Crowdsourcing History

Hope all’s well, everyone.

On Thursday, we are scheduled to review a brief history of sound reproduction. Initially, I was going to deliver a lecture on sound from the 1850s forward; however, I’m thinking we would all be a touch more engaged if we collectively gather (or “crowdsource”) material for the class meeting, discuss why it matters for a history of sound reproduction, and what—at the end of it all—we ignored or overlooked. Also, this exercise will give us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the process of creating histories of media and technologies and the issues of representation that are always entangled in that process.  For me, during such projects I’ve found the following questions helpful: History, but for whom? By whom? How? And for what purposes? Perhaps you’ll find them helpful, too.

So, for Thursday’s class (and the balance of quarter), I have started composing an “interactive history of sound reproduction,” a class resource to which we will all add content.

To begin adding content, please follow these steps:

(1) Visit the interactive history and peruse it. Check out the thumbnails, the timeline, the way information is designed and organized, and the searchability of the content.

(2) Next, visit the Google spreadsheet (!) where all of the content is listed. Peruse it, too, including all of the ten columns. Note what people (maybe just me?) have already added.

(3) Now that you have a sense of the project, start thinking about what you think should be added to the interactive history. What is not there that should be? From your own experiences, what do you know about sound reproduction that you would like to share with the class? Once you have something in mind, start gathering information with one event, technology, or artifact in mind.  Then you will add it to the spreadsheet. (More details on how-to below.)

Before we continue, here are the constraints: you will only add ONE row to the spreadsheet. That means just one entry in the history. So be strategic. And during Thursday’s class, be prepared to explain your decision to the class.

And here’s another hitch: let avoid any “redundancies,” meaning you cannot add what someone else already added. Sure, you might share a technology (e.g., the turntable), but there must be a meaningful difference (e.g., in terms of time, the people involved, etc.) between each entry in our history. Fair enough?

Finally, let’s avoid drawing too much upon Wikipedia for this exercise, and not because Wikipedia is not informative or worth discussing for historical projects. My rationale here is that it’s an obvious go-to, and I’d personally like to make this interactive history do more than, say, Wikipedia’s existing entry for “History_of_sound_recording”. (Sure, you can start there, but then where to after that? Or better yet: what’s missing from Wikipedia?)

Here are the remaining steps, organized by columns in the spreadsheet:

(4) {name} : add your first name. That way there’s attribution. (Note: this spreadsheet will not be made public, and your contributions to it will remain private.)

(5) {label} : This is essentially the title for your entry. What do you want it to be called? How will you clearly and concisely present information to the class?

(6) {technology} : What kind of sound reproduction technology is involved? A magnetic recorder? A phonograph? A turntable? A computer? If you are not exactly sure, then don’t worry. We’ll discuss this column more in depth during class on Thursday.

(7) {year} : What is the most appropriate year to attribute to your entry? For instance, when did the event happen? When was the performance held? When was the novel or patent published? For now, we’re just using the year. Don’t worry about the month or day. Thanks!

(8) {author} : Who is involved? You can add more than one person. And you can understand “author” broadly here. The word is not meant to imply only a person who writes. My apologies for any confusion. (I was trained in literary criticism.)

(9) {tag} : Since this is a media studies course, please tag your entry with a medium: patent, play, novel, audio recording, poem, concert, etc. Again, we’ll discuss this column more in depth on Thursday. For now, decide what you think is a best fit.

(10) {image}: Find an image that best depicts your entry, grab the URL for it (I’ll show you how during Tuesday’s class), and copy it into the spreadsheet.  Please make sure that the image is in the public domain, or it is licensed (e.g., by Creative Commons license) such that we can use it. Ok? This is another column we’ll discuss on Thursday.

(11) {thumbnail} : So here’s the deal for this one: It’s supposed to be a 150 x 150 pixel “thumbnail” of the image above (#10, {image}). If you do not have the means to make a thumbnail of your image (or you are not just how), then no worries at all.  We’ll make thumbnails later.  For now, just copy and paste this URL into the thumbnail field:

(12) {text}: Write some text (just a few words) that you think best describes the entry. Alternatively, you can grab a quote, as long as you credit the author and source.

(13) {url}: When people select an entry in the interactive history, there’s a “More…” link, which takes them to another website. Choose a website where you think they should go and add the URL here. Things to consider: is the information from a reliable source? What will keep people interested? When compared with print, what might a web-based history do more persuasively? (Think video, audio recordings, or the like here.)

(14) The spreadsheet auto-saves. So, when you are finished adding your row and all of the required information to the ten columns, then revisit the history and make sure everything works as you planned!

If you run into any problems (technical or not), then don’t hesitate to email me. It could very well be that my instructions are not clear, or that I forgot something.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Thursday! It should fun!

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