Week 12: Online interventions

In this week, I read Thomas Padilla’s Conditions of Possibility, Miriam Posner’s What’s Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities, and our own Tim’s Unremembering the forgotten. I noted that each article touched on the themes of social responsibility and the ethics for recoding digital heritage. A talking point was the need for inclusion and respect for minorities. This got me thinking on the importance of impartiality in reporting and the accurate presentation of history. Miriam’s piece was filled with personal opinions – such as a very sociological perception of gender. For the binary biological male/female gender concept, she said that ‘no self-respecting humanities scholar would ever get away with such a crude representation of gender. Or at least I hope not’. Her view contradicts much of the scientific consensus in the neuroscience, biology and psychology fields. Does that make all these scientists ‘bigots?’ I would say not, but for Miriam, who is ‘writing’ history and is pressing the need for fair and accurate presentation, she is clearly demonstrating personal bias. Of course, political and social opinion is important but not when it undermines the need for inclusion and respect of all people – including those privileged, white cis-gender males. This is important also, because social attitudes change and are constantly in-flux. The author’s opinions may change many times over their lifetime and societal opinion can change drastically over generations.

The biggest danger is that people who hold strong opinions with certain political or belief systems will often suppress or reject evidence or information which contradicts their narrative. The History of the Peloponnesian War written by the ancient Greek Historian, Thucydides, would be of a much lower quality source if he was to place opinions and criticisms as higher importance over the accurate recording of events. History should not be written as a Buzzfeed post, plagued by the opinion of the writer, but as a third-party without prejudice.


Week 10: Virtual reality and learning.

This was an enjoyable lab session that got me hands on with my first experience using VR goggles. It was fun to use. However, I think it is a technology with much more development needed to create a polished product and further the potential experience. Various heritage institutions and tech companies alike are looking to use VR to create a new dimension to the learning experience. People have said that VR will revolutionise education. I don’t think it will. In 1922 Tomas Edison said that ‘I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.’ In the 1930s it was radio, the idea being that teaching could be beamed into class rooms, requiring less qualified teachers. Educational television in the 1950s and 60’s were seen to be the new thing. In the 1980s it was computers. Today it is smartboards, smartphones, Tablets and open online courses.
Various studies have been conducted on comparing learning mediums. Such as static diagrams or animated diagrams, videos or books, live lectures or recorded lectures. In all well-controlled studies, there is no significant difference. Therefore, it does not matter what surrounds the learning for no technology is more superior than another.
It is the means, not the medium, to which information is presented to create meaningful thought processes, which is the key to creating effective learning. Interactive tools like mapping and VR can be used to enhance the learning experience, but it is the social interactions with a teacher and peers that motivates learning and meaningful thought processes.

Week 7 – Mapping

I used the tools in this lesson for my project. I found that, after using the provided steps to create an interactive map with Google Maps, it became quite simple to develop the timeline of events. I tested ease-of-use with a few friends and family members, and they found the map simple to use and interesting. I also explored the potential creation of other mapping applications such StoryMap JS and Myhistro. However, I realised that the scope of my project could be fulfilled within the Google Maps application – ‘ Keep it simple, stupid’. Although, the application was limited in that I was unable to display dates, titles or numbers alongside the geographical markers. So, it became necessary to use the sidebar to view the timeline in order. Perhaps this was operator misunderstanding, however it still proved to be a limiting factor for the interactive map nonetheless.

If the project was to be developed further, the map could be enhanced. Maps could include videos, letters or newspaper excerpts – any relevant objects to the timeline that add meaningful learning value. However, this is limited based on the availability of objects and source specific to each object.

Project thoughts

There is great value in the creation and implementation of visual tools in the accurate presentation of history. The scientific literature supports the value of using interactive mapping tools to enhance learning. However, it can also be valued to enrich the museum visiting experience. In a time where technology and information is quickly evolving, it can be used to add enjoyment. The multimedia and technology used by the Australian War Memorial is a great example of effective implementation of such technologies. Personally, I believe the experience at the AWM leave much to be desired when visiting other military museums such as the Infantry Museum at the School of Infantry in Singleton, NSW or the Imperial War Museum in London, UK. Data visualization is a helpful learning tool and it also adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience.

