My “Week” as Social Media Manager

I spent last week writing posts for the Public History program’s social media profiles, just like I have every other week all year (woohoo!). I posted the usual posts I do every week: a #MuseumCrushMonday which featured the Glencoe Mansion Museum and Gallery in Radford (this was a re-feature because the museum had a rededication ceremony last week), a post on new job openings in the public history field, and highlights on any current events at Virginia Tech that relate to public history. With the 100 year anniversary of the U.S.’s involvement in WWI approaching, I focused most of these highlight posts on Daniel Newcomb’s work on VPI’s role in WWI and the exhibit he curated on display in Newman Library. I also posted a shoutout to Dr. Melanie Kiechle, who was quoted in the New Yorker, and retweeted some relevant tweets from institutions around the country.

One of my biggest concerns about VTPH’s social media is its impact and outreach. On average, the Facebook posts reach about 20-30 people. That’s out of 75 people who follow the page. If more people who interact with the posts by liking or commenting on them, then more people see them and potentially interact with them as well. I like each post with my personal profile to help with that and I can typically count on the same 2 or 3 people doing the same (looking at you Rebecca! Thanks!). I really hope that this interaction trend will rise as more students in this class post on the page. We definitely post more regularly than other VT social media profiles for the liberal arts, so there’s a lot of potential to increase our impact.

Tricky Scripts

I’ve just been listening to This American Life recently. I usually only listen to podcasts when I run, and I took all of last week off from exercising since I had so much work to do for class, my thesis, Bertoti, and GA things. Definitely a huge wake-up call from spring break mode. I really want to start listening to Missing Richard Simmons–it comes highly recommended (thanks Emily and Heather).

I spent 12 hours on Thursday in Major Williams. Eight and a half of those hours were spent on my interview with Dr. Wallenstein and finishing my script. I learned that incorporating outside audio into a written script is extremely strange and hard to navigate. I also learned that in no way, shape, or form do I want to work for any kind of broadcasting network. As much as I love listening to podcasts, working on the other side of them is exhausting and simply not my thing.

I’m not sure if this is how it should be, but I think of the script as more of a guide for my podcast than something I should be reading word for word. I struggle to write in a conversational tone when my writing involves research, so I think when I’m recording I’ll go into presentation mode and refer to the script to keep me on track and make sure I cover everything. So I guess I’m saying the relationship between my writing process and the production process is more of a planning session for a presentation.

The biggest challenge of writing the script was the learning curve. I’ve never done anything like this before so I was very uncomfortable. I stuck to the writing that I know how to do, which is more informative and reliant on my research than descriptive, conversational, or “in the moment.” I constantly doubted what I wrote, thinking that I was talking too much or spending too much time describing the Lovings’ case and not the politics around it. I struggled with transitions to the audio clips I’m using–I wasn’t sure how to introduce them or frame them.

I also struggled with the word and page limit because they definitely didn’t add up. I got to 2,000 words at page 6. I ended up going about 300 words over and ended the script at page 7, and still needed about 3 more minutes to reach 20 total. But I knew we were supposed to keep the word count low and I had reached a good stopping point anyway. And since this was a draft, I figured there would be places that I could expand on later. And at this point, like I mentioned earlier, I had been on campus for 12 hours. So I went home.

Photography

A) What is the relationship between storytelling and photography in history? Feel free to include historic photographs in your answer for reference.

Images can serve as their own glimpse into a story, but are most powerful as complements or contributors to an ongoing narrative. I see this most clearly reflected in photos of activists and their work. Images of protestors highlight the power of the individual, but specifically that individual’s role in a larger movement or narrative. As for the relationship between photography and storytelling in history, photos can both provoke questions about a certain period or person while history provides answers and meaning through context.

Photo by Declan Haun, 1963.

