, and  look at the opportunities and challenges faced by this ethnic group upon arrival.

 

Final Project Blog #3

This week, the primary objective was to look into options of how our planned website structure could come together into reality. Based on our layouts, we wanted to create a home page that was similar to the Windows 8 tile theme, where each tile would be linked to further pages of information pertaining our project. At first I came across a plugin called Post Tiles (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/post-tiles/) that kind of entailed the desired layout, minus all the colours. After installing it and playing around with it, I realized the difficulties of working with this plugin. Meeting with Matt, I was able to find a different plugin called WP Tiles (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-tiles/) which was much more user friendly. After later meeting with Anesty we further looked into the plug in together, which allows you to work directly off the pages to display the information, a handy feature for simplicity sake. Our website now has a desired layout that still needs some editing but nonetheless a big step was made this week in its creation. Follow this link to check it out http://mhso.hackinghistory.ca/.

 

Final Project Blog #2

This week, the focus of our project was a a variety of issues that needed to be addressed. Firstly upon receiving our proposals and going over the “Foundation/Starter” CSS framework to style of websites in class, there are still a lot questions for me that needed to be addressed in moving forward with our design plans. The current framework does not really fit our desired style, and I am afraid that we might be a little over ambitious in our ideas and being able to put it together along with the rest of website and project details in time. As we continue to do lessons on Code Academy, learning the basic HTML framework, JAVA and this week jQuery, it is hopeful that for our meeting this upcoming Monday we will all have some sort of ideas on how to tackle our website creation as per our proposal outlines or if we have to change up plans altogether.

This week we also had to listen to oral interviews and narrow down a subject for our papers that we can explore in further depth as complimentary information for our site. I listened to William Krystia who settled in Sudbury in the beginning of the 20th century. Most of the interview documents his life growing up in Ukraine and then eventually transitions into him coming to/ settling in Canada. One thing noticed is that I did not enjoy the interviewing style, as their was no real guidance to the whole affair and William would just go on rambling about past memories that were more personal and had little use towards learning about broader Ukrainian themes in Ontario. Finally though near the end, a point of interest emerged with his discussion about employment opportunities/ trends for Ukrainians at the time, discussing his job (ie. working on a railway) and how that contributed to his life in Canada. Using this, I will look into other information and sources to establish main employment trends at the time for Ukrainians. Still have to think of a thesis, but details of this will hopefully emerge later in this up coming week.

 

Final Project Blog #1

It seems since last week a lot has occurred to get my group and I’s project moving forward. We met with one of the coordinators, Cathy, of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) to discuss ideas, and determined what ethnic groups had the most digitized interviews and secondary sources that could best supplement our website’s information and creation. After a subsequent email of options and debate between my group, it was established that our focus would be on Ukrainians and their historical migration to and within Toronto.

After establishing this, we also decided to split up the proposals work into sections and then meet before class to review our work and put in all together for submission. I was in charge of writing about the Structure and Presentation component, and after getting some group feedback and ideas, putting this together was not that difficult. Anesty had proposed using a “mind map,” where a user would click on certain headings and the site would re-direct them to another page containing that specific information. I propose taking this a step forward by using Java to create a sort of pop up information box showing a short summary of what the heading will link the user too before fully committing to the transfer, which I think smooths out overall user interaction and makes the website more interactive. The links will be attached to oral and visual information about our intended group, and website colours will be similar to the current MHSO website.

As a final note, I was tasked with doing the JavaScript learning component of Codeacademy. I learned the essentials through various exercises on how Javascript works, which I think will help organize and present data on our website and make it respond to user interaction as well. For example, we can include a search box to help narrow down searches and also have the pop up feature of links I previously discussed created. Overall there is still much to do on this project and little time to do it, but I think our group is at least on the right track and as long as we continue to work well together than a solid website should emerge from our combined efforts.

Website Review: Uses of Oral History

For my review, I came across the website entitled Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project (http://www.tellingstories.org/). The website contains interviews performed by students at the Urban School of San Francisco with elders who witnessed key events during the 20th century. The topics covered are various and include the stories of Holocaust survivors, concentration camp liberators/ witnesses, Japanese American camp internees, etc.

Looking at the various interviews, the website is designed for users to “read, watch, and listen” each first hand account, thus improving the accessibility and impact of each story. As each interview is available in full text and audio/visual, the user can alternate how they approach each subject through these various features. One can either read and/or hear each account, as text for each interview is linked to an associated recording. This acts as quite a nifty feature for cross-referencing or actually hearing the first hand account and the possible emotions attached to it, in a sense adding a more human element for the user approaching these interviews.

Clicking on any of the main topic links, viewers find themselves with various links of those interviewed and grouped by similar subject matters. A short bio is presented under each individual, and choosing one by clicking on their associated link leads to their “read, watch and listen” page, where each one of their stories unfolds into further information. For the more active accounts, chapters are provided and navigable to particular points of an interviewee’s story, allowing the user to jump to certain information they deem relevant or not and increasing the websites overall accessibility.

In order to try and quicken any research or time with the material, a “quick navigation” tab is provided in the lower right hand corner for each account  in order to easily surf between topics and interviews. This feature is helpful because after clicking on some of the texts links and/ or watching the associated videos, going back to previous pages and/or original menus increases in time as each is reloaded in process and there is no real menu bar or something to bypass this all. Working on these links to the main menu and other subjects/ interviews so as to be in more plain in sight can make this website stronger.

