Blog

History 303 – Final Project

Back in March, I proposed the idea of representing the University of Waterloo at the end of its inaugural season in 1958 as a three-dimensional model. Using the platform Sketch Up, I would create 3D models of the Universities’ first established buildings. My first ambitions of this project involved researching the University blueprints and floor plans to establish very accurate and detailed models of the Graduate House and the Douglas Wright Engineering Building. At first I thought that I would be doing multiple buildings as represented by the picture above, but after an easy skim of the details of the picture, I discovered – like discovering sand at a beach – that the picture was taken in 1961. However, research reiteration was one of the more easily maneuverable shortcomings I experienced while completing this project. I would ‘like’ to state that this is a story of triumph and perseverance; but it is definitely not the prior, but could possibly be considered the latter.

As a man, I have this stubborn tenancy to ignore instructions. Luckily I am relatively technologically savvy enough to complete these tasks successfully without following directions. However, this minor skill set did not become advantageous for me when using the three-dimensional modelling platform Sketch Up.  Most computer programs’ functionality and effectiveness  can be related to the programs ability to be user friendly. These programs are designed for their functions, whether simply or complex, to be easy to use for existing and more importantly new users. This ergonomically engineered design for seamless user experience is the essence of this ‘lack of instruction’ mentality. These advantages, that exist very prominently among social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, are very limited to a program designed for building. Social media sites are not programs designed for producing tangible products from which ideas are implemented into. The complexity of the functions that can be achieved on a program like Sketch Up far exceed the functional capacity of social media sites. This degrades Sketch Ups’ rating system based on user friendliness, (at least for me; this criticism is biased) which in my case was detrimental to my ability to complete this project as thoroughly as originally intended. Without prior experience of drafting on 3D modelling programs, I was creating as I was learning through trial and error. This learning style which is my most effective style of learning as a kin-esthetic, it also meant their would exist a steep learning curve for me to battle against.

Based on the processes involved in completing a project like this, with a heavy reliance and use of Sketch Up, the success and overall quality of work will be reflected primarily by the ability to use the program. The research itself required to complete this project authentically was the easiest portion of groundwork, or in this case information, to obtain. A skill for drafting, however, was not as easily developed. This statement is actually rather misleading as it implies that I have developed some drafting skills but did so painstakingly. This is not entirely true because while the process has been painstaking, to say I have developed drafting skills would be an exaggeration.

In a perfect world, I would have liked to have achieved a very accurate and realistic-looking 3D model of the University of Waterloo’s first two buildings. Complete with authentic measurements, textures and objects that would reflect even the most minor and subtlest of nuances of the buildings’ physical features. This 3D model would be authenticated by the research and information collected from the Dana Porter Library. More specifically to my project, the information I required can be found in the Special Collections and Archives section of the library located in the basement of the Dana Porter Library. Additional relative information could be collected from the Map Library located in room 328 in the Dana Porter Library. The resources collected from these archives would serve as fundamental pieces of primary sources. Compiling the historical information with a prowess of the fundamentals of Sketch Up functions would create a recipe for success and would act as catalysts to producing a truly and authentically accurate model. Unfortunately for me only the ability to collect historical information was achievable for me.

Due to my lack of skill using the Sketch Up platform, I was not able to complete a very professional looking final product equivalent to that of a business presentation that I had sought out to achieve in the beginning. What I did manage to achieve is probably equivalent to an introductory drafting class assignment. The product that I was able to produce based on my skill with Sketch Up – or lack there of – and time parameters of the semester is essentially a ‘rough draft’ of what I would have liked to have achieved. Realistically, my ‘final’ product would be used as a rough copy of the macro details of the buildings physical features, dimensions and textures. Details of size and shape, featured external objects and colors of walls and roofs that roughly resemble the materials used in construction of the buildings are the emphasis of my ‘rough draft’ product. The resources for which, without digging through archives for information on details that are far beyond my skills of implementation, can be found through the University website portals provided by the links below. In conjunction and reference to one another, I was able to complete basic research based on these sources to complete my product. Instead, my product will solely focus on the exterior of the buildings while neglecting the finer or micro details of the buildings interior structures; rooms, halls, stairways etc. Unfortunately for my perturbed and disgruntled self, I had to settle on what is the equivalent of a ‘rough draft’ product after being stonewalled by my own ability to use Sketch Up. With that said it is important to note that even though I could not complete the task at hand to the full degree I set out to, I understand the research that would be involved in completing a ‘final draft’ in all its detail, but am limited by my skill set to implement the necessary research methods. I began scrounging for research before discovering that I was severely limited to implement the found information. Based on what I gauged as achievable, I realized that excess digging through archives was overkill to my newly refined goal, but detrimental to the relevance and application of the assignment to a history course; courses that are historically known for requiring research.

