Monday, December 7, 2009

GPL V3 in Civics and Economics

What would you do if communism worked? I'm not talking about political communism, but an idea that everyone holds everything in common. Theft would disappear complete, because the concept would be gone. Obviously, if you were good at building things, you would desire people know that you built it, right? But you wouldn't worry about people taking your stuff without need, right? Sure there would be a few greedy people in existence still, but they would be more like the grumpy miser on the end of town that people don't really like anyway.

Such a utopia could never work. Or could it? Imagine that you had a device that allowed you to replicate your work as many times as you wanted. You build a new oak cabinet, and this device replicates that cabinet as many times as you like. Then people would only need to ask you for one of your nice cabinets, and voila! Good thing that science fiction is true in some places, right?

Think kind of vague futuristic utopia does in face exist. The GNU, Free Software Foundation has created an environment where you can download, use and share software as you like. If you want to make something and give it away free, GREAT! If you want to make something and charge people to use it, awesome! If you think that a specific program should have some kind of functionality that it does not already have, then feel free to put it in there without concern from the original author. Usually you are asked, if you make changes, to share those changes with the community at large.

The Preamble of the GPLv3, linked here, sets up an environment of collaborative work in a very meaningful way. The document itself was created collaboratively and was allow to develop with input from the community.

Read the Preamble and discuss the following questions:

What does a copyleft license like the GPLv3 do to traditional closed licenses? Can a closed license and an open license exist in the same world? If all software were to exist under the GPLv3, what would happen to the economics of software development? Would companies be able to make money? Would companies, as such, still be able to exist?

What legal action has been taken with respect to the GPLv3? Do you think the Government could utilize something like the GPLv3 to encourage citizen participation?

If you were a lawyer, how would you attack the GPLv3? How could you defend it?

Monday, November 30, 2009

ECI 525 Meaning.

Preface: Why is this meaningful.

In this course I have gained tremendous insight into how a teacher can effectively present social studies ideas in a meaningful way. With tightening budgets and more restrictive school guidelines, teachers must become more creative in what they do to engage students. Teachers are seemingly competing with technology instead of incorporating it into their regular classes. Now we have many tools for incorporating different ideas into the classroom. Many of these ideas do not even require each of the students to have a laptop, but can usually be accomplished by an afternoon session in the computer lab.

21st century Video 8/24:
Diane Ratvich critiques the idea of 21st Century skills stating that this set of skills has no content associated with it. Skills by definition do not have content, but must none-the-less be taught. Note taking, for example, is nothing but a learned skill. It has no content, and can be used in any content. Some skills require content knowledge, such as being a skilled historian or skilled mathematician. Because a skill does or does not have an associated content does not make said skill important or not. I might even attempt to argue that skills without a content association are more important than skills directly associated with a content. You can see here that utilizing technology, as a skill, can increase the utility of a given lesson. Students can read material, given specific instructions on how to interact with the information, only to utilize technology to report their findings.
This type of activity requires that students know how to interact with technology, and allows the teacher to float around the classroom, checking for understanding. If one student is having difficulty with the text, he or she will be able to gain further assistance from the teacher without disrupting the entirety of the class.

Historical Soundscape 8/31
Many times teachers look at social studies from the point of view of one type of learner. The visual, intrapersonal or linquistic learner will find that the social studies lessons are easy to follow, while many of the other students have great difficulty learning the concepts. An activity that allows students to engage in material in a new way can be of great benefit to different types of learners. Creating a soundscape takes history out of the textbooks and puts it into a context of reality. If you ask students to recreate an event using only sound, what would it sound like? Would the students be able to record a variety of different sounds to simulate the original event? What would happen if you asked your students to explore an idea of local history through sound?
I examined the events surrounding hurricane Floyd in Tarboro, NC, 1999. You can hear the audio here. The exercise allowed me to look at the event of this flood in an entirely new light. I was able to feel like I witnessed the flooding first-hand. I was almost a thousand miles removed from the actual flooding, but through this experience I felt very close. Could the same work with the signing of the Declaration of Independence?

Illustrated Lincoln 9/14
When students look at an image, then typically seem to take a surface view of the image and move on. Partially this is learned behavior, and partially it's non-learned behavior. The learned part of this behavior is that the students have been spoon-fed ideas about images, or have been given interpretations and alternative ideas have been squelched. The non-learned behavior is that the students have not been given opportunities to learn how to appropriately interpret images.
If a teacher is able to use Werner's 7 ways of reading an image in a classroom, he or she then has a very valuable tool to scaffold the understanding and interpretation of various kinds of images. Students will be able to identify what is an open or closed image, and what can be inferred from that image. If you visit here, you will see an example of interpreting a historical image using the Werner readings. Many people can look at this image and take a surface view of what it represents, but using a 7-fold method of reading an image really helps the viewer to extrapolate a lot of meaning.

Historical Painting 9/21

Wikipedia and epistemology 9/28
When students look at Wikipedia, they often see a monolith of modern knowledge. As such, many students do not know what to do with this information. Presented here is a short overview of what one can do in order to make sure that a Wikipedia article is valid and useful. You'll have to make your own decision about if any encyclopedia is a valid source for most research papers, but Wikipedia is undeniably useful.
New Literacies and digital history design 10/05
History is moving towards a digital age. Never before have students been able to access so much information. Many sites offer primary sources with only a little bit of interpretation. These sites allow students and historians alike to engage materials in a new and meaningful way. Never before could students access such vast tracks of information. The problem falls when students cannot meaningfully access this information because of the format.
Our class took letters from the plantation letters website, and pulled out all the references to slavery. This task was able to be accomplished because we were able to essentially crowd-source the information. It was not a necessarily difficult task, students from different levels could easily accomplish it, but there is definitely a feeling of legitimate history taking place through this process. You can see the results here
Stagville Interpretation 10/12
We didn't just leave those references to slavery on the website, but we worked with them as well. In this forum we examined the historical information through the eyes of the SCIM-C technique. We were able to pool our information and gain increased understanding about the impact of the historical analysis we had done.
Hollywood film 10/19
Teachers often use film in the classroom. For this section, we collected clips that would enable students to experience something from history that is difficult to grasp through written word alone. For example, what did the Soldiers of Blackhawk Down do right? What did they do wrong? For my piece, I examined the sort of reverse propaganda that occurred after World War II. Soldiers returning home suffered many of the same difficulties that later soldiers faced, but they did not admit suffering in the face of adversity. The blog post here explores some of those feelings of difficulty and displacement.
Stagville on History Engine 11/02
The final portion of our evaluation of Slavery through the plantation letters was a culminating episode from one of the letters. I looked at the idea of casual affection through the case of one of Duncan's distant relations, Frances. An exercise like this has the feel of creating original research, as well as allowing the student to create a piece of historical analysis that may be used by others in the future. You can read my final assignment here.
Google Street View 11/09
Social Studies is not purely a study of history. Many students struggle with understanding geographic concepts. How does one region impact another? How does the location of one city influence its cultural design? In this thread, you can find my response where I examine downtown Mexico City and infer some ideas about this capitol city of our neighbor to the south.
Adventures in Early America 11/16
Social Studies is not all new historical enterprise, but also synthesizing learning in a new and meaningful way. IN this exercise, we examined Tony Horwitz latest book, and used his point of view to understand the progression of historical understanding. By Juxtaposing Horwitz with two previous historians, we can see how history has adjusted itself as our understanding has increased. Look here for and examination of Columbus, and you can go from there to explore more histories.
Tangents 11/30
Finally, continuing the idea that Social Studies is more than just History, I present an idea for incorporating the GPLv3 into a Civics and Economics class. Students are often steeped in the idea that economics are best rooted in capitalism, and that a share-and-share-alike idea would not work. The GPLv3 shows an instance where this communistic ideal is in existence, and even thriving. This kind of tangential exploration of content material is beneficial to both students and teachers alike. Students benefit by getting to explore new areas of their content, while teachers get to work with content that they like.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Designs for Democracy.

