Here is the starting link to my Alpha version of the website. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I hope the current form conveys the message clearly.

Introduction

I first came up with the idea for this website after reading David Staley’s, Computers, Visualization, and History (2003), introduction and chapter 4.  In that intro, there was a sort of visual representation of the shifting political power structure in feudal Japan.  This was not merely a “picture,” but a visual representation that conveyed a message typically done with text.  This made me wonder if such a model could be expanded upon to encompass a broader idea, and be applied to a different period in history.  From this, I decided to try to make a visual representation of the political power of the ancient Roman emperor Augustus, as well as the changes he brought.

Scope

The initial plan was to have this be some sort of visual essay.  However, I quickly realized that this would entail much more original research and scholarship than could be accomplished in a semester.  I decided to shift the focus to a more didactic website intended for advanced high school or undergraduate students.  It would be largely a synthesis of other scholars’ works, rather than original scholarship.  I would cite this scholarship, and try to include primary sources where available.  From this, I tried to create a website that seemed largely neutral or traditional in terms of content; there would be no radical scholarship or interpretation.

Design

This was the hardest part of the project, and is still the one that is the most lacking. Working on my own, without a real future use for this project, it was hard to do both the research needed to begin the content, as well as further familiarize myself with building a website. The difficulties were numerous: from simple layout problems, to more conceptual problems of how to visualize ideas like “laws” and “literature.” As I became better at actually building a webpage, it became clear that I would not have enough time to really flesh out the content of any of the particular facets I had included. The area I did the most work on was the architecture section, but even that one is lacking in actual content. There are the beginnings of worthwhile research there, but it was never fully developed.

One of the features I do like, and would like to incorporate further, was how I linked to the extremely useful Perseus Project.  This is an excellent source for students interested in the subject, and the primary sources I linked to were a very good starting point.

Genre

Further complications arose when I presented this project in class. I think because the website is still in a very developmental stage, coupled with the novelty of the idea, much of the class was confused as to what the purpose of the project was. The idea, again, was to be a visual representation of an idea that is normally conveyed through text. However, due to my heavy use of sculpture and architecture as my images, it seemed some students believed it was a website about the visual tools Augustus used during his reign.  This would be something akin to an art history webpage.  While that would be useful in itself, that is not the intent of the page.  It was not intended to be an art history-style website focusing on sculpture and architecture of the Augustan age.

The primary problem is my reliance upon sculpture/architecture because that is all that survives from this time period. There are no portraits, photographs, or paintings of the people and ideas that are the subjects, so sculpture must serve as a stand-in.

Future

My original idea was to have 3D models used as the primary representation of the facets of the website, however I do not currently have access to such software, and that would be a project unto itself. Nevertheless, with this approach I believe many of the problems of genre confusion could be avoided, because I would present the audience with original 3D models of these concepts, rather than contemporary sculptures and architecture. The images I currently have would then be embedded deeper within the website, as I feel many of them are still useful, as the purpose of the project became more clear.

I believe this form of image based modeling has a future, particularly in a didactic sense, for the internet. As our culture and younger generations move toward a more visually based understanding of the world, I believe the ways in which we convey information will have to keep up as well, if we want to reach a wider audience. The problems I have faced during this project have been educational, and I believe with much more time, and possibly some funding for the 3D modeling software in particular, it could eventually reach my initial vision for it. However, there is not much motivation or impetus to continue working on it at this time, as it would take a lot of effort to create something that would both grab the attention of my intended audience, and be something that is academically noteworthy.

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I enjoyed your article “Erasing History.”  I’ve wondered myself how much of our history is tied up in the material objects of everyday life, and how much is lost now that digital tools replace many of these analog tools.

Television shows like American Pickers (on the History Channel) showcase people that are very involved in collecting the “stuff” of the past.  It seems like as our society moves away from a very concrete, analog culture toward an increasingly virtual and digital one, some people, particularly of earlier generations, grasp on to these concrete objects of the past.  How much “history” do you think is really contained in these objects?  What is worth preserving and what is junk?  Who is supposed to make such a judgment?

Lastly, what does this mean for the future of younger generations, such as mine?  Without the physical reminders of the “way things were” and how we did things in the past, do you think younger generations will have as much of a connection or curiosity about the past?  Do we need physical objects to help us remember?  Do you think we will look upon ball mouses, 486 computers, and lan lines the same as you viewed the typewriter eraser?

The Wikipedia article I updated is the article on Lake Arrowhead, Georgia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Arrowhead_%28Georgia%29

This is where my parents live.  I added the section about the Johnson Corporation, because I think prospective residents would like to know recent developments between the development company and current residents.  It is important that possible buyers understand that there may be development there in the future, which some believe is bad, while others good.

