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Week of October 21st

The article we were assigned to read “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities” uses a case study to explain digital scholarship and the advantages that electronic media can provide historians. The case study centers around the issue of slavery along the Mason Dixon line and the debate between those who think ideologies about slavery were shared between North and South and those who believed the north was simply more modern and progressive than the South who was resistant to the change. The article concludes by saying that there was no direct relationship between slaveholding and social identity and the way that somebody voted in the election.

I found the article to be a bit difficult to understand, specifically the way in which they were applying technology. The introduction summarizes saying that  “ For analysis, we turn in particular to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to understand the way social structures were arranged spatially. For presentation, we rely on Extensible Markup Language (XML) to connect large amounts of evidence with detailed discussions of the historiography on slavery in the United States on the eve of the American Civil War.” After digging deeper and reading the section that discussing GIS many of my questions were answered such as how they knew whether people were slaveholders or not (they used detailed census records form 1860.)

Although I found this reading to be one of the most confusing of all of the readings we have been assigned I also found it to be very interesting. It is amazing that D.H. Davidson created the Franklin map which features 4,000 households and 2,000 named structures such as churches, schools and mills. The fact that there were detailed census records and maps from this period made this type of historical analysis possible which is probably a more unique example in history. For example I don’t believe they would be able to do a similar experiment applied to the hundred year’s war. A period in history where there was no census and maps were not nearly as accurate as the second half of the nineteenth century.

In addition to the reading when I was exploring hypercities a project by UCLA, I could not figure out how to use the software. When I would slide the time bar back in time in New York City for example nothing on the map changed. The George Washington Bridge, Empire State Building, and Flat Iron Building were all still there. Perhaps I do not understand what the map is supposed to do? I assumed that it would change depending on what point in history you put it to show what the city’s geography looked like during that year.

~ by kroll on October 21, 2012.

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