I have to say, the more i look into digital history, the more confused i am getting about where i stand on it.  Reading the Digital History book by Cohen & Rosenzweig has been really helpful to define what the positives and negatives are about it, but when i browse around, there is just SO many sites, its a bit overwhelming and a bit annoying when you are bombarded with bad, invalid, outdated, suspicious looking, poorly designed sites when all you want is some reliable information about a topic.  But, i will stay positive and hope to find my viewpoint soon – but first, lets talk about storytelling.  I found two websites and compared below.

The website from the British Library was the first one i found that offered some really cool primary sources and allows viewers to interact virtually with these texts as it displays each page.  You are able to zoom and move around the page.  When you go into one of the online exhibitions, the items are listed and you chose one and it comes up with info on that item alone.  There is no over-arching narrative, just the sources.  To me, this is aimed at academics or researchers because unless you were interested or looking in something specific it gets really boring, really quickly.  This is an example of having no narrative/story.

The second website i found after searching the word ‘Vikings’ (click here to view it).  This provided a brief historical narrative about the vikings, which was so much easier to engage with and i actually read the thing from top to bottom.  What i liked is that it had a creation date on the top along with the author – giving it some authorship and traceability.  It also allows for comments at the bottom.  It was good to see people disputing the article or presenting alternative facts with links to other sites, backing up their points.  This is what i believe is positive about digital history – when people can interact with it.

When comparing these two sites, i found the one with an overarching story so much better.  Now the creator was relatively unknown, and the facts perhaps a bit sketchy (according to the comments of contributors) i still found it a more enjoyable experience.  Yet the other from the British Library was much more credible and the sources were exponentially more valuable, it was hard to engage.  We have been talking about narrative in the last few lectures and this confirmed why i love narrative.  I like stories like the next Jane Austen fan, but here i could see that having a narrative allows greater engagement for viewers.  My brain likes to have beginning (context), middle (juicy facts) and end (summary) and I’m sure I’m not alone.

But one also needs to keep in mind the intended audience.  Wouldn’t most narrative style websites be for the public, and the non-linear be for the more selective researcher?  Each has benefits for different audiences.  However, for the interests of the wide audience, narrative style is so much better.  The great thing about digital history is that it is not limited to what can be read, but what videos we can enjoy and audio we can hear.



Co-creation: Helpful or hinderance?

Hello again world,

Well this week i have focused my attention to the reading by Burgess, Kalebe and McWilliam to discuss ‘Mediatisation and Institutions of Public Memory: Digital Storytelling…’  This one really got me thinking about the positive side of digitisation and the advantages this gives to historians.  We have been dealing with some very skeptical views in the past few weeks about it and i found it refreshing to hear some positive views.

The first thing that stood out was the point made about how communities have come to expect some for of ‘interaction’ with content available.  I absolutely agree.  Even i expect it.  On a kind of side tangent, i have a giant wasp phobia and have been plagued by a wasp nest on my fence at home.  I jumped straight onto Google and expected to find a detailed explanation of why they chose my fence, how i can get rid of them, how long their life cycle is, how big the nest could grow to…you get the point right?  I wanted to know everything in that moment, from the history of their species, to a detailed diagram of their anatomy.  Or maybe just a diagram that illustrates my feelings, like this:


Back to the point, this is how many members of our modern world feel about everything.  We want details, interactive media, we want multiple sources and we want it to look pretty.  This is the effect digitisation of information has on the world.  People expect it.  So, if we are to preserve history and keep it active, we must jump on board.

Secondly, i love the idea of the ‘co-creative’ process of digital storytelling. The example they gave about the “Apology” speech from Australian government to the people of Australia was really good.  It was great hearing perspectives from different people, both positive and negative.  So this inspired me to have a browse around the internet to find something similar, and i found this awesome website (see link below)

This is a website for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and it is great!  They have used the ‘co-creative’ method to create a well rounded picture of the effects the holocaust had on a variety of people, including workers, teachers, policemen, teenagers, and neighbours.  What stands out most for me is how much more powerful and meaningful the online exhibition becomes when it attempts to incorporate multiple perspectives and gives the community a voice.  I believe it even becomes more accessible – meaning, people of all ages can find something that they can relate to and is more engaging.  As an aspiring teacher of history, this kind of thing would go really well with school aged children getting interested and involved in history.

It does warn at the end of the reading how this process of co-creation has not established any protocols about how to ‘adequately represent and account for the multiple voices…who contribute’.  However, i believe we would be foolish, as historians, not to utilise this method of co-creation to develop more meaningful and fair representation of history for the future.