Thomas F. King’s Boo-Hooing

Thomas F. King has some serious issues!  He sounds like he might need to be on suicide watch. And who is this John H. Perkins on the back cover who said this book is a “joy to read”?  John, get a life!  If I saw Mr. King I would have to tell him to perk up buttercup!  If we think back to what was happening to our environment in the early 1900’s and the progress we made to correct those abuses, we should be very pleased.  The Endangered Special Act, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, among others all helped to raise awareness of what we were doing wrong and help us start doing things right.  He seems to think we still aren’t doing enough, but he also needs to keep in mind that we still need an economy in this country.  We must still be able to harvest timber, extract resources and manufacture goods to keep our country strong.  And there is no reason why we can’t do all that and still protect our environment.

Mobile Devices and History

My final paper is the creation of a blog, so to answer the second part of Leslie’s email I have just paste what I wrote about why I chose a blog:

Blogging is one of the most democratic forms of media and I chose it because I think it is a great way for the historian to reach a wider audience. The History Blogging project, run out of the UK, talks about this on its website. While there are concerns about using blogs for active research, ie someone publishing your work before you after taking it from your blog, I think for those of us who do public history blogging is a great medium. To me, traditional history (no matter how much I love it) has always been a bit stand-offish. It doesn’t really need to interact with others. Public history is opposite. It not only needs interaction, it fails without it. But how to get others involved? History that can be done dynamically, whether on a blog or on television, can draw the audience in and by telling a good story, can get them interested in history.

Now, as the video points out, this in no way takes care of all history. We can’t be academic squirrels- “oh, look at the shiny new technology!” We have to still do solid reseach. But these new technologies are a new platform. They don’t just change the way we do history, they change history. I see them as a way for even more people to get interested in the topics that historians already love.

Blogging also has other benefits. The first is that I can update the blog regularly, in contrast to a paper of book which would have to be reprinted. Additionally, I can choose a variety of different women to profile and do not have to maintain a theme, such as “pioneer women.” So far, I have chosen women solely based on the criteria of my own personal interest in their story. The blog also allows me to have a closer interaction with my audience. Unlike a history book or journal, readers can comment directly on the blog posts and a dialogue can be created between the author and the reader. It makes history more participatory and I think that make history more interesting. In addition to the blog entries profiling different historical women, I am also planning doing another feature on women making history in Idaho. Due to the more fluid nature of a blog over a book, I can write about women who are currently working in addition to women from Idaho’s past.

One of the most difficult parts of making the blog has been finding resources on women in Idaho history. I have spent hours looking for texts on the subject, for journal articles, and websites. What I have found has been compiled into a short list of resources on the blog for anyone who wants to explore the topic further. It is frustrating because of the inherent catch-22 in the problem. I want to write more about women in Idaho history than has been previously written, yet there is not enough written history that I can use to direct my research. I need more history to write more history.

I plan on continuing this blog after our class is over. I have enjoyed having the ability to share my work with a wider audience than my professors and my peers. My hope is to one day use my research to write a more definitive and well-rounded book on women in Idaho History. I would encourage other history students to use blogs to discuss their research. While I would not publicize research they plan on publishing in its entirety, I have found it a fun way to make history more public.

Museums should be like churches?

First of all I have to say that I am really disappointed with the production quality of this presentation. I realize that the apology was given up front, but isn’t this the Smithsonian? And in a twist of irony, the topic is using technology to further their efforts at education. . .hmmm.

Moving on.

