Visualizing the Duke History PhD

The DHWG will begin a new project called Visualizing the Duke History PhD this semester in our library’s new collaborative research space, The Edge. We’ll be working with a data set produced by our department about what past graduates have done after finishing the PhD in History. We hope to produce a study and a presentation, using digital analysis and visualization tools, about placement and professional choices for History graduate students. Given that the AHA has been tracking placement data for graduates nationwide, we think it’s a particularly relevant moment to reflect on the trajectories of our own department’s graduates.

We have a great brand-new working space, and we hope to use this project as an opportunity to collaborate on a common digital project. We will be posting here regularly to document our learning process. Next week we will begin to comb through the data that we have been given and come up with a set of questions that we think we can answer. This process will certainly challenge us to think critically about how we, as historians, can potentially organize data in meaningful ways.

More on organizing data sets and data visualization:

The Difference Between Infographics and Visualization

Trevor Owens: Defining Data for Humanists: Text, Artifact, Information or Evidence?

Ansley T. Erickson: Historical Research and the Problem of Categories: Reflections on 10,000 Digital Notecards

John Theibault: Visualizations and Historical Arguments

The AHA Launches a New Digital Community

This week, the American Historical Association announced the launch of a new online space for historians.  I am curious to know how AHA Communities will supplement/compete with H-NET, which has long been a online space for historians and a wide array of academics to communicate with one another.

Higher Logic

Here is an excerpt from the AHA’s announcement: “Want to organize a panel for the 129th annual meeting, but don’t know where to start? Are you a member of a graduate student organization who wants to connect with other student associations in the US? Or maybe you are a department chair who is trying to re-think tenure and promotion criteria and wants to share ideas. In the spirit of dialog and discovery, we are proud to launch AHA Communities, a new platform for online communication and collaboration. AHA Communities will serve as a new space for the history community to connect, share ideas, discuss professional and theoretical issues, and take advantage of user-friendly digital tools.”

Dr. Andrew Torget Speaks about Texas Slavery Project

Please join the Digital History Working Group and the Duke Department of History on Monday, October 7 at 9:00 am in the PhD Lab (Smith Warehouse, Bay 4) on Duke’s campus.  Dr. Andrew Torget will will share how as a grad student he taught himself the tools necessary to build the Texas Slavery Project, and how he incorporated it into his dissertation. He will take us “under the hood” of his digital project to show us from a more technical perspective what was required to build it.

At noon, Torget will also be presenting at the History Colloquium Series. His talk is called “The Promise and Perils of Doing History in the Digital Age.”  You are welcome to join us. The event will take place at 12:00-1:30 on October 7 in room 299 Carr. Lunch will be served.  For the official announcement, please see the official announcement for Torget’s talk.

What Can Pottermore Teach Us About Online Publishing?

In a recent blog post in the Oxford Today online magazine, Richard Lofthouse mulls over the future of the online publishing industry.  At one point he references Pottermore, the interactive website dedicated to the world of Harry Potter.  The website self identifies as a space to “[l]earn more about the wizarding world as you discover exclusive new writing from the author herself” and “[e]xplore key scenes from Harry’s journey and begin your own.”  Interaction with the site interface and exploration of its many nooks and crannies is key to its success.

In many ways, I believe we can learn from this model and apply some of its principles to the academic classroom.  An interactive website dedicated to particular events or historical periods has the potential to be a truly dynamic learning environment (particularly if the new classroom experiments with gaming are incorporated).  Lofthouse recognizes the potential of this model, stating, “[t]he future of books is content like the digital extension of Harry Potter, where the reader becomes a co-creator, where there is all sorts of rich media allowing you to hear, see and explore, jump off, go backwards, digress.” But, what are the downsides of this online model?  Can the quality of e-books, as Lofthouse predicts, take a turn for the worse?  Will the e-book become “the the equivalent of 3D spectacles at the cinema” that ultimately “deprive your imagination of all its natural fuel”?

Obama, MOOCs, and Mentorship in the Classroom

I wanted to share an interesting contribution to a recent American Historical Association Roundtable on President Obama’s College Affordability Plan.  Historian, Elaine Carey notes the President’s mention of MOOCs and offers her own insights into this burgeoning classroom setting (and its advantages and disadvantages).  She raises an important observation about the role of continued mentorship in students’ lives within the context of some MOOCs: “The adjuncts who teach online may not be renewed year to year, ensuring that the students will have little ongoing contact with the instructor once the course had ended. Thus, students will not have the opportunities to further work closely with an instructor they admire on an undergraduate research project that demonstrates their mastery of important skills.” You can check out her entire post here.

How Effective is Pinterest in the Classroom?

Historians are experimenting with a number of tools in the history classroom.  In the past, I’ve used Twitter, Google Drive, and a Google-generated website with my students.  Now, we have historians turning to tools such as Pinterest and Buzzfeed.  Are these tools “more accessible” to students?  Do they augment classroom engagement in a way that other tools do not?  I’m excited to see how this teacher’s Pinterest experiment pans out over the course of the semester.  Check out the blog post here.

As a quick experiment, I headed to Pinterest and searched for “history.”  The attached pdf shows the abundance of search results.  This makes me wonder how historians are using Pinterest not only as a tool in the classroom, but also as a tool for their own research.  Is there anyone out there who defends Pinterest as a useful organizing tool?


“Does the Internet Make You Smarter?”

Intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal about the impact of the Internet on knowledge and thinking.  Is the internet the end-of-the-road for intellectual thought/progress?  Is the web too dominated by celebrity gossip posts, trending memes, and nonsensical YouTube videos?  Clary Shirky, writer for the Wall Street Journal, begs to differ!

“First, the rosy past of the pessimists was not, on closer examination, so rosy. The decade the pessimists want to return us to is the 1980s, the last period before society had any significant digital freedoms. Despite frequent genuflection to European novels, we actually spent a lot more time watching “Diff’rent Strokes” than reading Proust, prior to the Internet’s spread. The Net, in fact, restores reading and writing as central activities in our culture.”

Here is the link to the article.