The Handoff of the Website

I was incredibly nervous last Wednesday, with having to accept the due date of the website and grading my fellow group mates on their work for the project. Despite this, looking back over the website, I was actually pretty pleased with how the website came out. It looks complete and well-functioning, like a novice historical narrative website. I know that there could be much more we could include upon the website, especially with more time, but I feel satisfied with what we have accomplished.

I really feel as though all the work that was placed into it, any frustrations with technology and research, was worth it. I just feels very strange. You never want to really hand in something that takes very long to work on, just to avoid the final judgement and grading system. However, feeling good about the final product is a little surprising. I was never disappointed with the website, but its a private project that just became public. It’s an odd feeling.

I feel very proud of what I’ve achieved throughout the project, though I also think I’ve probably placed the most physical work into it, which probably influences my thinking. I am somewhat nervous about the presentations, but I think everything will be fine. I will do my best to offer feedback and support to Evan, our lead historian, until the end of the presentations and the course is over.


Marginalization and Digital Spaces

For this week, we examined the writings of Maha Bali, Shanley Kane, Dorothy Kim, and Danah Boyd. While they all come at the issues of digital identities, digital access, and digital vocalizations in different ways, with different angles, they all seem to be discontent and critical of the current state of general Internet culture. I am as well, but my experiences ultimately boil down to just ignoring spiteful speech because no one can physically hear you on the Internet. It sucks, and it’s a painful reality, but its a reality that will not disappear anytime soon.

While Danah Boyd covers mainly the topic of digital access and privacy, the other three authors focus on digital voices and the lenses of digital experiences. In some way, all of their articles focus on the globalization of digital culture, for better or worse (definitely for the worst for Kane, and Kim to an extent).

However, Bali starts us off with the positive potential for Internet culture, where people can join together to raise empathy and awareness for issues that are found throughout globe. I like her attitude towards Internet culture, and its an attitude that I have been struggling with myself. I want the Internet to be a resource that anyone can use and respect one another on with differing opinion. But, I’m finding that its just not the case. Or, if it is the case, the organizations and brotherhoods that band together to achieve greatness and positivity online are drowned out by waves upon waves of harsh comments and terrible online etiquette, simply because of anonymity.

Kane, in my opinion, is the most radical of the four writers, and sometimes its a little hard to agree with her on some of her points. But, she does raise a couple of points that I respect and understand.  She believes that those who are put in a public sphere cannot be taken seriously other than the topics in which they specialize, and even then, sometimes they continue to be degraded and harassed. However, the general rule of the Internet that has been adopted as part of the culture seems to be one of conformity and keeping one’s voice lowered if one wants to avoid criticism and harassment. But, I find that again and again, women are the ones who claim to be harassed on the internet far more than male counterparts. Regardless of the circumstances, its a pressing issue if certain demographics do not wish to tolerate harassment yet cannot be taken seriously due to the overwhelming majority of individuals who cause harassment or simply abide by the “Internet rules”. It’s completely unfair.

Kim, a bridge between the two previous authors and Boyd, discusses the potential spaces on Twitter, whether or not they are successful in allowing communities to discuss certain topics, particularly issues of human rights and protests. Her main example is the Ferguson protests that started back in 2014. She tends to draw lines about how people should properly do things, and how the Internet culture works within these spaces (for good or bad).  I’m not exactly sure how to feel about her arguments, since the Internet is something with rules, but they bend and shift, and different portions of the Internet have different rules. Twitter, in my opinion, is a website that swings to far being genuine and being toxic. Lots of people would probably criticize her for attempting to draw lines through Internet dialogues and “limiting their free speech” through her article, but I think in a time of absolute chaos on the Internet, it’s sometimes needed.

Boyd, lastly, discusses digital access and digital privacy, particularly with the relationship between the EU and the American Internet. She gives a very straightforward argument about how restricting age limits onto websites do nothing positive for the online community as a whole. I find her argument to be nothing controversial at all, since there are current problems with children lying about their ages to access websites (which nothing can ever truly verify the truth or falseness of an age claim) and whether children should have Internet privacy. I completely agree with her arguments on parental controls and child access.

