Productive Failure

This is a little past due, but I still wanted to make sure this blog post made it onto the site. My most productive failure came when I was trying to set up a right-side menu that would stay fixed on the page while the reader scrolled down. As some of you who looked at the BMC website before may remember, the sidebar menu was clunky and unattractive. As the date quickly approached to turn in our final drafts, I looked on the website and saw the menu still wasn’t fixed, so I decided to do it myself despite my lack of know-how. After I figured out how to remove the side menu that was up, I proceeded to try and put up a more attractive menu. Our theme didn’t really allow the sort of thing that I was looking for, so I proceeded to try and find a plugin. What would have taken a lot of people no more than half an hour to figure out took me well over an hour. A very long, painful hour.

The first plugin that I tried didn’t work. That is, after I installed it, activated it, and FINALLY located it on my WordPress dashboard, it didn’t work.  I don’t even remember what it did, I only know that it didn’t do what I needed. I found another plugin. Same issue. I installed and activated it but then I had to find where it went on my dashboard as it was not obvious. There may have been a third plugin in there before I finally found what I wanted. I finally got my sidebar menu that wasn’t enormous. I was able to create all the options that I wanted to place on that menu. The only problem was it didn’t stick on the page as you scroll down, which was a requirement for me. That actually took a whole separate plugin. After this last plugin was installed and I found it on the dashboard (I mean really, why can’t these all be in a very obvious place?!) my menu did exactly what I wanted it to. The whole process was extremely frustrating but I’m just happy that it doesn’t look terrible anymore.

Just don’t ask me how I did all this or what plugins I used. I haven’t the faintest idea.

Advertisements

Digital Citizenship

The readings for this week gave me plenty to think about regarding digital citizenship. As an aspiring archivist (or maybe museum curator… who knows where my Library Science degree will ultimately lead me), much of what I will say and ways in which I would build my digital identity would be relatively void of my own strong personal opinions. I notice that in many ways I do this already. Although I follow plenty of people on twitter, I am very selective about the things that I retweet as my Twitter page may be subject to examination when I apply for a master’s degree or for jobs after I finish school. My social media accounts may reflect my beliefs to a certain extent, but I think long and hard about my digital identity. I may be a little more lax on Facebook (who am I kidding. I’d be surprised if the government isn’t watching me after some of the stuff I have said on Facebook), but more and more I am using my Twitter account and blog as a way to build a strong digital citizenship that is more cohesive to my professional interests.

The second two readings, “Internet Famous: Visibility as Violence in Social Media” and “The Rules of Twitter” offered two similar yet different views on Twitter. “The Rules of Twitter” validated what the former article said about violence and stalking and the prominence of the white male figure on Twitter, but offered a more hopeful view of what Twitter and other social media platforms can be in the future. The same issues that plague many public spaces still afflicts digital public spaces, but it is becoming more apparent that this is not a place of segregation; this is a place where people of different ethnicities, genders, and class can interact on the same level. I’m not sure what to make of the last reading, especially in light of the “Visibility as Violence,” but it is certainly something to think about. I was also interested in the quote from “Rules of Twitter” that discusses surveillance. I myself fell into the trap of “bemoaning a more innocent tech era” at the beginning of this class while there were clearly other groups that grew accustomed to different methods of surveillance long ago. I have become quite use to this new feeling, or at least I am comfortable enough to be aware of the “digital citizenship” that I am building, but for others this is nothing new. For me this was a really interesting perspective to consider.

First Drafts of Websites, Reviewing the UUCA Website

This past week we submitted the first draft of our website. I am less than pleased with a lot of the website, including the Home page, About page, and Additional Resources page. However, I did not have time to fix these so I will have to work harder on them in the weeks coming up. For the most part I am happy with my portion of the website. I need to add more images and edit my historical interpretations, but I made sure to cite everything as I wrote it and am fairly happy with the contents of my pages. I enjoyed seeing the UUCA’s website. They did a lot of things that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of! It is also interesting to see a very different type of story being told.

I also spent time at the WRA yesterday. I knew finding images for my part of the website would not take too long so I spent this time finding images for the games programming folks instead. I have at least 20 images—if not more—flagged for Heather to scan. I also found original drawings of the building by the architect! These were super neat and gave me a better idea of how the building was intended to be used. Contrary to what I thought, the building did not have classrooms in them but rather a few apartments and student studies. I plan to go back this week to find the images that I want to use for the rest of the website. I will probably look for images for other pages as well, including the Home page and my “Those Who Stayed” page. Even though my section of the website is almost complete, there is so much left be done. I am starting to feel the stress of pulling this together before our presentations.

Digital Archives and Digital Histories

First I would like to start off by saying that Alfred Kazin, the gentleman mentioned at the beginning of the article in the New Yorker, taught at Black Mountain College. No matter where I go, what I read, where I turn, BMC follows me everywhere. I can no longer seem to get away.

