Edad Media Amorcita


Google Books and other adventures

The Ngram viewer was very useful for me, after plugging in the words, ‘Toledo,’ ‘casket,’ ‘bishop’ and ‘Visigoths,’ which are four very specific words from my research on Spain in the Middle Ages. After choosing a datespan on the bottom of the viewer, I found a good ebook that relates to my area of study, and the book is now on my Google ‘shelf.’ It inspired me to look for editions of Gregory of Tours’ work, which is the sort of benefit I predict for scholars in their work (inspiration, encouragement, finding new specifics.) Bookworm is my favorite tool, as a scholar, because I can access the books. With Google books I’m never sure what to expect.

The book that I selected for the assignment was a collection of short stories from 1884 by Edgar Allen Poe. I know it is very close to the “Pre-20th century” requirement, but when I was moving back and forth between the plain text and the scan, Google Play books was popping up for both the 16th century Spanish play I had chosen and the 19th century book. The play was originally in Castilian Spanish too, so I thought the process might be simpler with a text that was originally written in English. I copied the Plain Text of Poe’s The Gold Bug into a Word doc.


I saw no major problems with the job that the OCR had done, just a few minor ones that were disorienting nonetheless. Some words were mistakenly connected such as ‘witha.’ ‘Ise’ appeared once, but it was hard to tell if that was a mistake of the OCR, or because Poe was imitating African-American dialect in some passages. These things could be distracting for a researcher of the text, but not insurmountable difficulties. Strange combinations of numbers, letters and characters also appeared, such as Mags, t 1 . – _. …=.‘.=__. ‘, and it was a minor distraction to figure out if they were significant or not. Again, this would not be hard to find a way around and I would probably choose to read the plain text over the PDF. The PDF window was too small compared to the plain text window.

In Voyant was where the random strings became a problem, but I just needed to go through and erase some to make the program work. The overall presentation of the Voyant analysis was surprisingly pleasant, even though I had already seen some students’ screenshots: kudos to their front-end developers. Voyant showed ‘Legrand’ was most frequently used, and ‘Jupiter’ as next. Since these are two of the main characters in the text, that their names show up most is not surprising, and in fact help strengthen an argument that Poe was anthropocentric, in keeping with his time. It was surprising to me that ‘massa,’ which is the dialect form of ‘master,’ was the next most frequently used. I knew it was there, but the statistical frequency of Poe’s use of Ebonics interested me, and now I think him even more anthropocentric and a product of his time. Voyant helps analyze Victorian-era language by picking out phrases with the tool on the left. The context tool is interesting because it almost retells the story, but in miniature. I realize I’ve made a case for a literary critique of the text, but hopefully historians understand how much is historically determined, and research Poe’s work in context.

International Museum of Surgical Science Visit


From the reading, this particularly interested me, because I would rather not have used the app and I think that for historians in general, the ‘knee-jerk’ reaction is to reject technology: “the cultural response to changes in technology, the eversion, provides an essential context for understanding the emergence of DH as a new field of study in the new millennium.”(Jones, Steven E.) I went to the International Museum of Surgical Science with my aunt and uncle on a lovely fall day. It was good that the weather was perfect, because I don’t know if I could have gotten my power wheelchair up the steep ramp otherwise. The woman who helped me and my family navigate the old Victorian mansion was very warm and friendly, if a little worried about how to get a person in a large wheelchair in and around the space: but I’ve been to many enjoyable places in the city that are not completely compliant with building codes and accessibility, and furthermore I’m becoming more aware of the funding difficulties historical institutions face, so I hope the museum gets money for ramp and elevator improvements.

It would also have been nice to have more than one I-phone available with the Encurate app on it. I didn’t have an I-phone to download the app, so I had to rent the museum’s device, once the other patron was done using it. The battery needed charging before I could use the device, and again, more than one I-phone with the Encurate App would be preferable, and I hope they get funding or donations. After using the I-phone itself, I can say that I really missed my Samsung (S6-the one that doesn’t blow up) and I would love to see Encurate for iOS soon. It’s a great and fun idea, in theory. The app itself did not work so well. I think I set it up correctly; I highlighted all three subject-areas of interest and a message on the screen that the phone would vibrate when the app had something to tell me. When I got to the second floor and into the library, the phone vibrated and presented on the screen a small article about Eleanor Robinson Countiss, which was easy to read, being printed in large black letters on the screen. Along the way I learned that Eleanor and her husband donated the mansion to the Society responsible for the museum. The next room, the Hall of Immortals, seemed to have no articles, until I was near the doorway again. The phone vibrated, showing me an article about the people depicted in the statues, but before I could finish it vibrated again and showed me the article that I had already read about the library. I dismissed it as a mistake and went to the next room. After a while, the phone vibrated and I read an interesting article about the room, then one about the fireplace, before the phone buzzed and went dormant. It kept buzzing for new stories, but the stories kept changing before I could finish one. On every floor it was the same, and I was annoyed instead of pleased by the buzzing stories since they flashed away before I could read them. I think, if it had worked correctly, the app would have been fun for visitors. They could enjoy the extra info. On reflection, maybe it would have worked better if the phone had been fully charged or if I had selected fewer subjects of interest-but overall I would recommend visiting the museum without the app.


