A Personal Exploration of Digital History

A unique perspective on the expanding topic of the digital past.
A Personal Exploration of Digital History

Preservation of my Final Project

Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2012 by

As most of you readers may know (since you are likely my classmates), that last post was my final project. One thing I forgot, however, was how I am planning to preserve it. To keep my work safe for years to come, I plan on creating a version of this slideshow on Google Drive which will allow me to access it with my gmail log in information (with a strong password that I use specifically for that account which does not use any known words) on any computer with internet access. This, in combination with the copies I have saved on my computer and on my flash drive, creates a situation where I am unlikely to lose all versions before being able to make an additional copy if necessary. In addition to the PowerPoint document I have on my computer, I also have screenshots of the slides. This means if the screenshots get deleted or if the file becomes corrupted I will still have access to my visualizations. Additionally, this means two different file types in case one becomes obsolete. While I am not interested in going as far as partitioning my hard drive to preserve this for the future, I would like to still access it later. That said, if I really wanted to cover all possibilities, I could always turn to the tried and true method of printing it to create an analog copy of the sort that has provided us centuries of history – though certainly against the spirit of turning the past digital!

Just remember, LOCKSS keep our digital files safe!

(Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe!)

Impact of the Interstate System on the America Population, 1950 – 2000

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by

The Eisenhower Interstate System: something my generation uses consistently,  but rarely ever recognizes for more than its pothole ridden, traffic filled corridors. The Interstate Highway System, championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was fist authorized in 1956 through the Federal highway act, with construction of the original portion being completed 35 years later. While the economic impact of this measure is probably the first question on everyone’s mind, I would like to instead explore what kind of impact the new Interstate system had on the population of America and the amount of credit given to the Interstate System for changing the face of America.

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Movie Theaters during the Great Depression

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2012 by

I am currently looking at exploring the topic of “How and why did the great Depression shape movie theaters in the 1930s?” Keep an eye out for the final result!

Return of the Ngram

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2012 by

Remember those fancy little Google Ngrams we were working on a few weeks ago? Here is a very interesting application I found right on the front page of my favorite webcomic, XKCD. I found it very interesting that September 11th far eclipses almost every major holiday in occurrences. Digging a little deeper into the rarely used logical side of my mind, I realized that this can be explained by some of the limitations of using Google’s Ngram viewer that we have been discussing. How often is a holiday going to be referenced in books since 2000 in the English language? Certainly not as often as one of the most major events of the 21st century that happened right after the beginning date for this search. In comparison, holidays are old news. Perhaps I can incorporate this sort of date analysis for whichever event I choose for my final project, which very well may be some aspect of the September 11th terrorist attacks given that I can narrow down the topic enough.

Programming is Not For Me

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2012 by

Feeling bored? Like mazes? Check out this neat little demonstration. While you may not pickup on it immediately, the purpose of getting “pegman,” who I have deemed Phillip (because, hey, why not?), through the maze is to work on your programing logic. Challenges include avoiding infinite loops and keeping it concise – something I certainly did not achieve in my attempt depicted below. While I wanted to come up with a method that would work even if I had randomized the maze to redirect the paths, I ended up with a long, highly specific set of directions. Turns out this is a lot more difficult than I thought!

From Surplus to Success: Reflections on “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2012 by

Ever since I began my time as a student taking Digital Past, I couldn’t help but to be terrified at the apparently fragility of items stored digitally versus their traditional analog counterparts. This is the exact same fear that Dan Cohen explores in his online essay entitled “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era.” Even though the site used in this example is satirical in nature, I still even value this as an important clue to the public climate of the past. The fact that entire websites such as this one, even if they seem trivial on the surface, is absolutely an indicator of the challenges to come as the field of digital history continues to expand.

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9/11 as Seen Through Wordle, Ngram, and Voyant

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2012 by

For today’s post, I decided to take the same event and process through some of the various programs that have been brought up in discussion recently. Sticking with the theme of my PowerPoint from a few posts ago, I decided to continue my examination of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In particular, I decided to analyze this speech given by George W. Bush on the same day of the attacks. To begin, I created a “wordle” using the entirety of the speech with common American English words excluded, thus yielding the visualization seen below:

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A Way with Words

Posted in Uncategorized on November 11, 2012 by

One of the most striking pieces of insight I gained through reading this online essay, entitled From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections and authored by Dan Cohen, is the importance of which words are included and which are excluded both when executing a search and building search results. To give a bit of background information, Cohen’s task that he centered on in this article is the creation of a search engine for course syllabi that will consistently filter out other content to give a better grasp on what is being taught and how. In order to achieve this, Cohen relies on both exclusion and inclusion of certain words.

A “wordle” visualization showing common words in this very blog post.

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Probing the Past and Plural Pie Charts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2012 by

While the records assembled by Probing the Past, I came across the probate records of a man by the name of Benjamin Harrison of Charles City County, Virginia who passed away in 1791. I found his records to be interesting due to the fact that almost all of the items listed under his possessions were in fact  not items at all – they were all slaves. This large slave population at the hands of Harrison provides me the perfect opportunity to make point about how the same data can be portrayed and compared/contrasted in a variety of ways (even when using the same type of chart), all depending on what argument you are trying to make. Below, you will find 3 pie charts all generated from this single record:


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September 11th, 2001 – A Day I Will Never Forget

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2012 by

This week’s task was to optimize the use of slideware program when given only 3 slides to cover one moment from history. As an American citizen born in the mid-1990s, one of the most significant historical events in my mind is the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – exactly what I chose to focus my efforts on for this assignment. My goal here is not necessarily to provide all of the information about the attacks, but to simply combine first-hand observations in the form of quotes and a timeline of events. When it comes to wars and other historical events, we tend to think of them as drawn out – sometimes lasting years – but 9/11 truly changed international relations and the United States greatly in just a matter of hours. The aim here is to show how the impact of 9/11 was spread over such a short amount of time and how quickly it was realized that this would not be an easy event to recover from. Below, I will break down my presentation into individual slides but a full slideshow version can be found here.

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