As a final note about the design, the attempted “glossary items” tab is an interesting addition that can have useful applications once fully developed. This features is intended to provide short definitions of key historical and geographic terms by moving one’s cursor over an underlined word, but is still in its developing stages and needs more work; once complete though, it appears as though it’ll heighten the users experience by clarifying any terms or points mentioned in the interview.

Overall though, the approach taken through this website is innovative for its effective use of oral history, documenting the personal stories of eyewitnesses and then making these interviews available online for anyone’s use interested in this information. These accounts can contribute to the understanding of a particular subject within a given context and substantiate certain arguments if need be. As a whole, this website contributes to the understanding of how oral accounts can increase historical meaning and understanding of a certain subject by providing first hand accounts that move past certain biased narratives in history and better show the impact of discrimination by those who actually lived it. The opportunities to extend this research into other significant topics in history with further interviews is there and hopefully will continue to expand in the future. At present it appears that students are continuing to work on this project and learning a combination of skills involving historical research, listening, and interviewing as well as digital camera, editing and web-page publishing techniques, which others can learn too if more schools became open to this way of learning and project type.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog #10: Historical Games on the Rise?

In looking at the possibility of history through stimulation via games, I am left with mixed opinions and viewpoints. On the one hand I do see the potential of this technology in terms of what it can add to learning beyond traditional means of text. As mentioned in the readings, users can be immersed in a selective environment where a variety of perspectives can be explored digitally, through say choosing a particular historical group in the game Civilization III. This allows for multiple, overlapping pathways of causation to be explored as one progresses through a campaign, if we want to stick with the above example, or by looking at any other macro-history of events. As well, any false histories or interpretations that the user comes across, can aid in viewing counter-factual and alternate histories that can help solidify realities and facts, but as well contribute to different ways of thinking pertaining to the events at hand. But these games do not have to be so large scale, as the online experience of September 12 shows, which offers a limited game experience but is linked to bigger ideas and contemporary issues, acting as another tool for asking questions and perhaps engaging users to further look into into a given topic at hand. Thus I can see the of how games can complement educational experiences by means of providing a service that aids users who learn better with visual aids or by doing, getting the overall historical narrative much more across.

However as much as I agree with this technology, and here is my other view for these readings, I think there is still many concerns that have to be answered and greater implementation before we see its wide scale use. As much as these games give users freedom to explore particular narratives and what not, I can’t help but think that skipping through all the historical processes, campaigns, etc, in favour of just playing the game can be a major issue. By this I mean with any major game that throws in a theatrical  experiences or other form of narrative to complement the game in order to fully understand it, there always happens to be a skip button associated with it, which I for one generally usually favour to just start playing the game. Because as Geoffrey Rockwell suggested, as a crucial element for games to be fun and free, the rules associated with them often take away from it, and with this I kind of agree. I can’t see myself being the only user who often skips the guidelines in favour of free play. Perhaps though if we are keeping these games within a educational framework for use in schools, then certain obligations can be put into the curriculum or assignment making students follow the campaigns or narratives in order to truly benefit for the overall gaming experience. But herein lies another problem: trying to introduce this new form of thinking into institutions that general have limited or unknown of knowledge of their use. As well the low development and cost associated with creating these games are issues that have to be addressed before any widespread use can come into effect. So in the end I guess I am for games in the use of history, but its implementation/ creation still needs to be explored towards attracting greater use in the future.

 

Blog #9: Visualizations in History?

The main question asked in this weeks readings was whether historians have the capacity to accept visualization methods as a complement to their narrative interpretations of events. Many different methods are presented, which include the use of geographic information systems (GIS), statistic-based interpretations and any other graphics that might advance or portray a particular historical topic at hand. However given the lack of technological know-how by many historians and difficulty in presenting an argument or interpretation solely through images, I believe visualization methods will continue to have trouble gaining popularity, but I do see the merits in them for complementing a historians work. The training and programs surrounding how history is approached needs to be expanded to include this form of graphing and modeling in order to produce fuller topics of interpretations that can be more readily understood in the future.

This need for reorientation of education can be seen in discussion of the uses of GIS, and more broadly historical geography, for advancing historical interpretation through visual interpretation. The technology does exist, as Anne Kelly Knowles suggests, to see how landscapes have developed and localize circumstances modified outcomes overtime in a more concrete manner than simply through text. However as Bodenhamer presents, the challenges for using GIS, be they the need for extensive data, financial/ technical resources, etc, limits its accessibility for historians despite its possible to advance knowledge. This problem though stems from the lack of orientation it receives around academic circles and institutions of higher learning that do not allocate funds or training around such concepts. As such it appears that these institutions are stuck in old methods of teaching and understanding and/or are slow to accept this new process that can better historical understanding.

Even if we take away the discussion surrounding GIS and look instead at other visualization methods in attempting to show certain information, one can see the overall benefits that can come from using them, especially in complementing a particular textual work. Through the use of statistic-based visualizations or other animations, I believe that a historian’s efforts in trying to portray their argument can be substantiated in learning to incorporate these methods in their works. Of course as Theibault suggests, the need to balance the honesty in visual rhetoric with clarity and persuasiveness has to be accounted for, but I believe with proper training and understanding, historians can figure out this balance to include visualizations that complement well their overall works and arguments.