James Farmer Digital Archives: A Reflection

When I signed up for the Spring 2012 Digital History Seminar, I had a choice between four group projects to work on for my last semester at the University of Mary Washington. I am incredibly thankful to have gotten my first project choice: to create James Farmer Digital Archives. Michelle, Kelsey, Caitlin, and I dove headfirst into our project without having a clear sense of what or even where the resources were.  We were not even sure if we had the rights to upload and present James Farmer’s thirteen lectures, filmed by a local news channel WNVT-TV Channel 53 in the early 1980s.  Once we found the lectures in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) lab and we knew that the University owned the rights to the lectures, we moved them into Monroe’s Digital Media Lab to begin cutting, editing, and transcribing the lectures. Our group contract states that our primary goal is to ultimately present James Farmer in his own words, and I am proud to say my group has truly accomplished that objective.

Although we accomplished our group goal of putting James Farmer into his own words, we had to overcome many obstacles along the way.  First, we had to find the video files that were located somewhere on campus.  Once we found them in the DTLT lab, we discovered that we only had lectures four through thirteen digitized. Once we realized that the first four lectures were missing and in terrible condition, we then ran into our next obstacle: the copyright of the videos.  We emailed around the University staff, and eventually Professor McClurcken discovered that the University had all of the rights for the video recording. Despite these initial hurdles, we were able to complete our goals for hosting our information, creating the transcripts of lectures, as well as creating a trailer (which was only a few days late according to our initial contract.)

I was in charge of designing the website, which is hosted under UMW Blogs WordPress. I had worked with Omeka before, as well as had multiple UMW Blog accounts, but I had never had the opportunity to create a website from the ground up. We chose WordPress as a host not only because DTLT was incredibly knowledgeable about the host’s capabilities, but also because it was user friendly. I was inspired by the University’s website homepage’s slide show feature and my vision went from there. I discovered plugins that would be essential to our site. The What Did They Say?!? Transcript plugin allows for the large blocks of texts to hide and even gives credit to Kelsey under her UMW Blogs username, kmatthews. The Facebook/Twitter buttons are used for promotional purposes. The search engine plugin even allows the user to search within the transcripts themselves to find key words. With a simple website having minimal text, complementary color scheme, and easy dropdown tabs, James Farmer is successfully presented “in his own words.”

Although I put countless hours into trying to create the perfect website archive, I could not have done this without the help of Kelsey, Michelle, and Caitlin. While Kelsey worked hours on transcribing James Farmer’s stories, she also created and embedded a Map tracing James Farmer’s travels. Michelle cut and uploaded video onto the UMW History Vimeo account while still writing and adding summaries to the website. Caitlin cut video, created our trailer, and helped with the aesthetics of the site.  My fellow classmates completed their divisions of labor impeccably, while still helping one another out, allowing our project to be a successful collaboration. Walking away from this project, I understand that I have not only created an excellent resource for students and historians alike, but also that I am capable of creating a project bigger than myself – successfully presenting stories from a pivotal moment in American History.

Our Final Product

And the final site is up! James Farmer Digital Archive

The James Farmer group meet together in the lab today to make a few changes to the website for the final draft due tomorrow. Things we changed:

- The layout of the homepage: It’s now just the tags and the quote section on on the bottom of the page.

- Fixed the links to the slide shows (FIXED the short photo on the slide!)

- Changed the search bar to show up on all the pages, with the quotes pluggin underneath.

- Cited all of the photos (gave credit to UMW Digital Archives and Caitlin’s Flickr)

- Kelsey’s updated Map with descriptions

- Sent out our official email invitations for our presentation at the symposium this Friday to anyone who has helped us out along the way

We are going to have one last look through tomorrow morning before class and it’s final!

Entering the Home Stretch…

The James Farmer Lecture Digital Archives site is really coming together so nicely for the last few weeks of seminar. I’ve managed to change the front of the archives page with the help of Jim Groom and Tim Owens of DTLT.  With the new slide show feature, an interested viewer comes to the page with multiple visuals and an immidiate sense of what our site is about.

Caitlin has completed and posted the trailer, “In His Own Words.” Kelsey has been checking over the final drafts of the transcripts and have been working to create flyers, while Michelle has been looking over the transcripts and even created a QR that links to our website! I am cleaning up the site – I made the dimensions of the embedded trailer 600 x 450, so I am going to do the same for the rest of the video we have. The transition for pages to posts was so simple (unfortuately I figured this out after I had already created new posts before my discussion with Tim Owens…) There is a pluggin that literally, from the click of a button, changes the pages of the site to posts. I just need to re-enter my the taggs into the full video lecture posts, which will then be added to the tag cloud located on the home page.

I’m honestly really proud of the work our group has done to present James Farmer’s reflections of one of the most important movements in American history, in an easily accessible and an organized manner.

Readings: Impact of Digital History on Historians

Blogging for Your Students – David Voelker

American Historical Association – History and Technology Column – May 2007

Voelker discusses the advantages of teachers/professors using blogs for their courses.  One of the advantages that Voelker emphasizes is the interactive feature of blogging.  It emables comments and allows peers to interact in a way that they would not normally do during lecture. Because blogs are generally public, there is more critical thinking that goes into the comments on the posts, which allows better discussion online and during class.