I read this article by Alain de Botton, from the BBC earlier this semester. He proposed that museums take a cue from religion and at least attempt to deliver content that is didactic (meaning a lesson through visual aids–like gospel iconographies that follow visual cues so even the illiterate could understand the moral of the story). At first I was kind of defensive about museums and the humanities, but then, after reading our segment on digital histories somewhere around week four or five, it all began to make sense to me. I had to revisit the article in fact. And what he says is true, there is no overt lesson to be learned when we go to museums (which might seem like a relief, right?) But very little art is created without some message, without embodying certain values (be it mathematical–whatever). So what if you could use some of this bottom-up technology that I got so excited about, that would allow users to create-their-own-adventure based on features that the user is drawn to (even subconsciously!)? There are stylistic and aesthetic elements that I preferred without my having been aware of the values they represented (I discovered this in my art history courses), so what if we could use technology to deliver quick, calculated, and almost self-directed themes, threads, or courses when we visit museums…”if you liked this, then you will probably like that“. How many books have I purchased from Amazon when they made recommendations!? I never once stopped to ask how they calculated these preferences, or on what grounds they made such suggestions. But more often than not, they were right!

So. Using mobile devices to deliver a dialectic we can have with our museums. Engage the users in a conversation of sorts, letting us engage with the works and exhibits in a totally new way. Then museums could actively educate the viewers, allowing them to choose topics based on their own interests, rather just laying out a (sometimes quite small) plate of information, hoping they read it, and understand its importance.
Brilliant! I just need to find out how to do it. That’s all.

It is not about the technology, it is about the education.

It is not about the technology, it is about the education. Nancy Proctor brought up several good points in her presentation. I want to focus on the ones that hit home for me. I have enjoyed having a having itouch this semester and exploring the technology involved in creating a mobile application. I have actually really enjoyed playing with app builders (even if I was not able to get past the cost of publishing). It has an instant gratification component to putting your research in and seeing a result instantly. However, I was swept up by the technology and maybe a little forgetful of my purpose to educate. I liked how Proctor concluded that we should not see this technology as bringing in new income into the museum atmosphere, although it may cut some costs as an education device, a device which enables as public historian to provide quality work to the general public. Often as an intern at the Idaho State Historical Museum in conversation with my peers we have discussed the need for the museum to become more business savvy to bring in more patrons and money. Proctors pointed out the museums life spans are ten times as great as any usual business. It occurred to me that Idaho Historical Museum has been in use downtown a lot longer than many businesses downtown; perhaps businesses should ask us what to do to stay alive through the ups and downs of an economy. I think there are still advantages to museum mobile apps that may bring in more revenue. Proctor’s illustration of the app that advertises the local paper was, in my opinion, great! It is two community based businesses supporting each other and public access to knowledge. Her talk gave me a lot of food for thought on mobile devices in the museum. I hope to see this implemented in several museums.

I think the advantage of the mobile device is the accessibility to it, especially to the younger generation. Specifically on our mobile music project it sells to a mass audience, but allows for a niche audience too. Music nets a broad audience, and like museums, has several niches. Boise has several music venues that fit a variety of music. We are able to access the interest of several people by using music as our “hook” and then bringing in history and the variety of music available in Boise. Liabilities…. Cost! (yea I am not going to get off this Buzztouch thing) I think Buzztouch is still an incredibly easy to use and great developer. I will some way or another make an app come to life from this developer (I have some other projects in the works). I wonder if you could get enough universities on board to create a grant or funds to entice apple, android, or blackberry to create a site similar to Buzztouch that allowed for students to create applications available, perhaps only through a “university app store”, to test their models and ideas without cost. This would benefit several colleges within universities business, history, education, ect.  Because of the popularity with mobile devices and technology, I see public history going in the same direction. It has become more apparent to me that web/mobile design skills are going to be an important factor in public history projects and jobs. I think it’s a great move in the museum’s long business run to keep up with.

Museums, Mobile Devices, and Steve Jobs

While I found Nancy Proctor’s presentation useful as an overview of the state of mobile devices in museums, I don’t think it provided a useful framework to ensure the future viability of museums in America or how to adapt technology. While museums may have once been on the cutting edge of American culture and were created by innovative individuals, I think museums no longer attract the most creative segment of the population. Unlike when museums were created to showcase hip new content such as natural history, museums now seem to be perpetually lagging behind popular science and culture. One area where museums might become hip to cutting edge content is technology–both showcasing and utilizing it. We need some like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, or Sergey Brin–people who seem to a feel not only for what people want now, but what they will want a year or two from now. An innovative to both utilize and showcase technology would be to use robots and ai. Robots are likely not only useful to the military (which currently utilizes more than 20,000) or to assisted living facilities or nursing homes (for which they are currently being developed), but could be a innovative way to reach potential museum patrons. I would pay money to have a robot give me a tour of the Idaho Historical Museum.

