MHSO Status Report

Before I start my blog for this week I have two things to say:

1. Happy Valentines Day everyone!

2. I apologize for the lateness of this blog post, I was unsure what I wanted to write about. Did I want to discuss the ethical issue I found or did I want to talk about my research? I have decided to spend the next blogs talking about the ethical issue, and this one be a simple status report.

My paper is on Ukrainian immigration to Canada, with a small focus on the movement of displaced people after World War Two. Yet I found that my paper was not detached from my historical issue. It is these people who were in Ukraine during the war, and I kept on thinking back to good old Stanley, Maria (my interview) and my own grandfather, that spurred this. The dynamic relationship that they all had to the war.

Paul and Anesty did some work on our website which is great! It is exiting to see it up. There is more work to be done, somehow I do not think a Doctor Who clip will impress MHSO.

So things are moving along.

Interviews and migration patterns

This week our group got access to the oral histories that were collected by MHSO. It has caused a bit of problems for the group and me. For the group, 3 our 4 of the interviews from Toronto are in Ukrainian, while the ones from Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston are in English. We decided that I would work on one of the Ukrainian Toronto interviews, Liam will take the English Toronto interview, while Paul and Anstey will pick English ones from else where. How this affects our scope we will have to see.  We still don’t have our paper topics but I have narrowed mine down to two, Ukrainian Churches in Toronto, or the Ukrainian Students club in the 60’s and 70’s.

I had a problem reconciling the dynamics of history. I also have had some problems articulating my problem exactly, so I apologize in advance. I originally was focusing on the oral history of a man named Stanley Frolick who was a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist (OUN) when he was in Ukraine. While this groups mandate was to have an Independent Ukraine, there image and understanding of this Ukraine, was one only for Ukrainians. It was a nationalist organization and it’s members, and groups formed by them,  helped with the elimination of the Jewish, Czech, and Polish populations from Ukraine. Now this is much more complex then I am briefly outlining here but I my problem really lies in the fact that organizations like OUN are still idealized. The Ukrainian Diaspora glorifies groups that massacred the Jews in the Holocaust, and then defends these actions. I had a moment when I did not think as a historian but as a member of the Ukrainain community, disappointed with a large elements of it and it’s historical myths. So my problem really is that line of objectivity, I guess the problem with working with topics that are so close to you drawing this line.

This experience reminded me of a German movie made in the 1990’s called The Nasty Girl, where a young girl asks the questions ‘What happened in my town during World War Two?’

On another note, I have discovered something interesting, that there was a migration of Ukrainians from the Prairies to Toronto after World War Two. Often these Ukrainians came from families that migrated in the interwar years. This is interesting because it is not often discussed in terms of immigration or settling patterns of Ukrainians in Canada. There is a lot mentioned about migration of Ukrainians from Saskatchewan and to Alberta during the depression, and other movements, but not as much about settling in Toronto.



Status Report

All is good.

This week was the week of meetings. We met with Cathy from MSHO, the meeting was quick and went well. Although to tell the truth I left the meeting feeling that I needed more direction. As a group we created a short list of proposed ethnic groups to study, we had the Turks, Ukrainians, First Nations, and Jamaicans. Cathy sent an email back narrowing our list down to two — the First Nations and the Ukrainians. In the end we choose the Ukrainians, which I am exited about.

So far I think our biggest challenge has been a lack of specifics in the project. Now that the ball is rolling I think the next challenge is not feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve been working on the roadmap and scope, which I think will address this issue.I am happy that as a group we are working on our technical skills. We have some great ideas about how we want the website to be designed and it great that we are working on the skills to do it.

That is all I have to report and instead of going on another rant about historical landscapes or whatever idea pops into my head, I will stop here.


Historical Landscape and Code Academy

So I am not a native of Toronto, I come from the prairies were the local history is not reflected in the urban landscape as much as the rural landscape. I am use to country drives were churches, road side monuments, and one room school houses spot the landscape. However here in Toronto there is much more transformations of spaces and a historical landscape in the urban (Granted I have not had much opportunity to explore the rural).

In part I think it has to do with the historical development of the landscape. Meaning that Toronto has been around much longer then Edmonton or Winnipeg. As a result more things have developed and changed.

I was researching Ukrainians in Toronto (I know this is shocking!) to prepare for our meeting with MSHO, I saw how there centers moved from one part of town to another, and that today there is not one strong location of Ukrainian culture in Toronto, unlike the Koreans for example.

I guess what it comes down to is the geography and its affects on identity, and I wonder  how geography will affect our project on immigration. I also am thinking how lucky we are to be doing these local history projects and occupy the same spaces as those we are studying.