The website, Designs for Democracy Is an amazing tool for any American History or Government course. This site shows useful graphics, from hull design of ships, to boot innovations. There is even a design for a card including some of the founding fathers. (And you thought the monetizing of political figures is a new idea... Silly goose.)

Classroom integration can be very interesting for this site. The focus is on Democracy and it's development, which does not just include political action, but also private action. Without the private sector supporting democratic ideals, the government could have never gained traction.

Overall, this is a great site for use with middle to high school students, and I'm sure even lower grades could benefit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is History?

I've just read a review of, "A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE, Rediscovering the New World," By Tony Horwitz. I think its great that a he realized that there were glaring gaps in his historical understanding, and chose to seek out answers. Granted, not many can afford such a journey of historical exploration, which is why we enjoy reading about others who are able to embark on such entertaining voyages.
The most interesting words of the review are those words that explore the myths of history. This brings to mind two other trade paperback books that I have. One is an excellent account of history, and the other is a book I've never been able to get through. Norma Goodrich's "Merlin," is an account of the possible truth behind the myth of Merlin. The man apparently did exist, possibly did meet one of the Arthurian-style kings, and live on the Isle of Man.
The other book is, "Lies my teacher told me, Everything your American History Textbook got wrong," by James W. Loewen. The presumptuousness of the title alone bothers me, but Loewen commits the same error that he highlights in the textbooks he lampoons. When we declare a hard-and-fast, one way fits all version of history, we often have to leave out some valuable information.
I am interested in the Tony Horwitz book, and I think I shall read it sooner or later. The reviews on cover the gambit of positive to negative, but the positive reviews seem more well-reasoned. Of the two 1-star reviews, one of them was complaining about this historical accuracy of the book, while the other reviewer was just complaining in general. From the first chapter of the book, and the New York Times review, the book seems to be designed to be an entertaining historical narrative.
Part of the book seems to be focused on the idea of exposing myths and their societal value, which gives the author some leeway with regard to the facts. Realizing this, the first negative reviewer on Amazon is arguing about a point that the author might readily agree with! The reviewer states that the maps and routes traced in the book are inaccurate. The author seems to be expressing the idea that the myth still stands, so where is the basis for this idea?

I look forward to reading this book. Hopefully I'll have some time for it over Christmas break.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yearning for Geography.

I've never been good with geography lessons. Why not? Let me take you back about 16 years to my remembrance of Geography in high school. (This is a vignette from my life, but I'm sure you've been there too.)

(Insert Wavy Lines here...)

"Ok Class," the teacher say, "take out your maps and label Europe.

I look at my blank map of Europe and begin to feel bored. I'm not bored because of a lack of interest. I'm good with maps, and I know that Europe is some place I want to visit, but this outline is... well... boring... Black lines on a copy... Zzzzz...

I'll open my book and start thumbing through a few pages. I know I'm going to fail the Geography section on the unit test, so I'm not too concerned with filling out this page. The teacher starts checking work, so I make it look like I'm doing something... Oh no, here he comes.

"What do you have done, Jonathan?"

"Well, I figured I should look in the book, but I haven't found all the countries yet." I always knew what to say to get the teacher to move on to the next person.

He leaves and I go back to looking like I'm doing something without doing anything. I finish some countries... England is that Island... No, the big one... France is over near Russia... I think... I wonder what's for dinner tonight...

(More wavy lines bringing us back to today.)

Gosh, what a terrible day that was. NOT ANYMORE! Now, with just a few clicks and a few squiggles on the internet, I can find exactly what I need! Teachers can too.

While I was reading the articles for this week, my mind was filling with ideas for lessons to help students engage Geography in an entirely new way. If we use the timeline feature of Google Earth, we can go back to 1942 Europe and follow Hitler through some of the battles of the middle of the War. We begin to get an idea of the scope of the war and can start to understand that the caricature of Hitler as a long raving lunatic causing massive problems is somewhat flawed. How did one man take over such a large part of Europe? He wasn't alone.

We can also begin to understand some of the problems faced by Axis and Allies alike. How were soldiers from the Axis forces supposed to get supplies while they were invading Russia? How long do you think it would take for soldiers to walk from one place to the next? If you were going from Berlin to Moscow, how would you go? Give the reading on the Nazi's invasion of Russia, would you follow the same path, why or why not?

Students can engage in the text in a completely new way, exploring various parts of the world; looking at pictures and images from around the world to help them associate events with places. Students can create a WWII trip-tick to help explore what happened and where.

I really like the stuff at Students can participate in this world-wide experiment and learn more about local culture at the same time. I think that I'm going to offer this as a Bonus exercise in my AVID classroom this up-coming week.

The exercise will look like this:
Please make a drawing, painting or artistic representation of a place in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When you are done, write a reflection that answers the questions:
-- What exactly did you make a picture of?
-- What does the original image tell you about the Culture you were representing?
-- Does this original image look like where you live? Why or Why not?
-- How does your representation reflect yourself and your culture?

When I'm done, I think I'll see how the students feel about knowing where Nova Scotia is, and what they think they've gained from the exercise... Maybe it won't be bonus, I think I'll make it a whole-class activity. The bonus will be if the students want to digitize and upload their images.

Monday, November 2, 2009

History Engine.

I don't know how I feel. On one hand, I see the tremendous potential of the History Engine as a tool for driving pedagogy. On the other hand, it smacks of gimmickry. I don't mean that it is a gimmick, or that it should be taken as such, but it has that feel.

