The stress is finally coming to a close with the website and we can finally take a moment to look back and see how we did. To start off broadly I would say that our website is a success for what it is suppose to be. The entire purpose of our website was to assist in telling the story of the foundation of AIS (Agudas Israel Synagogue) in Hendersonville. I remember talking with my group on how we didn’t want to bite off more than we can chew and ever just focusing on the foundation was a stretch. Out of like 6 or 7 relevant boxes for our topic we could only get through 2 of them. The website did follow the contract and contains three main pages “The Synagogue” “The Families” and “The Community”. These kinda became our own personal pages that displays how much work and time we put into the project. The “Home” and “about” pages were group pages that the three of us could work on. Mikayla took the charge on the home page and wrote it all out. I remember her coming to me to see what I thought about it and to give her feedback on it. The about page was done by all three of us as we gave a small description of ourselves and provided a picture as well. At the last minute we also added another page as a glossary of terms that may not be widely known to the non-Jewish community. This page was suggested and handled entirely by Evan. As far as the tools for the website goes ill say it was an interesting experience. Mikayla was in charge of the thinglink and I absolutely love it. It shows an accurate map of Hendersonville with the location of the families businesses and the original location of the synagogue. The Juxtapose images were handled by Evan and I like the one of the 1920’s to modern Synagogue. The one labeled “picture from flyer” “picture” has the right angle which is great, but without the dates it makes it a little odd. I was in charge of the timeline JS and let me say it was an interesting experience. As a historian I look at it and think wow this is kinda weird because of so many unknown dates. On top of all these unknown dates there does not seem to be any order since it jumps from topic to topic. At the end of the day though I think I may have found an interesting was to use Timeline JS. Although the bottom bar becomes obsolete, you can in fact use Timeline JS as this makeshift media gallery. At the end of the semester I would say that the biggest restraint on this is time a perspective. It is easy for you to look at your own website and say “this is bad” since you have looked at it for so long. Once you show it to others and hear the positive reactions all of the hard work and dedication instantly becomes worth it. I look forward to putting this website on a resume and showing my family back home.
Digital Identity is a very interesting topic (especially since we just had a very in depth discussion on it). The idea that we would be able to project ourselves to the “entire” world would not seem possible a century ago. Whenever we decide to go on Facebook/twitter and post, or make a blog post for Digital History we are presenting ourselves to the world in theory. What I think is very interesting is that even though our posts or on the internet that does not mean everyone is watching. Fame can also play a huge part in your digital identity because you are more likely to be loved or attacked. I am a big gamer kind of guy so in the game “League of Legends” there is a GREAT example of digital identity. In this game people will only see your name as an in game tag that you create. There is this really high level player that a lot of people know as “Hi Im Gosu”. Many of his/her fans that watched his/her live streams and YouTube videos wondered why he/she didn’t use a webcam or speak. He/she took on this persona or digital identity that he/she was a female gamer (started by rumors that it was a girl). Once people heard this they had a larger respect for her as this really flashy high risk high reward female player. Not only that but she was a female who was one of the best players online in North America. One day she got drunk on stream (very VERY drunk) and decided to do a face reveal with her webcam. It was then after 2.5 years of having this persona everything changed when everyone found out she was actually a he who pretended to be a girl. When asked why he did it he would usually respond with it being a joke or that he didn’t see the harm in it since he was only playing the game. The importance to this is that he now had a duel digital identity. The one he has currently and the one he has left behind as a female gamer. I know this may be hard to understand so ill try to list it out to make it easier.
“Female” “Hi Im Gosu”
- Quite/never spoke only typed
- indirectly promoted female gamers (or at least that was the effect)
- iconic player/role model for many upcoming players of the game
Male “Hi Im Gosu”
- Talks softly and often rages
- revealed depression and suicide problems
- dropped off as an iconic player
The point in all of this is not really to highlight his decline as a player, but that his change in digital identity. For over two years everyone believed this guy was a very talented female, but in reality was a male with social problems. This sort of stuff will not only occur in video games, but everywhere on the internet. Behind every screen is a person who may not be the same as the person you are being presented.