In general, I struggle to gain firm ground on the two middle articles, Kane and Kim, but especially Kane’s. I want to agree with her on some standpoints, but I’ve also been raised in a generation that has had Internet for most of their lives, and slowly but surely I’ve realized that the toxicity of Internet culture is loud and in your face constantly. One has to adapt and survive in the harsh world, or simply blend into the shadows and become faceless. It’s extremely difficult and taxing to accept, but it’s Internet reality. Thousands of people are just complete monsters on the Internet, and  there isn’t a cure for online harassment other than to just log off or ignore it. It’s just the way it is right now.

Productive Failure: The Thinglink Map

For a good chunk of time during the semester, I was aware that I was going to create a Thinglink interactive, but I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to make the interactive about, or how I would pull it together.  I became somewhat more certain about my boundaries after the lecture on Creative Commons and Copyright Infringement, now that I had all the information laid out about what could be used and what couldn’t be used. I was interested in a map, similar to the one that Anne Ogg showed us at the library, but I wanted a layout with a smaller general location.

However, the actual idea of the map didn’t entirely come together until the weeks approaching the trip to the Agudas Israel Synagogue. We didn’t have locations of households or businesses that could be found in our research, so I was stuck until we could actually travel down to Hendersonville and I could take some pictures or find some photographs that were already within the Congregation’s possession that I could use. There were no photographs or lists related to the exact locations of the establishments of the first families, so I naturally grew more anxious about the completion of this portion the project.

Luckily, during one of our conversations, Sharon mentioned to me that there was supposed to be a video in the Agudas Israel Synagogue Collection that Special Collections owned, which contained the information I was in need of.

Once we had returned from Hendersonville, the next big step was to try and identify where in the collection this video was. I didn’t remember it on the finding aid, so I decided to recheck, and I couldn’t find anything once agin. Worried that Sharon might have been mistaken, I emailed Colin Reeve to ask about the alleged video. While I was waiting for a response, I tried Googling information about locations of the early Jewish businesses (in case Sharon wasn’t correct and I needed a fall-back plan). I actually came across a shown video presentation that was presented in Hendersonville a year or two ago, relating to Jewish merchants. Except, there weren’t any clips online that I could find, and the articles that I found that covered the presentation didn’t give any hints to specific addresses.

However, before I accepted defeat, Colin emailed me.  He said that there was a video that was present in the archive that matched the description that Sharon gave me, but since he and Gene weren’t sure about the copyright usage of the video in such projects as the one me and my group were creating. I explained to Colin that I was only really interested in the addresses of the former stores, and that I wasn’t planning on placing clips of the video on our website if the copyright usage was up in the air, so I went in and viewed the video.

The video turned out to be immensely helpful. I managed to glean many different locations all upon the main street of downtown Hendersonville, so I recorded all of these locations in a document and placed it in my group’s Google folder, in case anyone else needed it as well.

The second problem came in with the format of the map in which to place the locations of the stores.

My first thought was to try and find a map of downtown that was in alignment with Creative Commons. However, that was a complete bust. All I could manage to find was a map of Henderson county, which couldn’t serve my purpose. Next, I considered working with Google Maps, since they were open to Creative Commons. However, I gradually grew more and more frustrated with Google Maps, as I couldn’t remove the names of current businesses and it made Main Street look far too cluttered. Even the map with the natural background was much too frustrating to work with.

My partner suggested that I work with Mapquest, but I still wasn’t sure if that was a program that worked within Creative Commons, and I was finding this program to be difficult to work with as well. And then, in the corner of the main Mapquest page, I noticed a link labeled “© OpenStreetMap”. I clicked on it and, finally, I found a program with limited labels on buildings and the Creative Commons alignment that I was looking for.  The map region I selected fit what I wanted to use for pins, so I uploaded it into Thinglink.

Working with Thinglink took a bit of practice and getting the hang of it, but eventually I had covered the picture with quite a plethora of pins, and I was ready to post it to the website.

Then came the third, and perhaps most troublesome problem. Thinglink is not the most user-friendly program I’ve worked with.

I attempted to use the linking option, which implied that this was where the embedding link was, and placing it into the website. The first time I attempted to do this, all that resulted was the static picture in which I had placed Thinglink pins, but the pins weren’t there. After a couple more tries, the only other option that yielded results, though one that did not satisfy my intentions, was to just have a link to the host picture on my Thinglink account.

