Week 5: Lincoln and the Telegraph
As this class comes to an end, I have had a lot of time to reflect on everything that we have learned this semester. We have talked about everything from cave paintings and fire signals to memes and internet regulations. Throughout the course, we kept expanding, amplifying, and modifying our definition of the Information Age, talking through digital technology, the spread of information, and a rapidly globalizing world. We dove deep into the issues plaguing the media today, like gaming addiction, social media privacy, and many more hot topics that called for a long discussion about the consequences of the internet. From looking to where the spread of information has been, in the form of newspapers, books, and oral history, to where it is going, in the forms of implanted chips and smart technology.
What originally caught my eye about this course was the connection between digital studies and history, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic where these two studies are merging more than ever. In modern history, it is nearly impossible for historians to discuss events without talking about the impact of technology like the internet, social media, and the news. From the invention of the telegraph, the expanded communication in the world allows for more interactions cross-culturally to create a more globalized world. The questions that historians are asking themselves, therefore, focus on how globalization affects society in the long run, a question which will not have an answer until it is far in the past.
The biggest thing that I have learned from this class is that information and how we as a society interact with it is constantly changing due to innovations in technology and communications. I almost feel like a version of this class should be required for history majors to gain the insight necessary to changing technology and documents and understand its evolution and use. Historians constantly have to use different forms of technology in their studies, from telegraphs to manuscripts to tweets. I think that, in the future, a class combining digital studies and history will be required to graduate. It is that important to the future of history and its study.
“Information Age,” on Pinterest. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/426856870913762238/
“Figure 1: Evolution of Communication,” in Science 10 Section M. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://sci10sectionm.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/timeline.jpg
It took me longer than I expected to complete my own personal “test” of the timeline. Inserting my information into the already uploaded document was the easiest part; the hard part was setting up the timeline myself and trying to figure out what to do. I had to brush up on the old History 297-298 to remember how to craft a timeline and the steps necessary to accomplish that. After I remembered that, it took less than five minutes to finish my test of the timeline.
Along with that, I had to figure out where in the preceding timeline I could add information that would be informative, related to the subject, and a topic that is not talked about commonly. The timeline has the entries of several classes with valuable insights from each student, and so looking for gaps in the source material from the previous students took a second to research. With my path in the education program, finding out that the first female video game designer of one of the first interactive story-based video games was a fourth-grade teacher threw me off and made me think critically about the role of technology in the classroom. I chose Mabel Addis, who, with the programming of William McKay, created the Sumerian Game, because she is inspirational and an essential part of digital and video-game history. Although little remains of the original game, the shreds of evidence that we have regarding its existence remain in a museum.
Following is my final project, an entry on Mabel Addis and William McKay.
Henley, Stacey. “Remembering Mabel Addis (image).” In “Remembering Mabel Addis, the first video game writer, on international women’s day.” Accessed April 20, 2020. https://www.gamesradar.com/uk/remembering-mabel-addis-the-first-video-game-writer-on-international-womens-day/
Leonard, J.M. and R. L. Wing. “Advantages of Using a Computer in Some Kinds of Educational Games.” In IEEE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, vol. 8, no. 2. doi: 10.1109/THFE.1967.233315.
|Wing, RL. “Two Computer-Based Economics Games for Sixth Graders.” American Behavioral Scientist. Accessed April 20, 2020. doi:10.1177/000276426601000306|
Facebook and Media Identity
This week we got into some pretty hefty topics regarding media identity and how much we are able to control that identity as a whole. We first started off this week discussing the lack of privacy from companies in the media and how smart marketing tactics directly remind us that these companies watch our internet presence. Ending the week, however, we landed on a topic that closely coorelated with our assignment for this week. We talked about media presence and our digital identity, and how that identity can fluxuate and change over medias and be entirely different than our in-person identity. We also discussed the danger that our media presence can cause use in the case of jobs and a person’s status as a very public figure in the world. Along that line, the Facebook profiles for historical events or figures related to the information age pushed me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to think critically about generational relationships with technology and how that might transfer given the right tools and technologies.
My profile on Ralph Baer taught me a lot about early video games, especially regarding his role in the at-home console system. His early life as an immigrant and push for education after he was kicked out of school in pre-WWII Germany because of his status as an immigrant led him to become an educated engineer at Sanders Engineering. There, he received the funding to create what he jokingly called the “Brown Box,” but what would later be renamed as the Odyssey. His relationship with technology and innovation continued to grow and expand until his eventual death in 2014, and so he may have had interactions with Facebook and known what it was, even though he may not have experienced the social media platform himself. With that in mind, I thought to curate a social media presence that would be representative of his prior and almost modern understanding of information and technology.
“Ralph Baer,” accessed April 8, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/ralph.baer.39/.
The Telegraph. “Table Tennis (image).” Ralph Baer Obituary. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11280163/Ralph-Baer-obituary.html
Smithsonian. “The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electric Games.” National Museum of American History, Behring Center. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/the-father-of-the-video-game-the-ralph-baer-prototypes-and-electronic-games/biography
Smithsonian. “The Brown Box (image).” National Museum of American History, Behring. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1301997.