I also updated the links, as they were sparse and out of date.

http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~agolsen/POAwelcome.html

What do these new methods and tools mean for a shifting paradigm in how history is taught?  For instance, now many more professors and other educators are using multimedia tools in their lectures (video clips, Powerpoint, etc.) to some effect, however it seems the basic structure of a lecture is largely the same.  These new tools seem more as a supplement to an established model of teaching.  When do you think we might see a new model for education designed from the “ground up,” as it were, on the new tools available in the classroom?

In the readings you discussed the numerical nature of space and how it is easily reduced to binary yes/no, 1/0 forms of interpretation.  You also said you believed the questions should drive the use of technology, and not visa versa.  The questions historians usually deal with are difficult to reduce to binary forms, however, and I was wondering how this is reconcilable in spatial interpretation.  You gave some examples of historians using GIS and other similar technologies to answer questions they had about that past, but many of those seemed to be very measurement heavy questions.  How might we expand the use of the binary nature of computers and technology to address the more nuanced spatial (and perhaps even beyond spatial) questions that historians tend to focus on?

My final project will be a website that visually expresses the methods and means of Augustus’s power as Emperor of Rome.  I believe the visual representation will provide not only a new dynamic for interpreting power structures, but will also be more likely to attract the attention of a younger generation.  I have broken the project down into several sections:

Sources

This website will not be a database.  At most, this website will resemble a sort of bibliography or pathfinder, but that is not its primary purpose either.  That said, there will be many citations of scholarly literature, as well as the primary sources most heavily relied upon by that literature.  Links will also be provided to sources were appropriate.  The purpose of these sources is to support the visual model I will be creating.  I have moved away from turning this into a sort of scholarly article for the moment, and will be synthesizing the scholarly work into a visual model.  This, in itself, is a form of scholarly work, however I will not be putting forth any new research or formulating my own argument, per se.  There will be no primary source research or interpretation, will be simply be providing the primary sources of the scholarly sources I use.

Scope

The scope of this website will be limited to the power infrastructure of Augustus when he became the ruling head of state of the Roman empire, roughly around 27 B.C.  This will not attempt to cover the shifting power structures he used as he rose to imperium, nor will it cover the evolving power network of later emperors.  For the moment, the scope is fairly limited to a small stretch of time (3-5 years) and will not document or model much change over time.  Part of the reason for this is that little changed in Augustus’ political power structure after around 27-25 B.C. until his death.  Another reason is that modeling a shifting power network would be much more difficult, but that could be a possibility later.  This will not be a biography of Augustus.

Function

The primary intention of this website is to be didactic, or function as a sort of teaching aide.  I believe the visual representation and heavy use of imagery, which is then supported by text, will be more effective in reaching a larger audience, particularly of a younger generation.

Audience

The intended audience, as implied above, will be either advanced high school or undergraduate students interested in Roman imperial political power, especially specifically Augustan power structures.  Therefore, this will not be a scholarly work aimed at graduate and history professionals, although they may find it useful as well.  It is my belief that the use of images and visual modeling will be able to address this audience more adequately than heavy use of text.

Images

This project will entail heavy use of images in order to create the visual model.  While the primary sources, and even some of the secondary sources, have  passed into the public domain long ago, the copyright readings of this week will be useful in determining use of images.  While I do have some pictures of my own to use for this project, I will also be relying heavily on other sources for the images I will be using.

Alternatives

While they will not be directly addressed on the website (unless I deem it necessary or useful), I will also be examining alternative methods of discussing the power network of Augustus, in order to determine both what I feel is missing, as well as how my representation is useful.

Tools

If I were to carry out this project to its completion, I would probably some 3D modeling software, probably a program from Autodesk, to create the model, and support that with 2D images.  As it stands, I am debating doing a basic mock-up of the final product with simple HTML and 2d images, in order to more easily convey the purpose and design of the project.

What promise does digitization hold for the humanities, particularly in terms of access (sources, discourses, etc.)?  In your experience, does this hypothetical “broader access” translate into real advantages?  Can you think of an example in your field that would not have been possible without the increased availability to related discourses/sources?

The issue of upgrading and remaining current is relevant to my project, as it is most digital projects.  The primary software I would need to be conscious of updating and maintaining would be the software that actually creates the 3D model of my project.  While I have not finalized a choice of software, I am seriously considering an application from the Autodesk line for several reasons.  One, they are an established company that has grown and evolved with the digital age.  Secondly, they offer a variety of packages that vary in cost and ability.

I would additionally need to update the text of my program periodically.  I would be using any of one of the tml’s currently in use, probably XTML.  The academic content would need less updating once it is mounted on the webpage, however that would be less problematic to maintain.

How do you ensure accuracy?  More specifically, how do you ensure accuracy when an update is in the process/is completed, especially when trying to use SGML for verse texts?  What level of accuracy is appropriate(95%, 99%)?