Utilizing mobile devices for public history and education should not even be questioned anymore. They have become such an integral part of our lives that to not utilize them would make museums even more irrelevant than they already are. Another drawback unfortunately is that technology might actually usher in the death of museums as collections are increasingly available online. Robots could also make curators and docents an extinct profession (along with soldiers and caretakers). I’m not sure what the answer is, but ludditism probably is not it.

BIN LADEN IS DEAD–You heard it here first!!!

From Interpretation to Conversation

The video with Dr. Nancy Proctor was interesting because of the new ways of thinking about mobile in the museum that she brought up (well, new for me). I found it remarkable that the Smithsonian had 30 million physical visitors in 2010, but 180 million virtual visitors. With those numbers alone, institutions can no longer ignore their virtual presence. I appreciated her point that a museum should also model the internet as a network, meaning that no one point can destroy it. I think this is especially needed today with the shaky economy—we need to make sure that one weakness will not bring the whole museum down.

Despite needing an online presence, Dr. Proctor also said that it is not about the technology, it’s about the content. This is reassuring for my group’s mobile project because it is not about what platform we choose, it’s about the information we are sharing. And it is also about providing a place for people to share their experiences with local food, and going from “interpretation to conversation.” I was also pleased to know that our mobile project is targeting a growing niche market, but has not reached a mass market yet. Since we are thinking about continuing our project after the class, I will be working on making sure that we keep in mind the 6 principles that mobile projects should be, including being aligned with our mission and strategic goals, continue to create new opportunities for engagement, and be sustainable. Our liabilities for mobile devices in our project are similar to what museums face: how will we find funding to keep up with the next best thing in mobile? How will we make our project a network so that one thing cannot destroy us?

As far as how graduate and undergraduate public history courses can use mobile devices, I would suggest continuing to encourage large projects that require the use of the devices, including writing blogs, designing tours in gowalla, and creating websites that are mobile-enabled. Just encouraging students to think about mobile projects can go a long way in helping students to think creatively and innovatively. By training students now, they will bring all of this mobile learning to public history projects in general. I know that as I have been working on the Department of Arts and History website, I have tried to think about ways I could make it easier for mobile visitors, and for people using the website on regular desktops.  I think we all need to remember though that it is still the content or knowledge that we are passing on that is the most important aspect, and the platform is second.

Proctor Presentation

There are several things I liked in Nancy Proctor’s presentation. First, I thought her emphasis on the experience and content of using mobile devices in a museum setting, instead of just concentrating on the technology was insightful. I think it can be easy to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest technology and as a result, lose sight of the purpose behind using the technological platform. The second topic that provoked me to think was Proctor’s emphasis on using mobile devices to facilitate conversation, instead of mere interpretation. I think mobile devices can be wildly successful at bringing people together and produce a truly wonderful collaborative product.

As far as the my group’s and my project, I think one of the advantages of using a mobile devices is, as Proctor mentioned, that it really can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together. Our project brings a face to a local farm through a mobile device and it caters to a “niche” of people in the Treasure Valley. One of the hardships I think that a mobile device brings to the project is that some farmers can be wary of its use in relation to their trade.

Like many of my classmates I think using mobile devices in classes is a good idea in theory. Like others mentioned, it can turn into a distraction rather than a learning tool. One thing I think BSU should look at (if they choose to push mobile device usage in classes) is there demographic. There is a sizable amount of non-traditional students and some (but certainly not all) might struggle with the application of mobile devices. I’ve encountered some who struggle with BroncoWeb or Blackboard, so if BSU did choose to push mobile devices they need to take the necessary precautions to make sure they educate all students on their usage. That being said I think the use of mobile devices in public history projects are fantastic, especially as Proctor pointed out, if they are targeted at niche topics people enjoy.