I know that sounds controversial, but it seems that they are touting this as something that people will be able to utilize as a secondary source for later research, but are not doing much to expose this to the outside world. A Google search brings up History Engine readily, but the landing page is not very inviting. It is obviously more focused on content creation than it is on content utilization. Students, I fear, might look at these articles and simply ascribe them to the dark hallways of some forgotten years at University. This would break the illusion that the work being created would be meaningful in the future.

On the other hand, if the grand plan of History Engine is to develop enough meaningful content to begin featuring it and putting the content at the center of the experiment, that's another story. I can easily understand how they would want to focus primarily on content creation until there is some solid content to brag about.

When one views the current landing page, you are presented quickly with the idea that this is for educational purposes of content creation. While this is good, I think if there is too much content with not an obvious effort to put that content into a more main-stream venue, students may disbelieve the idea that they are able to push the field of History further.

As it stands, I look forward to contributing to this experiment. I hope that it does open up a little bit more and begins to push content. I also think many of my students in high school could create meaningful content, especially if it were obvious that some of the best written articles were prominently displayed or featured.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Film in social Studies, Follow up.

I have selected two clips to follow in the theme of War Time propaganda, a study in evolution.

The first clip is from "The Best Years of Our Lives."

Find more videos like this on Teaching Digital History

This movie details the struggles and problems faced by World War II vets returning home. Modern culture has portrayed this as the last great war; the war without all those strange problems associated with modern warfare. The best years of our lives tells a different story. Notice the Conversation that the two seemingly uninjured men have at the end of the clip, "That would rehabilitate me." This one line speaks volumes to what was happening on the home front. Psychology had not yet come up with the term, "PTSD," but it would seem that these veterans coming home knew all to well that something was amiss. Further along in the movie one of the men has slipped into almost complete isolation, another is teetering on the edge of alcoholism and the third is struggling to keep his family together.

The second clip is easier to follow than the movie itself. The film, "Flags of our Fathers," by Clint Eastwood, is a tremendously good view of how the soldiers felt about themselves juxtaposed to what the media was doing with the image of, "The American Soldier."

Find more videos like this on Teaching Digital History

These men were painted as heroes, but wanted nothing to do with the spotlight. Again the them of the media presenting the war as something glorious, while the soldiers realize the harsh truth. These soldiers must work to reconcile what they have seen with what the American public wants.

Both films present a story opposite to the propaganda of the time, and also present a very different idea of the propaganda than we see about the wars today. They are somewhat counter-cultural in that they present a different side of the war than popular culture would like to know.

I think that these films might have contributed to the anti-military feelings that many people express today. Both films expose the tragedy of war and what happens when men return from war. Now we rarely focus on the positive things our military men are doing, preferring only to hear of the tragedy that is many soldier's return home. This does, I think, a bit of injustice to those men and women who do beneficial things and return home relatively unscathed. I think we need to, as in all things, remember the whole picture. These films, in the context of WWII propaganda, help us to remember that whole picture. Now we just need to learn to see a more balanced picture of current events.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Film in Social Studies.

The article, "Tinsel Town as Teacher: Hollywood Film in the High School Classroom," uses infuriatingly bad statistical practices. At best we should avoid using statistical analysis on Likert scales, and should never attempt to draw inferences from such analysis. This does not prevent the author of this article from doing that and obscuring the meaningful research that was done. (For example, if 49% of the respondents select 1 and 51% of the respondents select 5, it would not be true that most of the people feel videos to be moderately useful.)

A few things that would have made this study a little better are:
  1. What are the EOC (or comparable tests) results in the classes that use large numbers of movies?
  2. What is the student response to the "film every day" category?
  3. What is the correlation between 1, 2 and the use of supplementary materials?
The other article, "The Burden of Historical Representation: Race, Freedom, and Educational' Hollywood Film" answers some of these questions and provides some more meaningful insight.

The most dominant reason for using Hollywood films in the classroom, from both studies, was empathy. Would it not make more sense to help the students literacy skills in an effort to do this? Students may make a video portraying some aspect of Slavery or write a RAFT that puts the student in the role of the slave. Granted, this can be done within the confines of the video framework, but was not mentioned in either study. Would it not be more meaningful for students to take some time to produce some sort of empathetic product of their learning?

In today's culture, a 1:1 classroom in particular should not be completely reliant on vide, but should also see to explore a wide variety of different online media. Primary sources and meaningful secondary sources about on the internet and provide a medium for students to engage in historical material. Should not we use this material to enrich our students experience instead of a video every day?

A fear that I have with a proliferation of video in the classroom is that it can be non-interactive. Students may come to subconsciously believe that specific things should be watched more than engaged. Take, for example, the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Millions of people watched as it happened, but few seem to still see this as a possible point of contention with China. Carry this thought over to Tibet, which desperately wants to be free, for good or for ill. Why are the "Free Tibet" crowd the marginalized people instead of the norm? I would raise the question: Has video taught us that it is appropriate to not take action against social injustice.

I do not necessarily believe that this is the case, but to echo what the Stoddard article seemed to indicate, video in the classroom does not seem to be enough and should be supplemented with a variety of other resources. To quote John Wensick (which non of you have ever heard of, and that's ok.) "Don't be a one-trick Pony."

When John taught my cohort about using Video during my M.Ed. Program, he repeated that video should never be left to teach itself. If you incorporate video, make sure the students are aware of the historical inaccuracies as well as how to identify such inaccurate portions of other films.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two Hours later...

I've spent the better part of the past two hours looking at digital history archives. I thought that I might view a few more, but after two hours, I think I've got a good idea of some common themes and thoughts.

Design Features Common with most of the sites:
  • Categorization of Artifacts

  • Presentation of a meaningful and pretty page

  • Pictures associated with many of the links / categories / essays

Accessing the site / artifacts (Navigation):
  • No Login required (nice)

  • click-to-go artifacts and links to digital history

  • Non-intuitive design for re-finding items

  • Very Intuitive design for perusing website

Interpretation on Each Site:
  • Each site offered some level of interpretation

  • Interpretation was, at minimum, based on meaning added by categorization

  • Some sites offered much more interpretation than objects of digital history

Overall, the sites would require, I feel, a good deal of teaching and direction to utilize in a classroom setting. I think the sites, absent of knowledge how to use specialized Google searches, would require a lot of time to find meaningful articles to use in a classroom setting. I think it would be some interesting research to examine how to setup a Digital History Website to be more user friendly. Obviously most of the people visiting these sites will be browsing for information as opposed to looking for a specific item. How can a digital history site manage to attract the casual browser, but engage scholarly search as well?
For example, the Library of Congress site seems more geared to a scholarly viewer, but the Cultural Readings site was definitely geared towards the browser. These two types of visitors will have different approaches and different goals. One (the browser) can help you gain advertising dollars, while the other (scholarly) might help gain admission fees through institutional subscriptions. Which would be better for digital history?

