Jackie’s Interview KCAL

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nitty Meet Gritty

As one of the res­i­dent techno­pho­bic fogeys (thanks, David), I admit I’m also daunted by the prospect of writ­ing html.  The arti­cles helped allay some of my fears, but I’m still strug­gling to keep some of the terms and html sym­bols straight.  I now have a greater appre­ci­a­tion for what web mas­ters have actu­ally mas­tered to deserve the title.

I’ve added a rough c.v. to my Tex­tWran­gler doc­u­ment, but I can’t remem­ber how to pre­view the result before com­mit­ting to upload­ing it to the actual web page.  I did mostly h3 and h4 sub­head­ings with a list and sev­eral para­graphs.  So far it’s pretty straight for­ward, but I can totally see the wheels com­ing off as it gets more involved.

One thing I def­i­nitely don’t know is how to hide the details of the c.v. items in some way till the user wants to see more expla­na­tion.  Any sug­ges­tions from the class or from Ricardo?

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Room with a VUE

So, I too tack­led the VUE visual map­ping sys­tem.  I floun­dered for a while till I mas­tered the but­tons at the top of the doc­u­ment for switch­ing tools.

I began a project to map out Black Con­fed­er­ates on the web.  The exer­cise allowed me to see com­mon sources, themes, and tech­niques of these neo-Confederate sites mask­ing them­selves as some sort of trib­ute to the Black men in Grey.  (Hilar­i­ously, I think all the sites I looked at were by white men)  VUE let me see in one glance all the sites using cer­tain com­mon books as doc­u­men­ta­tion as well.  I think this would be handy as a visual short­hand to trace the com­mon path­ways of these revi­sion­ist web pages.

I tried to upload my map to this post, but it wouldn’t take it because of “secu­rity prob­lems”.  Great.  Now I’ll be get­ting a visit from Home­land Secu­rity or something.

PS. We now have the visual map uploaded below:

Map of Black Confederate websites and sources.

Visual map of Black Con­fed­er­ate web­sites and some com­mon sources.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Black Confederates on the Internet

So the other night I dove into the fet­tered and fes­ter­ing pool that is the sub­ject of Black Con­fed­er­ates on the inter­nets.  Back­ground: per my pre­vi­ous post, Lost Causers deny that the Civil War was about slav­ery.  Thus, if one can “prove” that black men vol­un­tar­ily fought for the Con­fed­er­acy in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers, it bol­sters the argu­ment that, heck, the rebel­lion couldn’t have been about slavery–look at how many of our own south­ern Blacks fought for us in the rebel­lion.  It must have been about tar­iffs, or the transcon­ti­nen­tal railroad.

Now there is no his­tor­i­cal basis for this claim.  Is it pos­si­ble that a few Black men picked up arms when their owner was gunned down?  Of course.  And of course many hun­dreds of thou­sands dug ditches and drove wag­ons, but the claims of the neo-Confederates go far beyond this.  They claim thousands–perhaps as many as 30,000–Black men fought in orga­nized units against the Yan­kees through­out the war.  This is non­sense, because as late as the spring of 1865–a few months before the end of the war–the Con­fed­er­ate high com­mand was still heat­edly debat­ing the wis­dom of arm­ing the slaves only a few weeks before Appomattox.

All of this his­tor­i­cal back­ground brings me to my foray into the dig­i­tal realm of Holo­caust deni.…um, Black Con­fed­er­ate believ­ers.  Google lists 127,000 some odd hits for “black con­fed­er­ates”, and I vis­ited sev­eral dozen.  They share many com­mon traits: typo­graph­i­cal and gram­mat­i­cal errors (there’s the elit­ist in me!); reliance on a few com­monly cited sec­ondary sources for their claims (yes, I saved them to Zotero, Richard); and a hos­til­ity to the counter evi­dence pro­moted by pro­fes­sional his­to­ri­ans.  Oh, and at least one of them was a rag­ing anti-Semite, but I digress.  Inter­est­ingly, there seems to be an entire sub-genre of African-American south­ern­ers who also assert that large num­bers of their ances­tors fought for the South.  I haven’t fig­ured out what this is all about, but I’ll get back to you.

If noth­ing else, this exer­cise has given me a new appre­ci­a­tion for our quaint rules for han­dling evi­dence.  Almost all of the blog­gers drifted con­fus­ingly between dis­cus­sions of the admit­tedly numer­ous African-American labor­ers, and those they claimed were will­ing sol­diers in arms.

