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Final Thoughts

And so we come to the end of a long road of digital historical thoughts and discussions. It was my first foray into public history. It was also my first time giving myself the time and attention to seriously contemplating all this new stuff we're moving towards at a very quick pace. Some lessons popped out more to me than others, and we've come a long way. I thought I would say adieu to the program by reflecting again on some of the highlights of the semester, idea-wise, and reflect on how they will shape me as a historian, both public and private.

Online Education

This was really early in the term, but we had a very productive conversation on the nature of education, especially online. I made a blog post pitching an entirely new paradigm of teaching online courses. I have thought about this a little since, and I think that this is something worth investing in.

My dossier of projects is big, but I have put on the back-burner the idea of developing some of the ideas I had in this blog post when I am a programmer, or after my PhD. I think that if I could develop and test some new software for education, selling it to school boards might be less of a mess. In the mean time, I am keeping my eye out for pedagogical activities that would move us from the Prussian model and create an education more customized, tailored, and better for individual students.

You solve that puzzle and I think there's a Nobel prize for you or something.

Sustainable Archaeology

We did a fun field trip tot he Sustainable Archaeology collection. What struck me about our visit is the interesting puzzle of purchasing hardware with the demands of Moore's Law. Further thinking has made me think about these technologies of scanning, printing, and maintaining and the two made me really think of something that I am debating now.

Why are Humans doing this?

Hear me out here, but I see with advancing technology, and ever growing collections of digitized archives, maybe sites like sustainable archaeology in the medium term future might be predominantly maintained by sophisticated AIs and robotic staff. They don't shed skin, they don't typically drop things, and could simply be upgraded with new pieces without new training. Maybe archaeologists in the future will put our artifacts into automated depositories where they are stored, and then recalled as 3D replicas whenever we want to interact with one. I am kinda back and forth on this, as technology in this area improves. I'd look forward to what others think.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality was a large part of the course. I wrote that while we are close to the technology needed to make it a big deal, it is still just before the finish line right now. The powerful image processing, and miniaturization of technology needed for it to really take off is daunting!

We do however have an intermediate phase that we might not have considered when AR was hyped a few years ago. Tethered systems. This seems to be what the AR of the 2016 wave to be. Things like Hololens are coming fairly soon, and they would be an augmented reality that works in the home. I can picture that the silly glasses, and computing power needed can both work if integrated into the home. We can then worry about the portable stuff in the future. I also did just find out this morning that Google filed a patent for a new AR device that is the successor to the Google Glass called Aura. Worth checking out.

Podcast

The podcast project was a fun way to make something together as a team. So far the shows have been really good, and I like the different approaches people have been taking to it. As someone who has made something in three digits of them in my life, I have to say it is the format we all waited for. Think of it, spoken word entertainment is having a renaissance, and I think this is one of the great examples of simple technologies allowing to make the old new again. Like when radio and television were new, we still replicate a lot of the stuff of our past.

We are however starting to change as podcasts find new ways to monetize, and adapt. I think that some very creative people will make the field go in some crazy directions soon, and move beyond the talk shows, audio books, and radio programs we're doing now. Where that is is as much a surprise to me as you. I like it because podcasts are limited only by creativity, which is exciting.

Project

The project was a... humbling experience. My research into what games are, how to do gaming projects, and making things for kids has not yielded a working prototype. I think this project's takeaway is the feeling that while I bounce ideas around a lot, I am still such a neophyte in the field of getting things done with software. I need way more education on programming to make even a simple project work. It's sad, but I think putting me in my place was necessary.

Gaming, simulation, and history

Lastly I want to talk about the concepts behind what I tried to do with the project, and our discussion on history gaming. I am fairly convinced that gaming is best when it is making what we consider work a fun activity. My project attempted to make a game of the process of researching through primary sources, in order to unearth a narrative. It would teach children how history actually happens, while still telling a story and being a fun experience. BTW this is really hard.

Lastly, I wanted to give some last thoughts on my CK2 article. I think that even though it works in counterfactuals, the themes of history, testing the probabilities, agencies, and inequalities that history creates makes Paradoxes run of games a really great for teaching. You learn without feeling you're being taught.