This image from Szarkowski’s collection is a perfect example of the individual contributing to a bigger story. It was taken in 1963, at the height of the fight for racial equality and the activism that fueled it. The photo made me want to know more. What was his background? Why was he there? His sign is a straightforward message that also provokes some questions: justice for who? Every African American subject to discrimination? A particular person that he knew of, or maybe was close to?

 

The history of the long struggle for civil rights provides this image with context and meaning. We learn about the Civil Rights Movement, its causes, and its effects because of people like this boy who took action. If that legacy doesn’t demonstrate the power of individual contributions to a cause, then I don’t know what would.

Photo by Ken Banate, 2017

A more recent image from this year’s Women’s March on Washington brought up similar questions and will likely influence what and how people learn about this current wave of activism. The women pictured here contribute to a longer history of internal conflict within modern feminism that emphasizes race as a crucial divide between women. This 2017 march highlighted this conflict from the beginning, from its original name as the Million Women March, which was a clear appropriation of an African American-centered march in the 1990s, and culminated in this photograph. The photographer was a friend of the woman holding the sign, so it was almost certainly staged to illustrate the issues that white feminism poses for all women. Just as with the image by Declan Haun, this photograph will contribute to a larger historical context surrounding American activism that highlights the roles of individuals in embodying social movements.
B) How can we apply Szarkowski’s lessons in composition and design to digital history? 

Szarkowski unknowingly and directly answers this question on page 6. After quoting Charles Baudelaire, Szarkowksi states that the new medium (photography) could not satisfy old standards (traditional art) and that the photographer “must find new ways to make his meaning clear.” This is precisely what digital history does: find new ways to present, depict, and construct historical meaning. Szarkowski goes on to describe the traditional field of art and the image and emphasizes how photographers break from this tradition. Digital history also breaks with traditional academic history, in terms of its content and form as well as its audience. Digital history engages a far broader audience that isn’t necessarily academic, while traditional history is exclusionary in that it only directs itself to other scholars. And though digital history still uses text, there is a much firmer role for visualization and therefore for photographs.

Barthes and Ishmael

Do you think Barthes technique would be helpful in identifying plural meanings in a historical text?

Short answer, yes. I can make a case for at least three of the codes: HER, ACT, and REF.

Long answer–I’ll break it down code by code.

HER (hermeneutic code): this code pertains to any unanswered questions or loose ends presented by the text. To me, the HER code brings to mind detective work which is more or less what historians do–through our writing, we present evidence to support a version of the truth (a.k.a., an argument).

Elements of the HER code, such as unanswered questions, also create space for other historians to enter into the same discussion. This is what we do with secondary sources in our historiography. For example, I’m reading a book by Sandra Barney about medical reform in Appalachia from 1880-1930 that focuses on the roles of women and gender in this reform. Although this book shares the same topic as my thesis, I’m approaching it differently by focusing on the persecution of folk healers. So my thesis aims to tie up a loose end presented by Barney’s work.

ACT (proairetic code): the ACT code implies future action, or what I would call “suspense.” Historians don’t necessarily use suspense as a writing tactic, but we do present an argument that we spend the rest of the time supporting. It’s a stretch, but our thesis statement sets up our paper’s future action. We present a claim to our readers that implies what our argument is and leaves them to find out how we will support it.

REF (cultural code): this code has the strongest significance for historians. Our work not only consistently and purposefully points to larger bodies of knowledge, but also directly contributes to them. We also examine the elements of the cultural code in our work. For example, my thesis examines a particular shift in a scientific body of knowledge, from the atmospheric theory of disease to biomedicine and germ theory–and specifically how that shift played a role in Prohibition Era reform in Appalachia.

What is your own favorite book, and why?  What is your favorite literary and/or scholarly passage?  Give us the passage and then break it down for us –the vocabulary, the literary devices, the form and the meaning.

My favorite book is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It is the only assigned book from high school that I actually enjoyed. Ishmael follows an unnamed narrator’s philosophical journey with his teacher/mentor, a giant gorilla named (you guessed it) Ishmael. Ishmael and the narrator tackle the major problems with the human race by tracing the truth behind biblical myths back to the Agricultural Revolution. I won’t ruin the purpose of the book, but it’s enlightening and a wonderful read.