My favorite historical website is the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The entrance to the site, which is part of the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, begins, “The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History pairs essays and works of art with chronologies, telling the story of art and global culture through the Museum’s collection.” Each underlined word is a link to what it describes, which is beautifully logical and useful to keep one from getting lost, especially the chronologies. That’s really what history is about; putting art, artifacts and ideas in a chronological order so as to compare and understand them, and finding a context for things. A museum, to me, is really the best example of how we bring the history we specialize in to the public. To continue, when you click the chronology link, it shows a world map first and you click on a continent to search through. An alphabetized list of countries appears below the map, and within those sections, the countries are chronologically ordered. I haven’t explored other search paths that much because for my work, I either use “chronologies” or “essays.” That second link and method of searching works beautifully too. It takes you to a page with 3 search items to fill out, but if you only fill in the first 2, a list of topics will appear. Clicking one of these topics will reveal an essay or essays that you can choose. Another useful feature, and this is part of the artifact’s page at the end of a “chronology” search too, are the links to all relevant material in the subject area (it would be more useful  if these options were by subject AND geographic area, so that if you are looking in Spain you stay in Spain, and don’t go to Germany or something, but this is a minor gripe). Overall, I find this site extremely useful as a historian, and visually pleasing and wonderfully navigable from the viewpoint of a consumer of public history. (Yes, history is becoming commodified, but that’s another post)

I am a little confused about whether or not ‘History Web’ has a specific definition- “the need for “a guide to gathering, preserving, and presenting the past on the web.” History Web would be something that fulfills that need?

If so, Twitter, Facebook and even museum websites I’ve followed recently seem to have trouble staying focused, and while they might indeed ‘gather, preserve and present,’ they still don’t fulfill the historical requirement. Tangential or just completely irrelevant material flows in from all kinds of places. The Heilbrunn Timeline does not do this, except, perhaps, in the links at the end that I mentioned.

One other aspect mentioned in the introduction that I have direct knowledge of (and I think it reflects the issues that academic historians were voicing concerns about in the intro) is amateur historians. Amateurs and their sites are interesting. My academic mentor-Medievalism Mentor-has recommended that I use and take their bibliographies seriously, and she’s mentioned this in all of my classes with her. I’m aspiring to be a serious historian of the Middle Ages, so when I heard I don’t necessarily need a ‘.edu’ (which could actually lead you to bad info, if it’s the wrong dept.), or something from Oxford, it fairly blew my mind-And it seems that the progression of the internet has elicited the same or a worse response from educated historians who work with institutions. Over my academic career, my lists of trusted databases, e-libraries and other digitized collections has grown, and I’m still learning which amateurs it’s ok to go ahead and trust. But I’m very grateful for the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

Brave New World

I had signed up for what I intended to be a private Twitter account in February 2017. But, I couldn’t get back into a separate one that I made for this class, so I’m using that old one (I just voted once on American Idol with it so I think it should be fine). I followed some academics whose work I’m reading now, and some museums in Spain. I found a book that I had not found before in my research and I’m on the look-out for more info about publications. Regarding things I like, the algorithm /program learns quickly so it was soon recommending  museums and medieval pages that I might could add. It was easy to stay on it for a while, adding every respectable museum and university that I know and discovering new ones. There were also some amateur historian, and they have helpful bibliographies and very often nice pictures. Between the pictures on Twitter and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my first reservation was about time. How much time will I be spending looking at artifacts and not reading/researching? Will my astigmatism get worse again the more time I spend at the computer? It’s true, that seems like a very management-related problem, and I do intentionally make time to read and write more. Still, it is another digital distraction and another profile in the growing number of profiles that I have to manage. I don’t mean to sound negative or too pessimistic: many scholars coming together to share resources is a very good and helpful practice.

