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Hearing history is an interesting topic. What does history sound like? There are more and less sounds than there were before. Sounds of clothes being rubbed and scrubbed on a washboard are no longer common while the mechanical sound of washing machines and dryers are much more prevalent in everyday sounds. Interestingly, it is still common for people to use the term “washboard abs” (as I heard students saying when I’m substitute teaching in P.E. classes. I often wondered if they even knew what washboards are. But in general we tend to use our sense of hearing in different ways than the past as well.
We don’t generally listen to nature as often as humans did in the past. We don’t listen to wind patterns, we don’t listen for a triangle to tell us when dinner is ready. We listen to music on commutes, or if cars are approaching. Technology creates and in turn eliminates sounds in everyday life. We listen for sirens instead of approaching horses and carriages. We are able to record and document many of our everyday sounds that future generations will be able to listen to and compare to what sounds they hear.
How are our other senses being shaped in the digital age? Our sight is being attended to by the new visualization techniques. Nodes and edges in graphics that depict text and data from sources such as written bodies of work and even in social media. What about touch? Our “smart” technologies are focuses on engaging users through touch screens. Once a sign of the future in old television shows and movies that depict controls being handled through touching a screen, we now have touchscreen devices in our hands and pockets. But there is a limit on history and touch–over time many materials become more fragile and brittle than they were when in use. In an effort to preserve physical historical documents and artifacts, those sources are often scanned or photographed. Technology allows us to access and see visual (often full 360-degree) images of these artifacts with the ability to zoom in to see the finest details on the parchment or material.
What about engaging our senses of smell and taste? That is much more difficult to achieve. For smell, we had scratch-and-sniff stickers, but because smell often changes because of chemical reaction, it is much harder to present and preserve. Cologne and perfume smells different on each person due to the reaction with each person’s individual smell. Also, smell preservation is a challenge because it is very subjective, some people are attracted to the smell of Sharpie markers, vinegar, or the smell of a backyard barbecue, while others loathe those smells. Can technology imitate the actual smell? I once read about a movie that used smell for a whole-new viewing experience, and it was not well-received, I believe it was through sheets that were labeled so the audience could scratch the right place and bask in the aroma that was intended. Smell is also contained in proximity and loses potency as its gases spread to fill open areas. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) presented fantasy ideas of replicating taste. Taste is also extremely hard to maintain. Just think about candy. When I eat cherries (the fruit), it doesn’t taste anything like medicine, yet many cherry-flavoured candies taste like medicine. Taste is also a subjective sense and will vary between others. I am a horrible asian and I do not like the taste of fish, but am I not able to place a direct label as to why–I usually say I don’t like the seafood taste, but I do eat crab and lobster…. It is hard to replicate smell and taste because of individual levels of sensitivity to these senses. Will technology be able to achieve the feats of capturing and presenting smell and taste? Personally, I feel that it’s impossible, but technology has come quite a way thus far and I think it could be possible. For now, my love of music leaves me satisfied with the ability to “carry” music with me wherever I go, but I am also fond of certain smells and tastes and it will be interesting to see.
Databases. A collection of organized data. I never really thought about databases in any deeper form because I have never had an urge to create one of my own. As long as people can access what I need or I can access what I am looking for, I was all good. Deep down, I knew there were different types of databases–but again, I never put much (alright, any) thought into it. Hopefully I don’t have a completely inaccurate post–a lot of technical terms were being thrown around and it seemed most of the articles I read to try and understand databases and datamining were written by those who assumed their articles would be read by those with somewhat of a background in computers, programming, databases, etc. The first, more simple, database type is the flat database, where data is placed into a single file or table. Relational databases take it a step further and organize data in ways that provide enhanced connections between the data inputter and data retriever. The way I understood this was thinking about where I would usually associate databases to work–online retailers. I believe that I have seen some stores who record their sales in a flat database, while most utilize relational databases. In a flat database, my purchase would be recorded in a single file that included my name, order number, item, shipping location, billing information, etc. I realized I didn’t have to make an account when I wanted to track my order, and had to go to their website and input my order number and some other information to see the order status. How inconvenient.
