Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Technology in the most unexpected places

Throughout the election coverage CBC has featured a segment on digital technology called Ormiston Online, which was constantly monitoring people's responses to the election through electronic services. The CBC followed youtube videos, blogs, and a site called Twitter. The idea being that a lot of campaigning takes place online and that people can easily respond to election events via the Internet. I was originally surprised that CBC would venture into the realm of digital technology to gage public opinion, but they deserve credit for acknowledging the growing digital medium which most people depend upon.

Twitter is a service that attempts to keep people connected by having them answer one question--"What are you doing right now?" The majority of the promotional information on the site is based around connecting people with friends, family and anyone else who may want to know what you are doing at any point in the day. Twitter claims to let people be "hyper-connected" and that it "puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload." Initially I was baffled as to why this site would be useful for political study or have any type of academic substance.

However upon closer evaluation I can see some of the merits of the Twitter site. Like blogs you can set your twitter pages up in a RSS feed reader which adds to the convince of the process. Also Twitter provides a quick, immediate look at opinion which is useful when you are attempting to gain a general overview of popular opinion. I think that Twitter could even be used in an academic setting. For example if a group of students all subscribed to Twitter and followed each others entries, Twitter could be used as a way to highlight what progress was happening on a group project.

The more I am exposed to different types of digital technology and different methods of digital communication the more options I see available for academic and historical communities. Twitter, Blogger, forums, podcasts and various other types of technology allow for an increasing connectivity between people which has the potential to greatly aid academics who desire both an academic and a public audience for their work.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I recently was exposed to [murmur] which is kind of oral history documentary project. Essentially the project collects and makes accessible personal stories about specific locations. The project is a neat combination of technology and traditional oral history. The murmur project exists in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Dublin, Edinburgh, Galway and San Jose . When a person is at a murmur location they can dial a number on their cell and begin to listen to various personal histories and memories associated with the location. Individuals also have the option of adding their own personal story about the location to the murmur archive. Additionally all the oral stories are avaliable on the [murmur] website for those who may not have the option of actually visiting the physical locations.

One of the things I found most appealing about this project is that a lot of the murmur locations are places that may not be considered overly historical, but still have personal and community histories attached to them. This demonstrates the extent to which history exists in the community at large and in places accessible to the large majority of people. Murmur seems like an engaging way to promote and collect local histories, while exploring the ways in which individuals interpret history and the world around them.