Things can get fissiparous, i.e. one is looking at one thing, which relates to more things which take more time to look up and research. Again, this is probably an issue related to time-management, and most directly addressed by effective time-management. The time-consuming aspect of Twitter, Facebook (I have an academic page there too) and Storify still receive my approbation in the cases of time spent and the level of distraction on the sites. Be careful. And glance at the clock once in a while. Academic, and especially amateurs (whose zeal for the subject is quite genuine) talk about tangential or, at worst, irrelevant topics.

Something I didn’t mind spending time with was learning the new technologies, because, to put it bluntly, I would like a job someday soon. The demand is high and growing for not only expert knowledge, but exceptional capability and functionality in the various digital media today. I can see my historical values upheld by technology too, especially regarding access to copies of the material. (I regularly get to visit the Met without living anywhere near New York). I think though, that there are many historians with similar accessibility aspirations for museums and collections, which is why it’s important to stay educated and informed, especially before one has a job, or when one is in between jobs. The scholars I saw on Twitter seem to be working to interact and use this new medium. However, I think I speak to the values of most historians when I say there’s nothing like a real book.


The historic medium

The Lister seemed very theory -driven to me, so I will try to sum up some points first, then connect these to the machine in my chosen chapter of Gitelman: the physiognotrace.

‘interactive’ signifies the ability of the user to directly intervene and change the images or text that they access 1. extractive-online shopping: text-base, linear/practical 2.immersive-gaming: visually pleasing, includes screen space~Both are essentially states of mind

Text always brings the problem of interpretation-for example

‘Simulation’-false and illusory, ‘hollow representations of things’ or something in itselfmorpheus_matrix_what_is_real_zpsd4855992

–> gap in perception +reality  -always there anyway: Think about Morpheous’ speech in ‘The Matrix’; ‘real’ is electrical signals interpreted by the brain  “…a hyperreality where the artificial is experienced as real, Representation, the relationship (however mediated) between the real world and its referents in the images and narratives of popular media and art, withers away, The simulations that take its place also replace reality with spectacular fictions whose lures we must resist. In broad outlines, this remains the standard view of Baudrillard’s theses.” Lister 44 (I think that fear of the loss of ‘the real’ happened to the physiognotrace)

The fact that new=better in most people’s minds, to me, forgets to take into account that gap in perception +reality.–>–v

I think this best sums up the intro to Gitelman and what comes after, and then we can see that communication systems all try to bridge that gap by creating lexemes in a given semiotic economy-“There is a moment, before the material means and the conceptual modes of new media have become fixed, when such media are not yet accepted as natural, when their own meanings are in flux. At such a moment, we might say that new media briefly acknowledge and question the mythic character and the ritualized conventions of existing media, while they are themselves defined within a perceptual and semiotic economy that they then help to transform.”

Gitelman, Lisa; Pingree, Geoffrey B. New Media, 1740–1915 (Media in Transition) (Page xii). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

physiognotrace -19th century Americans questioned how close to reality the pictures were, which is, of course, to bring up the same modern concerns parents have about their kids spending all day on the computer and not having face-to-face encounters with real people. But the real ‘burden of proof’ for the physiognotrace was to harmonize “visual and political representations” by itself: to my mind, it’ not so far-fetched, because we know about the relationship between beauty/attractiveness and expectations from the study of psychology. Indeed, simulation comes up again, defined as a special or temporal representation (I would say both, inseparably, space/time, though, and I think that’s what they ultimately mean anyway) and contrasted with imitation as another method of representation. We learned from Lister that a simulation can be a real thing too, and in fact occupies a space apart, which is no less real. By extension, to imitation we can also give status of referent.  I predicted that the gap between what a person looks like and what they actually know/do will be too big to sit comfortably with many people in the case of the physiognotrace (however more attractive people still tend to succeed more).

It becomes complex when applied to a human being who represents another human being, or a group of them. The representation can’t be a simulation because of the referent being multiple and plural, according to the British model. But the American “ideal” of representation was multiple and plural, and the physiognotrace became an artistic representation of this, but the “pseudoscience of physiognomy” was not, it was found, the way to the source of ‘Truth.’ The physiognotrace brought people closer to the two types of interactivity defined above, but it ultimately became part of a failed symbolic economy.


Hello HIST 479: Public History New Media / DIGH 400 class! My name is Isa (pronounced E-sa) and this is my final year of graduate school. I’m very interested in using new programs for archival work and access, so I look forward to learning what’s  out there! My research interest (passion) is Spain in the Middle Ages.

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