The concept of spatial history really drives home the fact that our past isn’t strictly a historian’s job. The ‘Spacial History Project’ article put out by Stanford University says this perfectly; they wouldn’t be able to interpret and exhibit spatial and digital histories without outside help. These range from geographers, who understand historical trends of movement, but computer technicians to put websites and online exhibits up. A trip to the library or archives doesn’t always yield a full understanding of the subject.
The article on slavery highlights this perfectly. I’d agree with the authors that, depending on where you look, the reasons for the Civil War are convoluted and not always the same. I felt this article tied into the discussion from James Loewen a couple weeks ago, when he asked the audience to choose from four choices which they felt ignited the Civil War. The majority of the audience votes were split; some for slavery, some for state’s rights. Even though slavery was the “correct” answer, the fact that the truth has been “lost” over time emphasizes the need for a comprehensive search across fields. Looking at speeches from Southern politicians just before the Civil War isn’t enough; they’d argue the main cause for the split is a need for more state’s rights. But the authors of the slavery article looked at things such as the Geographic Information Systems to dissect social structures. The documents of speeches we pull out of historical archives are important, but are a fragment of the information we can find to paint a fuller picture of the truth.
The websites we had to explore were really in-depth and interesting. I loved the interactive maps, especially the Cleveland Historical website. It was user-friendly for anyone “new” to history; you could just click on a little black box and find directions to the site, a short write-up about the location, and pictures in some cases. I think sites like these are the future. It’s a great bridge between the past and present. I guarantee most visitors to Cleveland and Philadelphia (and probably a good chunk of residents) don’t know some of these sites exist. At least this way the option to find these places are much easier, since a normal person would never know to look in historical records to discover them on their own.
New Britain is a town with a rich history spanning approximately three hundred years. So when I walked into the New Britain Industrial Museum this past week, I was overwhelmed with the amount of material history flooding the small floor space. After almost two hours of digging and back-and-forth discussions with the museum director, Karen, I settled on my topic: Fafnir Bearing. Luckily for me, Karen directed me towards a couple of short booklets about Fafnir Bearing and the company’s early years. One of them is a personal record by Fafnir Bearing co-founder, Elisha H. Cooper, talking at length about his involvement from the get-go. Another short booklet was written by Stanley Cooper, Elisha Cooper’s son. The information is very brief, but covers an entire fifty years of the company’s history.
The size and impact of Fafnir Bearing also means there area plethora of newspaper articles, ball bearing catalogues, advertisements, and even a couple short histories sitting around in the local history room at the New Britain Public History and on the varioius CCSU newspaper databases. My recent trip to the local history room proved quite productive; I left with many pamphlets and advertisements photocopied and a load of pictures taken from booklets. One of the most interesting things I discovered was a short pamphlet on the steps taken by Fafnir to create a ball bearing. The 13-page process is mostly picture driven, with a short blurb and title about the process depicted.
Bullies aren’t only found on middle school playgrounds and in video game chatrooms. They exist in the “adult” world too, sometimes in the form of government and trained professionals. The recent suicide of Aaron Swartz, shoved into the spotlight after getting caught downloading millions of JSTOR articles, perfectly highlights bullying by the persecution to get their way.
The crime Aaron Swartz was accused of seems absurd; “stealing” JSTOR articles with the intent to spread them online for free. Perhaps the legality behind the case escapes my simple mind, but from what I’ve gathered, he didn’t break any rules. Sure, Swartz accessed JSTOR and downloaded all the files while visiting MIT. But he still was granted access to JSTOR through his work with Harvard University. Seems fine to me. Even JSTOR declined to press charges against Swartz, the “victim” in this crime. And who says Swartz COULDN’T download the millions of files? His access to JSTOR granted him the privilege to do so; as far as I could tell, there was no limit to how many you can download.
But the U.S. government (and to a degree, MIT) continued to pursue action against Swartz, which seems like nothing more than a grudge match. Even if Swartz was a big advocate for freedom of information online, there was close to no evidence that he intended to share these documents on file-sharing sites. My personal opinion is that the prosecution wanted to make an example out of Swartz, in show trial fashion. They were trying to nail him with the perfect evidence, even disallowing Swartz to fight back with the evidence he wanted to use. Instead, Swartz ended his life before any verdict could be called.
I do think that there shouldn’t be pay walls and subscriptions blocking uncopyrighted material from the general public. Why should I pay for a newspaper article written 100 years ago, especially when there is no opportunity for me to make money off of it? Modern day Robin Hoods like Aaron Swartz unfortunately have to face the brunt of the backlash from governing bodies who are miserably failing in fighting a wave of technology that is here to stay.