As an added bonus, this post comes with my notes. I took my notes in a Google Doc. There is at least one 'funny' quote. At least, I laughed when I typed it.

Articles: Plantation Readings

Having read over half of the letters from Paul Cameron to his father, I am astounded what the lack of communication can bring. Not that Paul was attempting to not communicate with his father, as the modern version of the phrase can mean, but that Paul and his father, Duncan, had difficulty with the mail system and sending letters back and forth. There are several references to letters not arriving in a timely fashion, as well as letters arriving en masse when they finally did arrive.
This created a few problems. Duncan apparently would have preferred Paul to rent land if at all possible, but Duncan was unable to get that message until he had already agreed to purchase a parcel of land. It also seems that news of poor health was not travelling quickly, and there were concerns over loved ones suffering from health issues.
Duncan, in the one letter in the archive, states, "I wish my [Orange] Street friends could have seen the joy and gratitude expressed by my slaves on my return home." I found this an interesting statement simply because it gives us a glimpse into Duncan's attitude that the slaves enjoyed at least seeing their master return home. I found myself wondering about this phrase. Was this part of the personal propaganda he used to rationalize slavery in 1846 as it was losing popularity with his "Orange Street friends?" Or did he truly believe that his slaves were happy to have a master? Either way, he seems to have viewed the concept of slavery in a similar way that a man who owns dogs might. How often have dog owners said to their non-dog friends, "I wish you could have seen the joy and gratitude in Sparky's eyes when I came home last night." But I digress and read too much into that phrase.
Paul also made an interesting comment about his slaves. Something to the effect of not wanting to loan out any of his slaves to the local plantation owners. Paul is also very concerned about the well-being of his slaves and is concerned in various letters that his overseer, "Lewellyn" is a little too harsh with them. He also makes remarks about the clothing of the slaves being far too thin and of too poor quality. It seems that he is genuinely concerned for their health, but again, I am reading into the letters.
When I came to reading the forum postings based on these letters where the SCIM-C method is used, I find it interesting how the strategy for reading a historical document is scaffolded. Several of the students seem to do as little as possible at first, but if you follow the thread of the students, they begin to blossom in their application of the strategy. This is particularly true in activity III, where the students begin making inferences about the materials they have read. Scaffolding SCIM-C in this way seems to give very strong results.

Now, on to examining various historical collections!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Literacies and Social Studies.

The articles for this week were very interesting to me. I've read some Leu research before, and I always enjoy reading the conclusions based on such research, and this article was no different. It makes a lot of sense to start integrating technology into different content areas and using technological literacy as a starting point for creating new standards.
That being said, my favorite article was, "Fostering Historical Thinking With Digitized Primary Sources." I am very intrigued by the concept of targeted software solutions for helping develop historical thinking. It seems to me that such a software can help lay groundwork for developing truly historical thinkers in today's public schools. One student in the study made the comment, "I believe that the past is the past, and we should leave it there" (p. 10). This attitude seems oddly prejudicial and should be almost absent from today's educational system, however, I have encountered similar feelings in my school. Students are not being instructed in the *importance* history, they are just being given general facts and asked to remember them. I think the development of specific software to help students understand how to be more historical in their thinking is generally advisable.
As far as evaluating how students best can interact with the Internet, I think that this needs to be addressed in every class every day. Could a student in a modern high school really and effectively navigate through EBSCO Host or Academic Search Premier? Would many of the students know where to start? I have taught my students how to use some limited academic searches, but they quickly became confused and were not able to scan the pages for relevant details. I wonder if this is due to a lack of Internet skills, or an inability to grasp the new vocabulary? I would like to see a study done on introducing students to new Internet based applications, and how students can learn the new interface.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Medieval Scotland Wikipedia Article

The article Scotland in the High Middle Ages has been edited 594 times. While this is a surprisingly small number of edits compared to some other feature articles, this small number of edits is partially due to the user, “Deacon of Pndapetzim." This use has edited the article 211 times, and is responsible for the first incarnation of this article, which was surprisingly complete.
The completness of the initial article, (created January 6, 2006), indicates that this editor is very knowledgeable about the topic. The original article include Society, Legal institutions, Curch, Culture, Demographics and many different kinds of graphics and maps.
Due to this editor, the article has not gone through many substantive changes in its content, and has been edited primarily for wikipedian standards and grammatical errors. A few editors remarked that their edits were to cure some vandalism (the entire page was once blanked). Most of the substantive changes have occurred because the author seems to have posted the original article from a scholarly paper. It looks like it may have been a survey paper on Scottish Medieval history, as it had sections entitled, "Bibliography" and "References" which were subsequently put into the Wikipedian standard.
The writing of the article is startling bad, I do not mean that the writing is terrible, but for the level of scholarship, I would expect the writing to be better. One such error surprised me so much that I corrected it without thinking. A sentence read, “Scotland in this period, for such a small region of Eurasia, is relatively well studied in this period.” I gasped at the repetition of “in this period,” and quickly edited it out to make more sense. The grammatical structure of the article is poor, with many words and phrases being needlessly reused. This seriously reduces the readability of the article, but does no necessarily detract from the overall wealth of content.
The content is comprehensive and seemingly accurate. Various theories of the development in Scotland during this time period are investigated, and even-handed consideration is given to many of the competing philosophies.
The discussion of this article is very interesting in two ways. The “Deacon of Pndapetzim” only makes one comment, and most of the discussion is about other possible articles. Some of the discussion centers on creating a distinction of “Early, High and Late” Medieval eras, with pertinent articles for each. Some grammatical clarifications are discussed and two ideas are addressed. Sport and borders are addressed as possibly lacking in the article.
When we examine the articles that have been created by, “Deacon of Pndapetzim,” we quickly discover why this editor is probably absent from discussion related to this particular article. He (or she) is absolutely prolific in the creation of Medieval articles. This editor has a significant number of accolades from Wikipedia and an amazingly long history of making Scotland well understood on Wikipedia.
Overall, the article is noteworthy and would be a good place for anyone interested in the Medieval era to start learning.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Knowing-How and Knowing-That with Wikipedia

Wow. First of all, these four articles took me a long time to get through. I want to re-read these articles again, but I shall post first to solidify some ideas that are flummoxing their way through my head.

In my defence, I am not claiming this to be an intelligent response. If you have read the two philosophy articles, you will get that joke. Or maybe not.

I think this essay is examining the how and what of Wikipedia. My post, not the four essays. The argument as it stands is that Wikipedia is either a good or bad place for students to visit for knowledge. For instance, how does one know who is posting a specific sentence? I know that there are instances of plagiarism on Wikipedia, and I know there are instances of excellence. How do I arrive at that knowledge? You might say that I should do more research, but then I would counter with how should I go about starting that research?