Mobile Devices and Public History

In her lecture on mobile devices and museums, Nancy Proctor touched on several important aspects of the new digital public history frontier that I have been concerned with, including accessibility and maintenance. Accessibility is a huge factor to consider in developing mobile applications for museums. It seems like such a waste to develop amazing interactive apps that only a select few museum patrons with the correct devices can experience. It is important to make sure the apps can be used by as many people as possible.

I also appreciated her discussion of marketing. She reminded the audience to budget for marketing the product. Because I am relatively new to the world of smart phones, I am amazed at how many different apps are available when browsing the iTunes Store, and that number is only going to grow in the future. Museums need to make sure that people know about the apps in the first place. Advertising new mobile experiences could be a great way to renew interest in permanent exhibits or a museum as a whole.

Maintenance is something that I always think about when considering the positive and negative aspects of mobile devices. It goes without saying that the information provided should always be current and correct.

In our group project, the tour of historic music venues in Boise, there are several advantages and liabilities for using mobile devices. Because the application encourages touring and visitation of these sites, it is clear that the best way to use it is on a mobile device that people can take with them when they go out. Because we are incorporating sound (YouTube links) into the venue descriptions, mobile devices with headphones will allow users to best experience all of the information available. One problem with creating a mobile tour is the need for continual maintenance as businesses close or change names, website addresses change, and YouTube videos are removed. Marketing is another issue that should be considered so that more Boise music fans will know about the app and how to access it.

I think that developing an app is an excellent, and probably the ideal way to use mobile devices in a public history course. If this is not possible, students should at least use and review some available applications in order to understand the current technology available, discuss advantages and disadvantages, and consider what historians could accomplish with mobile devices in the future. I agree with Nancy Proctor that mobile devices should not be about the technology itself. They should focus on the audience and we should make them as interactive as possible. As mobile technology continues to develop, we should focus on ways to increase the level of visitor participation. Simple methods could include interactive games incorporation the information found in interpretive exhibits, scavenger hunts, or ways to personalize museum tours (think the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books). I also love applications that allow visitors to check in at certain locations. Incorporating points and “prizes,” even if the prize is merely a higher status level within the app, could increase visitation and commerce.

On a final note, I was surprised to learn that some of the first museum podcasts were made by visitors, or “guerrilla” groups as she put it. This shows that there is definitely a market for the use of mobile devices in museums and tourism.

Catering to the Niche

I really enjoyed Proctor’s emphasis that looked at content possibilities for mobile applications for museums rather than focusing on cutting edge technologies.  I am not a huge museum fan and this presentation made me realize that one of those reasons is the generic approach provided most exhibits that fail to engage me.  Proctor’s emphasis on using mobile technologies to cater to different niches intrigued me.  I think that this is a great approach to making museums more interactive, more personal, and more adaptable hopefully justifying their existence in the future.  I thought she also made a good point that most people will bring their own devices and that this would change the nature of the technology budget for museums.  I also like the idea that non-museum employees could be involved in creating tours or commenting on exhibits opening many more avenues to reaching a variety of niches that would be impossible for a museum to cater to.

For our mobile project, having an interactive and accessible tour on a mobile device makes it an affordable and easy way to present the information to the general public.  The downside, for me, is a bunch of people walking around downtown looking at their mobile devices as individuals.  I thought that Proctor had a good discussion about how to foster a discussion and group approach with mobile devices that would be interesting to incorporate into our project.  I agree with Anna that mobile devices sound like a good idea in theory for the classroom, but in practice tend to be a huge distraction.  There are many things that a mobile device could do to augment a history class (pictures, timelines, interactive maps, etc.) but I also think that facebook, twitter, and email would get just as much attention in a classroom setting.  I do, however, like the idea of utilizing mobile devices out of class for projects and to enhance the homework experience.  I also really love the idea of incorporating mobile technologies into public history.  I think Proctor was right in showing that people tend to be really interested in niche topics, and if these topics were addressed in more individualized mobile history projects public history would be more effective.