Steinbeiser, Andrew. “RIP Video Game Pioneer Ralph Baer (image).” Comicbook. Published December 10, 2014. Accessed April 3, 2021. https://comicbook.com/news/rip-video-game-pioneer-ralph-baer/
Weirdly fitting for this week’s topic of video games and obsolete technology, Ralph Baer, originally born Rudolf Heinrich Baer in 1922, moved to the United States from Germany shortly before World War II. He served in the military for the U.S. and used the funding of the G.I. bill to get his Bachelors in Science in Television Engineering from the American Television Institute of Technology. After his graduation, he received a job at Sanders’ Associates, where he requested government funding to try to engineer a gaming console that was more compact and user-friendly. He succeeded, and what he called the “Brown Box” was conceived. The console was renamed the Magnavox Odyssey, featured games like table tennis, a game similar to pong in which two players move their character on the screen to hit a ball back and forth. The concept, although simple, gave Baer the nickname “Father of Video Games” for his contributions to the industry and the idea of gaming at home.
I thought that the idea of purposefully rejecting modernity and technology may play into Ralph Baer’s profile on Facebook. He is quoted as to saying “what I created got abominated,” meaning that his original idea in the system had become so commercialized and used as a means to an end that he rejected the nickname people give him and believes that the culture surrounding video games was not a good thing. On this other hand, His bown box laid the foundation for future games and he was rewarded for his work in the field with the National Medal of Technology for the applications of the technology he engineered.
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/ralph.baer.39
Live Tweeting the Cuban Missile Crisis
Social media is something that is a relatively new concept and method of communication. When we first started talking about this project and the idea of “live tweeting” something, I first had to consider what live tweeting was and what it looked like in daily life. Especially in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and politicians response to the public via the media, this project made me look at how media is used to convey a point and promote a message.
What inspired me to pick the subject of the Cuban Missile Crisis is the previous U.S. president’s use of twitter and how something like the standoff between the U.S. and a foreign government like Russia (or North Korea) would play out on social media. Taking the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was already one of the most publicly broadcasted issues in the 1960s, and trying to figure out what the maint contributors’ social media presence would look like was a challenge that I wanted to face. In the process, I could use tweets from political figures in the U.S. and foreign countries to look at the use of social media and what type of message or propaganda would be used. I had some fun with it, of course, but it was also fun to try to fashion the social media presence of historical figures such as Fidel Castro, Nikita Kruschev, and John F. Kennedy.
Environmental Propaganda Campaign
My experience with the propaganda campaign was fully realizing how embedded in the news that we receive propaganda is with targeted campaigns and images being held up in the media to support a public figure. Although it was only for King Kandy, a fictional character from Candyland, the research that I did looking up examples of the use of the environment in political campaigns really opened my eye to the media exploitation of wording in articles and around a political subject.
Looking at figures like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Peron, and other dictators throughout the twentieth century, environmental issues actually played a role in how they appealed to the public. Utilizing these sources, it was easy to look at the language that these people use and how they manipulate their phrases to put themselves in a better life. That concept of twisting a piece of legislature like the fictional “Klean Kare Act” is something that I didn’t know a lot about about until I started this project. Overall, I picked this project as my top previous class project, and I was not wrong in doing so. This project made me think about how politics influence everyday media and bias to portray a figure in a certain light, even if that person is King Kandy.
Colorizing Anna Bishop
I chose the portrait of Ann Bishop, photographed between 1855 and 1865, because I could not pin down the exact colors used in the original photograph and so I had to figure out what do to. I originally started with a different portrait, but it was of an older woman, which was harder to portray accurately in Pixlr. After watching a few videos, it was still definitely harder than I anticipated. I spent a fair amount of time on this project, and as I did it I gained an appreciation for people who recolor and restore old photographs and paintings. When I finally got around to trying out the automatic colorizing app, it was not what I expected it to look like. Instead of gaining insight into the real colors of the dress and the wall behind her, as well as the curtains, the automated picture turned, for the most part, yellow. Overall, I like my creation in Pixlr more than the automated version, but I think, with more experience and time in the future, this is something that I would like to explore further in the future.
Portrait of Anna Bishop [1855-1865]. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017897508/.
Brown, Mellen, and a Class Discussion
The first thing that I would like to talk about this week is how insightful and helpful the discussion was this week to fully flesh out the influence of paper and printing on the spread of communication, particularly in the United States. Within that, the class also discussed how to think critically about sources and how to synthesize, analyze, and criticize the sources that we use in this class and beyond.
On the readings themselves, Brown’s history and analysis of information diffusion in the English colonies states that,“The initial purpose and function of printing in the colonies was…to reinforce the top-down model of information diffusion that was characteristic of 17-18th century societies”(Brown, 40). He goes on, however, to explain the effect of the Glorious Revolution in Great Britain on free speech in the British colonies, and that free speech and the increased literacy and education led to the spread of revolutionary ideas. Mellen gives even more context to the American Revolution, delving into early papermaking methods and the shortage of paper in the British colonies. The invention of wood pulp paper and the political tensions demanding more free speech in Great Britain aligned in a way that propelled the revolution. These two secondary sources and their research contribute to a larger conceptual idea of the causes of the American Revolution, a subject that drives our conversation of the Information Age in this class.