The biggest problem that I ran into is not what you would consider your typical problem. While learning how to navigate WordPress was a bit of a challenge it was not the biggest challenge. My biggest productive failure was constructing my page on the website and let me explain why. When my group and I first started to tackle this project we started with gathering research and putting it on a google docs. We would use this google docs to hold all of our research notes and where they came from for citation purposes. The next step (way down the line) for me was to start to transfer the information over to my webpage on the site. I was not worried about how pretty it looked I just wanted something on the page so I could use it as reference. The final step in this process was to transform the bulky blob of information into a narrative style brief highlight of the founding families (my topic for the site). The plan sounds good and thought out, but where does it go wrong? Well in practice I noticed that as I was in the final stage I was not using the bulk of information I originally transferred over. It was much easier for me to navigate through the research notes since I had been looking at them all semester. Another plus to looking at the research notes was it made my citations that much easier to locate. Another problem with this plan is that in no place did I plan for locating pictures. I’m a little on the fence as to declare this a major problem because I feel like the site still does serve its purpose. When I look at the site I cant help but think “what is its purpose?” and it serves just that. The purpose of this site is not really to be a flashy website, but rather a site that gives you a brief history of the foundation of the Agudas Israel Synagogue. To summarize up what I believe I “failed” on is formatting my webpage efficiently. I learned that research notes are a true blessing when done correctly and can save you so much time. I also learned that you should always try to think ahead for cosmetic stuff, such as pictures, because they will help add to the attractiveness of your website.
So far the website is coming along great with the progress we have made so far. There is a lot of good information on the site that we have gathered, but it always feels like we could have more. I try not to worry so much about it because it turns into a “well if we just had more time” situation. Working with the Games Programming team has been really nice as they seem to have a good grasp on what they are doing and always have a solution for things when we do not. One major set back that we have run into is getting pictures/digital copies of documentation for the GP team or ourselves. This can be easily solved by making a trip to special collections, but as the semester comes to an end time becomes more tight to manage. Overall I am very happy with the site and I think we will have a nice little chunk of history to present at the end of the semester.
We finally got to meet with our entire group (including the computer science people) for the first time in quite a while.
So, how did the meeting go?
The meeting went great honestly. I feel like we exchanged a lot of information as to what we wanted to do for this project. No one seemed like they were to worried about the due dates and we all had a blast talking with each other.
What did you discuss?
We discussed a lot about what we wanted the game to exactly be? They (computer science people) suggested the idea of a top down “fetch quest” game that would help the client be engaged while learning about the foundation of the Synagogue. We also discussed us going to the Synagogue in the future and what we could gain from that. We also went back and forth as to what type of ways the game could tell the story of the Synagogue.
What decisions have you/they made about interactive components for your site?
So we all agreed that the top down game I mentioned earlier was a great idea. One factor that we all had on our minds was time. We are all college students with multiple classes so none of us wanted to bite off more than what we could chew with this project. At the same time we also wanted to present something that we would all be proud of and could call our own. We decided the game would feature around 4-6 quests that would include text instructions to help explain the story.
What steps do you and they need to take so that they can complete their project?
As far as what they need to do its really a mystery to me other than saying “make the game”. They have requested from us (historians) that we come up with 4-6 “quests” that we wanted to feature in the game. Along with this if we wanted to put any type of documentation/pictures up along with it we would have to provide that as well. We are also going to be in touch with the design up the game to try and make it look like the historical period.
Digital Archives can sometimes be a huge blessing or can seem like a dead end. I will go ahead and say that I love digital archives and they should always be used as a valuable tool. I am not blind however to the “dangers” that come with them. I once had a professor who said in this day and age we are blessed with online access, but nothing can beat going into an archive. When I first heard him/her say that I thought it was a nonsense. I had done so much research online from material that was being preserved over in Europe how could this be bad? Well in reality we also have to consider that not everywhere in hooked up to the internet. They’re hundreds upon thousands of collections that are not digitized or in the process of being digitized. Not only that, but not everyone has access to the internet which can be a huge hamper on researching material. I feel like the Agudas Israel Synagogue website is a bit different from other digital archives I have seen. the goal of my group’s project is to show the world the foundation of the Synagogue in a way that is easy to interpret. I feel like the goal of a digital archive is to show to world the “hard evidence” of any collection. Nothing is wrong with either of these goals as it all depends on what audience you are trying to appeal to. The larger the audience you are reaching out to the harder the challenge is in formatting your website. If I were to put a digital archive for my project I would love to put in the founding documents of the constitution and the minutes that were taken of the meetings. The election results for the Synagogue are very interesting to observe and would be useful in a digital archive.