Voelker also discusses other advantages for professors using blogs for courses.  It is easier to track grades and progress.  It is also easier for students to filter through the site based on category lists, tags, and hyperlinks that would not be available simply on a paper outline/syllabus of the class.  Not only can a student search for categories, but the professors is able to organize the site uniformly in such a way that syllabus, assignments, outside sources, different classes, etc. can all be separated into different tabs.

Inspired by the founder of Edublogs, James Farmer (coincidence?!?!), Voelker suggests that professors should start letting students blog on their own because, “blogging is a form of self-publishing.” Considering I have blog posts from multiple classes and regularly update this one for Digital History, it is evident that from 2007 students have increasingly begun to use blogging as a tool for participation in courses across several disciplines.

Wikipedia and Women’s History:  A Classroom Experience – Martha Saxton

Spring 2012 – Writing History in the Digital Age

Martha Saxton (currently working on a bio of Mary Ball Washington… another coincidence?!) oversaw a Wikipedia class project with undergraduate students as well as colleagues, starting in 2007.  She had two goals for the project:  to increase the representation of women in the global source information as well as using Wikipedia as a tool to show students methods for evaluating and writing responsible history.

Throughout Saxton’s research, she noticed common trends of women’s history on Wikipedia. First that there is hardly any representation of women in history at all on the digital encyclopedia.  This has partly to do with how women’s history has not become mainstream in online culture and that women are only 13% of wikipedia’s contributors.

Because her students use Wikipedia for contributions and editions, it is a different style of teaching.  It is a “less predictable’ style that uses the opinion of others in high regard. It increases debates of facts between historians.  Saxton’s particular students focused on women’s history of broad, popular history articles such as the American Revolution and the Vietnam War. In the end, she discovered that much of her students content, with very credible and extensive research, were removed or moved from the article.

In conclusion, women’s history is still not highlighted enough today, which comes as a surprise as evident of lack of information on the supposedly free and open Wikipedia. Although we have this great resource meant for open access, the censorship on gender studies is still evident.

 

Group Update!

So this week, I have been working on a research paper, so I have not done a lot with the James Farmer site other than trying to figure out our new layout.  My group is meeting with Jim Groom on Wednesday to figure out how we can fix our static page to the sample theme image with a few featured pages as images that are able to automatically scroll.  Other than that there are a few other things that need to be done with the site.

- Post the rest of the selected stories that Michelle has uploaded to vimeo

- Look over transcripts, summaries of lectures and selected stories

- Create tag/category cloud for the selected stories

- And possibly get creative on the site with the summaries of all audio and all video. I’ll talk to Jim Groom about possibly making a drop down that shows/hides the summaries of each lecture or selected story.

With our project finally coming together, I am so happy at what we have accomplished this semester! From simply gathering the audio and video, not knowing how or IF we were even allowed to post the lectures online, to the initial trouble of uploading such large files to Vimeo, I think we have come so far in such a short time.

James Farmer Group – Progress Report

My group has pretty much stayed on target in terms of our project time line listed on our contract a few weeks ago.

These are the things we will be working on for the remainder of the semester:

We have summaries of the lectures on Google Docs that just need to be uploaded to the site. We need to compose a short biography of James Farmer. We need to discuss who we are and why this project is important to us and how it will benefit everyone else who visits the site. We also are thinking about creating a tag cloud of some sort or even create categories for our selected stories that also gives the view another way to access our information. And we need to share relevant links as well as give credit to contributors that made our blog/information/video possible. And last but not least, we want to begin to cut video for our promotional trailer.

We have the final design of the website, which I have been in charge of all semester long. I would like to change and tweek a few things on the site within the next week or so.

- First I would like to post all of the summaries of the lectures (perhaps editing them all to sound more consistent with one another, seeing as Caitlin, Michelle, and I all had written multiple summaries for multiple lectures)

- I want to make the video of the lectures appear larger on the page

- I want to put up final edits of the transcripts (maybe not by this week, but begin the process)

- I want to somehow make the menu across the top screen extend all tabs across to fill the entire menu (there is only a small space left on the right side!)

- I want to connect the same video and audio lectures via links within each page/post

- I want to clean up the quote plug in on the left side

- Once the selected stories are uploaded to Vimeo, I would like to begin to post them on the website as well

 

E-Portfolio: A Work in Progress

I am a little late posting about my E-Portfolio because I still have a lot to work on. Here is what I have so far: Laura Donahue’s E-Portfolio.

I have emailed my boss from my internship at the Fluvanna County Historical Society because I need photographs from when I was creating exhibits for the museum from the past two summers. There are some books and newspaper articles that I would like to collect and post on my website as well.

I would like to post my thesis abstract, include forums I have attended and presented research at, including my thesis in the Fall 2011 History Symposium as well as the Women’s Study’s Forum last week. I am also considering putting up my previous courses and their descriptions – I may just have to pick the courses that are relevant to what I want to do for my career.

I am actually really excited to continue working on this portfolio. Not only is it important in order to get a job after I graduate with my Masters in 2013, it is also a great way to see how much I have accomplished already. It’s hard to gauge what projects I have worked on already, and this is a great systematic way of doing so. The fact that it is also incredibly easy to update with current projects and information is incredibly useful and important.

Digital Identity

The Rise of Alter Egos in Everybody’s Space – Kim Hart

This article, written in 2008, discusses the ways in which Facebook and Myspace users have adapted to an increased availability of personal information on social networking sites. Since this article is dated a few years back,  there have been a few changes that need to be addressed. Myspace is now a music site that allows users to have access to bands from all across the world that are signed or unsigned – many of which have become famous and well known because of Myspace’s music demo and full song software, allowing anyone to listen to clips and full songs of Myspace band users. This site is now just used for music promotional purposes. Facebook has now gotten increasingly better with it’s privacy settings since 2008. That all being said, the article does bring up good points about the emergence of ‘Social Networking Alter Egos.’

Things I have Learned

- Many people have created new identies and profiles on Facebook, because of privacy content. I have Facebook friends who have completely changed their names, deleted and re-activated their profiles just to keep their privacy under control – especially as college seniors, when looking for jobs and graduate schools, the party pictures and personal information could make or break you as a potential employee/student.

- These new profiles emerging can be seen as positive an negative – positive for the protection of personal information and keeping work and play separate. Negative, because it redefines idea of networking in a broader sense.

- That people really do not explore the privacy setting enough. If people wanted their information secure on social networking sites, there are ways to hide almost EVERYTHING now. And if people are still concerned about privacy, it might be easier to stay away from social networking sites.

On Disturbed Presence (And Blogrolls) – Jean Burgess

Burgess discusses Blogs as a form of social networking, connecting people with similar interests via blog posts or blogs themselves through blogrolls (which, in 2007, were becoming irrelevant) and the emerging popularity of the RSS feed.

Things I have learned:

- Well, I learned what a blogroll is – it’s a list or set of links that connect to other blogs, generally with similar subjects or interests.

- The article, written in 2007, discusses the decline in the need for blogrolls. With the emergence of the RSS feed, who needs a list of blog links, when you can read all of your favorite blogs, without even clicking on the links?

- Although this article is a few years old as well, it does hold some valuable food for thought. When we have massive amounts of data and information we find compelling or interesting, we need way to organize it. The way we organize our internet networking – in this case, blogs of similar interests – is always in a constant state of evolution. With new ways of  networking, new ways to organize interests (photos, blogs, social networking sites) emerge.

Digital Resume – Hire Hassan 

Seeing as we have to create a digital resume for the Digital History class, I figured it would be a good opportunity to check out the example Professor McClurken gave us. Unlike the Hart article i discussed earlier, digital resume’s are a way in which to use online networking to not only to show potential employers important personal information, but to gain their interest in new and creative ways.

Things I have learned

- Keeping the page very clean, easy to read, short paragraphs, and having multiple photos is important. We discussed this in class a few times:  online asthetics are just as important as the information on the page when trying to draw potential employers.

- That you can allow your creativity to give you an edge with a digital resume that is harder to do with resume on paper.

- An aspect of the digital resume that really interest me was the blog feature. it gives the employer an idea of current events you may be involved or interested in that keeps the resume fresh and updated.

James Farmer Lecture Group Progress Report

So Kelsey and I were trying to figure out how to create clips of some of the James Farmer video lectures last Tuesday, but we could not figure out how to edit the .flv files in Adobe Premiere. Once Caitlin had a look at our many files of James Farmer, she discovered that we had .mpeg files of the videos that can be edited easily on Adobe Premiere. Caitlin and Michelle took the weekend to look over how we plan on hosting the videos. The video files we have are extremely big – YouTube can’t handle the size and we may have to upgrade Vimeo to Vimeo Plus, which allows us to upload 5GB a week – but it is $59.95 a year. Hopefully we can move past technical difficulties soon and move on to our presentation of our website and the archive we have envisioned. I am going to play with our wordpress site as much as I can without the video or audio later tonight, and hopefully have something to show for our 3-5 minute group presentation on Thursday.

 

Wikipedia

I looked up Argentine War of Independence for my Wikipedia history blog post. This is because I just finished reading Regina Root’s book, Couture & Consensus: Fashion and Politics in Postcolonial Argentina for Professor Poska’s Women in Latin America class. I figured it would be a good background to start some basic research for what actually occurred during the War of Independence in order to understand the Postcolonial world of Argentina, seeing as I don’t know too much about Argentina’s history.

I looked under the Talk tab for this article, and there were some good points brought up that were obviously brought to light by users (most likely scholars) that may need editing or change. Not only is Wikipedia available for anybody to edit, therefore losing it’s academic credibility, many historical articles can be viewed as being biased and not objective enough for a simple encyclopedic entry.

Because the subject of the article brings about proper citations, the legitimacy of the article may be okay. What one has to remember about historical Wikipedia articles is that the writers are generally subjective – as seen by the use of only two sources on this particular entry. It is a good source to find bibliographic information for research purposes, but the bias of the historian will always be there as well as the obvious fact that the articles are open for anybody to create false information.