“And please, do NOT use Wikipedia as a source!” -ancient teacher proverb
Any student living in the 2000’s and 2010’s remembers their teachers and professors drilling the fact that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for information. They’d claim the information presented could be incorrect because anyone could log in and edit the page. But since Wikipedia’s creation, has the information on its website become more trustworthy, with citations that lead to credible sources? Let’s try it out.
Since our class focuses on New Britain history, I chose to check the credibility and sources of the Stanley Works page (now Stanley Black & Decker on Wikipedia). The first thing I noticed was the short description and general history of the company. Combined, both sections were a mere seven sentences spanning the 170 years it’d existed for. The bulk of the information is compiled in a list of acquisitions of other companies made by Stanley Works since 1937. The other major section of the page listed its divisions of the company in it’s current evolution. Overall, the historical information on this page is extremely lacking. The history section makes mention of Frederick Trent Stanley founding the company in 1843, but nothing else. If I were a student piecing together the early history of the company, Wikipedia would offer no depth.
But like any piece of information presented on the Internet, it’s only as strong as it’s source material. There are a total of 21 citations (or “notes”) for the Stanley Black & Decker page. This seems like a decent number of sources for a small Wiki article such as this one. Seven of the 21 sources were “company histories” created by the companies, all put out by Stanley or its subsidiaries. All of these weren’t lengthy in detail, and obviously biased because they are put out by the company itself.
One of the sources was very questionable. The website (http://supertool.com/StanleyBG/stan0a.html) is not affiliated with the city of New Britain or Stanley Works. In fact, it seems like a single person’s website with little to no sourcing of their material. I’d feel unsafe using information from their website as a source. In addition, two of the links I clicked on were broken, and one couldn’t be retreived. That took the total number of “reliable” sources by nearly 20% of all the sources I began with. I’m sure for larger historical pages (such as those for Joseph Stalin, the American Civil War, etc.) are much more reliable, but smaller Wiki articles are hit or miss.
My original response to seeing the three historical items listed was a groan. I knew I’d have to dig through the online archives I’ve frequented before for History projects: JSTOR, NY Times Periodicals, etc. But my almost immediate first step was a simple Google search to find any relevant information that might point me in the right direction. To my surprise, I found blog posts on similar websites by college students who completed the same scavenger hunt. These blog posts had all the relevant information already dug up and posted. Instead I turned my focus onto the various databases CCSU offers.
1. I found the public school teacher labor despute article through the New York Times Historical database offered through the CCSU library website. I searched “public school teacher labor dispute” and dug through the articles to find one related to my topic. I found one with the correct date restrictions on page four.
2. I felt like I “cheated” looking up this information. I google searched the exact phrase given to us in the scavenger hunt and discovered a .pdf file from the Department of Energy with a handy timeline of all important solar energy events throughout history. Now, I could have dug deeper into the various databases, but I feel that this search exemplifies last week’s discussion on whether or not Google is “making us stupid”. Had I been looking for an easy way out, I’d go with this answer Google provided me and call it quits. But taking that route wouldn’t translate to me “learning” something. In this case, Google would’ve been the path of least resistance, but at the cost of loss of knowledge.
3. I relied on Google to find this information. A quick Google search of “history of California ballot initiatives” results in a webpage with all relevant information right up top. The site is reliable too; it’s a website put out by the office of the Secretary of State of California (.gov). While Google was used in two (and frankly, could be used in all three) instances, it doesn’t discount online databases like JSTOR. It just so happens that the second and third scavenger hunt choices have immediate results to reliable sources. However, I believe Google should b e used with a grain of salt. With the plethora of information out there, it’s hard to determine whether or not a webpage is reliable. Google shouldn’t be the only source of information, but it certainly is a great starting point.
I believe Dan Cohen’s argument is that blogging follows the same protocol as writing a book. I do agree with Cohen that a good portion of blogs on the web follow the teenage, anonymous mentality that seems to prevail on the online community. But presentation, much like in publishing a book, separates the angst from the academics. The time spent writing on pieces of paper are just transferred to typing on a keyboard. And like Cohen stated, there are a wide range in printed media. The internet and blogs can follow the same rules. The article encourages academics, professors, and the like to “combat” what they consider the norm by actively fixing it. I think seeing professors and other academics should present their research and knowledge on blogs. It adds a level of respect to a medium that otherwise would be overlooked.