So for our Agudas Israel project we have made large gains in the research department. Thankfully there is a ton of information on the founding of the Synagogue that we can use for our website. I will here soon begin to start playing around more on the website and start to put stuff on it. My hopes with this is that by just putting information on the site I can edit it at a later time to make a better final product. I like to think of it as taking the job in stages. Why stress yourself with having to put all the information on the site, sort through what you want to keep and take down, and having to make it appear nicely all at the same time? The hardest part for me is deciding when to draw the line between using time to do research and using time to work on the website. While we could use the entire semester (and probably more) for research I feel like we have a good amount of information to start constructing our website.
So let it be known that when I first start to look at multiple pages it was hard to find the “discussion” tab as they changed it to “talk”. Now that I have my chest clear on the very small matter let me begin. First off I love Wikipedia to the bottom of my heart. This assignment helps me prove why I love it so much. The “History” tab allows us (the clients/editors) to see who has gone in and messed with the article. We can see what part of the article they edited and even the time and date. As far as websites go we can even see how much space the article now takes up (how many Bytes). I have looked at big historical pages (such as the WW2 page) and small ones as well (like the battle of Albemarle Sound in the Civil war.) No that we know what changes were made by who and at what time we can see how effective the “Talk” tab can be. With the Talk tab we can see editors interacting with each other as a group to try and come up with answers for problems. This allows a community of people to collaborate on these potentially large scale articles. To me this is a big deal because I could, in theory, meet someone who is just as passionate as me in a subject from Iowa without ever know he existed until now. You will not always get results on the “Talk” tab as it’s very community driven and smaller articles just wont have the community for it. I hope you enjoyed my finding and understand my love for Wikipedia a little bit more now.
After creating a product using both of these tools I think I have a firm opinion on each one.
Story Map JS
So with Story Map I did not know what I was getting into because I have never heard of or used Story Map before. The Only JS tool I have even touched was Timeline so I was expecting some similarities. Much to my surprise there were almost to many similarities for my comfort. As I was playing around with this tool it felt like you were basically making a timeline, but with a map background to help guide the story. I played around with the map and noticed you can change how the map looks so that everyone is not using the same boring tan map background. The negative to this is that you cant really control the map all to well. The most control you have over the map is that you can choose where you want the point to go and then fill in the “slide” with the information to go with it. What I really dislike about this tool is that when you go from one point to the other you can easily get lost. Unless you know the exact area the map is in then you will get lost as to what you are looking at. To no surprise (especially after my rant) I would give this product a 2.5/5 overall.
Okay so I will go ahead and admit right now this will be a bias review because I really do enjoy Timeline JS. With Timeline JS you get out as much as you put in which makes this tool rewarding. While it does is frustrating to deal with the google spreadsheet the end results are worth it. I remember being introduced to this tool last semester and I sucked at it to begin with. After playing around with the spreadsheet and figuring out how certain features worked I feel a lot more confident in my abilities to utilize this tool. When looking at the final product the client does not get lost (or shouldn’t) and can really be drawn into the timeline. When I am looking at a good timeline I often find myself asking “What happens next?” instead of “This is a fancy power point.” At the end of the day I would give this tool a 4/5 because it is very rewarding once you figure out the spreadsheet part of the tool.
What’s the game plan?
After going through some of the information in special collections we have decided to focus mainly on the founding of the Synagogue. There is a good amount of information regarding the founding families and their lives involving the community. The two main families that I am excited to research is the Lewis and Patterson families as they seemed to be rivals. As I said we will be focusing on the foundation years of the Synagogue so it’s important to highlight the founding families and their interactions with the community. We will be updating a google doc with information that we find in the collection which we have already shared with the game programming team. This is to insure that they will have access to information that we find at any given time. The days in which we will update this doc is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These will be the days where we (the historians) will have the opportunity to meet at special collections from around 1 pm to 2 or 3 pm.
What about the tools?
The tools that we saw in class should help improve the quality of our website as a whole. By using these tools I think we should be able to deliver historical information in a more interactive way. Timeline JS is a very simple tool that can be very effective if used correctly. If you have good date information, visuals along with eye catching backgrounds you can make Timeline JS look amazing. I also liked Juxtapose and Time mapper as well. Juxtapose could be very interesting for comparing the Synagogue today to the Synagogue of 1920’s. With Time mapper we could potentially trace down where the stores of the founding families were and create a narrative story through this tool. These are all ideas of what we can do with these tools, but everyone has value that could be added to our site.