Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Final Portfolio

Published onMay 06, 2023
Final Portfolio

For my final portfolio, I decided to include my first two assignments with revisions based on the feedback I received from my classmates and Dr. Davis. While revisiting and revising these assignments, I found that they seemed less complex than when I first created them. What I mean is that I was extremely intimidated by these assignments at first. Now, I feel as though I am comfortable with reviewing digital sources and could see that knowing how, when, and what to do when critiquing them might have benefits in my historical research in general. For instance, reviewing a digital source before using it could confirm its viability and tell me more about any bias that could come up in its content. That information is important when trying to maintain an unbiased voice in your own research.

I also noticed while revisiting these assignments that peer reviewing is extremely helpful. This is my last semester of college, and throughout my entire college career before now, I held onto the belief that peer reviewing was kind of like a last resort when you did not know where to go with your research. I understand that there is no reason to think that, and I have no clue as to why I did, but the feedback from my classmates and Dr. Davis proved to be very helpful in putting together my final portfolio. They raised questions and brought my attention to things that I would have not thought about if I was to revise the assignments on my own. This changed my mind on that topic. From now on, whether I want to or not, I will be asking for someone to give me feedback on any research that I do because of this.

Finally, I feel as though this class in general really helped me in learning more about digital history and humanities. It is clear that I was extremely intimidated by this class at the beginning of the semester. I think it was mostly lack of confidence in my ability to understand digital concepts as well as my lack of exposure to them. While I still do prefer more tangible methods of researching and presenting history, I feel like I learned many skills that will prove to be great tools for me in the future. I feel a lot less intimidated by and a lot more experienced with digital concepts, and for that, I am glad that I took this class!

Assignment 1a: Project Gutenberg Digital Source Critique:

Project Gutenberg [1] is a free online collection of digitized eBooks. According to the Project Gutenberg website, the Project was the “first provider of free electronic books,”[2] which completely transformed accessibility for those who wish to read and write published books. The books come in multiple formats that you can download from any smart device and print for free. This is possible because the entire Project Gutenberg catalog is taken from public domain. Work that is taken from public domain means no publisher or author holds any formal rights to it. Work in the public domain ends up there for a variety of reasons. For instance, it could have either been ineligible for copyright in the first place. Or perhaps the copyright protection has expired. Copyright protections do have expiration dates, and authors who wish to maintain private ownership of their work must renew these protections. If not, the work will enter public domain; in simpler words, this means “it is owned by the public at large.” [3] Sometimes work is in the public domain under circumstances such as the party who had rights to it passed away and their private ownership over the legal rights to the work has expired. In some cases, legal rights are intentionally renounced by whoever owned it. Work from other countries are available through the public domain, but it is important to recognize that different countries have different rules and durations when it comes to copyright. So, a work that is a part of public domain in one country could still be copyrighted in another country. Project Gutenberg is based in the United States, therefore it only digitizes books that are not protected under copyright in the US. By digitizing these works, Project Gutenberg simply spreads their opportunity to reach more people by being an easily accessible source and allows them to make a larger impact.

Project Gutenberg was created in 1971 by a man named Micheal Hart, and its mission statement is “to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.” [4] As mentioned before, there is no financial motivation behind the Project. It is run by volunteers, and anyone can submit a book to be reviewed and digitized if it meets Project Gutenberg’s criteria. Although some may consider this an unreliable source because anybody can submit and access the information on the website, I believe that Project Gutenberg is viable because of the extensive list of criteria and review processes of what books they receive. The website includes ample information about what their criteria is to submit a potential eBook and what their philosophy behind the Project itself is. However, despite the website saying that the Project is not politically motivated or biased, it is a good idea to look out for bias and confirm accuracy of the information they come across as only volunteers run the Project. What makes it such a unique and important collection of sources is that it heavily impacts all kinds of people. It is accessible and useful to those in the academic world who are searching for easy access to particular books that would further their knowledge, as is it accessible and useful to those who are simply curious about a certain topic and those who would just like to read for entertainment.

When exploring the Project Gutenberg website, I found it to be very easy to navigate. All you have to do is search for a title, author, or keyword for the eBook you are looking for. Then, a variety of eBook options will appear on the screen complete with a picture of the cover of the book and its author. When you click on one of the options, it shows you multiple file types and download options for the book. This is very important as Project Gutenberg is meant to be a source for everyone from all over. Not everyone has the same ability to open or download a specific file type. By including different options in terms of file type and download options, Project Gutenberg opens up its accessibility further to all users. It also shows you the book’s bibliographic information including its editor, contents, language, topics in which is it relevant, copyright status, and how many people have downloaded it. The actual eBooks are typed—not scanned—which makes them easily readable. There are small blue bubbles with question marks in them throughout the entire website. They are usually beside subtitles, and when you click on them, it will take you to the information tab of the website to tell you what those subtitles and the information under the subtitles mean. The Project leaves little room for misinterpretation.