Knowing that Wikipedia is a place for the general masses to assimilate various bits of information does not give me the know how of what to do with that information. I can only ask questions of Wikipedia and attempt to verify or discredit that information.

I am convinced that intelligent people can utilize Wikipedia in a meaningful way, but I am equally convinced that intelligent people can and do utilize Wikipedia in a foolish or silly way. Does this mean that Wikipedia itself is a poor source of information or a vast supplier of mis-information? Honestly, I could not at this point tell you.

I had previously thought of Wikipedia as a perfectly valid, if someone skewed, source of information. I think that I still do view it in this light, but increasingly only as a starting point. The points of Wikipedia that I view to be most valid are the references and discussion sections of the articles. I find that the discussion section of an article will contain pertinent information to the validity or meaning of the article. The references provide a starting point for deeper research of a general area of study. In this respect, Wikipedia is a much more valuable resource than many other online reference tools.

On the other hand, students have demonstrated to me that they are unwilling or unable to utilize Wikipedia in a responsible way, and treat it as a valid source of information without little consideration. I have taught students to use the articles of this encyclopedia as a starting point for research, but all too often they quote the article and use the original reference of the information as their citation.

Another consideration that I have is that we are historians. As Ryle pointed out, we know how to conduct historical research. Should we then work with Wikipedia in a historical sense? What I mean is this: Should we take what we know how to do, and apply it to wiki articles in such a way as to construct a higher meaning out of the jumble of facts that dominate the website? Or should we take our historical knowledge and glean important facts from wikipedia, online using it as a stepping stone on our way to intellectual discovery?

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, and what that means to us as everyday people. How then can we establish a reliable epistemological viewpoint on wikipedia? How can we say that we know a specific article on the website is useful or non-useful? You might indicate that it is useful if it is factual, but it might also be useful if it is non-factual. A non-factual entry might be useful in spurring discussion of the facts and an evaluation of how that article is being presented. New research is rarely beneficial if it is simply restating old ideas; but it is very beneficial when it takes previously touted ideas and turns them on their head. To quote science fiction, "They said we would never break the sound barrier: It has been broken. They said we would never go faster than the speed of light, but interstellar travel is common." (I think that this is from Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, but I cannot be certain.) Science, and I would say History, are full of examples where firmly held beliefs were discovered to be false, resulting in a furthering of the field. You can, if you so choose, look at this like the Hegelian dialectic: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. One idea leads to another which results in a third more powerful idea.

Over all, I think that Wikipedia is both too young and too old. It is too young in that academia is uncertain about what to do with it, and it is too old in that the internet seems to be moving beyond the amature-hour version of crowd sourcing. I look at websites like, which have ranking systems and pay structures to encourage meaningful articles. Is wikipedia past its prime? A recent NPR report evaluated this question and decided that maybe it is. Maybe Wikipedia will cease to exist in a few years and other ideas will replace it.

Only time will tell. In the meantime, academics such as ourselves must wrestle with this behemoth in the room.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monet Painting

Monet was of the school of art called Impressionism. This is important in passing, to know that the goal was to paint more quickly than traditional academic painting, allowing the artist to capture more immediate and pressing images. Impressionists were also know to include visualizations of their feelings or impressions of the scene. This allows us to see through his eyes into a time long past. Come with me as we examine this painting.

The painting, 'Train in Snow,' was painted in 1875. In this painting I will focus on three things of interest. First, the smoke coming from the train, second the fence next to the rail-road tracks and finally the headlights of the train.

The smoke coming from the train lets us know a lot about what is going on. First, we know the train is stopped and waiting for travellers to climb on and off of the train. The smoke is prevalent in the image which lets us know it is important. You might also remember that smoke is a recurrent theme in Monet's paintings, which also shows us the importance of smoke. During this time, trains are becoming more and more common and life is adjusting to accepting trains as an everyday part of life.

The fence tells us of the change happening in society. This is obviously a hastily built fence, not designed to withstand the stress of people either jumping over it or the passing of a fast-moving train. We know this because it has many reinforcer pieces that look to be added in later in an effort to shore up the fence. The fact that the fence was either not properly built, or was built without a full understanding of strong it needed to be lets us know that this society was still adjusting to the industrial revolution. Roads and tracks that were previously innocuous are suddenly becoming dangerous thoroughfares.

Finally, the headlights are probably either whale oil or kerosene lamps. They are, as one might guess, not for the conductor to see ahead, but to warn anyone down the line that a train is coming and it would be best to move along. Beyond their function, these lights give us an insight into the dirt of the world. When you look at the lights, you can clearly see that they are dimly lit and almost seem to have an oily film covering them. This is the world of Charles Dickens. This is the world adjusting to the fact that trains are never going to go away, and everything is moving forward.

As you look at the head lamps on the train, notice that Monet has given a red tint to the train. Possibly from the coal burning hot in the firebox, but the firebox would be much farther back on the locomotive, and thus the red tinge would be unrelated. More likely as an impression of the firery presence of this peice of industry waiting for passangers.

It is clear that this train is not new. It is clear that the people have accepted its existence, but as we are learning with the prevalence of the internet today, innovation often spurs unforeseen changes. Did you honestly think, ten years ago, that you would be interested in the personal stories of people you never met? Did you honestly think that you would be one of those people sharing those personal stories? As this painting shows a world begrudgingly moving into the future, so we are pushing forward and learning more about ourselves through technology.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Benjamin West

The various biographies of Benjamin West serve to illustrate an interesting point of history that seems to be often overlooked. Art and the creators of said medium, often create history themselves by simply existing and being controversial in their work. We look at West through our 21st century lens and see no such controversy, but West's mere birth and birthright accord to him the problems of controversy.

West, born in the New World under English rule, and moving back to England before the American Revolution, settled himself into a very interesting spot. He spent some formative years in the America's where ideas were not nearly so solidified as they were on the Island of Great Britain. This seems to have given him a certain dislike for some of the standards of British life, and allowed him to overcome some of the typical standards that he saw. Previously, the focus of painting had been on old figures. DaVinci's The Last Supper is a perfect example. The focus on modern dress and events was a shift in art that has shaped our national history.

He is mentioned by Rather as being one of the first Historical Painters. This leads one to believe that art had previously been presented as a pleasing medium, and had been generally regarded for purely aesthetic reasons. West added meaning and values to those paintings and created a sense of intimacy with various historical settings. In The Death of General Wolfe, West allows us to see who was concerned with this General's demise. All eyes are on the General, whose eyes are looking toward heaven. We also note the men on the right of the painting making a motion as if they are praying.

The story that this painting gives us is one that is complicated as it is controversial.