Most online retailers tend to have relational databases that link all these single orders to other groupings through the provided data in the files. For example, I can log into my account with the online store and see all my previous orders because they are linked to my user account. Stores are also able to retrieve information by recalling who purchased the same items. Much more convenient, and complicated to maintain I assume.
These relational databases can also help shape how these retailers–and even social networks based on our “likes,” hashtags, etc.–view each of us. This information is taken out of context though, and are susceptible to inaccuracies. Look at Netflix. They keep a record of what you view to “enhance” your viewing experience by suggesting related items based on what the viewing patterns of the entire Netflix community. Yes, I may have watched a One Direction documentary with my niece (I promise it was with my niece), but that does not mean I want to watch My Little Pony. Same goes with how data is being mined and used. As discussed in our Digital History seminar, we appear as nodes with edges/links connecting us to others we interact with digitally. I, purely as an example, could be friends with a couple of people who are members of an illegal group, and if I am connected to them on social networks or anywhere digitally, I could become a target of the police or FBI. Such was the response to Alan Barr’s “tracking down” of Anonymous leaders. While Barr believed he was able to use data mining to evaluate connections through sources such as social media sites, Anonymous members claimed that Barr had made incorrect assumptions and if turned in to the FBI, Anonymous said that he would be harming innocent people.
Even college campuses are getting involved with data mining. Colleges, such as Arizona State University, are using data mining to advise and monitor students’ academic progress. They even have a Facebook app that suggests friends that share similar “likes.” This would be interesting if my university implemented this system because for kicks, one of my interests is “being a mother.” I wonder what kinds of friend or academic suggestions I would receive. ASU’s system is very big brother-ish, keeping track of a student’s grade, score, clicker responses, etc., which can also paint an incorrect picture of the student. Context is key–maybe errors arose because of an ineffective (of heaven-forbid, an incorrect) professor. This issue arises when the system is predicting a student’s ability to succeed in higher-level courses based on previously “earned” grades. A system that can enhance educational endeavors and correctly predict academic majors and success rates in courses could be extremely beneficial, but getting there will be quite controversial as it requires relying on inhuman decisions and giving up a lot of privacy.
In this current age and all of the information we have, we need to be able to cipher through all of this information. This is actually where I got lost. Using Structured Query Language (SQL), you can organize data by looking at the results for a specific search term. I can look up data by searching for a specified number or term in a column or row (last name, state, age, publication year, etc.) within a certain database. This is helpful for libraries, retailers, researchers, DMVs, or anyone who needs to keep track of information that tend to have the same pre-arranged data recorded for items within the database (such as names, cities, addresses). NoSQL (which ended up confusing me as I tried to figure out what it was) has the ability to adapt quickly and allow terms that were not predefined to be included in the file, and shares the information across servers. The cloud, an offsite data server which self-heals because of the shared NoSQL data, allows for quick and convenient access to data. Cloud storage is convenient as it is shared across digital devices, but because of the constant database file updating, information can be lost quickly. There have been times when I deleted something on one of my iDevices and it was deleted from all of my other linked devices. If someone is able to gain access to your cloud server, they would also have the ability to view anything contained in the database as well as alter anything or the database itself. The advancing digital age is exciting, but with it comes confusion and anxiety.
Who is silenced in history? There is a long list that can be compiled, but as a blanket answer: “unimportant” people. “What do you mean ‘unimportant’?” I mean those who are considered by the author or speaker as unnecessary to the event or its outcome. How often are observers or bystanders included in historical narratives? More recently there has been a push to uncover these silenced voices–often based upon gender, race, class, sexuality–so these voices are much more present, but look at older histories. Going past specific sources, what silences haunt archives of sources?
The collections of sources into related, organized, and available bodies make these silences even more noticeable, and can lead to further investigations. Who is doing the silencing? Why? These types of questions lead to the reconstruction of those who have been silenced. Creating a collection of hidden/silenced sources will most likely not be as large as already established archives, but are they just as important? In a digital world where a good amount of research can be done electronically, even small, very-specific archives are beneficial in contributing to future research and enhancing or dispelling previous arguments. But, how can this be done?
