I originally took this Digital Methods in History class as a requirement for the applied history program, but found it to be an incredibly illuminating class in learning more about the ways in which the discipline of digital humanities can be used with the field of history. One of the main things that I learned was the importance of getting your work out to people. Though traditionally that would be through articles or journals, the final project taught me that you can share your information and research with people on a website, similar to the one that we made for our final project. It brought into perspective the tools that are required and the work that goes into having a digital presence.
Though we made an online presence through LinkedIn or other online methods, this class made apparent the convenience and importance of having your own website that reflects you and your body of work. Similar to how a photographer or a computer programmer might have a site with a portfolio, a historian could have a professional body of work present on the internet. It is my hope that by the time I finish school at Long Beach State, that I would have a full website that would function as a CV and portfolio. It was reassuring to know that a portfolio did not need to be magnificent or perfect, but the important part was whether or not it was fulfilling its function of introducing the owner to others.
While we discussed this in class quite a bit, I feel that twitter would still be one the digital methods that I would steer away from. Although there is a “tamer” side of Twitter, it feels as though that same demographic could be reached elsewhere. For example, I recently learned that LinkedIn allows you to write short blog posts, a seemingly valuable tool to reach a slightly broader audience. Another tool that I found interesting was the use of games. It felt like a valuable tool to introduce the topic of certain historical topics that could simply degrade into mindless fun, rather than a truly educational experience. I feel that this comes more from the nature of games and the associations that we may have with it, rather than failures of the games themselves.
My final project, titled Systemic Ineptitude, touched on the failures of the Los Angeles Police Department in responding to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Had I more time, I would liked to have incorporated different technology into my project and expanded the scope. In its present finished state, I used both timemapper and mapbox to show a general timeline of events, as well as the geographic location of many of the events. I would liked to have plot many more data points, particularly the points of damage or points of violence, to show the magnitude of the riots at a specific moment. A program such as mapbox, or mapping software similar, could be able to show the change over time. A heatmap would be able to show the growing violence, as well as show the movement of the police over time.
Another shortcoming that I felt that my project had was the relatively short scope that it encompassed. While I included background information from months or even years before the Riots, I stopped at the first day of the Riots, partly because of time, but mainly to prove a point. I felt that it was have been quite beneficial to expand the scope of the project to include the following days of rioting. It would have taken a great deal more time, due to the amount of raw data was would be required.
This class expanded my understanding of history by applying different methods to it. While I’ve learned some of the basic historical methods in other classes, this class provides me with the information to “modernize” the presentation of it, and forces me to think about history in terms of raw data and the analysis of that.