I think it is also important to note that West was not attempting to be overly political or controversial in his presentation of General Wolfe. It seems he was being a little idealistic (that is, the placement of the Native American), but it does not seem that he was looking to be overly deviant in his portrayal of the scene. Fryd even tells us that the painting has been looked at, historically, as being fairly valid. Only recently do we learn many of the historical errors in the painting. It is then our goal as historians to evaluate this picture and learn what West was thinking in an effort to understand some of the Historical importance of this painting.

As an aside, my wife and I were watching, “The Woodright's Shop,” this morning on UNC-TV. The host of the show was discussing the historical importance of the furniture and something hit me. Understanding Benjamin West is not just about a single historian, the idea is to move beyond the basic understanding of history into a new and meaningful concept of history in education. All too often we have focus on what happened, and completely ignore the impact that it had on the people and their daily lives.

The show demonstrated a table being built. As he was building the table, he was describing the geography of the Island and it's impact on the furniture. He said, “You see there are three sections, England, Scotland and Wales...” This division was important to a historical group of people, significant enough to use it as a design element in that table.

When we understand this, we begin to understand the importance of Benjamin West.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lincoln Image

The following post attempts to address Werner's 7 ways of reading an image. This is the image:

1.Instrumental This image depicts some pairings as a result of the Dred Scott decision on slavery in the South. Many of the candidates were interested in minority issues. In the upper left hand corner of the image is Brekinridge with Buckanan. Upper right is Lincoln with a black woman, a slur against his alliance with the abolitionists. Below Lincoln (lower right) is John Bell with a Native American brave. The lower left image is Douglas with an Irishman, associating him with the Imigrants and the Catholic church.
2.Narrative The image seems to be playing with the idea that the Dred Scott decision had a large impact on the election and how each of the candidates was able to run their campaign. Each of the candidates is depicted as being able to utilize the Dred Scott decision in their favor, hence the dancing. Brekinridge is happy, because it seems that the decision favors him on the surface – it's a win for slavery! Lincoln is depicted as happy because he can solidify his standing with the abolitionists by standing against the Dred Scott decision. Bell and Douglas seem to be happy because they can ride the wave of anti-slavery feelings.
3.Iconic The image includes icons of dancing and music playing. Dred Scott is sitting in the middle while everyone else is dancing. Dancing is often a sign of merriment, or disregard for more serious issues.
4.Editorial Taking the image holistically, something funny is happening. Dance is not something that people in protest do, nor is dancing something someone does to demonstrate a serious ideal. The artist is obviously trying to indicate that these politicians are dancing around the real issues of race and slavery. The politicians are not addressing the true issue in a meaningful way. The politicians should adjust their thinking and begin addressing the real issues of the election.
5.Indicative Each candidate in this cartoon is listed in a somewhat detrimental manner. The artist seems to be indicating that all of these candidates are putting their best foot forward, and carrying some skeletons in the closet. None of the candidates, in this artist portrayal, are pure and right for the candidacy. There are no icons of righteousness, nor icons of positive meaning in the actions of the characters.
6.Oppositional The ideas presented in the image are generally offensive to all parties involved. For the minorities because they are being regarded as associated with a political cause, and for the politicians because they appear to be playing politics, as we would say in modern parlance. The image is somewhat unfair to the Dred Scott case, as it had been an issue some 2-3 years past. (The Dred Scott decision came in 1857, and this picture is from the 1960 election.) If all fairness were given to the candidates, both positive and negative aspects of their ideals could be depicted, instead of having their ideals depicted purely in a negative light. I also wonder why the author depicted the Irish immigrant in such poor clothing. It would seem the slave girl should be in much worse clothing than an freeman.
7.Reflexive This cartoon tells us of the very complex nature of the political system and prejudices in the 1860's. Prejudice is not a simply matter of liking a majority group, but also of liking certain minorities less than others.


Reflection on this process.

I feel that I should reflect on this process because it was amazingly difficult. I felt like I had to make some very uncomfortable assumptions based on my knowledge in order to create this reading. I don't know if I was uncomfortable with the assumptions because of a lack of comprehending the picture, or perhaps I felt I was not getting the facts correct.

There were some areas of this image that were easier to address. There were, for example, few icons in the image, so the iconic reading was simple. The editorial and indicative readings were difficult because they seemed to be similar. Finally, I ended up making an assumption that a political campaign is a serious thing, and these candidates are being portrayed dancing, which is frivolous. I took this to be a negative view of the candidates and read it as such.

Over all, I think that my reading is uncomfortable because of inexperience in this area of reading an image.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Audio Essay.

This is a story of hurricane Floyd in Tarboro, NC. Almost all of the sound are my own recordings, I wonder if you can tell the sound that I pulled from a video on-line? I think I included all the aspects of the flood, as I know them. As I listen to these sounds, I think about the flood and all the different things that have happened since then. The audio has taken on meaning beyond the meaning that I had originally given it, which is why I'm not explaining it here.

The Audacity project ended up having a total of 8 stereo tracks and consumed 108 Mb on my HDD in it's raw form. In compressed form, Floyd only takes 2.8 Mb, which is substantially less! :-)

Listen and enjoy. I'd rather now put my own meaning into this; please interpret these sounds as you will!

Here is the file!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lincoln Meets Imagery.

Today was an interesting day. I read a great deal about the use of imagery in history, and spent some time reflecting on the importance of sound.

First, the imagery. Wow. My wife and I had a lengthy conversation about D.J. Staley's ideas of imagery, and I took part of Staley's statement and used it to understand what the article was talking about. I said, "Imagine if history were told like Spiderman or Dick Tracy. You don't read about how Spiderman defeats Dr. Octopus with a left hook, you see the left-hook!" She said, "Oh! I understand what you're saying about images in education... I think I would have learned more if I could have seen what was taking place..."

This forces me to reflect also on the use of imagery in general. When we see a picture, we don't just look at it, we interpret it. There is the stylized B for my accounts. There is the stylized G for Google. Mac has the apple, Linux has the Penguin. All of these images tell me a lot about those companies. Mac is the stylish, usually grey image. Linux's penguin (Tux, by name) is usually portrayed doing something cool or just being cool itself. These images bring forth a myriad of ideas, but with the current approach to social studies, we're generally ignoring them!

In an effort to conduct a (rather lame) experiment, I will now stand up from my laptop, walk over to one of my bookshelves, and at random, select a book of history. Wait a second, here it comes.

Was it worth the wait? Here we go. "The Middle East: A Brief History of The last 2,000 Years," by Bernard Lewis. I hope there are some images of marauders taking their religion across the landscape. Page 199 contains no such images... Another random page. Page 213 has an image. Constantine the great looking stoic with a caption explaining who he was... (Good, now I don't have to read pages 1-37...) Many captioned images later, I know what these people looked like, and I'm given many captions, but I'm not left to understand anything greater based on these images. All exploration of the imagery has been taken away from me with these captions, which is exactly what Werner referenced in his article.

Why is it that we know so much about what helps student's to learn, but we completely ignore it when it comes to the study of history? Odd.

