14 October 2006

Lingua Franca and iPod History

The reading assignments for this week woke up my imagination, even at 0600 in the morning! My initial thoughts concerning these applications were definitely negative, considering the first two articles that put me to sleep. However, despite the great number of ideas that ignited my imagination, I just do not think georeferencing and the use of maps on the Internet, in the broader sense of historical writing, can usurp publishing academic history found in a book. The big question I have is from what prospective should we (Clio Wired students) examine these issues? As end-users or service providers? My hunch is both, which would require more lengthy discussions. From both perspectives, the camaraderie here is publishing history in a more creative way.

The most tiresome article was by Michael Buckland and Lewis Lancaster, concerning the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI). I should have read that one last! This deals with promoting the sharing of data among researchers who emphasize the relationships between place, time, and topic in the study of culture and history, and to promote an international effort to transform humanities scholarship through the use of the digital environment to share data on the notions of place and time. For example, the use of Gazetteers allow for disambiguating place-names by associating them with latitude and longitude attributes, which in turn supports making maps to support time period directories and the creation of timelines.

Not more exciting was the Linda Hill's article on georeferencing in digital libraries concerns the application of georeferencing to various forms of information and the integration of geospatial description, searching, and analysis into digital library practices. It is the spatial literacy to interpret problems and their solutions in spatial terms in digital library applications. At the same time, she acknowledges that Geospatial access remains an underdeveloped capability due to its misunderstanding.

The article by Wade Roush on Lewis and Clark and David Rumsey was interesting, especially the skill which Clark applied to plot points on a map. In the end, prophet Rumsey sizes up all the nifty map scanning that is going on by, "What these location-based technologies are going to allow all of us to do is to become like explorers -- to make our own maps," says Rumsey. "And I think people are going to use that to build a whole new interpretation of our culture."

The article by the Associated Press about Podcasts and Colonial Williamsburg was nifty as well. I like the fact that cutting-edge technology has completely infiltrated a sacred American institution that works very hard (with exceptional results) to preserve one of the most essential places in American history. At least I can sleep more comfortable at night knowing that if I can't visit Williamsburg in person, or get on the Internet to visit their superb website, I can still get my dose of colonial history over an ipod or some other hand-held device.
Robert M. Schwartz's article, "Railways and Population Change in Industrializing England: An Introduction to Historical GIS," has the purpose of illustrating how the technology of Geographic Information Systems go hand in hand in the revisiting of old questions and charting new explorations. He uses GIS methods to examine the relationship between the development of the railway system and population change in industrializing England and Wales from 1851 to 1914, when the rail system reached its peak in geographic coverage. The Geography Department at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London created and continues to develop the Great Britain Historical Data Base, the largest and most advanced collections of historical GIS data in existence.

Conclusion: In response to Schwartz's article, I would argue that military historians such as myself are faced with the some of the same issues as social historians in their research to acquire “a sense of place” through the study of maps. This is especially relevant when opposing units move around on the battlefield. The application of GIS, at a tactical level, could provide great benefits to better understand how and why the interaction of combat an support units achieved victory or failure. This concept may also be of particular use to plot both maritime and aviation assets?

13 October 2006

Wikis: Digital Skills Requirement

IAW the course requirements RE digital skills, I contributed to a page on Wikipedia. The experience was pleasing, whereby the actual process of editing the scanty profile of a historic personality was very simple, but also empowering. Against my own wishes, I have arrived at the very edge of Rosenzweig's pit. And I think I am going to fall in! His dictum included a personal obligation for me to correct or provide information that I covet. It took me one hour and 45 minutes to edit the piece. I was optomistic that it would NOT take that long, but who am I kidding, except maybe myself?! I must confess that it felt good and I have plans to continue- especially since the coverage on the general subject is less than noteworthy. Here is the link: