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After HIST 291 I still agree with my belief that the digitization of history would further connect individuals to the study apart from learning about it in a school setting. I feel that all of the areas touched upon in this course are ways that can possibly improve the study of history and at the very least should be considered.

Throughout this course I’ve acquired skills that have improved my understanding of history through textual analysis, visual aid from maps, coding as well as both the physical and online access of archives to list a few. As I said on my first post I wished that the skills I’ll be learning could be incorporated into my teaching career in the future and fortunately I could see all of the topics covered in our class being used for that purpose. I truly believe the integration of digital history into high school would be inevitable especially when most teachers are moving towards the use of Powerpoint and other technologies into their classrooms. Rather than stopping there, lessons revolving around Google Sketchup and the access of online archives could replace boring summaries from the textbook which has become the expected in school.

Apart from my initial goal to better prepare myself as a high school teacher I’ve also derived a strong appreciation for 3-D printing from this course. The limitless possibilities to reproduce models would improve upon learning and further engage students and I found the presentation set up for our class was a great example of it. An example of a technology that would surpass the high school setting would be the incorporation of Python and coding to history since the only time when such huge quantities of information is necessary is at the university level. I was fortunate enough to have Audacity introduced to me here since I needed to transcribe a lengthy interview for another course over the semester and the simple function to slow the audio file down was very helpful.

To sum up I thoroughly enjoyed my first official experience as a digital historian from HIST 291, but as we’ve learned we all most likely have encountered it already from our strong reliance upon technology. I feel a very important lesson that I took away from this course is that even though as historians we study the past, we don’t need to settle for the same outdated methods used back then.

I have always had a slight interest for programming since high school but after taking CS 100 in my first year I grew to hate it. I developed a basic understanding of HTML but I never found it necessary to apply any of my knowledge as most of my computer usage is simply for surfing the web and gaming. From that point I chose to stay within the humanities since I much preferred this style of learning but was very excited when this course introduced me to the field of digital humanities.

I found the nature of writing code to be tedious and boring until HIST 291 introduced me to ways my codes could help with studying history. Being able to locate the desired keywords from documents within seconds and manipulating the text would expand the possibilities for historians as more information could be processed within a significantly shorter period of time. I was able to write lines of code which would leave out my desired stop words throughout the text as well as computing the frequency of certain words. These processes would greatly help modern day historians with the vastness of information that is now being deposited on the internet and the practicality of coding would be irrefutable if one successfully learns the ins and outs of Python.

The Programming Historian was an interactive introduction to python and the fact that it’s offered for free online makes it a great way for anyone to dip their toes into the field of Computer Science. In the end of the day I still don’t feel this approach would become the dominant one in the near future since history is still a study dominated by older individuals but only time could tell. It could be argued that to learn a new subject as Python in order for the desired effects would be difficult for some hence the value would be unique to each individual. Unfortunately I don’t feel I will utilize this method in my study of history since I prefer the traditional approach. These new methods might one day make trips to actual archives obsolete especially when information is so easily stored and accessed through the internet but I feel the experience at an archive is part of studying history, hence why you brought us earlier in the year.

A computer may compute information at a much quicker pace but the saved time might be when the best ideas may come to a historian.

Textual analysis through the Ngram Viewer and Mining the Dispatch offers new ways to explore into our past by analyzing documents for specific words or for certain combination of words within databases. This process allows for the incorporation of much more information at a scale never fathomed before. The Science article exhibited this well through the examples of it taking 80 years to read only the English entries at 200 words/min without rest and how it would reach the moon and back 10 times over if written out in a straight line.

Such vastness simply means new methods are required in order to derive the most effective use for the public. Mining the Dispatch incorporates the method of Topic Modeling in an attempt to distinguish topics with the association from the words used together. The shortcoming from this tool lies with the lack of critical thinking involved with the association which led to the grouping of fugitive slave ads to the topic of “entertainment and culture” through the presence of clothing within the description. I found this practice to be innovative as it attempts to establish connections from mere text rather than an analysis of the context. This method of research supplements the current study of history with sets of ideas which opens up new areas to potentially look into.