I will con­tinue down this road, but it seems to me that many of these blog­gers believe in their his­tory in a way that isn’t open to evi­den­tiary per­sua­sion.  Open­ing a con­struc­tive dia­logue about his­tory with these blog­gers would prob­a­bly not be fruit­ful.  Nev­er­the­less, onward.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

DH and the Popular/Academic Divide

For weeks since I started this course, I have been try­ing to fig­ure out where I stand on the ques­tion of “ille­git­i­mate” or non-academically-sanctioned his­tory fil­ter­ing into our schol­arly world.  After read­ing this arti­cle in DH Quar­terly it occurs to me that I’ve been look­ing at this back­ward.  I should be ask­ing how dig­i­tal human­i­ties can infil­trate and move opin­ion in the realm of pop­u­lar history.

Let me start at the begin­ning.  My main aca­d­e­mic focus area–the U.S. Civil War–has devel­oped over the last sev­eral decades a huge divide between pop­u­lar con­cep­tions of that his­tory and aca­d­e­mic out­put.  Shortly after the war ended in 1865, South­ern sym­pa­thiz­ers began a con­scious cam­paign to soften the blow of hav­ing lost the war by con­struct­ing an alter­nate his­tory of the con­duct and causes of the war.  In this ver­sion of the war, the Con­fed­er­acy never could have mil­i­tar­ily beaten the North to gain its inde­pen­dence.  Thus, for South­ern sol­diers fight­ing against such impos­si­ble odds made the effort to fight a more noble enterprise–a Lost Cause.  Thus, the mythol­ogy of the Lost Cause was born.  Facets of this myth include that the war was never about slav­ery (it was about “states’ rights”), south­ern armies always won bat­tles, but lost the war, and that the war was unwinnable by the plucky Southerners.

All these asser­tions have been his­tor­i­cally dis­proven, but in the highly active realm of ama­teur Civil War his­tory, many of these false­hoods are taken as fact.  Recently, for instance, the gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia got in trou­ble over a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the war that for­got to men­tion slav­ery.  He later cor­rected this small detail, but the instinct to remem­ber the war as being about some­thing other than slav­ery is quite widespread.

Which brings me back to the point of this some­what ram­bling post.  I’ve been think­ing about this divide all wrong.  I should be con­sid­er­ing the ways that I and my fel­low his­to­ri­ans can infil­trate and guide the chatrooms/reenactments/websites of the ama­teur his­to­ri­ans who dom­i­nate this Lost Cause, latter-day neo-Confederate sen­si­bil­ity.  More to come.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Saving to Zotero

The process of sav­ing ref­er­ence mate­r­ial to Zotero was rel­a­tively glitch free.  I went to the Blais site and got on to Aca­d­e­mic Search Pre­mier.  I chose the topic of dis­ease and art, located sev­eral appro­pri­ate cita­tions, and saved them to Zotero using both the sym­bol in the URL box and the Zotero pop up at the bot­tom of the frame.

I had no prob­lem cre­at­ing a new folder for the cita­tions, but I ran into a prob­lem when I tried to drag over new addi­tions that I wanted to add to the exist­ing folder.  I synced up the “home” box and the “away” box, but I could not fig­ure out a way to drag new cita­tions to the exist­ing folder.  I tried hold­ing down the com­mand key (Mac user) and high­light­ing the items, but noth­ing I tried allowed me to drag them to the exist­ing folder.  Any ideas?  Richard?  Bueller?  Other than that, it was a pretty straight for­ward experience.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Past and Future of the Digital Web

I want to start this post with a nod to Van­nevar Bush.  It’s astound­ing to see how pre­scient he was on the com­ing tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion.  His appre­ci­a­tion for how data stor­age, pho­tog­ra­phy, and com­put­ers would grow geo­met­ri­cally in sophis­ti­ca­tion is amaz­ing.  It is notable as well to point out that his mus­ings on the impact of tech­nol­ogy were writ­ten a month before the Hiroshima bomb was dropped.  One won­ders how this knowl­edge would have changed the obvi­ous awe with which he pon­dered this rev­o­lu­tion in technology.

