History/Today – Digital Resource

A mock up of the History/Today home screen. On a grey background History is written in a calligraphy, Today is written in a thin, contemporary font. The center in the screen reads Let's get started! Find an image using the buttons below! There are three blue buttons, search, geolocate and choose from existing.
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For historians concerned with the construction of physical space there is a lack of real-time visual comparison tools that allow researchers to juxtapose historical images with contemporary space. To resolve this issue currently researchers may bring analog photographs or use mobile devices to display digital images, however, it is unrealistic to expect people to carry historical objects to the site, nor is the current use of digital images effective. Both approaches continue to be imprecise because static historical images cannot be manipulated or merged with current views in real time. Neither method allows for intensive examination of change or development.

A large image of the Capitol building with the image of an iPhone at an angle on the right. The iPhone screen reveals a search of historical images of the Capitol Building, at the top is a black and white photo of the building under construction.
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In response to this problem, I propose that History/Today, a mobile application that superimposes historical images on the camera viewer of your mobile device, will enable access to a great deal more than a single person could carry with them.

Overlaid on an iphone image, a contemporary image of the capitol building is superimposed with a historical image of the building being built. Editing tools appear on the right.
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The addition of modification tools facilitates dynamic interaction between viewer, history and space. As a form of augmented reality (AR), History/Today would allow researchers to reconstruct the context in which an image was captured providing for the comparison of contemporary spatial organization and architecture with that which has existed in the past.

Upon opening the app, users would be prompted to make choices about how the program should function. Users may choose images using a search feature (drawing images from a search engines using search terms provided by the user), by allowing the phone’s internal GPS to locate them on a map, or by utilizing an existing photo from their mobile device. In each case users will then choose an image from the populated list. History/Today accesses the phone’s camera and superimposes the selected image on the camera viewer. The interface includes a sidebar that enables the modification of the AR display. In my paper I described each of these features at length, they include: a search function, geolocation function and the choose from existing function for the population of overlay images, these images can be modified by being moved/resized, compared, made more or less transparent, lines blurred or portions of the image can be erased. Following a period of modification, users may then choose to save the composite image they have generated.

Comparison Tool
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Tool Example
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An image of the White House is super imposed with a historical image of an egg hunt. Red squiggly lines appear on the left.
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Existing tools and resources have attempted to provide resolution to these problems but do not adequately meet the needs of researchers. In an effort to respond to these concerns, I have added or modified existing technology to better serve the needs of this population. A real-time overlay provides users with greater flexibility and allowing them to capture images that are precise and clearly aligned. Comparison photos are quickly and easily constructed with the click of a button. Harsh boundaries between past and present are mediated using the transparency, blur and erase functions. Further, using erase allows for the selective juxtaposition of past and present with interesting results. Giving users the option of drawing from their own database enables researchers to bring images of interest to the center of their exploration. History/Today should and can be responsive and the application of this tool is limited only by the exploration of its users.

New Deaf Digital Scholarship

My alma mater put up a digital timeline of Deaf History and…. it’s painful.

Maybe as a result of this class, but I find myself disappointed. I hate to be too critical, but this is so clunky. It’s great that so many of photographs that are generally hidden away in the archives are finally on display  – but there’s no…. substance? No connecting thread – other than chronology.   Even the search function on the bottom right, doesn’t pull up every item on the timeline pertaining to say.. Women. There’s no effort to interpret or to connect. This is frustrating because I know how much effort and energy went into producing something like this – I wish that it would have been taken to the next step. The items could be linked to pages that create a narrative or enable the viewer to explore more content pertaining to, say,  The Founding of Student Body Government in 1948. It could all be linked to the oral history archive already available online – encouraging people to engage with the content in new ways.

It’s a good step.. toward embracing digital means of communicating historical information.. but we need more.