Google’s Ngram Viewer is a tool which plots the frequency of the phrases inputted within a certain period from the corpus by Google books. This could be used to compare different subjects and to chart the change of occurrence over time. I found this aspect to be particularly effective since a lot could be derived from knowing what was included and excluded from the press. The user friendly features such as the year and the percentage of occurrence following the cursor as we move around are simple additions which add to the effectiveness of this tool. Another addition to this would be the vastness of literature in which it draws upon as the database contains 8 different languages. While playing with the Ngram Viewer I decided to explore how the three main sciences of Biology, Chemistry and Physics interacted since the 16’th century. The results indicated that there were long gaps within the progression of these studies with great spurts at certain periods, which would be distinct moments in history with specific reasons for the increase or decrease of occurrence within books. A tool as Google Ngram would be a great starting point to explore into how certain topics relate with one another along with how the relations may change over time.


The Science article further supported the potential of the effectiveness from this digitization process through the introduction of projects which successfully used textual analysis. The project to determine how many words are in the English language and the evolution of grammar are prime examples of the potential that lies with textual analysis. The article also discussed the impact of censorship within Nazi Germany through the frequency of the Jewish artist Marc Chagall between the English and German language which exhibited the effects of Nazi censorship as his name disappeared completely during the years of the Third Reich.

I believe textual analysis should be integrated in the study of history as the vastness of material in this day and age calls for it, but to be done alongside normal research for optimal results. The shortcoming from Mining the Dispatch would be the occasional grouping of unrelated topics, and the lack of specific details would be the downfall from Google Ngram, and both could be solved with additional research.

These three sites are attempts to digitally archive events through the world wide web. This method allowed thorough collections to be made quickly and drew from a wider pool of individuals who were affected. All three still permit contributions to be made to the project which displays a new method to study as well as offer history to the public. The masses of assorted data as text, pictures, videos and interviews reflect upon how we can now create diverse recollections through the help of everyday citizens, which was not popular within the study of history prior to the digital age.

The September 11 Digital Archive has general historical facts such as the sequence of events, the impact it had upon the United States and the military intervention which ensued. With this backbone, the archive fleshed the content with a personal component from the ones affected by the event which exhibit a new way to study this event in the future. I found it interesting and slightly amusing how hysterical emails as ones which focused on Satan being in the smoke being alongside emails to the Department of Justice. I don’t believe this detracts from the legitimacy, but simply the archive’s desire to portray every aspect of the event. 

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank was similar with an assortment of sources available including images and stories. The distinction came from the use of maps when analyzing the effects Hurricane Katrina and Rita had as it encompassed a larger area than the events of 9/11. Google maps marked specific locations where events took place which is another way history could be studied in this day and age. I stumbled across a picture of the food a victim ate for a period of time, which were essentially packaged instant meals. He gave his recommendations as well as the ones to stay away from which is a unique example of how we can further understand the experiences from the victims.

The Occupy Archive Project is on an even bigger scale than the other two as it encompassed the occupy movements across the world in great detail, but the archive does not contain as much material. I believe this is due to the nature of this event which only appealed to specific demographics. I found this archive to be the least effective as most of the pictures I stumbled across were simply featuring signs being held. It also appeared to be the least maintained and managed which may be due to the lack of support from the government or universities.

All three of these archives are deemed valuable to my standards as they are extensive as well as free to use. The ability for anyone to contribute their personal story to enrich the knowledge we have of an event is not something that could be done through the traditional method to study history but as seen through these three archives it’s been achieved collaboratively through the web. I find these accounts to be accurate representations of the events which could be used to further connect with the victims and would flesh out one’s understanding of the topics.

I’m Don and I’m currently on my third year of history and business. I came to the University of Waterloo aspiring to become a history teacher as one of my high school teachers had been quite the inspiration through his ability to captivate the classroom. I decided to take this course as it’s inevitable for technology to surpass the practicality of paper, and I foresee the field of history soon evolving similar to how other studies are within academia.

I believe more individuals could connect to the past if history was further digitized, hence making it more available to the public. The different forms of communication which the internet provides offer many alternatives to appeal to individuals who are less likely to pick up a book or be fortunate enough to sit through a lecture with an engaging professor. I believe this opportunity ultimately allows aspiring teachers to expand and improve their ability to teach this subject and would revolutionize the old fashioned note taking while reading a text book.

I relate to many of you who are fond of video games with a historical influence, the new Assassins Creed was great following my early American history course. I also enjoyed the classic Battlefield games much more so than the modern ones as it focused on the second World War.

I dream that one day I can travel the world with the excuse of documenting the unique history of each destination through my perspective. Hopefully my studies in business along with this more modern style of history could make such a dream a reality.