I first heard of Project Gutenberg when searching for sources for an essay for class in the Fall of 2022. While talking about how there is very little information on my paper’s topic with another classmate of mine, she recommended Project Gutenberg. All I had to do to find it was search ‘Project Gutenberg’ in Google, and it was the first link. I would consider that a source that is easily findable. I remember thinking that it seems as though Project Gutenberg is a popular source. I was surprised I had never heard of it before because of how many books (over 70,000) were digitized on its website. When looking through the information on the website, I found that Project Gutenberg is affiliated with other well-known sites such as the Internet Archive. Project Gutenberg is also trademarked. There are sites that cater to other countries’ copyright laws such as Project Gutenberg Australia, Project Gutenberg Canada, Project Gutenberg Russia, and so on. Although there is no recorded number of users of the Project, it can be assumed that since it is trademarked and present across the globe, it is well-known. This is one of the reasons that I chose Project Gutenberg for my digital critique. Since it can be assumed that many people use it, it is worthwhile to review both its negative and positive contributions to its users. What I’ve learned, this is both a viable, easily accessible, easily navigable, and overall great source to have as a tool for both research or entertainment.

Preservation for Project Gutenberg seems to still be in the works. However, the Project’s viewpoint concerning preservation is one that I have never considered or even heard of before. They say that because bits and pieces of the large collection are continuously being copied and downloaded onto devices all over the world, “no single disaster can destroy them; no single government can suppress them.” [5]

Assignment 2a: Review of MaCleKi

MaCleKi is a website that allows its users to learn the history of Kisumu, Kenya through location-based research including essays, photography, and interactive maps. Though the focus of the website revolves around Kisumu, it also includes information about surrounding villages and rural areas in western Kenya. Funded by a grant from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities, the project was originally created to gain a better understanding of how to extend digital humanities and history into the developing world where technological and financial aspects are lacking. The NEH [6] (National Endowment for the Humanities) is an independent federal agency that was created in 1965 and promotes progression in the field of Humanities in the Americas. A panel of reviewers look into projects of museums, universities, archives, libraries, news stations, individual researchers, and more and decide to fund their endeavors based on how well they believe it would contribute to the field of humanities. This means that the panel believed MaCleKi to be an exceptional project for humanities scholars and the general American public. Digital humanities is a relatively new and developing field considering the NEH dates back to 1965 before it was even heard of. MaCleKi receiving a grant as a digital source of humanities scholarship shows an American interest in further developing digital humanities.

While the website does work as a means for users to learn more about the area, what others have to say about its history, and how developing countries can gain access to it, the project is also a great opportunity for students to communicate their ideas and collaborate with others. This is because it is a collaborative partnership between Maseno University in Kenya and Cleveland State University. It is maintained financially and technologically by the Center for Public History and Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University. While this might be due to the grant coming from the NEH in the United States, there is a notion that there are decolonizing motives in this partnership. However, this topic is not explicitly addressed. Most of the research available on the website was conducted by students at these universities. The financial ability to conduct research, fieldwork, review from professors at these universities, and other costs come from the grant awarded to the project and stipends for the students who are actively researching. With this being said, since the authors and reviewers of the material are academics with previous knowledge and interest in each subject, the audience of this project seems to be others in the academic world. However, the way in which it is easily accessible and navigable makes it a good resource for anyone interested in Kenyan history and is willing to educate themselves on the basics of each topic before embarking on research using this website. This could extend to missionaries in Kenya, students in Kenyan schools, or those in Kenya who would like more information on their country and region’s own history.

MaCleKi is full of what seems like endless information. If it was my job to find a way to effectively sort all of the research out for this project in an easily accessible way, I would quit. However, the developers did a wonderful job with this task. The homepage presents users with general topics such as “Roads, Railroads, and Ports.” When you click on one of the topics, it will take you to a page with several different essays pertaining to that topic along with an interactive map to show you exactly which area the essay talks about. When you click on an essay, you can read it while also being able to view pictures about it. There is also the option to browse by other more specific topics and to browse by location. If you still can not find the information you are looking for, there is a search bar at both the top and bottom of the page. The design of the website is pleasing to the eye, and it does not disrupt navigability. The only issue seems to be that there are no accommodation options for those who have sensory impairments. It is all pictures and essays; it could be improved if there were some auditory versions such as videos or podcasts of the information.

All in all, this project is well made for most audiences, but it leans towards the academic world as an audience. It provides ample information about a variety of subjects pertaining to Kisumu, Kenya while maintaining an educational rather than authoritarian digital presence; I say this because, unlike textbooks or articles written with the intention of informing the general public, each article feels like its part of a conversation between two scholars. It leaves its reader with questions to ponder based on the new information that has been given. MaCleKi does seem to be less well-known than sources like Project Gutenberg, but it does not leave room for misunderstanding or misinformation as its content goes through formal review and digitization.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?