Since we do not have an ethnocultural group yet our group focused on improving our technological skills. Which I think was very wise! It was a bit of a struggle but I enjoyed refreshing parts of my memory, even though I threatened my computer multiple times!


I am a Ludologist

For the past few weeks, our readings have mentioned that history is confined to the written/textual source, and yet each weeks reading is re interrupting the medium in which we express history. Through oral history, maps, and today games. History through games is not a novel idea. You can play D-Day in a board game, or reenact battles. History through computer games is new, simply because the computer is relatively new.

In an entertaining discussion between Kevin Kee and George Rockwell, Kee gives us two major examples of stimulation game’s – one is the 10 minute flash game on September 12 and the second is civilization. I grew up playing civilization with my brother and it did fostering a wish for world domination, however it did not teach me about history. Kee says that he had 15 students playing the “HistoriCanada” and that this was educational and entertaining for them. He gives us no evidence of what the students gained form this experiment or how it effect their learning. There are multiple way in which the game could have ended, and even though there are the limitations that the terrain is in Canada and the Northern United States, and only three ethnic groups are represented the rules of the game do not change. There is also three different ways in which you can win militarily, diplomatically or culturally. Even the groupings are simplistic aboriginals are grouped together, instead of being used and using the English and French. Simply because this game has base of being historical does not make it a learning experience.

What more interest me, is can gaming be more then a simple educational tool? Can it be a way in which we explore history from a professional level? Can creating a computer game give us insight, like creating a GIS map? Can we effectively show the complexity of history through a game?


History through maps

In Kelly Knowles article GIS and History she talks about the relationship and differences between geographers and historians, about the misuse of images by historians, and that GIS will change history as a discipline – although it is being under used at the moment.

She states that historical GIS has 4 major characteristics, the last of which is that historical arguments are presented in maps. History is not dissociated from the map, but in the end it is an image we use to enforce our thinking, not an image to reflect our analysis.

The fact is that history and geography are two very different disciplines. Historian learn a different set of traits, then geographers, just like we do not learn the same skills as a chemist. My use of the pippet is wanting but that does not seem to effect my ability to examine a source about the history of the pippet.The same goes with maps, I am not a cartographer – I have none of the skills needed – yet I have no problem reading a map, seeing the bias in it, manipulating them, and using them to further my understanding of an event. Geography should inform us, give us perspective but it should not be the bases or underlining in our thinking about history whether we use GIS or not.

Knowles statement that we are not using GIS to it fullest capacity is fully justified. Yet when I examined her examples they were interesting but I felt that there could be more done. They are a manipulation of a map, with data plotted onto it. Historian are more then plotters of data, what use it is if we plot the fountains, city gates and the Tiber river in the Nolli map project if we do not use the information presented to come to some kind of understanding.

GIS is an amazing thing for historians, it can allow to see the population boom in the prairie, to reconstruct landscapes, show divides within a community, or to show us distances between fountains in Ancient Rome. But it can not do our thinking for us. They are still images we create, boundaries that we set. Bias that we enforce. They are a tool to help us in the telling of history, not the end of the story.

Digitizing the Past

For a long time without even knowing it I have been downloading free software. Not that I wasn’t cognizant of the downloading, instead I simply assumed it should be free. Granted I have not downloaded that much however the Internet is about sharing. It is what makes it so popular, we share ideas, videos, music, information and we can comment on what we and others have shared. The internet has created a huge bulletin board of shared ideas so it only seems natural (in this completely non-organic state) that software should be shared too.

Hall sees that “little more than unimaginative digital reproductions of the past” has been created. Yet throughout this class, we have seen many interesting and dynamic websites that have dealt with the past in different ways. They all have their limitations, yet they present history in a new way.

We have seen how journal have been manipulated and changed as a result of being online. Yet what we have not seen, and I do not think exists is a change in the University system. Online course are marketized and managerialized as much as, and possible even more, then universities. Online courses are seen as a way to get more money, thus perpetuating the idea of universities as business, they are unimaginative digital reproductions of class, and does not use the internet in a different way. I do not see the solution to this problem in Online courses, or open source software, perhaps it is my inner Luddite coming out, but the marketization of the university and being more of a business intuition will not be solved on the interwebs.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Do you use the Dictionary?