I find it very interesting that when I was reading Werner's article, I kept thinking about what New York does to train their students. The students are required to learn how to interpret images (it's part of their regent's test, their version of our EOC). The students are graded on their knowledge of the context of the image as well as the message the image is portraying. They are not graded on the exactitude of dates, they are graded on whether they could identify the events being described (and sometimes mocked) in the images.

Which brings me to my exploration of 21st Century Abe and the Library of Congress selection of Lincoln pictures. There is a particular video (which you can find here) that I found to be pretty interesting. It progresses through a series of photos, and they really show some great images of Lincoln. A biography I am reading refers to Lincoln's good sense of humor. Many of the images selected by that video show Lincoln almost smiling. If you have seen many pictures from the Lincoln era, you will know that few of the images from that era show good nature or humor. It was simply not the culture that surrounded imagery that accepted smiling.

I am happy that I have been avoiding this tendency with my AVID class. My students are engaged in asking questions of the pictures they see. They are currently asking the George Howard collection, "Where is this building located?" They are asking images of Somerset Plantation artifacts, "How would a slave utilize you?" They are engaging in historical enquiry in such a way that will (hopefully) leave a meaningful impact on their lives and encourage them to move beyond their immediate understanding of the world.

Overall, I think that by the exploration of this week's materials I have become much more aware of what is going on around me and how I can influence my students to increase their understanding of historical topics through the use of images.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Post about Audio

I just discovered something interesting. I've been walking around with my borrowed Olympus audio device and recording things that I think sound interesting.

I feel crazy.

You might wonder why, but you need not wonder for long! People looked at me like I was out of my gourd. I had people walk past me at the aquarium who almost ran into pillars and other displays of fish. I had one mother shoot me a dirty look before she pushed her child on to the next tank.

What the heck?

I wonder about this. Why is it so strange to have an audio recording of something? Why is it not equally invasive to be taking pictures of random strangers? I was (probably am) in at least 2 dozen photos from a young couple at the sand dunes in Kitty Hawk. They were playing and taking pictures of each other in my general direction. Should I not be offended that they selected my spot to take pictures? I mean, with facial recognition technology what it is, they could use my face to identify me, and blackmail me with sitting on top of a dune with borrowed NCSU equipment. (Sorry, that steals your thunder, oh brazen youth!)

Yet me, with my quiet little audio recording device, I am the devil walking around trying to steal peoples souls. Yes, images are apparently fine, but audio? That is just an evil idea.

I also discovered that purely audio recordings of events are interesting. Very interesting. My son playing on a sand dune is wonderfully enjoyable to listen to. A crowded aquarium on Labor day conveys they hectic emotions that one feels surrounded by hundreds of toddlers and their families. Listening to the sound on the dunes creates a sadness for those things lost (silence, for one).

Keep an eye here for more historical things... Or not.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Post about Sensorial History.

A few days have passed since I began reading the articles for ECI525 at NCSU. I'm increasingly finding myself wondering about what my senses are doing. I'm also increasingly finding myself falling into some good ole college routines. The first is interesting to you, the second is interesting to me!

First, when I heard a friend talking about the flood in Tarboro, 1999, I started 'feeling' what it must have been like to be there. I could taste the mold in the air. I could smell the stagnation everywhere, and I could almost touch the slime that engulfed the flooded areas. I felt more invested in what we we learning during that little interview that I had previously. Instead of collecting some distant ideas or facts, I was moving through a historical even that would impact this region for years to come. I could feel the fear coursing through the community as it wondered what would come next? Would anyone bother rebuilding the community, or would the people just give up and move on?

As I'm reading the biography of Abraham Lincoln that I picked up, I find myself more and more imagining what it meant to be living during that time. If the river didn't flow properly, then trade didn't happen. I can sit at the dock with the one person in the story who waited several days for the river to come up to be able to take his goods to market. In my minds I, I see the water, I feel the tension in the air and I smell the stagnant tobacco burning in an old clay pipe. It's strange, but to begin to think about things sensationally really puts one into a first-person view of history.

Second, I am obsessing over assignments. This is the second time I have posted a comment to my own posting in an effort to elaborate and continue my stream of thought. I think that my original post was reflective, but I realize that part of it was summative. I'm also drinking tea while studying and my drive for thrash metal has returned. Odd.

Rammstein is still cool.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sensorial History

This blog post is based on readings from the Journal of American history, September 2008, Volume 95, issue 2. If you've not read the round table discussion from that particular issue, you should. Due to the very nature of responding to such a lengthy bit of reading, this blog post is long. In the middle I slip into a somewhat academic response format, but I don't think it should be too jarring. It might, indeed, be somewhat of a nice distraction from my typical rambling style! Enjoy!

The first thing that I want to talk about (I know, I'm writing), is the idea that we do not live our lives with a single sense. You smell your food and wine. You see your family and friends, or the road in front of you as you drive. You hear your radio, music and the sounds of the keys typing under your fingers. You taste the air around you or the water you drink.You touch things to learn about them, and you feel your way when it's dark. You don't think about any of this. You just do it.

I find it interesting that we, as individuals, do not miss our senses until they are missing. But historically, we ignore our senses as being something untrusted and fallible. We do not historically care to record our perceptions, instead preferring to move into a world where we attempt to use what we call facts to guide our understanding. This beckons problems in interpretation because we do not make decisions based on facts. People make decisions based on what they think is correct, which is often impacted by our senses.

As the example, when you go to a banquet, you smell the roast duck and become enticed. You find out that the roast duck is gone and settle for a pork-chop. When you finally find a seat, it's next to a man who has not bathed for a while and is eating a rather foul cut of flounder. Your senses have taken you on an emotional roller coaster that may impact your future. This scenario is much like the one mentioned in The Nose Knows: The Sense of Smell in American History by Connie Y. Chiang. She talks about the progression of the conflict between inhabitants in the Sea side town of Monterey over the smells generated by the fishing community. It is eventually decided that the sardine smell is acceptable, while the squid smell is aberrant. The Chinese community of Monterey is pushed aside while the industry of sardine canning is elevated to an acceptable accommodation between money and smell.

Can we truly understand the flooding in Edgecombe county in 1999, or the disaster in New Orleans during the hurricane Katrina disaster, without thinking about the smells?

Taste too is an important factor in our history. The now (unfortunately) ubiquitous head of iceberg lettuce, as we are told by Gerard J. Fitzgerald and Gabriella M. Petrick inIn Good Taste: Rethinking American History with Our Palates , is a matter of historical taste. Post World War families wanted to be able to eat vegetables on a yearly basis, and Californian grown iceberg lettuce provided that taste people were looking for during the long winter months. It slowly worked its way into American cuisine to become the only lettuce many families ever eat!

