Digital Assessment: eHistory

Today’s digital project assessment focuses on the challenges of adherence to digital projects’ missions, maintenance, and sustainability. This week, as I searched for a digital humanities project to review, I stumbled across the work of Claudio Saunt, who had posted a GIF showing the growth of the African population alongside the European population in North America before 1790.

As I was exploring Saunt’s work, I discovered eHistory, a University of Georgia online collection of several digital history projects that Saunt and Stephen Barry founded and developed in 2011. eHistory seeks to involve “citizen historians,” that is, the broader public beyond those who study history in academia, in a series of “citizen histories” for a public audience that “better reflects the way knowledge is created and consumed in our increasingly digital world.” Rather than focusing exclusively on one of these projects intensely, I have chosen to evaluate a selection of the projects both to highlight some of their individual merits and shortcomings and to provide myself a more expansive glimpse into several different ways scholars are incorporating digital humanities into the field of history. While I was initially excited by what the site had to offer, I increasingly encountered disappointments. I chose the following three sites to highlight the different ways people can use digital history either as a research tool or a way to display historical knowledge, as well as to highlight issues of quality and management. Read more

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Down the Rabbit Hole with Alternate Reality Games

I’ve had several encounters over the past few years which have revealed to me the myriad possibilities of conveying history through gaming. As a child at heart who loves to play, Bryan Alexander’s chapter, “Chaotic Fiction; or, Alternate Reality Games,” in his work The New Digital Storytelling caught my attention.

Scholars of history are sometimes hesitant about the benefit history-themed games can have for teaching history. They are concerned that the presentation of history through gaming, where altered outcomes may result, will skew students’ understanding of the past. But Alexander’s chapter has shown me how alternate reality gaming can be an excellent way to teach historical research skills in a National Treasure fashion, compelling players to uncover evidence from primary source material that leads at some points to dead ends, and at others to more information that unlocks more of the story. Users treat the story like a mystery, using their critical thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills to determine where to look next. Read more