Next I attempted to Google solutions to my problem, but most of the results talked about getting a Thinglink plugin, which just meant that you could place pins on items in one’s blog or website. There were a couple options that would supposedly solve the problem, but none of these ideas worked for me.  I wasn’t really sure if there was anything more I could do by myself at this point, I just decided to call it a night. Frustrated that I might be stuck with some poor-looking page with just a link to the interactive I created, I put the copyright information about OpenStreetMap on the page and published it.

Then I emailed my group mates. It was late Wednesday night at this point, so I specified that if we needed to look into this in more detail on Friday, that might be better. I received a response from Kevin about looking into it on Friday, so I decided to just wait it out. At least on Friday, I could ask my group mates verbally, seek help from our game’s programming team, or ask one of the professors for help.

Once Dr. Pearson came by to check on us, I was sure to mention the problem to her, and she suggested emailing Ann Ogg. I sent a quick email, complete with a link to the webpage it the link was on in the Agudas Israel website. By the end of the period, she responded that I needed to use the Share option with the “iframe” feature, a suggestion that I wasn’t seeing on the Google results. Within a couple minutes, the Thinglink image was on the website, looking just as good as I wanted it to.

Perhaps more planning beforehand might needed to have gone into the whole process of this portion of the project, but I’m glad that everything came together in time and the page in which the Thinglink is on is complete.

Visiting the Congregation

On Sunday, Evan and I visited the Agudas Israel Synagogue in its current location.  I was quite nervous since I had never been to a Jewish Synagogue before, and I didn’t want to ask too many questions or seem rude in any way.  However, it turned out to be very informative and a nice trip.  We were shown the Sanctuary, the Library, several cases filled with older relics of Agudas Israel’s past, and several other things that helped center the story in the present. I learned a lot about Jewish culture, and Sharon, one of the members of the Synagogue, pointed out a particular source that was in the archival collection that I might be able to use for my portion of the project.

While we were there, we also visited a graveyard near downtown Hendersonville, with one section associated mainly with the Congregation. It was walled off in order to make sure that the Jewish burial practices were upheld in that portion of the graveyard, and many of the names were familiar to the narrative we were piecing together from the sources.

Finally, we also followed Sharon and Vick, another member of the Congregation, to downtown Hendersonville to visit the building in which the Synagogue was originally placed. It was now a Salvation Army location, but I was interested in how close to Main Street the Synagogue was.  It was a brief walk between the main road and the Synagogue, which I suppose really helped keep the Congregation close together – especially with most of their livelihoods being placed on Main Street. Additionally, visiting Main Street really helped me think about the Jewish presence in Hendersonville, especially in they were the ones who took up most of the street. Hendersonville isn’t a giant town, with most of the downtown of Hendersonville being comprised on the Main Street. It seems as though Christians and Jews must have been constantly interacting with each other in order to make any sort of purchase in the main town, since there seems to be little else. Of course, the city grew and expanded outwards from Main Street, but it seems as though Main Street is really the center of Hendersonville’s commerce today as well.

For the website, I’m planning on getting started on improvements that need to be made, and thinking about what I should do with my particular page. Its much longer compared to the other pages, so I’m thinking that a division in subpages is really needed. I want to add some photographs to my page, at least a couple, so the attention to space is vital to the content and the viewer connecting.

Reunion With Dr. Mec’s Class

Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly for Friday’s class.  I enjoyed meeting back up with the Games Programming class and I don’t think it took us very long for us all to be on the same page with future progression.  I was pleased with the idea for the interactive game that the group suggested for us, a 2D top-down questing game that would tell some of the story about the fundraising efforts to build the Agudas Israel Synagogue.  I find the game to be extremely appropriate for the topic at hand, and I’m hoping that the Games Programming group won’t have too tough of a time putting it together.

Additionally, we have our travel plans to go to the Agudas Israel Synagogue: April 2nd, next Sunday. I’m a little nervous about just going to the Hendersonville Synagogue, but I’m hoping that we will be welcomed inside and a good dialogue will generate between us and the Congregation’s current members. Maybe we will be able to find some final touches that will make our website look perfect?

I’m not sure, at this point, how many members of the Games Programming group would be able to come on our trip. However, as long as 1 member of the Programming group comes, I say the trip will be successful. We need more eyes and ideas than just from our class, and surely they will want to gather their own resources (pictures, etc.) for their game.

