A comment by Jerri Wieringa struck me immediately when listening to the interview with her and Celeste Sharpe talking about their course Historical Thinking and Writing in the Digital Age. Jerri remarked that the scope of the course was an important decision for them because it is a difficult balancing act. You want to provide enough information to help students think and learn, but you also don’t want to overwhelm them to the point of saturation. This is something that I have been struggling with my current project. There is so much information about handmade paper and papermaking, but I have to remind myself that I have a limited amount of time and I don’t want to overwhelm visitors to the site and discourage learning. As a result, I have focused on the timeline and exhibits. The timeline (created using Timeline JS from Knights Lab) allows me to highlight keys points in the history of paper. I then added explanatory text and images and descriptive captions. I’m hoping that the interactive and visual qualities of the timeline will engage students in learning about papermaking history. However, going back to the issue of scope I have had to limit what I include in the timeline to prevent it from being seemingly endless. To address this issue, I have included representative examples. For instance, I cited work by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg as examples of handmade paper being incorporated into fine art in the 1970s. I also focused on the Women’s Studio Workshop as one of the key books arts and papermaking centers to emerge with the revitalization of handmade paper.
I also viewed Jennifer Coggins video about her project dealing with archives at UNC-Chapel Hill. Since she is focused on a specific archive holding, her project was naturally more focuses with modules and activities. However, I would like to incorporate her approach in some way even though my project began on a much broader level. Hopefully, by focusing on the contrast between Eastern and Western papermaking I can provide my focus to the learning. I plan to do this through the Exhibits plugin in Omeka. I have broken down the topic into key geographic areas (Japan, China, Europe, etc). From here, I am providing explanatory text and selected items from the collections of images and videos. I may be worthwhile to include selected readings as well to contribute to the learning goals. Her module approach has inspire another idea to create a page (using the Simple Pages plugin) to highlight the how-to videos and readings. I have marked these items in the metadata as “how-to” so they are searchable as hyperlinks and on the Subject Lists page. I used the Library of Congress plugin to suggest terms for the Dublin Core subjects. However, I think students would benefit from having these how-to guides highlighted on a separate page.
The selection of readings of Module 8 confirmed that the I really want to attend the Museums and the Web conference. It also reinforced that I should have attended the 2003 conference in Charlotte when I was in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Lessons learned!
The presentation “Beyond the Screen: Creating interactives that are location, time, preference, and skill responsive” by Baer, Fry, and Davis brought up an interesting point that reminded me of Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and his argument that Google is changing the way are brains work. The 2014 presentation points out that the average attention span at the time was estimated to be five seconds, a significant drop from twelve seconds tens years earlier. Cultural institutions like museums, universities, and libraries are trying to adapt to this change to change and maintain people’s attention as long as possible. Carr contends that the overwhelming information provided by Google and easy access to this information had negatively affected how we write and read. Nicholas Carr goes into detail on how he struggles to stay on topic. He explains how he feels that he is always dragging his attention back to the text. Carr blames the internet for his lack of focus.
The article “Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era” by Mark Tebeau reminds me of a conversion with a library colleague last year. She mentioned a study that showed that most college students were doing the bulk of their work on their smart phones. This included more casual reasons like social media and shopping, but it also included research (e.g. reading books online to searching library databases to find articles). This transition has changed how academic libraries market and deliver their resources. While e-books are still bought for content and how it benefits academic departments, the online platform is an important consideration because students are reading them on their phones and not just laptops/desktops. This change has also affected cultural organizations like museums, archives, and historical societies. While creating websites and web-based tools for smart phones opens up this information to a much broader audience and even helps with the economic disparity gap, it also creates a new set of challenges. Tebeau points out that oral histories no longer have the safe distance created by transcriptions or interpretations. Oral histories are easier to edit, but they now have a raw quality.
Reading the articles for this module, reinforces that I need to include strong, attention-grabbing visuals to catch people’s attention. However, the question then becomes keeping their attention for as along as possible. I need to make sure that the text is clean and readable and that there are enough interactive components to involved to engage viewers.