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CSDH 2014 - Timelines

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matt milner

on 27 May 2014

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Transcript of CSDH 2014 - Timelines

The Problems
Teaching Time: Crowd-Sourcing an Historical Timeline in Large Undergraduate Survey Courses
History Introductory Surveys
An Introduction after all ... so Level the playing field for a diverse student body...

The 'Grand Narrative'?
Long chronologies - 1000years+ in 12-14 weeks
Chronological Approach perpetuate perceptions about Historical Scholarship?
Themes Difficult to outline or detail
Often duplicate textbooks

How we use digital techniques to
engage 150+ students in historical study?
create investment and interest in learning
disrupt and undermine perceptions of the nature of Historical Scholarship as 'memorization of facts'
highlight the contingent nature of historical interpretation
the role of choice and collective / individual interest in history
A Solution? Class-Sourced Timeline
Crowd-Source timeline to
create student engagement
teach historical methodologies
loosen the constraints of a chronological approach
introduce basic digital techniques on the first day

Collective Endeavour - "Flip Classroom?"
The Historical Timeline
The timeline as a way to order discrete events and historical epochs - even more basic, not output of quantitative analyses
Time as measurable unit
An historical 'cartography'?
Chronometry & Sequence in Historical Causality

Representation of Historical Change?
What is the 'base unit'?
Is a timeline always linear per se?
Open Source JS Tool
IE Plug & Play
GoogleSpreadsheet OR Local DB using JSON
Multimedia Capabilities
Lightweight, Responsive
CSS Tweaking
plays nice with jQuery
All the Pieces
Use common open-source libraries and framework consisting of
Mac OS X Server - Apache2

jQuery & jQueryUI
Working with Dates
Switching between Calendars requires integer-based solution
Timestamp doesn't work pre-1901
Reliance on Date Object requires exactitude & all parts
Problems - Limitations
Javascript uses 4 Oct switch; pre 4 Oct 1582 weekdays are wrong
MySQL '1000-01-01' to '9999-12-31'
other DBs start at 1752
Is the Date Object / Type "Western"??
Putting it Together
TimelineJS Components
Dedicated subsection of course website
Ajax calls to MySQL DB loads JSON based on calendar, tag, and date parameters

Non-TimelineJs Components
Browse People, Places, Things and View their Events
Modalboxes for event views
Control panel for students' work
Viewer for Assignment Marking by Instructors
The Assignment - Implementing
First 5 class days devoted to Timeline Assignment
Individual work, but groups to help talk through process

Class of 180 students broken up into 38 groups of 5-6
Log in and 'claim' randomized selection of time 'block'
Earlier centuries (5th to 10th) the blocks were 100 years; 11th-13th, 50 years, and 14th onwards 25 years
Find event that interests them using any source to start
Instructors in classroom to assist and discuss methodological themes
Creating Events
Student Feedback & Outcomes
Extremely positive on assignment despite initial disorientation
Critical feedback focused primarily on the tool and use
Clearer distinction needed between
'event' and 'reflection' components
Citations & Documentation
Use of Tags

Requests for
EndNote & Zotero or other RIS compliant tools
GIS / Google Maps
Control Lists & Vocabularies
APIs? OCLCNum / Open Library?

Browser Testing, User Management & LDAP
Citation Formatting?
Customization issues with Minified JS & CSS
Distinguish Between Different Classes & Courses

Use OpenKnowledge TimelineMapper? Moodle Plugin?
Some Timelines
Needs Assessment
Working with TimelineJS
Created MySQL table using the Google Spreadsheet template
Added calendar field to JSON object
'Asset' required, but not used
Calls via jQuery $.POST into TimelineJS
Working with Dates
Possible solution - Julian Day
store ranges as strings using Julian days
use built in PHP & Javascript libraries to transform as needed
sort dated data using string-integers, not dates

Julian Day - calculated from 4713 B.C.
Integer+decimal for subdivisions
Midnight is .5 - the day starts at noon
Used by Astronomers across calendar changes
The Assignment - Overview
500 word encyclopedia-style entry on an event that:
Was no longer than 3 years at most
Involved Europeans or took place in Europe between 400 and 1750AD

Three Stages:
Event Name, basic dates, and two sentences by 17 Sept
Revise over term
500 Word entry + 500 Word reflection by 3 Dec
The Timeline
Searchable by tags, three major european calendars
Can view group's events
Individual Authors remain anonymous to class
Students can see revisions over term
Further Questions
How do students think about 'historical events'?
Stable entity?

What's the for a collective digital tool in the history classroom?
Historical integrity & accuracy and functionality

Role of Date Object, cross-calendrical operability, and dating theory in creation of historical digital tools

Alternative layouts and use of student-generated data
Reactions & Outcomes
Powerful hands-on Pedagogical technique for teaching history as constructed narrative

Interface + Choice = altered view of historical 'fact'
Affordance of the Interface bring historical analytics to the fore

Large-spread disavowal of initial findings & views
Critical view of sources and awareness of complexities of historical 'significance' and importance

Crowd-source demonstrates shared & divergent interests & themes within the 'community' of the classroom
Historical interpretation as interest
Thematics & Constitution of 'History' - Big Men or more?
The Mini-Lectures
Break down historical methodologies & issues
Present history and chronology as something malleable and constructed
Mirrored the input Fields of the 'Add Event' form
What's in a Name? Periods, Events, & Things
Whose History? People and Sources
When? Dates & a Brief History of Time
Where? Locating History - Places, Spaces, and Minds
Why? Thinking about Historical Significance & Reading Between the Lines
In the Classroom
Students' Events referenced in lectures and discussions
By Period, Major Event, or Theme (tags)

Persistent Historiography in the course
Do students' perceptions of importance meet the instructors'?
Historiographical interests
Gaps & Coverage
Indicate variability of historical account & narrative
Role of 'Names' and 'Big Men'
20th Century Historiographical Shifts
Choice & Interest: Identity, memory, and narrative
The Unix Timestamp or Epoch
Jan 1, 1970 00:00:00 UTC
is 00000000

Date Object
Omeka - Neatline
Calendar Transition in Europe 1582-1590

2299160: Italy, Poland-Lithuania, Portugal, Spain & Empires
2299226: France & Empire, Lorraine
2299526: Catholic Germany & Tyrol
2299596: Carinthia & Styria
2299603: Brabant, Flanders, Hennegan & some south. prov.
2299619: Bohemia, Moravia, Lusatia
2299624: Catholic Switzerland
2299625: Silesia
2301003: Hungary
2302153: Transylvania
Matthew Milner - McGill University
Timeline as Narrative
"This exhibition proposes that Believers are people who depend on a collection of narratives to explain the world around them.

These narratives are stories that weave together a series of facts (or assertions) so they make sense. Narratives create what is true for the believer, which is more germane to the believer's life than facts.

Facts are like dots on a graph. The narrative is the curve that connects them, that gives isolated data points meaning, and gives meaning shape. Obviously, this particular graphical metaphor for a theory of epistemology emerges naturally from the way I have come to create timelines, which I consider pictures of narratives."

- Ward Shelley, artist's notes for his show "Unreliable Narrator" 2012
Easy to set up

No additional user accounts
Access control for student confidentiality etc.
No plugins & cross-browser compliance
Easy data input & Suitable for Undergraduates

Date - possibility for handling multiple calendars
Tagging & Querying
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