Finally, the only other thing to report is the progression in the technology front. I think I’m making good progress on my personal page for the website. I’m hoping to start putting the Thinglink together, which I want to focus on points around the “Main Street” of Hendersonville where people lived.  Although the street names might have changed, hopefully I can piece together an interactive little map or street way that shows places where the founding families lived and worked. The Synagogue would also have to be included within this to tie it altogether.

There’s such a time crunch on our hands, but hopefully everything will come together.

Digital Archives and Digitization

After giving myself a bit of a headache thinking about how digitization works, or doesn’t really work as many of us would like to believe, I find myself struggling with less of whether digitization should be a goal to strive towards and more with how accessible digital information really is.

For digital archiving in general, I’m mainly struggling to think about how much there can be found within the world, relics of the past, that not everybody can obtain the fullest extent of information to. Besides various digital archives that are only accessible by pass codes and monetary subscriptions, there are so many barriers that are put in place to prevent people from readily viewing any kind of primary document. Although I think that placing documents and information online is extremely valuable to people who cannot physically access the information they are seeking out, I’m noticing that a lot can go wrong with digitizing information and lots of it can become lost on gigantic search engines and databases that are expected to hold “everything”. In some cases, even holding physical documents is superior, due to being able to glean extra information off of the physical copies.

Throughout our project, we’ve mostly been working with physical archives, and these sorts of archives are what I think I’ve had the most experience learning about.  However, for a couple research papers in the past, I’ve utilized digital archives outside of the typical JSTOR, ProQuest, and Project Muse websites.  Every digital archive varies in look and layout, with many archives differing on how they organize their contents – but, many are simple enough to simply search for a specific topic or just a couple folders and subsections can yield a related find to one’s inquiry.

Additionally, with the couple of digital archives that I examined for this blog post, the September 11th Digital Archive and the Archive of Famous Trials, are similar enough to digital archives I’ve viewed in the past. However, I’m finding that the more hands involved within an archive, the more convoluted it can become.  For instance, it seems that the 9/11 digital archive has been worked on by many individuals, which shows in the long lists and the not quite uniformity of the website itself.  The famous trials website seems to mainly be credited by one professor, which is shown in the simple but very interactive layout.  The 9/11 archive seems to be more similar to the Agudas Israel collection that my group is looking at, but I still find there to be many, many differences.

If my group wanted to make a digital archive for our project on the Agudas Israel Congregation, I think the bulk of our resources would be oral histories, handwritten or typed meeting minutes of the meetings from the earliest years of the Congregation’s existence, and documents about obtainment of property, congregation rulings and the  constitution, and other documents that display public decisions recognized by the members of the Agudas Israel Congregation or other parties.  It’s difficult to say how it would be organized, because many of these documents have multiple uses within the history of the Synagogue, but it would be too simple to organize them by year. I suppose, ideally, meeting minutes would stay together and oral histories would stay together. After that, we would have to decide how to organize the other documents to fit into categories that would benefit our readers and users.

I’ve already received some similar experience working within an ephemera collection at the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s archive, but it seems much more challenging when thinking about a collection with a specific subject. With ephemera, you’re given some wiggle room due to the lack of uniformity and lack of cohesiveness between the objects and documents found in an ephemera collection, so the user expects a little bit of chaos going into one. But, for a topic with many documents and a lot of information, careful placements of categories is necessary to keep a collection user-friendly, regardless if it’s physical or digital.

Digital Identities

Although I had some vague ideas about digital identities, it mostly came down to whether people using the Internet talked or didn’t talk, and if they did talk – were they open and honest about their opinions online or were they complete liars? It definitely seems to be a more complex subject than that, and perhaps the digital identities that Bonnie Stewart identifies on her blog are outdated by now.  However, going off of her digital identities, I found myself resonating mostly with the Participatory Self and the Asynchronous Self, where I don’t speak out on the Internet too much with my personal voice, but I prefer to interact with what others have said and posted. I’m also guilty of dreading phone calls, preferring to text.

Additionally, with the article on the young girl in seventh grade, I definitely identified with many aspects of the article – but not as much with others.  At home or on campus, I frequently am clinging to my phone and laptop, but I’m not as concerned with quantitative representations of popularity on social media as much as she does.  She’s on her phone constantly, but she uses it as a measure of self-worth for the most part, whereas I primarily use my phone for looking up information and keeping myself entertained.  Admittedly, I was a little bit more concerned with quantitative measures when I was younger, but I think I’ve grown out of that state for the most part.