I mean do we use the book, the physical book, or do we use the web? Type in any word on the internet and the answer will appears in less then a second! Look it up and it takes much more time.  If you spell the word incorrectly the physical dictionary will not help you, Google will! This weeks reading has a point, the internet with its ability to get information, entertainment, and news so quickly has an effect on how we interact with information and disgust it. Not only can we grab this information within second we can also watch a youtube clip, have this week’s reading opened on a tab, and interesting website on the other. I often have six or seven tabs open at one moment. The internet has made it easier to multitask and as a result when you sit and read a book (a physical book) we can not just Google a word we do not understand or look up a reference, or explore an idea that pops into our head when the book gets boring. We do not get instant gratification. Just like with the invention of the clock and how it changed the pace of daily life, why wont the internet?

What does this mean for history and the telling of history? Is history going to be reduced to point form and simple facts? Shorter paragraphs and more entertainment on the page to keep the reader interested? Although I have noticed a certain change in the way we interact with information it does not mean that we can longer sit and read as we use to, I myself am a bookworm. I think the difference lies in what kind of information we want. If it is a topic that we are exploring -trying to get to know, I think we are able sit and read. If it is a fact that we want, or certain information, then we have no patients. Google has taught us not to wait for our answers.

On a completely different topic, about a two weeks ago we were discussing the place of history – can history be in a video games? Are emotional exhibits an effective way to communicate history or is rational exhibits better. I found an interesting website that explores history and video games and history in different spaces. Anyway Enjoy!

Dead Parrot?

I sometimes feel like a negative Nancy when I write my blog entries, seeing all the flaws and problems in the article. So this week I tried to be more positive about our readings. I think I failed.

I wanted to see the website that inspired this weeks readings. I discovered that it had been hacked and taken down.Shawn Graham wrote an article about this and stated that it was now a dead parrot - he added a link to a Monty Python episode, which I have added now for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

I do not think that the loss and death of this website was the dead parrot, instead I think that their experiment was the dead parrot. Having worked with local rural communities before sending letters and emails seldom makes an impact, you have to talk to people, you have to get them involved and show them how to take advantage of what you are giving them.

Yet the concept was interesting, seeing if a collaborative project can be created through the internet, like Wikipedia. However the examples that they gave – Ancient Lives and Field Expedition: Mongolia, where very different from their goals. These website although involve the public, do not actually use what is given by the public. They do not crowdsource in the way Graham, Massie and Feuerherm crowdsource.  Instead these two websites inform the user by getting us to help solve a puzzle, which if we miss things are pointed out to us. In other words they both use ‘gamification’. Wikipedia with all of its flaws is an amazing example of crowdsourcing, generally easy to use, easily accessible, hopefully not that easy to hack and involves people engaging with the articles. What Graham, Massie and Feuerherm wanted was an engagement about the local history in much boarder context. Perhaps that was the problem. Maybe they needed the community to contribute to a theme or an idea. That may have empowered the contributor instead of having the contributor feel unprofessional and invalid.

As Graham states in his reflective article

“Perhaps my role is to fail gloriously & often, so you don’t have to. I’m ok with that.” 1


  1. “How I Lost the Crowd: A Tale of Sorrow and Hope”, on October 9, 2012,

Pogroms and Wikipedia


Wikipedia’s articles have a huge range of quality. There are many mediocre ones and if you study any one topic enough you will be able to poke holes even the best written articles. What makes Wikipedia create ‘excellent’ articles is the collaboration and discussion that occurs. If there is only one or two authors of an article then the short falls will not be corrected. For example if you look at the Odessa Pogroms article it tells the reader that there were multiple pogroms in Odessa from 1821 to 1906. The author states that:

According to Dr. Jarrod Tanny, most historians argue that the earlier incidents were a result of “frictions unleashed by modernization” rather than antisemitism[2]. The 1905 pogrom was markedly larger in scale and antisemitism played a central role. 1

This statement is never really defended nor proven as you read the article. Instead he takes other historians small descriptions of the event one of two sentences and moves on to the next pogrom. The problem lies in the fact that the author knows only a little about the topic. It is a page in it’s beginning, only waiting for people more knowledgeable in the topic to add on. This is evident when in the talk section the  author states:

“1891 maybe? Could someone who knows, update it” 2

 What the article shows is that there is little communication and development. While the article on the Lviv Pogrom in 1941shows that there has been a discussion on sources and the bias that each has. Disregarding sources because they are a moral authority and looking at what scholars are saying about the topic.  At the end of this short article there is a link to the controversy about this event. throughout the work the author talks about different ideas and perspectives. In the ‘Talk‘ section of this article, the author talks about sources and their POV, stating the problematic nature of each and what is useful in each. Although there are currently historical debates about the progression of events, the length of time, and whether the 2 week pogrom should be counted as a whole the article has developed and progressed showing the complexity of history, perspectives, and of this event.

  1. “Odessa Pogrom”,, accessed on October 2,2012
  2. “Odessa Pogrom”,, accessed on October 2,2012