Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Digital History Essay Blues

Have been looking at setting up my plan for this essay and had two ideas with regards to designing a website related to history;
  1. Was with regard to a virtual museum with virtual floors and displays you could wonder around and interact with. Perhaps have multimedia elements as well.
  2. Was a micropayment pre-paid card/wallet for paying for internet content.
The problem with both of these is that they have been done before! There are some virtual sites out there of varying quality and some sponsored by larger institutions but not one along the lines of what I was thinking of. Basically a site like a computer game (Sims) or Second Life with rooms to walk around and cabinets to interact with? It could be as large as you wanted it to be, with as many artifacts on display as the server could cope with! However, the problem with this is it would put people off going physically to the actual museum/archive which kind of gives the reason why this hasn't been followed up. Some sites follow; Is ok if kind of old fashioned I have no idea what this site is trying to achieve! Essay on virtual museums from 2002 Article on a 3D art museum where your interaction can create art (?) as you walk around it.
This could also be an argument why so many institutions have avoided putting collections online with regards to reducing visitor numbers. Its free online yet may cost you to get to or into an actual museum or archive (most archives are free but charge you for photographic licences or copies). It could also result in archives being shut down; its easier to digitise everything and shut the visitor centre and have only a few people looking after a hermetically sealed vault somewhere. It would be a shame as I like handling actual physical manuscripts or letters that may not have seen the light of day for years. This leads me on to idea two and the micropayments thing which cropped up in last weeks session with regard to viewing content online. A quick search on Wikipedia led to the fact that people with vastly more resources than myself had tried and failed with this second option.  

Hence I felt I had run out of ideas until I thought of an app (which seems to be the direction things are going in) whereby you could create a map with different locations on it relating to a project. Perhaps like Batchgeo but with more functionality e.g. like Zotero, a button sits on your browser and you push it and it adds the current webpage and location onto a map so you can build up a picture of what happened, where and when (timeline as well?). And then I remembered a very old idea from college; stay with me here as we are going to go theoretical! The tenet of postmodernism is that nothing is incorrect so long as you have at least some evidence to back up a theory - which applies to history as well. Nothing is set in stone with regard to theories as opposed to facts (?), it does get a bit complicated but that's the gist of it I think.  How on earth do you teach  this? It took me a while to wrap my head around it - I remember having a conversation with my history teacher at college when doing my Access course (hi Bridget!) about a website that was flexible. Imagine something like a Rubik's cube with lots of different compartments; in each compartment a historian tries to convince you of the validity of their theory. So you might have an overarching subject like the First World War but like the old choose your own adventure books you follow a path through the site and could come up with different conclusions depending on which compartments you visit. So for example, was it Germany's fault the war stated or Britain's?

A bit of a long one today however I found it cathartic to vent out some ideas;  I will choose one of the above and write the essay very soon as I think we have only got about a month and its due in!

1 comment:

  1. I liked this blog post, I hadn't really thought about the idea of having museum collections online where you can virtually walk around. It sounds like a lot of fun.

    To me, this strikes me as a really good idea to perhaps be implemented in schools on a more basic level. To get children to become more interested in gaining information interactively by moving through the museum.

    I also think it would work well on a higher academic level if it were to display lots of primary archives.

    I think I would still prefer (on some occasions) to go out and visit the museum for myself. As it would be a shame if the museums closed as too many people became comfortable in their own home :)

    Looking forward to reading your essay