https://uwaterloo.ca/plant-operations/floor-plans , https://uwaterloo.ca/innovation60/photo-gallery , https://uwaterloo.ca/innovation60/60-years-facts-0 , https://uwaterloo.ca/map/pdf/map_bw.pdf

Metaphorically speaking, it is as if I know what I want my house to look like but I do not know how to build it. Physically or as a three-dimensional model on a computer program. I could have made a clay, or toothpick model of the university but that would not be academically relevant to a history of the web course, although probably easier. I only say that creating a tangible 3D model I could carry around would be easier because of my current prowess and skill with Sketch Up. Given an ample amount of time to self-teach, or with prior experience with drafting programs, I could be more fluent with the program to the point where using anything other than a computer-based 3D modelling program to create 3D models would be as tedious as I found it to use Sketch Up. Obviously, the easy use of a program like Sketch Up is one of the reasons it was created, the advantages of which I was unable to practice, experience and translate through my work.

Final/Parting Thoughts

Digital history is a very interesting subject of study. Contradictory to other history courses available at the university level, the study of digital history expands far beyond the simple chronology of the internet. This course may change over time to match the progression of the subject it studies. The internet is in its infancy, and at this point it is hard to see the full potential of the web, as we can only perceive the impacts as new advancements of the internet unfold.

I am a firm believer that everything but biological functions ca be found on the internet, but who knows? Give it time. For now the importance of the internet lies in its access to knowledge and information, unfortunately for the everyday consumer, this information is worth billions of dollars to certain institutions. This marketability of our information has been the forefront of debate for topics related to privacy and security. The NSA controversy in 2014, when it was noted publicly that the National Security Agency was spying on its own citizens and citizens world wide through varies technological mediums, Justified the illogical ramblings of a government conspiracy theorists; yes they are watching and listening to us.

In another social-political topic related to the internet was that of Aaron Swarts, who wanted to make educational information, that was otherwise inaccessible to those outside of universities and colleges, accessible. Basically he believed in a non-profit system of disseminating knowledge, a system currently dominated by a privatized educational structure. In short, what happened to Aaron, an activist of progress and mass public enlightenment, was a tragedy and synonymous behavior of oppressive regimes against those who fight for positive change.  But whether, civil rights, avoiding unconstitutional wars or battling over the internet, people who strive and believe in a higher cause seeming end up being dramatically silenced.

Due to the Internets’ relatively young age, their are still minor restrictions and legislation regarding the ethical and legal practices of the internet. Toning down the discussion, we can examine the educational purposes of the internet. Again, this debate circulates around the topic of accessible information. Should a higher education be affordable (or free) to anyone, considering the information taught inside of universities, can be found on the internet. Examples of this transition of education over the internet have already started. Online courses are currently available, and are becoming more accessible. Positive notes for educators is that these educational systems will still need to be structured; someone will have to write a curriculum. Whether or not the educational system completely transfers over the web is up for debate and this transfer would take time. The bigger debate exists in the inquiry of making education affordable and public. This could intern be revolutionary, but problematic as we already exist in a educational saturated workforce, prominent of people working jobs below their education. This issue of over saturation of qualified workers could create a lull in employment numbers.

Perhaps than the human race could exist and coagulate on issues that impact us all as a species; when the global focus changes from economy to education.

In a nut shell, History 303 has been an enlightened experience that I would recommend for anyone looking for a more hands-on history course.

Coding

First and foremost coding and computer programming is hard.  Coding is, relative to human cultures is a language, the language of computers. Personally, I dropped out of Spanish after one week because learning a new language is a hard challenge that I was not motivated to complete. Coding is a language and skill set i have had a desire to learn ever since i saw the movie the social network, perhaps thinking that making the worlds greatest social media site could not be that hard to construct, and nothing is further from that truth. The fact that I struggled to do basic coding skills makes me appreciate the complexity of the skill as well as the patience and intellect of those who can do it successfully. I would like to think that i am relatively good at everything I try and that if i put my mind to it I can achieve anything. Clearly my mother, when reiterating this to me, did not understand how hard coding is. The first couple days were relatively easy to comprehend and exercise and like with most languages, repetition is the key to success. Id say that that achievement is roughly equivalent to learning the alphabet, maybe less.