Do we want to hear all of these silent voices? What if they cast previously “great” leaders in a more shady light? What if these narratives bring to light a very divisive aspect to a settled historical argument? Think about whistleblowers. Though not exactly the same as a silenced, they uncover an unwanted fact or argument and are shunned. If we uncover a groundbreaking, radical line of silenced voices, how will it affect our academic future? Will it be seen in the same light in 50 years? In creating an archive that includes, or is based solely, on a category of silenced voices, are we also producing more silence? Is it possible to avoid silencing completely? I am inclined to answer no, because all research has to conclude at some point, and there are some things, even relevant facts or arguments, that do not mesh well with our research’s argument. If you know of a way to allow all voices to be heard, please feel free to pass it on my way.
The above is a TAPoR Voyant map of the most frequent words and their links in two of my sections of my Master’s Thesis.
You can interact with my TAPoR Voyant word web based on the two sections of my Master’s Thesis here. It is interesting, and becomes increasingly messy, to see the nodes and branches formed as you add more words to the visual.
Concordances are helpful in seeing the basic blocks of academic writing: words. When deciding upon a corpus to use in exploring concordances, I decided to use my own thesis work, one chapter that has been completed and another chapter that is currently being updated and expanded. The use of concordances can reveal the nature of a work based upon the language used–political, casual, academic, etc.–but can also illuminate the focus of the work–gender, health, environment– or the use of metaphors and imagery in fiction.
The ability to see the words before AND after a searched word is useful in determining context when researching and the general usage, should it have changed over time. One issue I noticed when using antconc with two of my chapters is that it brought up the letter s as a word and ranked it as my 7th most frequent word. I will attribute it not to antconc itself, but to my process as I saved my work into .txt files. Upon doing so, symbols were changed and I am troubleshooting this as the number of Ss that followed a possessive apostrophe. One useful ability in antconc, and I believe other concordance software to have also, is the ability to ignore or count capitalization. When approaching words that have the ability to be both proper and common nouns, such as Britney Spears’ last name and (though I don’t use it in my research) the plural form of the tool/weapon spear or the verb forms of to spear, this option can help with this possible issue.
Concordances can be useful in both researching and writing to see if you tend to be repetitive and should consult a thesaurus. I only used antconc with a .txt file, because it could not import the pdf or doc/docx files of my writing.
Keywords in Context (KWIC), which antconc does, as does searching on single webpages and documents, does not work too well with hypertexts and web searches because of the hyperlinks can create a loop where you will ultimately end up at the same place, or possibly never-ending as well. Also because there is no context within the search, you will receive an astounding number of irrelevent links. In terms of a single text based document, concordances are useful.
Mango Lunch by Troy Takahashi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://ttakahas.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/924471822d9817c2ee6afd444ebe920fa1cc4c10.jpg.
This is just a picture of when I ate a nice haden/hayden mango for lunch. How beautiful and thought-provoking, right?
This was a completely unnecessary picture to post, but for an assignment we were required to apply a Creative Commons license to something and post it. I simply chose this picture because it doesn’t really say much about me except that I like to eat mangoes (mangos?) and I have a blue cutting board, nothing TOO scandalous.
In choosing this picture, I chose to apply the “Attribution-ShareAlike” Creative Commons license. According to the Creative Commons’ “About The Licenses” page, the Attribution-ShareAlike license ” lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.” I indeed want this photo to reach its dissemination potential (please read with my intended sarcasm) under the least restrictive “Attribution” license, but this is the second-least restrictive of the licenses, allowing others to use, remix, and whatever else they would like to do, under the condition that they attribute this piece of art to me AND the same license, allowing continued distribution with my intent to keep this photograph with a Creative Commons license attributed to it.
The next license in terms of restrictiveness would allow others to only use with with with credit and not allow any changes. I’d love to see “remixes” of my photograph, do something to it: make it psychedelic, add in a yodeling goat or two onto the spikes of sweet, juicy mango, or create a meme or gif of it including Sweet Brown (highly encouraging this last idea), because as a graduate student I can say that, although I would enjoy making photoshopped pictures or memes or gifs, with my school work and job, I definitely ain’t got no time for that. I’d love to see edits done to my mango photo, just follow the restrictions set forth by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license as detailed here or below. Now go get a cold pop, don’t grab no shoes or nothing, and get to work.