Here’s my favorite passage. Ishmael speaks first (his dialogue is typically longer), then the narrator.

“The Takers will never give up their tyranny over the world, no matter how bad things got. How did they get to be this way?”

I goggled at him.

“They got to be this way because they’ve always believed that what they were doing was right–and therefore to be done at any cost whatever. They’ve always believed that, like the gods, they know what is right to do and what is wrong to do, and what they’re doing is right. Do you see how they’ve demonstrated what I’m saying?”

“Not offhand.”

“They’ve demonstrated it by forcing everyone in the world to do what they do, to live the way they live. Everyone had to be forced to live like the Takers, because the Takers had the one right way.”

“Yes, I can see that….”

[really long, irrelevant-to-this-blog section about being able to choose between agriculture and hunter-gatherer lifestyle]

“…It’s going to be hard as hell for them to give it up, because what they’re doing is right, and they have to go on doing it even if it means destroying the world and mankind with it.”

“Yes, that’s the way it seems.”

“Giving it up would mean . . . what?”

“Giving it up would mean . . . It would mean that all along they’d been wrong. It would mean they’d never known how to rule the world. It would mean . . . relinquishing their pretensions to godhood.”

“It would mean spitting out the fruit of that tree and giving the rule of the world back to the gods.”

“Yes.”

There are LOADS of literary devices in this passage. The most notable is the biblical reference to the fall of Adam. This is a clear cultural code (REF), where Ishmael is referring to a large body of knowledge–Christianity and its book. There’s a vague reference to the story of Abel and Cain that the two characters explore further in the next chapter.

Ishmael and the narrator use biblical tales to examine human error and the destruction that results from civilization. This places humankind’s current predicaments in a much longer history that directly ties modern industrialization to the Agricultural Revolution (REF).

There are several connotations at work as well, the most obvious being the use of Takers to describe agriculturalists. Hunter-gatherers (some of whom practiced agriculture, which Ishmael acknowledges) are referred to as Leavers. This presents a clear dichotomy between “civilized” and “uncivilized” peoples. Takers are presented negatively as greedy destruction machines that need to control and claim everything in their conquest of the world. Leavers are discussed in gentler, nobler terms as their more sustainable lifestyle is meant to appeal to the reader (SYM).

 

Radio Journalism: Serial and Pop Vultures

Sarah Koenig’s article about the Leakin Park episode of Serial‘s first season pointed to some intriguing parallels to the sort of research that historians do. The public records she had to work with were simply massive as far as quantity and useless without deduction. The way she describes it sounds hauntingly familiar to those of us writing a thesis or dissertation:

So we got this thing, and it was just massive…It was like asking for a sweater and getting an enormous angry ball of yarn in return. It was, initially, defeating.

Like historians, Koenig literally pieced together a story from an incredible number of sources that she had to dig through. She also had to determine how relevant and meaningful they were to her work, and that took even more “detective work.”

However, Koenig and her team had to go above and beyond what historians typically produce out of their own research. She mentions several times that she could have simply written and then read what she found in the public records aloud, but realized that she would lose the story’s grip on her audience with that approach.

This is information I could have simply written about. I could have just said, “Looking at the photos, it seems as if Hae’s body would have been really difficult for Mr. S. to spot,” and then maybe described the photos in script. But this way, we’ve created a scene; we’re having real-time, genuine reactions to what we’re seeing, which is much more compelling to listen to.

Koenig and other radio journalists need a compelling narrative in order to be successful. And while historians should also utilize a compelling narrative in their work, we have a lot more to supplement our narrative with–images, excerpts and quotes from our sources, footnotes that expand on certain topics or points, and (usually) the power of print. By this, I mean that our audience consume our work at their own pace, whereas radio moves its audience along at a pace set by producers.