The early stages of learning coding and programing through python was relatively straight forward, but that should go without saying when you are simply copying someone who knows what they are doing. Even then, precision is a fundamental aspect of coding because the simplest mistakes can cause huge problems. This tediousness of coding is why Python is a great program to use, due to its color coated rating system, indicated by green for good and red for bad. In addition, error messages which happen frequently prompt immediate error messages that give instant straight forward feedback, allowing the user to alleviate mistakes. The other upside is that Python gives these error messages after every line of code, preventing the user from having to painstakingly search through hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands lines of code. I managed to have success and find the application and effectiveness of strings, lists and loops as a way of fast tracking repetitive and/or basic coding skills that when applied to writing a complex computer program can save hours of time in the long run.

Where I started to struggled was when we got to the reading and writing to files and the downloading sources aspect of coding, which unfortunately for me was the most historically relevant aspect of what we were learning. While I may not have been able to exercise the skills needed, I have a general idea of what the goals of these skills were. I believe the essence of coding is to save time and make complicated processes simpler. The process of downloading sources into a program makes it so that rummaging and siphoning through pages and pages of documents looking for relevant materials from said documents, takes fractions of the time it would take a person to read through the same amount of material. This is fundamental to historians who can exercise these skills to save themselves hours if not hundreds of hours when conducting research; research that is the foundation of all history. Coding allows you to work smarter, not harder.

Without being hypercritical of myself, it is important to preserve my self-esteem  by reiterating that coding is hard. So hard that only a select group of individuals have the patience and the intelligence can do it; i am not one of those lucky few.

https://uwaterloo.syzygy.ca/jupyter

https://www.oldbaileyonline.org

Final Project Proposal

My final project proposal entails creating a 3D model that is to scale, that accurately represents the University of Waterloo`s  early infrastructure during its inaugural season in 1958. The university of Waterloo is celebrating 60 years of innovation and education, making this project relevant and makes the information needed to complete it, readily accessible. (Check links below)  The basic informational foundations can be found on the University of Waterloo website. The more intrinsic information about the university buildings will need to be accessed from the University of Waterloo archives located in the Dana Porter Library.

In making a 3D model of the university in its early years, we can conceptualize the university on a medium that could not support this type of representation in the past due to limited technology. I hope to create a very authentic representation that is only limited by ones ability to walk through and physically touch the model. Perhaps as VR technology advances, that could in fact become a reality, to wit, my project could be the ground work for that future VR representation.

https://uwaterloo.ca/innovation60/photo-gallery

https://uwaterloo.ca/innovation60/60-years-facts

Text Analysis

The amount of word data produced by the human race is astronomical. The ability to rummage through all the data we have and will produce is outside of human comprehension and capability.

This topic of meta-data is the forefront of any modern internet debate for the implications are far more outreaching than simple security and privacy risks. With the discovery of the NSA having access to petabytes of, what was supposed to be private information, the world willingly allows their private data to bottle neck through the most powerful government entity to use as they please. When asked about the obvious abuses to human rights such as those to privacy, the term meta-data is what makes these privacy infringes justifiable.

Not all is dark and gloomy. Despite what some might consider unconstitutional attacks against ones privacy, the collection of meta-data can reveal some interesting truths about human behavior and the culture that supports those behaviors and visa-versa. The truth of the matter is, and it is impossible to avoid and more sobering to think about, is that the collection of meta-data at the rate at which it is being collected means and by almost no stretch of the imagination, that you are always being watched, monitored and or surveyed at all times. This is the major issue over the debate of meta-data. The fact that being able to track and monitor people in real time, and claiming it to be accidental or innocent is a abuse of technological and hierarchical power. All of which is justifiable in the name of national security.

The computers and systems that are used in the field of meta-data are designed to condense, organize and prioritize data points among the superfluous amounts of our information floating around cyberspace. In the day and age of social media, almost everybody on the planet with access to the internet can share what they ate for breakfast or where they plan on going for vacation. Security agencies are no longer  dealing with the issue of scarcity but rather the issue of abundance. And this abundance is of material most of which lacks serious contextual content. This creates a difficult task for agencies whose jobs are to filter through this unreadable amount of data and measure the security risk of the manikin challenge.