For Spring Break, I’ve been working on work for other classes right now to have more time once we return from break, but I am planning on working on the website towards the latter half of the week.

The Spring Break Grind

Meeting in groups and figuring out the contract was actually less stressful than I first thought it would be. Lots of work is going to have to go into these WordPress websites, so I was fearful that our initial contract would be incredibly lacking in detail. I’m just glad that everything seems to be in order. There’s still so much to do and really not much time to do it in, but at this rate, I think things will begin to come together.

The class period on Friday was very surprising to me, I really had a great time with the AVID Students at Special Collections. I was impressed that most of them were really fascinated with our projects, at least in a couple aspects, and how open they were to asking questions about the sources, the people, and how we were working on our websites. I’m not used to working with students, even high schoolers, in settings like that, so I was surprised by how engaged they seemed to be.

For my group in particular, the next steps will be transferring our information into the website and starting to set everything up to how we will like it. I will probably get started on that over Spring Break, since our time is starting to shrink. I’m worried about the division of other tools, especially since we haven’t gone out to the Synagogue yet – as we would love to work with the Juxtapose tool. Additionally, I think  Kevin recently discovered that the Synagogue’s location has moved since the first building. I’m wondering how we will get around that obstacle…

So much work to do, including lots of work from other classes. I’m thinking my Spring Break will not be as relaxing as I initially hoped, and Spring semesters are always much more difficult than their Fall counterparts. However, buckling down and doing what I can accomplish is necessary to make this product as fantastic as I know it can be.


Copyright and Creative Commons

Surprisingly, I learned a great amount of information about the concepts of copyrights and usage rights from the lecture last Wednesday.  The most I had heard about copyright infringement and issues were just on various websites I have used before, with artwork stealing and music for videos. However, I never knew how rigidly complex and complicated copyrights were.

I think I’ve definitely developed a strong understanding, and perhaps, a newfound respect for copyright laws. As much as we want to take and use whatever we can get our hands on, it’s just not right. At least, and definitely not, without asking for permissions. It seems surprising how some people are willing to trust others with their copyrights, though I’m sure the same number of people are as tight-fisted with their property as I was previously lead to believe.

For our project, gladly, we don’t have to worry about copyright infringement as much, since the entirety of the collection we have in Special Collections was donated to us, but we will be careful to check the documents and photographs from the collection to put on the website. Additionally, when we travel to the Synagogue, we can take our own photographs that we can use without any other permissions, though we should make sure we make our intentions known to the members of the Congregation.

Also, with designing and completing the website, we might be able to find images from creative commons for such things as banner images, icons, or other final touches.

I’m glad that we have so many options to create and cultivate our historical website, as I worried that most of the lecture was just going to be shoving doors in our faces that we wouldn’t have any time to go around. Luckily, I think creative commons is filled to the brim with possibilities for additional decorum and sounds.

Progression and Possible Tools

It’s already hard to believe how far we are into the semester, and there’s still so much to do. The contract’s pretty much written out, research is progressing, and we’ve discussed the tools we think we’ll be using in our WordPress site in order to complete the narrative we’re trying to tell and make the website more interactive.

I can definitely see us using Timeline JS, as its a pretty standard tool and useful for either familial or community progression, either or would be fine. Juxtapose was a tool I think we all were really impressed by, since it’s so simple yet so impactful. I think there will be no issues with having a couple functioning Juxtapose picture comparisons. Thinglink will serve us, I think, much better than attempting to utilize TimeMapper or StoryMap JS, as most of our events will probably be at the Synagogue and we can’t exactly stack events on top of one another (or, if we can, it would probably look pretty tacky or clunky). With Thinglink, along with a plugin map, would be much better at placing the Agudas Israel Synagogue into the context of the surrounding area, and we can place our own points on the Thinglink production.

I think our next steps will be to continue the research, plan a trip to the Synagogue itself (after reaching out to them first, of course), and to start gathering materials for various tools and a collection of resources for the Games Programming team to utilize on the interactive after spring break.  Additionally, whatever documents that can be found within the collection itself will be more than useful, and we can pin them to the website itself. Or, I think the Games Programming team was interested in using some examples in their interactive, so that would be interesting too.

Lots of work ahead, but hopefully it won’t be too crazy.