Just because we have the power of print on our side doesn’t mean we shouldn’t capitalize on the same methods that Koenig used for Serial season one. The way Koenig engages with her sources for this episode is particularly relevant for me, as my research hasn’t exactly been inspiring lately. So here’s my Koenig mantra for the next couple weeks:

Every story you do has obstacles of some sort. Things never come together perfectly. So the trick is to consider each obstacle, think through its particular, problematic features, and figure out if there’s a workaround.

Another remarkable feature of and challenge for radio journalism is the entertainment factor. Their audiences want to be engaged and entertained more than anything else. There’s a purpose behind this type of listening, and an unspoken contract between the journalists/speakers and the audience/listeners. The listeners need to get something out of the story. You can make the case that listeners want to learn something, but I think it’s much more likely that they want to be entertained.

The entertainment factor goes back to Koenig’s construction of a compelling narrative for Serial, but also speaks to shows like Pop Vultures, which focused on pop music in American culture. In Kate Sullivan’s article for Transom, Sullivan traces the influences behind the show, why it was done a certain way, and how the Pop Vultures team constructed an episode. Sullivan distances the show from traditional, NPR-style shows and explicitly points to entertainment as a driving force:

Pop Vultures is, first and foremost, intended as entertainment. We really want to entertain people in the old-fashioned sense—make ‘em laugh, piss ‘em off, keep ‘em listening. The secondary goal is to convey information.

Although I think it’s nice if historians can be entertaining through their work, entertainment is not our priority. We are much more focused on demonstrating significance and situating our research in broader narratives than making people laugh or scream. I’ll leave entertainment to the Kate Sullivans of this world.

Sullivan’s discussion of the Pop Vultures process hits on another component of radio journalism: collaboration. The steps include a producer-brainstorming session, recording sessions with the show’s featured guests, deciding together how to sort material into episodes, editing, and then “publishing.” Sullivan emphasizes the democratic element of this process as its greatest strength.

This is remarkably different from traditional/professional academic history, where one historian does a whole bunch of research and then writes about it and then publishes it (there’s some collaboration on that end). I think the practice history is becoming more and more democratic especially as fields like public history gain/maintain traction, recognition, and acceptance in the academic realm. Digital history is a great example of this–especially Mapping Inequality, a project near and dear to us. The Mapping Congress data and GIS work we’re currently doing is another solid example of collaboration among historians.

In summation: radio journalists can use similar methods as historians, but the product is not the same. Compelling narratives are important for both fields but appeal to different audiences for different reasons. Radio should also be entertaining in order to be successful, while history can forgo the giggles for significance. Radio shows and podcasts are inherently collaborative, while historians are moving into more collaborative work yet still heavily dependent on traditional projects.

Loving, Paper Machines, and Accused

Mildred and Richard Loving, courtesy of Wiki Commons

My podcast project focuses on the political and legal history of interracial marriage in Virginia. It’s only been a couple months since the theatrical release of Loving, a feature film based on the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court Case that legalized interracial marriage. Mildred and Richard Loving brought the case against the state after being imprisoned for marrying each other, and ultimately won their own freedom and that of other interracial couples. 1964, Mildred wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (yes, that Robert F. Kennedy) in protest at the injustice, who pointed her in the direction of the ACLU. Our very own Dr. Peter Wallenstein wrote a book on the same case, titled Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virgina. My episode will follow this case as well as the nationwide anti-miscegenation laws that preceded the 1967 decision. I’ll explore the partisan politics that pitted Republicans against Democrats in writing those laws, as well as political reactions to the Loving case in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.

I haven’t really had any experience with topic modeling and textual analysis. I’ve heard about Paper Machines, which lets you topic model your Zotero library. That would be absolutely spectacular. However, in order to use Paper Machines I’d have to have at least a thousands items stored there. I’m sure I’ll be close by the time I’ve finished my thesis, but I doubt it’ll be close enough.

