Reflective Essay

Coming into the class I didn’t know how wide the realm of Digital History and the tools used. I signed-up for the class hoping to learn what Digital History was at the same time learn more about computers. I learned that new technology is compatible with history to provide an easy access to information. Without Digital History that information would not be available to the public. The class has shown me how technology is used in relevance to history. It has taught me to utilize tools like Omeka and Google Maps. Lastly, I learned there is a process that is used to create a uniformed system for anyone to follow.

My favorite part about the class was learning how to use digital tools and what they can teach. I liked Google Ngrams because it showed me what people are interested in. When we created a map about Jack the Ripper’s victims, I learned the tediousness of creating something to work in a certain way and to respect the work done on other websites. Lastly, although it was a long process, I loved creating the archive on Omeka about the Soul Soldiers. I chose Omeka because it was an outlet to design a library of items, instead of WordPress which relies on a narrative to fill its pages.

 

Throughout the course, the class reminded me of a traditional class, since we read articles and spoke about their relevance to the course. What made it different than other classes was that we were looking at the information through the eyes of a digital historian. When we read about (and played) history videogames, we were discussing on how history was being shown to the public. It raised questions on whether history should be altered or what do curators use to decide what to tell in a game, or exhibit. I believe games, videos and websites can use  loose history as a gateway to the deeper understanding of the topic. When I was creating the map for Jack the Ripper, I remember wondering how does Jack go from one side of neighborhood to the other within the hour. Something I wouldn’t have thought if I was just reading the website about the murders. I think this is what is great about Digital History, it can provide a narrative that people can follow, as well as relate the material in a way a book can’t.

When working on my project on the Soul Soldiers of the Vietnam War, I was always glad when I solved an issue that bugged me, like the color pattern, loading a video, or fixing the position of the text. I appreciated the critic on my work from my peers because it helped me set a standard for myself. It also gave me feedback on what my potential audience was looking for. I liked looking at the other projects because I think it was a way we could bounce off ideas with each other. I enjoyed to read about things I never thought of, like the history of Spam or the influence that Taco Bell had from missionary architecture.

I learned a lot from the project I worked on. Although I had some experience with the SoCal surf culture, when I worked on my project I saw the details digital curators have to look for. I worried whether I dated an item correctly or if I tagged it correctly. If I were to do it again, would create an outline to keep myself organized and not miss anything. Another thing I learned is that the project I began with was not the one I completed. I hoped to create maps on certain individuals, but the information I found was too vague on locations and dates. So I altered my site to introduce the racial tension in Vietnam. It takes many compromises to create a website. Even though I struggled at times, it felt better to create something that people are able to find and maybe enjoy rather than typing another research paper. It helped me guide readers as an exhibit instead of creating an argumentative paper.

By the end of the class, I felt more comfortable to navigate through Digital History and my computer. I learned skills not only about history, but about my presence in the Internet. This summer I hope I can revamp it, create a LinkedIn account and actually try to use Twitter. (Although I probably will erase it). After weeks on the computer, I can honestly say I found many shortcuts, improved my typing speed, and gained confidence working on a computer.

I really enjoyed History 305 and would recommend it to my peers because the class is out of the ordinary. I think what helped was the size of the class, even though that wasn’t the intention. As time passes, it is the next step for historians to use the technology that has a growing presence and the internet that has been used more and more to gain information about the past. I think this class should be a trend and maybe later a requirement for historians because it provides a variety of historical and computer skills. Other classes should have input from online sources that isn’t the library. I mean where else would we see a game of JFK’s assassination or journey through the Oregon Trail for educational purposes.

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