Making the information provided by meta-data and making it accessible and comprehensible to human beings is the purpose of text-analysis engines. In the process of unscrambling the clutter that is the internet, textual analytic study can provide insights towards potentially hidden correlations undiscovered by human processes. Throughout history in the English language we have been using more and more words in texts and works than in years prior. This exponential growth in the use of words is causal to the need for computers to analyze the words we use. Certain tools of text analysis can provide insight or an alternative view of past or current events, and what hopefully is not an exercise in futility; predict the future. I used the tools Ngram and Mining the Dispatch to discover the frequency in the use of a word during a specific moment in history. In the Ngram viewer, you can correlate multiple factors across each other over a select period of time. I decided to look up the origin and use of swear words from the year 1800 to 2008, because I am 10 years old. with a little bit of additional research it was quite enlightening the things you could learn from studying bad words. Clearly they are not that bad if they are educational. Certain words that have a correct `christian` translation, such as the word `ass` which is slang for donkey, have had historical footings in the English language. These words actually lost traction as religion and manners were enforced in the late 19th and early 20th century, but became popular again as the rebellious counterculture emerged in the 60`s and 70`s. Two words that seemed to have completely originated in this culture were the `s` word and my personal favorite `f` word which have become 2 of the most commonly used swear words just behind; coincidentally the word ass.

Culturomics is a term derived from the collection of meta-data applied to the study of human culture. Discovering the ways in which and the frequency at which we use words can express a lot about our culture. The real question is, is this benefit worth the cost?

http://dsl.richmond.edu/dispatch/

https://books.google.com/ngrams

3 archives: History on a Modern Platform

The internet has an uncanny ability to express and transfer information at instantaneous speeds and reaches farther than any communication network in the world. This ability to access information as fast as a person can type is an ability that the historical community has looked to take advantage of for almost two decades.

The online archives on the events of September 11th 2001, hurricane Katrina, which touched down in the southern United States in late august 2005, and the occupy wall street movement in 2011 are historical collections of information regarding the specific event that have been preserved digitally in what digital historians are referring to as “digital memory banks”. These digital archives are formal online tools in providing the information regarding a specific historical event. All archives provide an about page as an informative process of information gathering and its dissemination, as well as gatherings of items and collections of materials of personal accounts and witness reports, video evidence of the events and these archives provide additional links to contribute your story about the event. Theses are very significant events that occurred in a modern day and mark the milestone of dissemination of historical information via the world wide web. There are a number of historians and individuals at the forefront of the digital history movement, like our own Dr. Ian Milligan in History 303 at the University of Waterloo, and those at institutions such as the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media who are dedicated to preserving history digitally. These factions work in conjunction with one another in a coordinated effort to preserve historically accurate information on an up-to-date platform such as the internet.

The existing cooperation among federal aid and informative institutions such as the Library of Congress and the American red cross are a fundamental relationship in the dissemination of accurate information to those who search for it. Without the collaboration of several disaster relief and aid organizations researching certain events can have limitations. For the most part these archives save a researcher time when searching for information on an event by providing the majority of the information in one location. This collection of specific information located within one domain name prevents a researcher from having to travel from different sites and different web locations that give regards to the exact same event. Furthermore regarding the more personal accounts of personal witnesses who experienced the event, searching for these bits of information would be a grueling and impossibly tedious task, especially when these bits of information are scattered throughout the web in the form personal blogs that could have potentially limiting characterizations. As well as providing quick and easy access to historical information, the coordination and collaboration of organizations ensures that the information is valid and trustworthy.

These sites rely on personal accounts and contributions that, gathered with and authenticated by several relevant organizations, create an accurate historical archive. However with the ideas of contributions as a vital role in the functionality and authenticity of the archive, it is important to note that these archives do not function like Wikipedia in that inaccurate and or insensitive information is not a right to free speech and can be removed.

Introduction

Hello my fellow few History 303 classmates. My name is Donald Smith and will respond to “Duck”. I am in a latter year of my undergrad than I would care to admit but have recently aspired to a minor in History which is what brings me to History 303 as well as general arts breadth requirements and a desire to discover the process of documentation and categorization of historical information on the web.