Feelin’ Good! …also nervous.

In a half hour I am planning on meeting the other 4 members of my group to finalize our proposal and roadmap. This is not what I am feeling nervous about. In the anxious flurry of everything else I need to get done this term, and in anticipation of my graduation and release into the real, terrifying, expensive world, the people I am doing this project with are proving to be incredibly competent and intelligent. Group work isn’t usually something I enjoy very much, as I’m the kind of person who stresses about the ability of my peers to follow-through and create valuable work.

I am not, even a little bit, concerned about these things with this group of people. If anything, I’m concerned that I may end up letting them down. GUYS, in advance, I am sorry for that thing I am bound to screw up on.

I am, however, nervous about all this technical stuff. I’ve got great ambitions for what this website we’re putting together might do and look like,

And so the ball begins to roll.

I’m starting to get pretty excited about this project. The kind of itchy excitement that’s paired up with crippling fear that I’m bound to screw everything up, but still – excited.

Kensington Market is a pretty cliche Toronto destination; I remember my first year in Toronto, getting so frustrated with all of my friends visiting from London only ever wanting to spend all day, every day, in Kensington. Toronto has so much to offer, it drove me nuts that my peers were so singularly focused. The place is often over-run by tourists, kids shipped in by the school bus-load, and I’ve got to say, more than a couple times I’ve found myself feeling kind of over the (sometimes forced, I feel) ‘hipness’ of it all.

And then, one day I’ll find myself meandering through, and I’ll buy literally every food-stuff I’ve missed from the neighborhood, making my way home with churros, grilled cheese, a loaf of bread, a pie, a burrito, baked goods, and veggie bao. (I wish this was a joke, but I’ve been berated by my roommates for gluttony too many times for it to be funny anymore.)

My affection for the neighborhood’s genuine charm has me feeling good about working with the Kensington Market Historical Society, especially now that I’ve spent some time looking for some pre-existing web-based sources of info on the neighborhood. There’s not much out there, save for some tourist-based information sites and a BlogTO ‘Visual History’ post.

One webiste, Kensington Alive, is a project that may have been very similar to what we are trying to do when it was initially launched. Conceived through a partnership between St Stephen’s community house and members of the Kensington Market community, the website is attempting to be an educational and cultural hub for the neighborhood’s history. The site has some rather vague information on the area, stating the ‘tremendous significance’ of Kensington’s history without explaining what this significance is based upon. There’s a timeline of the region’s history which displays interesting maps and census data, but in a clumsy and ineffective way.

I think Kensington Alive will be an important source for our group to pay close attention to, as its creators got a few things right, but a lot of things very wrong – we can learn from their mistakes, along with our own, and hopefully create a website that fully serves the needs of the Kensington Market Historical Society.

Video games!

FUN TOPIC! I’m really looking forward to our discussion this week, I feel like it’ll be a good one!

First off, I’m of the opinion that games like Civilization III and the HistoriCanada game brought up by Kevin Kee in his discussion with George Rockwell do not actually teach players about history. Instead, I think they give players the opportunity to find an interest in history. I grew up playing Civ III and other games like it (as did a few of my classmates, apparently!), and found myself interested in the civilizations, leaders, and events portrayed in them; for Christmas and birthdays I’d get books on ancient Egypt, the Aztec Empire, and so on. I also grew up playing (and enjoying) Math Circus and Cross Country Canada in the computer lab at my school, and yet I am not interested in math or cross-country truck driving. Not to mention ‘Avoid the Noid’, a game my brothers and I played religiously, in which you play as a pizza delivery boy for Domino’s Pizza who is constantly trying to out-smart a pink rabbit who steals your pizza, or blows you up with a bazooka. It is not yet known whether or not I will be hired for pizza delivery by Domino’s, but I certainly don’t have much interest in it. ‘Educational’ games serve to plant seeds in certain players, rather than providing a curriculum of information to the players.

Obviously, educational, ‘serious’ games won’t result in every player becoming a historian. Most games likely won’t even succeed in each and every player learning something from it, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to say that these games are any less worth investing in due to this fact.

Better late than never…

Knowles’ book on the changing historical scholarship, induced by the use of GIS and other systems to collect, study, and present history, signals to me a moment where collaboration is essential. The marriage of different skills and mindsets is needed in order to make something new and great, and also understandable. Historians need to work – and work well – with geographers, statisticians, economists, and other professionals in varying fields.

Also necessary is well-rounded knowledge bases, for historians and students of history – in fact, students of everything should be well rounded. I, for one, very often skip over graphs. I’ve never had a mind for mathematics, and the mere image of a graph sends me back to my terror-inducing interactions with math in high school. This makes me, in turn, arguably a worse history student than someone more familiar, and confident, with numerical representations of information.

I think that well-rounded students – students confident and capable in math, science, history, languages, social studies – are essential, but more than that, I think more focus should be given to educating people to work in groups, with people who do not think in quickly-understood ways. Classes on collaboration should be offered (maybe even made mandatory?) for students like us. Both Knowles and Theibault suggest that accessibility is an issue in the use of visual aids amidst text-based historical documents, and I think that accessibility can be addressed by both further focus on collaboration between individuals, and a greater attention paid to the well-rounded student… even though that would likely have me discharged from this university rather quickly.