To close, I think I came away feeling more dynamic and humble about my future. There is still a long way to go, but if anything the emerging technologies will challenge almost all rules of convention we have now, and encourage us to explore possibilities outside of previous experience. We really have very little to gather about the past for what we're facing, which is both liberating and terrifying.

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Archivists of Internet Culture

This will be a little bit of a weird topic to write about, but I am really interested in the culture of the internet as time progresses. I think there is something to be said about attempting to archive the interesting, and often very odd land of the internet as space. With how much space it takes up, I am curious about what we define as space in spaceless. There are a few examples I want to talk to you about. They don't necessarily come off as history to most, but I will try and argue for their case.

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3 Things I learned trying to be a Youtuber that will blow Historians' minds!

Hello there course blog,

I wanted to write about some of the experiences I had as a public historian trying to hack it in the youtube space. I think I have learned a lot about people online than I really ever thought I would.

1. Early 2000s internet is gone, heck early 2010s internet is gone.

Let me explain, the web has drastically changed, tools like Twitter have evolved wiuth emergent phenomena that I don't even think Twitter's programmers intended. Following has become a new way to  knock on someone's account front door and invite them to take a look at you. People follow the streams they want with lists and hashtags, and no article is going to be engaged without a photo.

2. Clickbait works

Hank Green of Youtube fame wrote an article for medium about using clickbait titles, and even with solid educational content, experienced a remarkable increase in content engagement. Clickbait isn't just for Buzzfeed, but is becoming a marketing standard for internet copy, and might just be the emergent mastering of short form copy-writing.

3. Repeat

Social media platforms, like twitter and Facebook are trying to monetize headily as investors are getting tired of years upon years in the red. Twitter, with the way people use it means that tweets pass by very quick, and Facebook literally limits exposure of stuff to a page's own followers unless you pay them. In order to get through this you need to either pay up, or don't feel shame about reposting your content, a lot, if only to fully get your stuff out to your own followers.

Hope that helps if you ever wind up "that social media person" at some historical site.

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More Blatant Promotion

I thought I'd share this with you guys here as public historians I think you might like the project I am trying to do with the youtube channel.


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Augmented Reality and Spatial History

This week the name of the game was spatial history. I had a moment of recollection about how the politics and economics really dictate the narrative when it comes to restoration, memorialization, and space. In many ways we fight political battles over the memory of spaces, and as my MA cognate explored, capital always wins.

There are such thing as popular memorial space. These are unofficial memorials that co-opt space. If you visit the area of a recent disaster you might see this. Pictures of the lost, mementos left behind, letters, ribbons, flowers, candles, you know the deal. At Oklahoma City they are a constant presence at the site, so much so that the staff on the grounds actually collect them and store them for a number of years. The 9/11 memorial was not forthcoming about what it does with such things, but the newspapers showed that these memorials were all over the place.

This is where the project we discussed in groups really makes me excited. What if these spaces for people's memorials could be preserved as an augmented reality program? It would be important for those without money to remember and memorialize space that capital would otherwise take from them.

For example, I was recently in the city of Richmond, Virginia. The money of the wealthy donors and the state's heritage organization felt that a multi-million dollar confederate White house and museum of the confederacy were worthwhile investments. However, there is a spot where slaves too sick for sale when they arrived in Richmond, honoured with a plaque in a parking lot.

I would love in our AR near future, for people who want to honour heritage, but don't have wealthy donors, like some volunteers for Black Lives Matter to make an interactive memorial and museum on that spot. One that revisionist historians can't alter. I would hope that when we have alternative place that can't be vandalized, underfunded, or paved over, we could cultivate a very different notion of place and importance.

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How to Make Augmented Reality that Works

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How to Make Augmented Reality that Works

This post is going to be a bit of a divergence from the History, but I wanted to discuss a little on the topic of the last week, augmented reality. I believe that the death of Google Glass did more damage than we think, and it seems that many historian AR projects are either really gimmicky, simple, or malfunctioning attempts at augmented reality. Having psoters that are essentially links to videos, do not deliver on the dream of AR. So here are 3 steps we need to hurdle in order to make AR for history and other fields really work.

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A Review of Sustainable Archaeology

Hello Internet,

I do have to say I am always impressed by the effort that people are putting in to the development of new ways to do things in our discipline. Especially because we've been so stagnant for so long. I think there are even growing pains associated with it.

