In HST 251, we have focused a lot in the topic of Digital History, a topic that I had never thought about before or even discussed. In Digital History we learned American history while trying out methods used to track and preserve history in a digital manner. More specifically, we discussed the history of slavery in relation to data analysis, metadata, geospatial analysis, and podcasting. Every week we focused on a new form of data that analyzed slavery which usually included many documents and data charts. Additionally, we took the first hour of class to discuss readings to do with slavery such as “Unrequited Toil: A History of United States Slavery” by Charles Schermerhorn while we learned how to engage in data analysis using our new weekly technique of digital analysis in the second hour. Personally, my favorite tools to learn were podcasting through the app Audacity and geospatial analysis through the website Flourish.
During Week Five, we learned about podcasting and its importance when it comes to history. With podcasting anyone can express their opinion or use their platform to talk about history. For instance, in class, we were told to listen to Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast where he brought in a guest to discuss Jim Crow Laws. In this podcast, the guest (Deborah N. Archer) and Jonathan talk about how the history of Jim Crow Laws still affect African-Americans today. With this discussion, Jonathan and Deborah were able to talk about their opinions and views freely while also using their podcast to educate casual listeners about how history continues to positively and negatively affect millions of people today. Through this example, we can see how it is important for history to continue to be spread and acknowledged, especially, in this digital age. We must use our technology to preserve history and educate others on why history affects how our world operates today. To emphasize this idea, we were assigned to create our own podcast that discusses the topic of slavery. In my podcast, I wanted to imitate what Jonathan Van Ness did in his podcast and bring in guests to discuss their ideas and opinions on a central topic. To do this, I gathered up everyone in my household and told them that I needed them for an interview and forced them to accept. I decided to choose my central question to be “should slavery be taught in schools or should it be taken as an elective or personal choice?”. I thought this question would be interesting because the topic of slavery has often beed riddled with misconceptions and bias throughout middle school in high school, so should that curriculum be modified or erased completely? Though I loved the results of my podcast, I would modify a couple things about the podcast if I could redo the assignment. First, I would talk more in the podcast, I feel like my guests did 95% of the talking in the audio and I believe that happened because I wanted to hear other opinions more. However, I think I should have discussed my guest’s viewpoints with them more instead of just agreeing, even if I did agree with them I could have added more input. Secondly, if I had more time, I would have interviewed more people so that my podcast could be a but longer. Though all of the perspectives seemed to align, I think that it would have been a bit more effective if it was longer than around six minutes. Overall, using Audacity was a pretty great experience because I learned how to use podcasting software and I gained experience editing audio and developing sound. After this, I definitely feel like creating a podcast!
Moving on to Week Six, Professor Andrella taught us about how geospatial analysis can display important historical events or movements. With geospatial analysis we can see how certain events, people, and images are in relation to location. For example, a common form a geospatial analysis that we see is on the weather channel where we can see the amount of inches of rainfall in a certain state or county based on color (i.e the areas with darker shades of a color have more rainfall than areas with lighter shades of that color). With this kind of analysis people can easily see how certain regions are populated by using color. This data technique is essential for digital history because it can show how certain places of the United States were populated during specific times in history. This may not sound like important data, but when it comes to events that involve groups of people such as slavery this data can be the key to show more simply how groups of people were affected by events like these. To get experience with geospatial analysis and to be able to see its importance, we were assigned with the task to create our own data map through the website, Flourish. Flourish is a website where you can input data and customize that data into a line graph, bar graph pie graph, etc. For my graph, I input data from the 1840s which contained the amount of white men, white women, slave men, and slave women in certain counties of the United States. With this data, I created a geospatial graph that showed the difference in population between male slaves under 10 and female slaves under 10. Though absolutely horrific, I decided to display this data because I wanted to be able to see just how many children were forced into slavery, how the amount of child slaves contrasted from the north to the south, and the possible contrast between male and female children. The results I found were shocking, over 8,000 young girls and over 7,000 young boys under ten tears old were forced to be slaves and grow up in a place that treated them as if they were not human and not deserving of rights.
To close things up, I have learned a lot in this class and I definitely will use some of the things I have learned on the future. For instance, I will definitely start listening to podcasts because I learned how important they can be when it comes to learning new information or new points of view. Additionally, with all the data analysis we have done in this class, I feel a lot more confident about being able to look at data, understand it, and organize it. This particular trait will help me greatly as a STEM major because I was severely lacking in the “knowing how to organize” department.
Thank you so much, Professor Andrella, I loved having my thoughts actually listened to in discussions and enjoyed hearing other students perspectives and opinions! I will always remember how inclusive you were as a professor and how passionate you were about history and helping us learn. 🙂