The Cohen, Hockey, and Rosen­zweig arti­cles all deal with the var­i­ous aspects of the his­tory and future of the dig­i­tal world.  It is telling that Cohen, for instance, points out that the early his­tory web­sites were ini­ti­ated by ama­teur his­to­ri­ans, not pro­fes­sion­als.  Thus, from the begin­ning, the debate in the his­tor­i­cal field has swirled around “cre­den­tials” and who is or isn’t a “legit­i­mate” source of infor­ma­tion or com­men­tary.  Many of us have read Wikipedia entries, for instance, that are frus­trat­ing because they are either fac­tu­ally incor­rect or the­mat­i­cally bland to avoid con­tro­versy.  Regard­ing Cohen’s dis­cus­sion of dig­i­tiz­ing his­tor­i­cal resources, how­ever, I have to admit I could not have as quickly com­pleted a master’s the­sis based partly on the Offi­cial Records of the Civil War with­out the Mak­ing of Amer­ica site dig­i­tiz­ing and index­ing this huge work.  Susan Hockey also dis­cusses this democ­ra­tiz­ing of his­tor­i­cal resources.  I agree with her that the wider dis­sem­i­na­tion of this vast cul­tural her­itage will have far-reaching consequences.

Finally, the Rosen­zweig arti­cle must be trou­bling for any­one inter­ested in the topic of pre­serv­ing the dig­i­tal record for future gen­er­a­tions.  I really had not fully con­sid­ered the import of not just chang­ing forms of media (mag­netic tape, cd’s), but also the loss of machines capa­ble of read­ing them.  I’ve been doing this long enough that essays I wrote on my Mac vin­tage late 1990s are now inac­ces­si­ble to me.  Granted, most of what I wrote was garbage, but you get the point.  Advances in com­puter tech­nolo­gies give us a false sense of con­fi­dence that every­thing is being pre­served, when, as Rosen­zweig points out, much of this stored data has a shelf life of not much more than a few years.  A sense of almost panic imbues Rosenzweig’s essay and rightly so.  The irony that a paper copy of a doc­u­ment might sur­vive cen­turies in a base­ment some­where, whereas my Word doc­u­ment from a few years ago is inac­ces­si­ble to me should not be lost on the his­tor­i­cal community.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What are the Digital Humanities?

The dig­i­tal human­i­ties are the evolv­ing set of tech­ni­cal and aca­d­e­mic issues that swirl around the inter­sec­tion of the human­i­ties and com­put­ers.  As we have learned through read­ing Cohen and Svens­son, there are no easy elab­o­ra­tions on that skele­tal def­i­n­i­tion, how­ever.  Clearly we are liv­ing at a time of sig­nif­i­cant change in how the acad­emy uses and is effected by tech­nol­ogy, but one of the issues that inter­ests me is how much old-fashioned aca­d­e­mic infight­ing and ter­ri­tory pro­tect­ing is involved.

Cohen and Rosen­weig, for instance, do a good job in their arti­cle of try­ing to rein in the excesses of some dig­i­tal human­i­ties enthu­si­asts.  C&R point out that along with the obvi­ous promise of this field, there are sig­nif­i­cant pit­falls.  For instance, they point out, increased democ­ra­ti­za­tion or “acces­si­bil­ity” opens the acad­emy not just to chal­lenges to their fief­doms, but also to con­trib­u­tors who don’t share the same stan­dards of evi­dence col­lec­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion as pro­fes­sional schol­ars.  One could argue that this open­ness is an unal­loyed good, but as C&R point out, the uneven­ness of basic assump­tions may in some cases lower the “qual­ity” of what gets produced.

Svensson’s first arti­cle gives a nice overview of DH his­tory.  I am reminded of the idea that soc­cer (or Euro­pean foot­ball if you like) has been the “sport of the future” in this coun­try for 30 years.  DH is clearly an emerg­ing sci­ence, but the Svens­son arti­cle makes clear how very long it has been emerg­ing (early jour­nal was 1966).  In some of the quotes he uses about defin­ing DH, one detects the defen­sive­ness of a young aca­d­e­mic field.  From sec­tion 16 of the first Svens­son arti­cle, “…one eas­ily gets a rough and ready sense of what we are about, and con­sid­er­able reas­sur­ance, if any is needed, that indeed, there is some­thing which we are about.”

Svensson’s sec­ond arti­cle, “The Land­scape” of DH nicely lays out the poles, if that’s the right word, of DH as merely research tool, or entire field unto itself, deserv­ing endowed chairs, sep­a­rate facil­i­ties, and so on.  I can eas­ily see how the pol­i­tics of the acad­emy would color how one defines dig­i­tal human­i­ties based on how one views its legit­i­macy.  It seems clear to me, how­ever, that defin­ing and explor­ing the issues sur­round­ing dig­i­tal human­i­ties is an impor­tant pur­suit, not just for this class, but also for the acad­emy as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments