Blog Post 4

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Voyant tools is a free, online software which allows researchers to analyze large quantities of text from one or multiple sources to quickly draw information from trends involving things like word count, word usage, and various patters that appear within one or more texts. This is useful for researchers who need to search through hundreds or thousands of pages of material and quickly sort through the documents to find information quickly and efficiently while also being able to determine patterns throughout the writings. Rather than looking at the fine details of a written document, the intention of Voyant is to provide a big picture look at the text in a way that otherwise would not be available. Voyant uses a series of graphs, charts, and lists to rank, sort, and outline specific words within the text. A historian will be able to look at some of the works of Shakespeare for example and find that throughout his writings are criticisms of the church and royal family. A historian can also take seemingly unrelated texts and find common themes or ideas shared between them. Another example for a use of Voyant would be to compare the speeches of different political candidates or representatives and determine how different politicians had similar or different views depending on their party affiliation.

 

Voyant does have some downsides however. The tool is used to provide a large scale picture of the overall ideas of a text but cannot show detailed context behind the use and meanings of these words. While a researcher can see that two compared articles might use the similar words throughout, Voyant does not provide context to how these words are used. Two texts that talk about a similar subject will show to have the same overall themes but may be using a certain word to have a different meaning or perhaps the articles are using the same words but have differing opinions surrounding them. Overall Voyant is a useful tool to sort through large amounts of text in a short amount of time to view overall themes and important subjects within a text but should not be used as a replacement for more detailed and in depth research tools.

Post 3: Story Map Analysis

The story map that I have chosen for this week’s analysis is Mapping the Spread of American Slavery. The goal of this story map is to quantify just how many slaves were kept in the United States from the years 1790 to 1860. The creator of the map goes into great detail in providing the information on a county by county basis. Each of the counties on the map are coloured from white to a dark red to visualize the population of enslaved people in each area throughout the country. The number of slaves per county range from 0 in some of the northern states to 100,000 in the deep south. Along the bottom of the story map is a sliding time scale which the user can slide along a timeline to show the evolution and spread of the slave trade away from the costal regions and west, toward the Mississippi river delta, Alabama, and Texas. The scale allows the user to stop in a specific time period that may be of interest to them and at the same time the zoom effect that is used for this map enables us to look at the slave trade through both a large scale national level as well as on a smaller scale on a state by state or even county by county basis.

The Spread of US Slavery A negative aspect of this story map is that the creator decided to present the information on a format of only displaying population numbers and place names. While not necessarily a bad thing, I think that there is a missed opportunity where the creator could have written about specific events throughout the timeline as the user scrolls across as well as giving information about specific areas and why these places, specifically, were populated in the ways that they were. Overall I would say that this map is very informative and gives a large amount of research information relating to the topic, the map leaves users to search elsewhere for additional information and could be vastly improved by adding stories and writing to the numerical information.

Blog Post #2. Archives

When looking at the archives listed, it is clear that there are a wide variety of archival sites which, while serving the overall same purpose, go about sorting and displaying their archived information in very different ways. With the exception of one site, Ancestry.ca, all of these archival websites are free to use and open to the general public. While some of the archives are catered toward historical researchers who have an expert knowledge in a specific field, there are others who through the use of visuals, easy to navigate database systems, and easily presentable online exhibits, work to present their information to the general public or those with little to no prior historical research experience.

ancestry.ca

As mentioned earlier, Ancestry.ca is a pay to use site that is intended to allow the user to trace their family tree and discover relatives who they otherwise would have never known about. For the low low price of $14.99, users gain access to a variety of research tools and access to names, birth dates, and family histories through the Mormon Genealogy Archive. Rather than providing the user with a large quantity of information to sift through, ancestry.ca works more in the sense of an aggregator site which provides the tools to sift through large amounts of information but that information is far more broad and difficult to find than in other sites.

medici archive

The Medici archive project chronicles more than 4 million letters written over the span of 200 years from 1537 to 1743. My first impression of the site was that it was unorganized and that the cluster of pictures all crammed together on the main page was messy and confusing. This opinion of the website changed after going through the different sections of the site and using its search engine to look up more specific information and letters of a specific topic. I began to find that Medici.org was very easy to navigate and was good at displaying their information on the individual pages, unlike the messy looking homepage.

darwin computer

The Darwin Project organizes and sorts 8,500 letters written by Charles Darwin and more than 15,000 letters total. I found that this was by far the easiest site to navigate and it was easily my favourite one to use. The pages are not clustered in the way that they were with the Medici site and the use of visuals provided and overall stimulating experience which is accessible not only to professional researchers studying Darwin, but also to amature historians, teachers, and students.

Between these three sites I would have to say that The Darwin Project is the most well organized, well thought out, and easily accessible in the group. The Medici project, while useful and informative could use some work in the organization and display of their information. Ancestry.ca comes in last for me due to its expensive subscription fees, unclear information as to what you are specifically getting with these payments, and overall broadness of information.

Intro Post

My name is Greg Hayward and I am a second year history major. I am specifically interested in the digital history course because of it combines my interest in technology, history and maps. I also believe that these are valuable skills for future jobs after I graduate with my degree in history. Outside of history my main interests would be sports and travelling. In January I made my first trip outside of North America when I was able to participate in a history trip to Iceland where I was able to visit an excavation site of a viking longhouse, learn about Norse voyages through the north Atlantic to North America and visit a site called thingvellir, home of the oldest parliament in the world and located in the continental rift between North America and Eurasia.

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I also spent the Month of July travelling across Canada by train, learning about my own country’s history and in August ended up getting forced to go back home from Texas by hurricane Harvey. My love of travelling and history come together when looking at and studying maps. I could easily spend hours on google earth or staring at a globe.

I think this class fits well with my personal interests and also gives me an advantage in the future with computer skills that many other history students would not typically have. These database skills and ability to sort through and find valuable information are very useful to have in a wide range of jobs after my university career. When I first learned about this course I thought that it would be a big advantage over other history graduates if I could learn online research skills.

The introductory chapter of the Digital History book highlights both the positive and negative aspects of technology and the internet and I think that it makes a lot of good points. While the internet allows large amounts of information to be accessed by nearly everyone, there is no filter on the internet to separate the reliable and factual information from the completely false, bogus websites that write convincing arguments that are not fully based on fact or properly researched. This may do more harm than good when the general public is attempting to learn through the internet.

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In my opinion, the promises and advantages of digital history far outweigh the negative aspects listed in this introduction chapter. Although there will no doubt be a number of people who are misled by unreliable sources, the accessibility that the internet provides will allow many more who would not otherwise have access to historical information to learn and study history than the number of those who will stumble upon a conspiracy website or simply badly researched article that may lead them down an unfounded path of psuedo-history. I tend to lean more in the direction of the technological optimist rather than the negative neo-luddites that were mentioned in this chapter.