The readings definitely gave me plenty to think about, especially in regards to how I am representing the collection I am using, especially in terms of digital images. Some of the pros that I saw in digital archives is the expansion of knowledge. Even though computer and internet access does not reach every individual equally, it most certainly expands the reach of knowledge that was previously unattainable for some. For instance, I have the ability to look at documents housed in Europe although I may find myself unable to leave the country. Sure the quality of these documents may suffer from poorer quality images, but if I am looking to include the contents of a specific document in my research I don’t really need to know how the document looks or feels. Yes Optical Character Recognition programs may make mistakes but it can be equally hard to decipher words if you are holding the physical document in your hands. One of the greatest cons of digital archiving, as I see it, is the breakdown of important structures, procedures, and practices that go into archiving. As an aspiring archivist it can be somewhat painful to see my (hopefully) future field of work misrepresented, to see something called a “digital archive” created by an amateur influence the way others think about archives. Despite this I still feel that the good outweighs the bad. It is more important, in the end, to get as much information as possible out to as many people as possible.

In looking at the various websites provided, I felt that my project differed greatly from most of the websites—such as the Internet Archive—but most closely resembles the Famous Trials website in how it was set up (or rather how the subjects were broken down). My project is most definitely less of an archive and more of an educational experience that makes use of as many primary sources as I can squeeze in. At most it is a very small digital archive for people who are interested specifically in documents relating BMC to WWII. It doesn’t even contain a large percentage of the BMC documents that deal with the college and the war. Of course I wish I could include and archive in my project… I have come across so many wonderful documents of people talking about the war, of the college sending and receiving letters to various government institutions like the War Production Board, of the countless community bulletins, newsletters, and catalogs talking about the school’s reaction to the war and the faculty and students who were away fighting and the many speeches given by professors stressing the importance of protecting democracy and through democracy educational institutions like BMC. I would dearly love to have all of these as I feel they are one of the most important parts of interpreting history. Since I cannot have a digital archive, I do feel like my digital history is as complimentary to the primary sources as I can possibly make it in the short span of a semester. Although I cannot include the entirety of Robert Wunsch’s speech on supporting the war, I can pull excerpts out of it to strengthen and support my digital history. The proper use of digital archives, be they proper archives or simply a gathering of information made available to the public, in a digital history project not only strengthens the history, it brings attention to the existence of the archive so that others may use it for more digital histories. As a history major and an aspiring MLS major I feel like it’s really hard to have one without the other.

Meeting with the Games Programming Teams

Today’s meeting with our games programming teams were EXTREMELY productive. There wasn’t many of us present (I was the only one from my team and both of the games programming teams were missing one or more members), but we got a very good idea of exactly what we wanted to do with the interactives. I actually went into the meeting with two interactives in mind since the two groups had to have separate projects. The projects were going to be a “building the Studies Building” game and an interactive map for the refugees that would go on Kiera’s part of the website. The second interactive wasn’t ideal since it took away one of the only chances we had to use another digital tool (StoryMaps or Timeline JS). However, the games groups had a great idea to split up building project into two separate parts so that they could collaborated on a single interactive but it still be two separate projects. I absolutely loved this idea! One group will work on the “mechanics” of the game (whatever that means) and the other group will work on the visual side of things. This frees up the interactive map so we can use another digital tool!

There is still plenty that needs to be done, but at this point we made as many decisions as possible. I told the groups I will get as many images of the building—inside and out—as possible and see if there are blueprints of the building at the archive. We tried to figure out what view I wanted the game to be presented from. The groups had plenty of ideas about how do go about this. They discussed using the blueprint as the main focus, having the player click on different parts of the blueprint to “build” the building or having the player kind of sample each stage of building—digging part of a ditch, laying cement, putting up part of the frame, etc. It’s a little confusing to put in writing, especially since I don’t really have the terminology for such things, but they left me with lots of things to consider. Overall, I am relieved after talking to them and working some things out. There are still lots of decisions to make and plenty of things to do, but we definitely got a good start.

Work Over Spring Break

Research this week has been beyond productive. It appears that I have opened the flood gates of information this past week! I have completed two of my three “historical interpretations” that will go up on my section of the website and I believe I almost have enough information to do the third. These first drafts will of course require editing and revision, but I am nevertheless relieved to have the first drafts completed. They are up on the website if anyone is interested in checking them out. The “historical interpretation” aspect isn’t very difficult for me (once I have put in the time to find the primary sources), so most of my time for here on out will be spent either working on or learning how to work on the website. Aesthetically it is not the best at the moment, so I will need to make some decisions about what primary sources I wish to have digitized and put up on the website and how exactly I would like these sources to be laid out. I am eternally grateful that Heather has been so extremely helpful both in locating primary sources to build a narrative and in taking the initiative to scan high resolution images of documents that she thinks may be useful or attractive on the website. Heather has also been locating materials that will help both of my teammates. Since I have worked with and under her for a year now, this wasn’t exactly unexpected for me. However, I would still like to mention how amazing she is at what she does. As I type I have a whole packet of primary sources and images in my backpack to peruse through for information. There are also a couple of cool images mixed in there that I am considering using for one of the interactive components on the website.

