Thursday, 23 February 2012

Don McCullin

Considering Vietnam
Last Friday I went to the Imperial War Museum to attend a conference called 'Considering Vietnam.' Due to my Dissertation revolving around the media and the conflict in Vietnam I thought this was an excellent opportunity to take up.  This blog post is a way for me to talk about the first speaker of the conference, a man named Don McCullin.

Don McCullin
The first speaker was Don McCullin, a man who documented the Vietnam War through his photography and is more broadly recognised as one of Britain's most influential photographers. During the Vietnam War journalists, photographers and news crews had the ability to access all areas and photograph, film and publish a lot more material than they can now. Don McCullin was no exception, accessing dangerous war areas in Vietnam and even putting his life at danger, armed only with a camera. During the conference Don McCullin told us that he competed to take the best possible photographs, photographs that would represent himself, his career and humanity. He openly trespassed on uninvited territory, not to offer salvation but to take photographs. Whilst on tour in Vietnam, Don McCullin was in dangerous territory and even came so close to a bullet whilst crawling through a field that the bullet struck his camera.

Don McCullin has created some of the most memorable images of a number of different conflicts. The First image that I've chosen is of a shell shocked soldier, taken during the battle of Hue in 1968. It is so well known that in an interview with a journalist Don McCullin stated "It kind of gets on my nerves now. . . because it has appeared everywhere." An exhibition at the Imperial War Museum entitled "Shaped by War" is dedicated to Don McCullin's photography, even displaying the camera that took a bullet during the Vietnam War.

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Google Analytics

During the workshop last Friday as well as creating a Wordle I also set up a Google Analytics account. After being completely confused by the whole thing I finally got it working. Google Analytics provided me with a html code to copy and paste into my blog's html. After this, Google Analytics accesses the information from your blog and lets you track who is using and viewing your website. Here are a few examples of what it can tell you;
  • The location of the viewer
  • Whether they are a returning visitor or a new visitor
  • How long they spent on your website
  • What web browser they are using

Just above I have print screened the overview page about my blog. Even though this hints at how hugely unpopular my blog is, I am able to track a number of things. On the time line at the top the dates range from the ninth of Feb (When I created my Google Analytics account) to the present day. With the information just under the timeline I can see that I have had thirteen page visits, eleven of these are new visitors and two are returning visitors. I am also able to see that the average time a visitor spends on my site is five minutes and fifty-seven seconds.

This second print screen comes under the 'Browser and OS' tab - This allows me to see what browser the visitor is using to view my blog. In relation to my blog, this shows that five views come from Firefox, four from Internet Explorer, three from Google Chrome and one from Android Browser.

Although I had difficulty setting up Google Analytics at first, it is well worth using. Blogger does provide you with some information, such as how many views your blog has received and where they are viewing it from. However, it does not provide no where near as much information as Google Analytics does. Well worth downloading.

Friday, 10 February 2012

A website everyone should try

"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes."       

In week three of the Digital Histories module we were allowed to try and improve our blogs. As well as setting up Google analytics I had a little go on Wordle. I think the quote above taken from the website sums it up superbly. This website was really easy to use and the picture just above is a word cloud for my last blog post. (If you click on the image above it will take you to the website) As you can see the word that took greater prominence is "Internet!" closely followed by "web" This is because I am blogging about history online. The website has a number of tabs located at the top of the web page and one of these tabs is called 'create'. If you click on this tab all you have to do is insert the text you want to appear in your cloud and click submit! 

To make my cloud I copied and pasted the text from my previous blog post and clicked submit. After this there are a number of things you can do such as change the layout and the font. It was really simple and a lot of the themes looked really good and exciting. After you've found a layout you like you can save to the public library and retrieve the html code so it can be incorporated into your own blog. To put my word cloud onto my blog on the left hand side I created a new gadget and pasted the html code in. it's really quite fun to use and definitely worth a go!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Publishing online

Why do historians not publish more of their work on the internet?
The internet is nearly always described by lecturers as being unreliable and students are generally told to stay away from the likes of Wikipedia etc. However, I think if you know how to use the internet properly for research then there really is not any problem. Furthermore, with Wikipedia being such a highly maintained site, information that may be factually wrong is nearly always picked up on.

So why should historians be put off by putting their work on the internet? Perhaps the idea that a book holds more authority over a web site is still fairly rife amongst most scholars which puts academics off from publishing primarily on the internet. However, more and more is being added to the Internet everyday, just like musicians have started to make their music accessible to those online, books and documents are also being uploaded to the web. In 2007, the band Radiohead released their album, In Rainbows, as a digital download only available via the band's web site. Instead of paying a fixed price, people were prompted to pay whatever they wanted. It was the first major album whose price was determined by what the consumer wanted to pay, (and they didn't have to pay anything at all).

So why can't historians take a leaf out of their book, perhaps encourage the interested reader to pay what they like? There are many cases of scholars uploading their whole book/publication onto the internet to be viewed by the public. Dan Cohen is an associate professor at the George Mason University whose main focus is within digital humanities and the impact of new media and technology on all aspects of knowledge. An example of a scholar uploading their book for access to anyone is Cohen's Digital History: A guide to gathering, preserving,and presenting the past on the web.

The Reason I like books

As much as I love the internet for all things historical, such as Jstor, Google Books and most sites ending with .edu. There are a couple of reasons I like to have books, (perhaps not for the most conventional reasons). In some cases I couldn't help but give a reason as to why the Internet is better..

1. First of all, I do love the way you can flick through a book so freely. (However, my love for flicking through books has been overtaken by my love for the use of "CTRL + F" and the search box in Google Books).
2. My bookshelf is 90% made up of history books (intelligent, huh?) perhaps not.. (even though I have a lot of history books I have probably only read a few pages from each book. It would appear I am spending money to just read a few key pages of a book).
3. Buying a book makes me feel like I'm doing revision.. Suffering from writer's block on your dissertation? head on over to Amazon, buy a relevant book and put off the work for 3 to 5 days whilst you wait for the book to be delivered.
4. Having books can make you feel intelligent. Books can be displayed at crucial times in front of people you want to try to impress. "Oh.. that? That's just my copy of War and Peace?. For when I want some light reading"

To be honest though, I feel like history on the internet has contributed more to my (limited) knowledge than books has ever done. The internet is at my fingertips. If I hear something that I find vaguely interesting, the first thing I tend to do is grab my laptop to Google it, not go out and find a book that contains the relevant information.