Week 6 – Data visualization

Its surprising to realise that the human’s ability to process information is incredibly poor. We struggle to identify trends from raw data alone and therefore often require drawing and graphs, often coloured to make sense of the data being presented. There are two aspects that the tutorial made me think about. Firstly) a new global map was released last month, which won awards on its ‘enhanced’ and more accurate representation of the earth – though it makes Antarctica appear on the other side of the planet from Australia. Secondly) the human elements in creating data visualization. When we look at a graph, its not the data we see but another person’s interpretation of the data and how they have chosen to present it. I personally experience this when I created a bunch of charts displaying the variation in topographical elevation changes along the Lachlan river. Depending on the units I used in each axis, the size of the graph and the number of transects in which were used, resulted in very different looking graphs. Without a thorough explanation to accompany the graph, many different assumptions could be made.

Week 5 – Counting words

At interesting practical. I’m still amazed at Tim’s ability to source so much information. In playing with the counting words tool, I found it interesting in searching terms like ‘Afghanistan,’ ‘refugee’s,’ and ‘Tony Abbott.’ If I recall correctly, Afghanistan was mentioned more than 350 times in Julia Gillard’s speeches, I think refugees and Tony Abbott were mentioned less than 20 times respectively. Beyond the trivial aspect of me searching this, it allows for the ready identification of key issues affecting Australia and an indicator of their national significance based on the times the terms were mentioned. At the least, this allows for a means to identify what the PM of the time thought important to include in speeches.

Week 4 Big Data and Small Data

This was my first introduction to these terms. I began to understand the complexities of documenting data, and that it be impossible to record all the information that is online. This big data can be reduced to small data, to allow for understanding through simplicity. I also realised the extent to which digital information has affected how we engage and communicate information and history. With the vast swarms of digital information, it has altered what we read and write, and how we do it. Our methods for documenting and searching for information and where interactions are formed solely through digital means, it blurs the boundaries between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’.

Week 3 – Filter Bubbles and Censorship.

It has become apparent that various social media platforms are owned and operated by companies who have their own political standing and opinions. This has become most evident in the likes of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. Whom use various algorithms to censor and remove or shadow-censor content. One might think that these companies focus on violations of community expectations like hate-speech, racist content or acts of violence. However, these companies are not consistent in their control as they extend these powers of online censorship to suppress users whom hold conflicting political opinions.

For example, Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay senior editor at a conservative news site, whom also received the Annie Taylor Award for Courage at David Horowitz’s 2016 Restoration Weekend was given a lifetime ban on twitter for a comment against a member of the all-female cast for the latest Ghostbusters film. Yet, twitter accounts that celebrate the murder of US cops remain untouched and Twitter also hosts more than 9,200 ISIS affiliated accounts. At what point, do we develop a drug-like dependence on these companies that allows them to dictate to people what they should see … and think?

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it  ― George Orwell, 1984

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it – Evelyn Beatrice Hall



Week 9

Computers being able to identify and classify images is something that I have come across before and we are seeing more and more of it, although the Face++ smile rating is still creepy.

Due this is more general awareness the face-recognition software development didnt particularly catch my interest, instead it was the historical stereo-image transformer was the part that spoke to me the most in this weeks class. Being able to start to interact with historical images in these new ways in interesting and I believe more widely engaging for introducing people to the work being done in the digital heritage sector as it provides an extra dimension for people to explore.

Maybe it would be possible to further this project with the morphing of image from the same geographic location to provide a more in-depth image.

Week 10

I believe that 3D scanning/virtual modeling/printing are all going to become standard practice in many parts of the cultural heritage fields. In fact I had been discussing including it in my assignment for another class, although it did not come together this time it would be something I would love to explore further. In my case I wanted to 3D scan the internal dimensions of a jar I was rebuilding to then 3D print a support system for it. To my is in only one way and a very simple on at that, that these technologies can be applied to our sector.

3D scanning (and various light lengths) has also been used to discover previously hidden information, for example the British Museum scanned their Moai head a few years ago and discovered new carvings that radically altered their understanding of the piece, allowing the researched to add to our knowledge of the Easter Islanders that had otherwise been lost.

In regards to Virtual Tours, I think access is absolutely the point! Imagine being able to take a class of high school history students from Australia through a tour of the Smithsonian without having to leave the classroom! The ability to access information and engage with it on a different level then a 2d website, particularly if it is not user friendly, could increase the interest the public have in museums and cultural heritage locations. This could then be used in not only outreach projects but also in combating destruction of heritage sites. If people care about the heritage they stand to loose by looting or conflict or environmental changes, they are more likely to actively work towards preserving it.