First Musings on an ITP Project

All of my potential project ideas have centered around fostering more interactivity between the history discipline and technology. In leveraging these tools’ power, the profession can continue the field’s storytelling aspect in ways that will reach audiences that are more likely to gain information from interactive technology than the more traditional learning methods. The generational divide in learning practices often creates a barrier to innovation. Traditional methods once popular for their teaching effectiveness must evolve to teach the first generation of students who have not lived in a world without the internet. 

The project idea has undergone several build design. The project is currently centered on leveraging data visualization’s power to tell a heavy data story that individuals can interact with. At a minimum, a cleaned data set that could be used by any would be ideal. The difficulty in projects such as these is trying to find a properly formatted set of data. My MVP (Minimum Viable Project) would be obtaining, formatting, and using the data to demonstrate that technology is not the bain of storytelling. Hopefully, the site can be used by others augmenting the data set to generate a digital repository of archival material that exists in a useable format. 

This link directs you to a site made by Robert Darnton, one of the great historians on the book trade, particularly in France. I first came across this site five years ago during my undergraduate Intro to History Writing course. I was impressed at the presentation of sources and facts. It seemed that this was a far better way to present information than in a paper format. True, it was more labor-intensive, but it did allow the user to navigate through the story in their way. The map is of particular interest as clicking on each town will give you information about that particular location. Robert Darnton said it best when explaining his rationale for the website, “I have accumulated so much information during nearly a half-century that I might overwhelm my readers with details or bore them to death. It cannot be compressed within the covers of a printed book. Therefore, with the help of research assistants and professional technicians, I am presenting it on this open-access.” I do not have the encyclopedic knowledge on any subject that Darnton has brought to bear. What I do have is an idea inspired by this work. To create a site where data is gathered and presented so that any individual who wants to can add or interact in a collaborative process. My project aims to generate the first, of what I hope is many, contributions that can harness technology in an egalitarian intellectual way.

1 thought on “First Musings on an ITP Project”

  1. Thanks for this, Francisco. There’s a lot here to think through. You’re interested in epistemology, pedagogy, narrative, the archive, data visualization, mapping, interactivity, hypertextuality, access and user experience. Each of these elements of digital history/humanities has spawned a significant body of scholarship.

    In class, you referenced the “Cabinet of Curiosities,” and your interest in getting “the arcane into a digital format.” This is a distinct project from demonstrating “that technology is not the bain of storytelling.” The first approach is about exploring and building facility with a set of methods. The second is a negative argument against… who is making that claim, precisely, and if it really needs to be refuted, why?

    What’s missing is what motivates you. What do you want to know? Those questions are important to work through when looking for a data set, much more important than the state of the data. Data can be cleaned and organized and then made to tell a story…

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