06 December 2006

Digital Skills: Podcasting

If you look to your right, below the RSS feeds, I have linked two podcasts. It is news from the Global War on Terror. Sorry about the lame voice- I tried like hell to sound like the commentator at the evening parades at Marine Barracks.

I really like podcasting! The technical aspect is easy to master, provided you have a decent computer to record the narration. Neither of our home computers work, so I had to rely on another computer that had XP and the movie feature.

27 November 2006

Web Audiences

I will keep my comments brief for this week's reading assignments, considering they were VERY short (thank you), as I continued to labor over my final project website and proposal. The readings were completely appropriate and gave me ideas for additional fodder for the proposal.

In relation to my GWOT Archive website and building a web audience, I shall launch a publicity campaign that will focus, first and foremost, on connecting with a community, rather than individuals. In this morning's Sunday newspaper, the Fredericksburg Freelance Star, I read an article about a group of parents who are trying to cope with the death of their sons and daughters. Very carefully, I will approach this community and explain to them what my site seeks to accomplish: to honor the men and women that sacrificed their lives and paid the ultimate price. The GWOT Archive hopes to perpetuate their legacy through the perspectives of men and women Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen, fighting the war on terror.

Below is a very weak publicity campaign I intended before I read the excerpt by Cohen and Rosenzweig, on how to build web audiences:

Audience

The GWOT Archive features U.S. troops. The intended audiences are all U.S. branches of the Armed Forces, including the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, and the American public. International interest can be expected.

Audience Hierarchy:

1. Service members
2. Service member's next of kin
3. Service member's immediate family
4. Service member's extended family
5. Service member's unit members
6. Service member's coalition forces
7. Professional historians
8. General public

Reaching the Audience:

Service members are currently reached by word of mouth and through direct contact using email. In many cases, email addresses of potential service members can be obtained from official DOD news articles.

Here is what I will do after reading the article:

Rearrange the target audiences by moving service member's immediate and extended family to the top of the hierarchy and as a community. Following the family, I will place the general public in the number two spot, since I think most unit members and coalition forces would rather put this kind of stuff out of the minds. After letting these communities know that I exist and am interested in their opinions, I shall pursue the community of soldiers out there already writing their stories on both web and blog sites.

That's more than what I wanted to write for tonight and just the tip of the iceberg...

20 November 2006

Free Culture, Liberation Technology, and Public Pathways Enrich History on the Web.

The readings for this week were all very good. In my opinion, free access to information is the best route for the development and success of history on the net. I would like first to refer to Rozenzweig's article that brought out many emotions associated with my experiences in the museum world.

As the lead contracting officer representative for the 10 million dollar exhibit fabrication contract for the now open (10 Nov 2006) National Museum of the Marine Corps, the issues concerning Marine Corps and other related images selected for the exhibits brought out the evil surrounding Corbis and Getty. The exhibit designers were good people, but they lacked entirely the concept of conducting historical research outside the confines of the Internet. Despite their "Marine Corps consultant" who remains one of the leading historians in the field, his leadership did not surpass historical content. As a result, these armchair historians surfed the World Wide Web and found a wealth of resources at their fingertips. My guess is that they considered the task relatively easy and found all kinds of images that were then written into the 100% exhibits plan. The images that were readily accessible online gave them a false sense of availability. So, as the years seemed to pass by very quickly and the opening of the museum was less than twelve months away, it became time to provide the images to the exhibits fabrication contractor. Unfortunately, the images were behind a gate which only good money could buy. Did I mention that many of the images were official Marine Corps photographs? As crazy as it sounds, some government images could not be located in the National Archives and a hefty fee was paid for the license. Forget about perpetuity; we are talking about a one-time user fee not to exceed X number of years with no license for the use in brochures or other media outlets. OK- the guy behind Corbis is a genius- we all know that now.

I think Rosenzweig makes the best argument that access to all sources should be free, across the board. Proven alternative methods for raising the badly needed "existential" revenues are applied with success, such as the Open Book project at the National Academy Press (NAP). By putting most of their holdings online for free has raised sales. Michael Jensen, of NAP, said "free browsing, easy access, and researcher-friendly publication first, and sales second" is "much more in keeping with the role of a non-commercial publisher" and for doing "the most good for society as possible within the constraints of our money."

While Lawrence Lessig's refrain on the demise of creativity and innovation may not seem apropos to the situation with Corbis, I believe the control and restriction of information, especially in order to make money, is in fact our loss and less a free society. Rosenzweig hit the nail on the head when he said "'open sources' should be the slogan of academic and popular historians. Academics and enthusiasts created the web; we should not quickly or quietly cede it to giant corporations."

18 November 2006

Digital Skills: Movie

I wish I had more time for making the movie. Hah! That's only the tip of the iceberg. I wish I had more time for all my projects. To make matters worse, both my computer and my wife's computer (with Windows XP) are hopeless! We are living in the stone age. I have to make smoke signals to get online (kidding).

The movie making experience has potential but overall it was disappointing for a number of reasons. After starting over several times, I still couldn't edit the film strip well enough to make the timing of the intervals better. You will notice they are choppy. Moreover, the audio or commentary didn't work well either. I tried making commentary with music in the background. The last thing you want to hear is me talking more than necessary.

Anyway, tell me what you think...

16 November 2006

Army Heritage Museum Virtual Website

Just wanted to share a website that combines interactive elements to make an interesting presentation. Go to Exhibit #3 : "Forging Two Frontiers." What do you think?

12 November 2006

Folksonomic Mobilization

Putting the Public to Work for Your Museum Website

I think my title puts the readings for this week into perspective. Let's try and get the general public to do the arduous work your staff can't. The outlook is bleak, but many institutions continue to place a lot of faith in the democratization of museum website.

