History in the Making.

Following the recent election of Barack Obama, The Smithsonian in conjunction with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has taken steps to persevere items from Obama’s campaign. The museum has suggested that it intends to recreate one of the field offices from the campaign in a future exhibit.

I think that this was a very proactive decision by the Smithsonian. The election of an African American president was both a monumental and historic event in the history of the United States. And the immediate decision by the Smithsonian to create an exhibit around this election suggests an understanding that history was indeed in the making during the Obama campaign. Not only does the immediate collection of potential artifacts suggest an understanding of the historical significance but it suggests a desire to represent the past in a truly authentic way. As the CBC story suggests, the Smithsonian has collected items such as whiteboards, strategy boards election maps etc. All of which could have been reproduced to some degree or perhaps collected after the fact, but the Smithsonian took the immediate initiative to collect all these seemingly insignificant items, which suggests a larger significance of the exhibit and the election itself.

Technology in the most unexpected places

Throughout the election coverage CBC has featured a segment on digital technology called Ormiston Online, which was constantly monitoring people’s responses to the election through electronic services. The CBC followed youtube videos, blogs, and a site called Twitter. The idea being that a lot of campaigning takes place online and that people can easily respond to election events via the Internet. I was originally surprised that CBC would venture into the realm of digital technology to gage public opinion, but they deserve credit for acknowledging the growing digital medium which most people depend upon.

Twitter is a service that attempts to keep people connected by having them answer one question–“What are you doing right now?” The majority of the promotional information on the site is based around connecting people with friends, family and anyone else who may want to know what you are doing at any point in the day. Twitter claims to let people be “hyper-connected” and that it “puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.” Initially I was baffled as to why this site would be useful for political study or have any type of academic substance.

However upon closer evaluation I can see some of the merits of the Twitter site. Like blogs you can set your twitter pages up in a RSS feed reader which adds to the convince of the process. Also Twitter provides a quick, immediate look at opinion which is useful when you are attempting to gain a general overview of popular opinion. I think that Twitter could even be used in an academic setting. For example if a group of students all subscribed to Twitter and followed each others entries, Twitter could be used as a way to highlight what progress was happening on a group project.

The more I am exposed to different types of digital technology and different methods of digital communication the more options I see available for academic and historical communities. Twitter, Blogger, forums, podcasts and various other types of technology allow for an increasing connectivity between people which has the potential to greatly aid academics who desire both an academic and a public audience for their work.