Beyond that I don’t really have much more to report.  I expect to visit the archives again on Wednesday to make some decisions regarding images on the website.

This Week’s Readings, Progress Update

 

Our readings this week gave me plenty to think about. “13 Right Now: This is What it’s Like to Grow Up in the Age of Likes, LOLs, and Longing” was shocking on many different levels. Of course I am aware of how life-consuming technology and social media can be, but looking at this world from the perspective of a 13 year old girl whose life and self-worth is determined by things like “likes” is kind of eye opening. It was also really sad, especially at the end. However, it does reinforce the ever-growing importance of technology, social media, and making your presence known. The other reading wasn’t quite as captivating, but it was interesting in a different way. The different parts of digital identity is certainly something to consider, especially as technology is becoming more and more important (even to historians). How we present ourselves online, how we brand ourselves, and how the digital world views us based on our searches, likes, shares, and friends is baffling. To be honest, it’s a little hard for me to understand! I have spent the last 29 years of life building and shaping who I am, and now I am apparently doing it all over again. This is both fun and uncomfortable.

For an update on progress: I haven’t been back to the archives in over a week as my car is refusing to run. However, I have typed up the first draft of my “Supporting the War” subcategory and put it up on our website. I have decided not to pursue “Gender in a Time of War.” I look forward to visiting the archives again this week and working on “Building in a Time of War” and “Education in a Time of War.” I already have a goodly amount of information on both, so I do not foresee either of these categories requiring an extensive amount of research beyond what I have already done. I do, however, need to consider what primary sources I will be digitizing. I also need to jazz up my main page of “Those Who Stayed.”

Huzzah!

Huzzah! In what may be my greatest technological triumph to date, I figured out (by myself) how to edit my section of the website to include the subcategories that I wanted. Perhaps this can serve as my “Productive Failure” entry as well…

I knew that I wanted my page, “Those Who Stayed,” to have various subcategories. I broke them down as the following: Supporting the War, Education in a Time of War, Gender during the War, and Building during the War. The Building subpage was to have two different components under it: a description of the Studies Building on the Lake Eden campus with a discussion of the difficulties that arose during construction and one of the two interactive components that will be featured on our website. I knew I wanted these things, but I had no idea how to get them on the website. I didn’t really want to ask Joe, either, because I need to learn this on my own if I want to really retain the knowledge. It’s just how I roll. Also, I will have to build other WordPress sites in the future and really just need to learn how to work out my own problems. Anyway, I messed around on the website for quite a while with absolutely no progress before I found the “categories” option under the “Blogs” tab. Believing that I had found the correct method to produce my desired subcategories, I proceeded to create categories for all of these topics. I even included a nice little description on each page so anyone who looked at the website would understand my intentions for each subcategory. So I created these. All of them. I even put my “Those Who Stayed” page as the parent thinking that this would ensure my new categories displayed under the correct option on the main menu. Perhaps this should have been an obvious error to others, but not to me. Imagine my surprise and fury when they didn’t. I was absolutely ready to call it quits, but I remembered that this will not be my last WordPress site. I decided to give it another go.

Upon further inspection of the dashboard, I found “menus” under “Appearance.” When I went to “menus,” I realized that this is where all the pages were organized on the toolbar. Somehow, I needed to get my subcategories on here. After a few minutes I realized that I needed to create the pages first, so I went to “Pages” on the dashboard and proceeded to create my subcategories. Then, I went back to “menus,” added my new pages to the menu, and arranged them how I wanted them to appear. Now it is absolutely perfect! In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t ask anyone for help. This was an incredible learning opportunity for me and I obviously proved to myself that I am perfectly capable of working through my own technological problems and challenges. Well, the minor ones, at least.

TimeMapper

http://timemapper.okfnlabs.org/anon/e94eak-a-nerd-is-born#0

My favorite tool that we learned about was TimeMapper and so that is the one I chose to play around with. I did alright with it for the most part. I forgot how to do a few things (like embed images) and there are somethings I didn’t attempt at all (like embedding videos or audio). Eventually I worked my way through the embedding, though. After I had put all of my information onto the spread sheet, I had a few issues publishing the website. Again, just looking back through the directions fixed my problem. The one major hang up that I had (and have still not resolved) is how to adjust the size of my images so that the entire image can be seen. It was obvious upon first glance at the completed timeline that only half of the image was visible. I tried going back through the imbedding code to adjust the size, but it helped very little. I’ll probably ask Joe about it on Wednesday, but I was completely frustrated by the time I had finished working on it. Overall, it was a pretty good experience. Besides the embedding hiccup, everything went just fine and was actually kind of fun! I could see using something like this in our website. I particularly like how it is a split screen- one half is the slide and timeline, the other half the map. Still, I’m a good deal more comfortable with delicate, old onion skin paper than I am with this new technology!