The idea of museum visitors on the Web submitting anecdotal snippets, related to certain artifacts, is rather appealing. It could fill many informational gaps in a collection, if that undocumented portion in storage is photographed and accessible on line. However, Federal DoD Museums typically display roughly 10% of a collection. Usually, that 10% consists of artifacts that are well documented and have substantial provenance- thus making them significant and display necessities. For example, a Marine at the Battle of Chosin captured the small Chinese brass bugle, used by troops of the North Korean People's Army to signal the attack. This artifact trumpets a wealth of provenance. Were the bugle part of a "virtual tour" of the new National Museum of the Marine Corps, the number of anecdotal accounts describing the ominous shrill that Marines heard proceeding and enemy attack would certainly enrich the history for that artifact. In reality, those items that lack information usually have not been photographed or even cataloged.

The only objection I had to the readings involved the idea of folksonomic mobilization. This catchy phrase sounds trendy, along with other web initiatives that really only benefit the profiteers. The general public is helping tag museum images for better Goggle-search-ability? How much meta-tag information could possibly be gathered for one photograph before the cost of server space exceeds its worthy? It probably isn't much, but thousands of photos would take up significant space. It sounds as a clever method for curators to eliminate a backlog of work at no cost to the institution!

Linda Hales' article in the Washington Post shows that getting the public to work for you is a slow process. It may not be as bad as drawing blood from a stone, but the results, similar to the initiative of the Gutenberg-e, suggest that esoteric and near-extinct subject matter and artifacts destined for life in storage may squander money.

Digital Skills: HTML, CSS, and Domain Registration and Hosting

For my final project, I decided to use free space offered by Netfirms.com. I did not register my domain, however Netfirms is still hosting my site.

The site is at www.gwot.netfirms.com.

If you look closely on the page about women, each link to the individual women uses Javascript to format the new window that opens. I set the format to include only the title bar as opposed to all the other junk you get when you browse. At the bottom of the page you will notice more javascripting which closes the window.

If you look on the page for women and click on Major Carr, you will notice a neat little US Army Star attached to the pointer.

The site will be further developed and hopefully completed by the end of the course.

Digital Skills: Searching

Working towards my final project, I conducted a "market survey" to determine what was already out there, in terms of primary or eyewitness accounts from American men and women fighting the war in Afghanistan or Iraq in digital archives. To my surprise, there isn't that much at all. Specifically, I was looking for

Searched Goggle using the following strings:

accounts from global war on terror: 3,160,000 hits. Most sites related to GWOT in general, but many were related to opening a website "account," bank accounts, etc.

"accounts from global war on terror": did not match any documents.

personal account "global war on terror": 277,000 hits

Most of the content on the web is basic commentary found on blog sites. Most often, these have a little bit of everything, to include news and a whole rang of other topics.

"soldier stories" AND "global war on terror": 332 hits

This brought me to government pages, general news, and anti-war blog sites.

"primary accounts" "global war on terror": 32

None of the above search strings provided very good results. Of the 32 listed URLs, none had ANY eyewitness accounts outside those from the POWs held at Gitmo Bay.

The search string "journal" and GWOT provided another several millions hits- at one point I found "milblogger", a website with thousands of active duty bloggers, but I did not find anything noteworthy.

The search criteria: (war diary) OIF, really paid off well but with 114,000 hits, whereas "war diary" OIF had 4,430 hits. Actually the former search offered much better material right at the top of the hit list.

I looked back at Mary Ellen Bates' article, “Internet Librarian: 30 Search Tips in 40 Minutes,” and tried the web search triangle using yahoo.com (worse results and I am generally opposed to using yahoo) and metacrawler.com that had great results! The number of hits for (war diary) OIF was 72 and "war diary" OIF netted 55. Not bad.

In closing, the results were rather weak and dissappointing but show that individual war diaries or eyewitness accounts are on the Internet. The key to the GWOT Archive will be meta-tagging the individual pages accurately. The title alone will require carefully targeted wording.

05 November 2006

Gutenberg-e

The reading for this week came close to considering many of the issues discussed thus far in the course. According to Patrick Manning, the publishing of electronic books "poses the question of whether graduate education should prepare new historians to focus on field-specific monographic research or on a wider range of professional responsibilities." The beat of this drum is familiar and in step with David Pace and our past discussion concerning the bridge between professional research and mediocre teaching practices. Pace postulates a solid argument on refining the skills of historians to teach, which is to be more emblematic of research with significant consequences that many historians are reluctant to embrace. Manning is yet another who advocates that historians should think outside the box of specialized training, research, and interpretation. His article discusses the review of eleven scholarly works in four distinct fields of history. It is a good example of "thinking outside the box" by considering questions on interpreting modern history as a whole.

The purpose of Gutenberg-e-books was to save the historical monograph, allow endangered historical fields to flourish, develop a business model for an electronic successor to the older university-press monograph, and for another broad campaign of developing electronic publication in the social sciences. At present, the high cost of producing new monographs electronically remains a slow and laborious process. I was not at all surprised to read about the chilling results of the project and that a reluctance to fund the continuation of the endeavor may spell its demise. Very few libraries have invested in a rudimentary purpose of the program- to publish works for which there is no interest. Indeed, enrollment in GMU's Clio Wired class may be in order. Our discussion last week struck at the heart of these issues in the face of budgetary restrictions: scan and publish the important stuff and deal with the less important later!

In closing, I think the excursion by historians into the realm of history on the Internet will continue at an unprecedented rate. However, as Manning pointed out, websites have yet to be seen as more than a supplement to the book.