Here’s the schedule for tonight’s open house. Please plan to bring your laptop, log in to your site so that everyone can see any private items, and prepare to answer questions about your project.
Again, remember that everyone in a particular time slot will be presenting at the same time — the rest of us will be circulating. I’ll have comment sheets for you, and I’d like everyone to fill out at least 3 comment sheets on other projects.
Here’s a link to a page that explains how to write an HTML page you can put in your root directory (which, on Dreamhost, is the folder that has the same name as your domain name, e.g., amandafrench.net) to redirect visitors to your “project” folder: http://www.instant-web-site-tools.com/html-redirect.html
Also, here’s a link to a really great site that a Digital Libraries course at Simmons built with Omeka: http://alanis.simmons.edu/daisie/ They worked as a group, in committees, rather than individually, as explained on their “About this project” page: http://alanis.simmons.edu/daisie/exhibits/show/about/site — I’d actually be interested to know whether you think that’d be a good model for this course, though the pedagogical goals for this course are perhaps somewhat different than they are for that course.
I was most interested in Shirkey’s amatuerization of professions. And particularly interested in how this relates to history and Wikipedia. It seems the main issue we are facing here is the democratization of everything, which is precisely what has been touted as the benefit of the internet. I wonder if by creating standards and forums through which people can contribute to more scholarly websites, as talked about in Museum 2.0 article, we are creating a stratified virtual space that undemocratic in nature. I guess my main point is that for the institutions to effectively interact on the web, the process of democratization must be hindered in order to preserve an institution’s agency. Make sense? at all? I’m not sure it does, I just wonder if the structures we create online for access and participation are really smoke and mirrors assuming the main purpose of using the internet in the humanities is too connect with the public. Where people might have criticized museums and other cultural institutions in the late nineteenth century as forms of social control, what about the internet is remarkably different. I guess this is some attempt at a Marxist interpretation which I have no background in, so forgive me.
This week’s readings all discuss the concept of a website having/being a community for users and a way for them to dialogue. While I agree that this is an important feature for websites I wondered about the practical application for museums, archives, and public history sites. The examples Shirky gave in his book were hit-or-miss in their success and all were started from the ground up. But what about a site that already exists and wants to incorporate a user community within its organizational framework? History sites are attached to institutions, and as of right now there isn’t any getting around that, so how do they compensate for it? And once they do find a way to create a community, how do they attract an audience and sustain them? Shirky says that there is no magical one tool that can be applied to every situation, but are there any successful examples of history websites that can be used as an example for other sites?
Shirky says “It is even true of the weblog world in general- dozens of webblogs have an audience of a million or more and millions have an audience of a dozen or less’ It’s easy to see this as a kind of failure. Who would want to be a publisher with only a dozen reader?” This quote struck me as interesting. Though on a slightly larger scale, perhaps 100 to 300 readers, academic press run books do not touch or influence a large number of readers, yet they are not considered a failure of publishing. And most readers of these academic run books are people who don’t seek them out on their own but are forced (perhaps required is a better word) to do so in a university situation. But of course print publishing (while small in scale in this case) comes with other advantages such as future citations in other scholarly works and peer review in scholarly journals. If a blog of small scale can create dense connections as Shirky writes because of its smallness, is it not creating a community of knowledge where people can interact and further discussion and thought about a particular topic, and isn’t this community more productive and beneficial than the communities created by readers of the same monograph?
I’m considering the negative effects of freedom that have been made possible through easier modes of forming groups online. I was disheartened by Shirky’s story of the pro-ana group of teenagers on the YM forums and the other groups he mentions, who label themselves as “self-help” but are in truth quite the opposite. Shirky uses their story to illustrate one of the three losses that result from increased group formation — the ability to police groups (the first two losses being “amateurization” and social bargains). There are many groups that can now form which would be considered harmful, if not very dangerous. Shirky also briefly mentions crime networks and local terrorist organizations within this category. I also think of several school shootings, before which the shooter(s) have discussed his/their ideas in online communities.
In response to this third loss, which he believes is the most troubling, Shirky states that “the problem now becomes actively deciding which groups to support and which groups to oppose” (pp. 209-211). This seems to intimate that there will have to be some type of organized body given the specific task to police (or watch) these groups. Is there any plausible solution to that problem? Should the host website that’s providing this platform have the right to censor/shut down these communities? How can they define what is “harmful”? It’s an interesting moral dilemma…
(Ah! Sorry Meredith, just realized we posted similar Qs within a short time of each other…)
In a broad response to the readings and Anderson’s Smithsonian webcast, I’m wondering how much of the community, organizing, learning that’s taking place online and via digital tools is new and how much is just a different ways of doing things that people have always done. How much has Facebook, for example, fundamentally changed the social experience? Or, to what extent is Facebook just a reflection of the fact that people have always had a small group of close friends and a lot more not-so-close friends that we sort-of keep track of?
I felt similarly about Rosenzweig’s article and his evaluation of Wikipedia– yes, Wikipedia is completely unlike any source of information that has ever existed before but, on the other hand, it’s still an encyclopedia, sometimes a shotty encyclopedia at that, and no encyclopedia should be cited in a term paper. That part really isn’t new and the pressure is still on us – the individual, the scholar, whoever – to evaluate the things we read, hear, and see.
How much of the digital age is about a fundamental change in society? How much of it is about the speed and degree to which old relationships and communities are taking place via new media? Does the latter create the former?
In Clay Shirky’s keynote address at Smithsonian 2.0 he makes the point that we, as an online audience, rely on each other to dictate what is good or worth looking at. So what does this mean for online history sources who might not have the presence that juggernauts like wikipedia and youtube have? This also goes back to the case studies of public history websites that we looked at. What makes a history site reliable? How do you make a good site look good, without as we noticed publishing a book, journal article, etc.?
When Shirky discusses the “Pro-ana” websites and their “self help” characteristics he notes that these types of sites are a product of the ability to gather easily on the internet in the first place. He states, “The gathering of pro-ana girls isn’t a side effect of our social tools; it’s an effect of those tools.” 207
He ends this same chapter by noting that self help groups are founded on the criteria of affirmation and support of group members (which is what he suggests is exactly what pro-anorexic sites do).
Using this example, what kinds of social responsibility do people have to combat groups like this? If groups which are unhealthy simply move to another site, (i.e. Seventeen taking down their comment board once pro-anorexic young women began using it as a meet up point) what other actions can and should we do as communities whose daughters/sisters/friends might be participating in these communities?
Secondly, I’m really interested in Shirky’s point that the internet opens the opportunity to be creative because the “cost of failure” is so low. I’m wondering what people think about this point in conjunction with our own projects. Since we jumped right into using free software and were given a very open ended opportunity to “Build an online archive and exhibit of primary sources” what are some of the advantages and disadvantages we have faced with the “try it and then if it doesn’t work try something else” approach to digital projects? Although I like Shirky’s idea on pg 249 that “In a world were anyone can try anything, even risky stuff can be tried eventually. If a large enough population of users is trying things, then the happy accidents have a much higher chance of being discovered,” I have to wonder… What about planning? What about proposals? What about thinking things through before jumping in head first?
Clay Shirky discussed the amateurization of professions such as journalists, photographers, and publishers that were previously defined by the community, the work, and also the scarcity of professionals in that field. Now that everyone can essentially write, photograph, and publish their materials online – breaking down the idea of who constitutes a professional. Is this something that is or will happen to historians?