I started a new podcast today called Accused. It was created by two journalists at the Cincinnati Enquirer and follows the case of a graduate student who was killed a couple days after her graduation. Which is eerie. But so far it’s interesting and similar to In the Dark–the quality of the police investigation will be a prominent theme, or so the first episode promises.

Wiki wiki what?

What is your experience with and perception of Wikipedia?

I was introduced to Wikipedia in middle school as the #1 research no-no. My English and history teachers were very adamant that Wikipedia articles were under no circumstances to be cited as a source since anyone could edit an article, which left too much space for lies to infiltrate our gullible 12-year-old minds.  It wasn’t until college that a professor encouraged our class to use Wikipedia–not for its content, but for its sources.

This has proved to be a helpful tactic when I start a research project. I employed this strategy most recently last semester when I decided I wanted to write my thesis on rodeos (my topic has changed since then). Wikipedia provided me with some basic background information on the American rodeo and its affiliated institutions as well as some critical secondary sources. Of course none of this really matters now that I’m not writing about rodeos, but it’s still a testament to what Wikipedia can do as a resource.

Rosenzweig’s essay on the history and significance of Wikipedia definitely changed my perception of this online encyclopedia. I honestly didn’t think of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia (yeah it’s in the name, I realized that) but more of a Google search result. No matter what I google, I’m 90% sure a Wikipedia article will be one of the first hits. It just sort of blended in with the whole googling process.

I was most struck by the limitations of Wikipedia that Rosenzweig describes as a result of the demographic writing its entries. Outside of academic research, I’ve certainly used Wikipedia to look up “nerd” topics like Isaac Asimov’s books, Game of Thrones theories, and other similar items. It makes so much sense that most Wikipedia content caters to a certain kind of audience–namely white, English-speaking males invested in fantasy realms, be it video games, books, or movies–because those are the same people contributing to the site. Before reading Rosenzweig’s article, I rarely gave a thought to any of the authors on Wikipedia. Placing that much trust in the Internet is kind of frightening.

What is the relationship between computers and humanistic historical inquiry?

The first thing that comes to my mind when dealing with computers and historical inquiry is convenience. I’ve spent my entire day reading through newspaper articles on my laptop screen. I found these articles through an online database with a keyword search. I saved relevant articles to a data management program. This has saved me hours, if not days or weeks, of time I would have spent traveling to and searching through a physical archive. It’s also yielded me more results than what I would find a single trip to that hopefully helpful archive.

Not only is using computers for historical inquiry more convenient, but it’s so much more accessible physically and financially. Without the Internet, I might have never found this one article from that one small newspaper in western North Carolina. I certainly can’t afford to travel up and down the Eastern United States tracking down all of these primary sources. Instead, I can find them literally through my fingertips.

I do have concerns about quality in my research in the midst of this increased access and convenience of the digital realm. I’m only two weeks into the research process for my thesis and I’m already overwhelmed with how much I have to sift through in order to find what sources really speak to my topic. I also worry that search engine algorithms miss or leave out certain sources that could make or break my argument. I’m sure these concerns aren’t anything new for historians, just taking on new forms in the digital age.

Recent podcast listenings: 

I actually just finished In the Dark yesterday (so glad they put in that extra episode to tie up the loose ends!). I was so satisfied with the podcast. The reporting was fantastic, the story was compelling, and the context of the police investigation revealed some critical issues in the justice system. I’ll be going back to the second season of Someone Knows Something, a CBC true crime broadcast that’s similar to In the Dark. SKS follows the more traditional route of trying to solve the crime. It also focuses on cases of missing persons–if anyone has ever watched Without A Trace and Cold Case, it’s the podcast version of those shows combined. It relies much heavier on interviews than In the Dark which I like, but In the Dark has so much more to it. Can’t wait for season two.

Maps on Maps on Maps

1. What is your most compelling experience with maps (outside of your work as a historian)? What is your engagement with mapping as a historian? What have you found the most compelling use of maps in a work of history?

The closest I’ve come to actually using a physical, paper map was in the backseat of my mom’s Subaru Outback. We’d gotten lost on the way to my grandma’s house and pulled over at a rest stop so my parents could figure out where we went wrong. I watched them compare two maps that my mom kept in the glove box. I couldn’t read a single thing as any words were lost in a labyrinth of roads, waterways, and two-dimensional mountains.

Much, much later, when I earned my driver’s license and left for college, I learned how to use GPS on a smartphone. I’m fairly sure this type of map is familiar to all of us so I won’t go into detail (I did have a deja vu moment once when I got lost on the way to Blacksburg and pulled over to fiddle with my phone the way my parents had with their paper maps). That’s the extent of my experience outside of academia.

HOLC map of Austin, Texas

I’ve had more experience with maps as a student. In Dale’s undergraduate Digital History course, I used ArcGIS to overlay two maps of Austin, Texas on top of each other. The final product contributed to Mapping Inequality, which uses redlining maps to trace federal discrimination in housing loans during the New Deal. Operating the ArcGIS software was no piece of cake. It took far more patience than I expected, as I had to start over from scratch several times before I could save any progress. The program’s capabilities, however, are incredible. Mapping Inequality is a fantastic example of that.

HOLC map of Roanoke, Virginia

I also presented research on redlining in Roanoke under Mapping Inequality. The map on the right is the one I worked with, though my research focused more on the Roanoke realtors who collected the data represented in this map. Mapping Inequality has received national attention. The project is certainly the most compelling maps project I’ve seen.

 

MVP proposed route through Montgomery County

Last year, I used digital maps of local areas to identify land parcels that would be affected by several proposed routes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This was part of a semester-long project conducted through the Appalachian Studies program. Our team used these maps to gather data including owners’ names, property addresses along the proposed routes, and tax IDs. The ability to embed this data into a map and make it available with a couple clicks is a testament to the power of digital methods.

 

2. Given your own disciplinary perspective and what you gleaned from Rankin’s book, how has your understanding of territory changed? Please offer a specific section or quote from Rankin’s book that is key to informing your answer.

My understanding of territory is firmly rooted in my research interests. Appalachia is a hotly contested territory, both politically and culturally. Because of this ongoing debate on what “is” and “isn’t” Appalachia, I constantly navigate between different perceptions of the region. There are the political boundaries set in place by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) which include about 420 counties in 13 states. The region’s cultural boundaries are much more permeable. Roanoke acts as a solid example of this. Roanoke County is not included in the ARC’s definition of Appalachia, although culturally there are few, if any, differences between the county and its Appalachian neighbors. Its exclusion is due to economic factors rather than geography.

Map of Appalachia according to the ARC

As my understanding of territory basically shifts between shallow political and cultural borders, Rankin’s book dug far deeper. I was especially struck by his examination of maps as tools of argument. Rankin describes maps as “descriptions of how the world is [and] simultaneously arguments about how the world should be” (114). So maps are actually tools for reinforcing the status quo. By representing a certain territory through a map, its maker argues for this definition of the place to continue.

Economic status of counties in Appalachia, map courtesy of ARC

This is incredibly relevant to Appalachia. Since the ARC defines Appalachia with counties that hit a certain economic standard (read: counties that are poor or struggling), does that mean Appalachia should be understood first and foremost through poverty? This hits on all sorts of negative connotations and stereotypes that have served outsider interests in Appalachia, especially as a region where social and economic reform experiments have played out throughout this country’s history.

It’s certainly true that people in these areas face higher rates of concentrated poverty and that the ARC works to address socioeconomic issues within the region through aid. However, mapping Appalachia through poverty presents critical questions. Would Appalachia, the ARC, or the ARC’s definition of the region cease to exist if these counties breach the threshold? Do certain counties ‘lose’ their ‘Appalachian status’ if their residents move above the poverty line? How does the marriage of Appalachia and poverty by the federal government play into Appalachian identity? I could go on, but the questions would get more rhetorical.