In case you are misunderstanding the importance of taste, I would challenge you to do the following exercise. Do not buy processed food for a month. Find a way to eat all fresh, home-made foods from scratch. Then, go to a chain restaurant that you frequent and try their food. You will be surprised at how bad it tastes to you! I know this because I am a vegetarian and rarely eat foods that are prepared by someone else at a great distance. When I have gone out to eat, I typically find myself searching for food that might be fresh, and might be real. Before I was a veggie, my wife and I were already from scratch kind of people, and often found ourselves ill after eating out. This is really a big part of the history of taste. Our culture has been so drastically altered by what we allow ourselves to eat that one could come to the future from 50 years ago, only to find it impossible to eat much of our cuisine! This may seem a bit hyperbolic, but consider what Fitzgerald and Petrick discuss about the drinking of soda, (pp. 401-403) In the 1960's, mothers would not allow their children to drink soda at dinner time. "One woman even stated derisively: "I'd probably be ready to shoot myself at the very idea of serving any soft drinks with dinner." This visceral reaction to drinking soda with meals made it clear that soda was incompatible with dinner from organoleptic and cultural perspectives" (p 402). Would those women be able to eat at any of our modern eating establishments? Could she fathom allowing Pepsi or Coke to be served at her dinner table?

Taste is an important factor in how things changed and how things are already changing again, based on what we choose to eat.

Smell and taste are not the only senses which need consideration. Touch, Sight and Hearing are also very important. What did it sound like in your house before you were born? If you are a parent, what did it sound like in your house before your children were born? I cannot imagine how I would feel to not have my toddler son running around the house on a Saturday morning, searching for his shoes. What did it sound like, on the spot you are sitting, 50 years ago? 100? What about 1000 years ago? Would you have heard natives from your land talking? Would you have heard bugs chirping, or birds singing? Would you feel cold? Warm?

Consider, if you will, Hearing American History by Richard Cullen Rath.

"In my own work, the more I sought out aural belieft in the seventeenth and early eighteenth cenmries, the more I found: thunder given priority over lightning, bells over steeples, oaths over signatures, hearsay over eyewitnessing, and saying over writing" (p. 421). This statement strikes me as ironic, given that it is in a written-text journal. Here, you are reading a blog. As I said earlier, I am intentionally 'speaking' to you. This is for two reasons. First, I think it's a neat idea, and secondly, I'm reading about reading as a conversation with the author for another class.

"According to Ong and Goody, if we want to know what oral culture was like, we need only find pristine oral cultures in the present that have not been influenced by print cul-
ture" (p. 424). This brings to my mind the Georgian music culture, which to my knowledge is not being explored in modern American research, which is really a shame. The Georgian culture, especial in regions like Svaneti, is still very far behind modern culture. This is one of those places where people still practice ancient time passing techniques such as singing while riding or riddling through the winter. (Ori ov de li a)

"But where Europeans heard messages directed to themselves, Native Americans interpreted natural sounds as intentional acts of intelligent heings not necessarily intended for humans" (p. 427). Is it mere coincidence that I am repeatedly reminded of J.R.R. Tolkein's critiques of modern society while reading these articles? Perhaps, given enough time, I could find a corrolary for each of these points in The Lord of the Rings. The triliogy is, after all, a very long wish for things past and a yearning for a day when all of the industry that has impacted our world was gone.

"Acoustic spaces are not merely instrumental, as most often they are shaped to control the sound of the voice, whether acoustical tiling to keep modern workplaces quiet, or the carefully designed reverberation qualities of an opera house" (p. 428). Here I think that Rath hits upon a very controversial idea of today. We are forcing ourselves to be more isolated in our experiences of sonic events. We have our I-Pods, our headphones and our personal audio labs. Our offices are insulated against sound, and our classrooms are asked to be quiet. Our Opera houses are becoming desolate places in some areas and live music is moving far away from the delicate sonorous musings of intellecutalism. The controversy I am thinking of today is this: Does 'canned' accompanyment for an opera bring the same experience as a live orchestra?

This stands by itself: "Modernity began to have its own sound, a neutral, echoless acoustics In which sounds could be amplified and carefully controlled" (p. 430).

"Understanding how people heard their worlds in the seventeenth century opens up new possibilities for understanding people in the past on their own terms. The sociology of speech and hearing in the eighteenth century sheds light on the role of print culture and the emergence of American identity" (p. 431). I agree with this, but how do we uncover what people spoke like 200 years ago, let along 400 years ago? Would we understand Shakespeare talking to his friends? What about George Washington Giving orders, or General Lee commanding his troops?

When we examine touch more closely with Mark M. Smith, we find that touch is a visceral idea. "Tactility informed antebellum antislavery sentiment emotionally and intellectually. Masters were brutal because they laid hands and whips on slaves; slaves were vulnerable because their skin and nerve endings were not their own" (p 389). This is a description that we don't want to know. Modernity doesn't want to remember, I don't think, the physical brutality of what slavery was. It may not have been the absolute cruelty of all slaves, but the fact that these slaves could not control their own bodies because of their owners causes a response in our psyche.

For the sake of going on too long, which I fear I already have, I think we can examine the final sense. This sense that is not completely forgotten, but it is generally mistrusted. James W. Cook helps us to understand the slippery nature of sight, and how it's trusted higher than some other senses, but is still greatly mistrusted and ignored. For the perfect illustration of how slippery our perceptions of sight may be, think only of the magicians you have seen. You see them do the impossible, you want to believe them, but you know it's not true. It's a slip of light and a slime on your perception.

With sight, the visual sense, we must be careful to remember what we see. We must also remember how this perception has changed through history. "Among the many fine histories of Western industrialization, Wolfgang Schivelbusch's The Railway Journey (originally published in German in 1977) stands out for its sharp insights into how new transportation systems led to a recalibration of human perception by creating more "panoramic" views of the passing landscape" (p. 435). This is exactly what I was thinking as I started reading this article. I was, in fact, thinking about all the gang signs one sees on the train ride to NYC. How will this visual landscape change in the next 10 years? Will gangs become less prevalent? Will they be more prevalent, leading to a complete adjustment to our social and economic mores?

Over all, I have adjusted my thinking about the senses very much the same way I did when I read the book, "Dune" by Frank Herbert. When you read Herbert's masterpiece, you suddenly become conscious of your need for water. You think about taking a sip from a cup, only to greedily drink the entire amount. You become desert thirsty, while still in your own home. The same is true of history. When we can incorporate the senses, much as these authors have shown, we can become more a part of the historical landscape. We can feel more of what is happening and how we should push towards those goals.

The recent development of including senses in history, I think, will increase student drive to understand where we have been and how we are headed to the future. I feel that the desensitisation of historical analysis has been a major factor in the removal of history from many people's radars.

I hope you have found this interesting, if not brief.