Giving us the tools… but does everybody need them?

Create a website? Hah.

Design a concept model? Hmm.

Map a wireframe? Well, lets see…

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Personally, picturing my ideas digitally, on the Internet, or visually technical is a daunting thing. It speaks to our class’ questions of “do historians need to learn this?” Or “should I master this skill or will someone else do it?” Meaning, will the historian responsible for curating the content be the same team member to design the digital aspects? Will creating a spatial history map and analyzing one be part of the same process?

As a journalist, I’ve always thought that streamlining the project would make me a more marketable candidate and ultimately more successful. For example, the ability to pitch a story, write the article, shoot and edit the video, and upload it to a digital platform comes from a set of dynamic skills that are all needed to produce a journalistic project…. especially with today’s push for immediacy, ongoing budget cuts, and a much more accessible publishing process.

In Dan M. Brown’s “Communicating Design“, he gives audiences the tools to build the skills necessary for creating a work of digital scholarship for the masses. In his very jargon-y discussions of deliverables, competitive analyses, wireframing, and user-needs documentation, Brown enhances the technical skills of all those reading his book. In a practical sense those doing digital research can find the tools needed for contemplative and successful web presentation in the pages. However, the important lessons I found weren’t very technical at all…

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Brown writes, “Innovation moves fast online. Regardless of how the design process evolves, information about how other sites address the problems you face will always be valuable, because it keeps you abreast of the latest trends in technological change. With innovation comes a change in landscape,” reminding readers to acknowledge they are not creating in a vaccuum–everyone else is learning and changing at the same time and that important information can be learned from all.

Similarly, “Methods come and go, but documents appear to remain more or less consistent… Different people prefer different tools, but the choice of tool should have little impact on the message and purpose of your documentation,” cautioning that at the end of the day, you can’t get too caught up in the minute details of the presentation tool, but rather stay grounded in the importance of the actual research and information.

After reading Brown’s book and considering it’s implications on my own future career, I wonder if the pros of a much more individualized job outweigh the benefits of the collaborations that stand as hallmarks in many digitized historical projects. Meaning, is conforming to new societal standards and financial pressures worth more than the costly process of group work? Or does the nature of the web eliminate both the tangible and theoretic price tags in a much faster way than before?

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3 Comments on “Giving us the tools… but does everybody need them?”

  1. I loved that you address the relationship between design and content. As I was reading, the issue seemed to get more complicated for me. Isn’t there the potential of presenting a different message depending on which tool you use? Is that a concern that historians should keep in mind?

  2. drdankerr says:

    I agree that some of his most important points are not technical at all! He’s a clear proponent of keeping objectives front and center. And he also offers masterful advice on coordinating the activities of groups!

  3. mskic says:

    I agree with you about how Brown’s book brings up the same question again: do historians need to learn this stuff? Should they rely on someone else?


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