On-line history making

How to organize photos and text across time and space (collaboration amongst multiple people, known and unknown, the quick, the will be, and those who came before)?

The Al-Can and Aleutians WWII special project has been interesting for finding the limitations of the the existing “cyberspace” and “virtual communities” of “Web 2.0” that are all the buzz. [Running into the barriers came from day one; inadvertent trouble-shooting is a specialty skill of mine.]

While Flickr and blogs (MySpace, LiveJournal, and the new one for the middle-ageing, eons.com), are by definition solipsist and therefore especially useful for exhibitionism and voyeurism; they aren’t yet easy for creating and retrieving information.

from an E_lder-mailer, RE: On 8/15/06, A social networking Web site for Americans aged 50-plus went live on Monday — complete with an online obituary database that sends out alerts when someone you may know dies and that plans to set up a do-it-yourself funeral service.

http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/08/15/ new-social-networking-site-for-age-50-plus-americans/

Indeed precisely what I was looking for. The automatic obituary and the self funeral! All these while the new definition of planet assigns 53 to our solar system. School books re-writers will be in demand [i.e., hire the over-50].

There are speciality websites for recording genealogy and family history. The more extensive ones require an annual fee. Many of the data sites are free, such as the Latter Day Saints archive. The web log might be an ideal venue for people to record anecdotes– one can record brief remembrances or notes as they occur; each post is dated; the text can be archived (a little more difficult, currently); and the postings can be collected into a more polished history or biography later. WordPress.com now allows for private posts. However, as I hope becomes clear, the interaction with others is needed.

Family histories can be done without the Internet, of course— The archival quality rag bond notepaper and Noodler’s permanent ink with “copperplate” script writing, recorded in great detail everyday by great great so-and-so, a nosy Parker with nothing better to do and who didn’t mind answering even the “cheeky” hygiene questions of the great great grandrelations to be — is exciting to look at (unless the fourth cousin thrice removed that one has never heard of lost it in a move or for gambling debts).

Life is interactive (see Erving Goffman’s work on social interaction). It is difficult for most people to conceive of what may be interesting of their lives to others. Strangers tell me they want to read about my “interesting life” but from this side it’s just ordinary and gets overlooked (fish in water, etc. I wouldn’t wish to undo an interesting life, but I’m too thoughtful to wish one on anyone else).

    What’s needed is a personal ethnographer or oral historian. Someone to ask questions.

Charlie King’s son points this out very well in a recent E-mail.

Spent virtually the whole morning reading some of the interviews from 341st ? guys. I copied out a bit that described the difficulty of creating the corduroy roads.

Too bad I never recorded any of Dad’s memories of the experience. He wasn’t one to elaborate greatly but could if he was pressed and I’d bet his would have been as detailed and well spoken as this guy who advanced from private to Master Sargent while up there indicating him to have been a uniquely talented guy:


In this one example, you can see some of the strengths of using the Internet, especially the world-wide web and E-mail. But also look at the Dawson project description,


The project was done with face-to-face (F2F) collaboration and tangible artifacts (photos) and only then assembled for later on-line use. Other projects come in “jukebox” format, CD-ROM or DVD and/or on-line.

Project Jukebox is the digital branch of the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Project Jukebox was originally developed using hypercard in 1988, with initial support from Apple Computer’s Apple Library of Tomorrow program, and is a way to integrate oral history recordings with associated photographs, maps, and text.


None of this has solved the problem of linking pictures at Flickr or elsewhere with comments and annotations from others (moderated) and downloadable with metadata intact (unless one has money for a personal website and server). The work-around here doesn’t work — photo index CKing — even if one had highest speed internet, multiple monitors, touch-toe typing, Dragon Naturally Speaking transciption, multi-feed document scanner/fax, a cat that won’t walk the keyboard, ….

Oh, and even with the bestest of tech help ;)

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