Sources:

https://www.arc.gov/images/appregion/AppalachianRegionCountiesMap.pdf

https://www.arc.gov/counties

https://www.arc.gov/maps

Rankin, William. After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Podcasts & Habermas

The Invisibilia logo

What do I listen to?  

My favorite podcast is Invisibilia, which operates under the NPR umbrella. Hosts Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller, and Hanna Rosin turn science into stories by revealing social norms behind everyday interactions. The quote below is taken from the podcast’s website, and perfectly sums up the content and goals of Invisibilia.

Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.

The episodes follow a narrative format. This includes conversations between the hosts, an overarching plot or theme, and clips of interviews that contribute to each story. The soundbites come from scientists, consultants, people on the street, or the people who act as characters in whatever social phenomenon you’re exploring. Invisibilia pulls you into the narrative like This American Life, but goes deeper into the human experience to explain the social phenomenon behind it. You’d think I’d pick a history podcast for my favorite, but I’ve learned so much more about people with this podcast. Plus I’m blown away by how much they make me like science. 

My favorite episode is “The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes.” The hosts start with Halloween and the power of costumes. Frannie, a young girl who’s scared of airplanes, talks about how she can move past her fear and get on a plane when she dresses up like Amelia Earhart.

The power of sunglasses

Frannie’s story sets the tone, as Miller and Rosin dive in to how sunglasses changed an introvert’s life, how a comedian found himself in women’s clothing, what the Simpsons have to do with science, and how the now stereotypical hoodie image presents challenges for African American families.

I couldn’t embed the actual episode, so here’s a link to the Invisibilia site. “The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes” should be the second episode down. If you want to listen to the first story about the power of sunglasses, go to 4:10. To hear about the comedian’s journey, go to 15:32. For some science and the Simpsons go to 31:30. For the social forces behind “the kid in the hoodie,” go to 37:12.

I enjoy this podcast more than others because it teaches me brand new ideas. These ideas then inform my understanding of how the human world works. I have a firmer grasp on social interaction, which on my own I struggle with. It exposes me to experiences I haven’t had but might, so then I can use that episode as preparation. I also listen to explanations of my own experiences which adds to my personal understanding of self. And, like with the hoodie story, I hear about the social phenomenon I can never experience but can empathize with. Plus all of the hosts are women which is neat. All in all, a very useful podcast.

What is the public sphere?

Like Emily, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer my own question but here we go. As far as the interaction or overlap between the Digital Age and Habermas’ theories on the public sphere, I certainly can see refeudalization occurring digitally. State and society certainly merge as the general public (which I would define as non-authorities, or anyone not involved in policy-making) interact with those who hold power through social media, online news sources, and digital spaces like government websites or pages.

The Internet also exemplifies the evolution from the literary public sphere to the political public sphere, as people use digital publications to facilitate political discussions–especially on social media sites.  The collision of the literary and political spheres should ideally build upon people’s understanding of the human world and how it functions. However, there is considerable damage stemming from this online collision that we can clearly see in this new era of “alternative facts.” This lends justification to Habermas’ critique of the modern public sphere as vulnerable to manipulation. I’m definitely interested to hear other thoughts in class.

Images: http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia

Discussion Questions for Habermas

Here’s your fearless discussion leaders with some questions to consider for class this week. We couldn’t limit ourselves to one question so here’s three and a half!

How does Habermas’ examination of the changing public sphere coincide with digital history?

How does the structural transformation of the public sphere change how we might do history (digital history in particular)?

Has the digital age created new public spaces? How would these spaces translate into Habermas’ work?

xoxo – Ellen and Emily

P.S. Since we couldn’t narrow the questions down to a single point, feel free to just answer one in your post and be prepared to discuss the others in class.