At the sustainable archaeology archive we saw this a little. The place is really well staffed, and has some pretty cool people behind the scenes. I found myself pretty impressed with their 3d printing, their sensitivity in policy to native artifacts, and their embrace of the new.

Where things piqued my interest was in the multiple generations of 3d scanners, devices people weren't sure of the use for yet, and projects rendered incompatible within a few years. I think that Moore's law and the things we think of doing are going to make the field more and more uncomfortable, and I don't have a real solution to use budgets and learn technologies when they are getting obsolete on exponentially increasing scales. I think we might need to do some more in terms of automation and recycling before things get weird.

Just a thought.

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A Glimpse at the Project

I wanted to give you guys just a little taste of the work i want to do for my project. I am currently trying to master the programming language Mathematica, and I am going to try to make a historical game as my class project. The game will be inspired by the PC game Her Story that came out this summer, and have players reconstruct the story of the Salem Witch Trials.

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Blatant Promotion

So with Thanksgiving weekend upon us, and no class next week I thought I'd take the opportunity to publish a blog post that's short and sweet. In fact, it's going to be an animated history video I made a few weeks ago. With my second one coming soon, I thought about my mission for the video project.

Youtube is turning into an amazing educational platform. I spend an embarrassing amount of time learning about things from a dedicated set of professionals on YouTube. There is a small history community, but I feel like they have fallen for the war-focused pitfall that seems to effect a lot of public history. My intent is to take topics from history that are fun, interesting, and engaging, but divert from the well trodden paths of most history content. 

With that, here is my pilot video. I am interested in what you all think.


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Using Crusader Kings 2 to Teach History

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Using Crusader Kings 2 to Teach History

The screenshot I am starting here with is a picture of my empire in crusader Kings 2. The name of the Empire is Prydain, which I learned is the Welsh term for the British Isles. As you can see by this map of Europe, it is a very different place than in our reality, but I think I have learned more about the middle ages from this game than my studies. It is an exercise in counterfactuals, but under the hood it is employing powerful simulations that not only teach you about the dynamics of the period, but really make you make the decisions one would make with these factors.

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The Endless Texbook: How to make Online Education that Doesn't Suck

We need to talk about the online university. With the spotty experiences of online courses, and degree mills like the University of Phoenix, the idea of an online education is a little dirtied. In the course this blog was for, we had a lively seminar talking about the problems within the online course structure. What I will attempt to do is make the case that there are great examples of online education, universities are just the worst at it.

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Introductions Are in Order

I have now had the opportunity to take several classes in which a blog is part oif the course requirements. I often find this first post a little awkward, but necessary. I am going to try and assemble something that goes a little beyond the simple meet and greet, and go into something a little deeper.

First for the biography, I am Tristan Johnson, as the URL implies, and I am at the time of this writing a first year PhD student at this university. In some ways I am a first, second, and third year student. It is my first year of the PhD, my 2nd year in this History department as I did an MA here before, and my 3rd year at Western as I did another MA before in American Studies.

Intellectually I have been interested in a few major topics. Things like photography always fascinated me as I loved seeing the places where art and technology would interact in interesting ways. I also found myself deeply interested in both the writings of Historians, and Futurists. I feel that the work I am doing now with Dr. Turkel, Dr. MacDougall, and in courses like this one I am really moving forward on all those themes at once.

My work involves looking at one of the most infamous days of the short 21st century. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 is one of the first major catastrophic events of the internet age. It is one of the best archived events, with massive amounts of archived data from the millisecond of the first plane hitting the tower to right now. Through looking at the same attack from different time scales, I hope to show how an event goes from immediate, disaster and becomes a collectively agreed upon narrative. 

What I intend to gain from this course is mastery of the skills that a 21st century historian needs. I have a Twitter, both personal and as history project over at @TristanPEJ and WWII Turns 80 but have never taken the time to know how to do it well. I have made two podcasts without focusing on making a highly professional product. In this course I want to get better at what I do, and branch out into areas I might have overlooked. 

Expect this blog to have some musings about the new paradigm of pedagogy, and where I think we could go. I have a few articles already warming up on topics such as using Crusader Kings 2 as a teaching tool, The endless textbook, and a wiki-structured podcast. I hope you guys check in from time to time.

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