Novel Ideas Concerning History on the Internet

Pox and the City.

My first thought when I clicked on this article went something along the lines of Who on earth would ever play a game about the plague in Scotland?  This is ridiculous.  Is it like Oregon Trail but with more disease?  Do you cut through the dark tavern to get home early?  Congratulations, you now have tuberculosis and an oozing wound. 

And then I realized that I would totally play this game.  I then proceeded to imagine a really high quality video game that reconstructed the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.  My hypothetical character, Susan Templeton, could just frolic around and participate in all the cool things at the fair.  Susan would meander the gravel paths, try juicy fruit gum, ride the Ferris Wheel.  We would have a lovely time and the weather would be perfect.  I really need to stop myself here.

The concept behind the Pox and the City game as both an educational tool and a tool for researches is really unique.  The fact that novel solutions to old problems could inspire new research is pretty exciting.  I think this might be the future of online gaming for history nerds like myself.  I also enjoyed reading about the process of designing the game.  I never really knew that photo-like graphics were a turnoff for gamers, but that makes sense.

Teaching the Introductory History Course.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best article for me to select to blog about.  But I read, and so you too must read my rather cynical thoughts.  This entire article argues for the Introductory History Course being taught online in a guided, blog-like environment rather than in a classroom.  While the author makes a good case for this, I do not think I would ever be on board with the first level of history being online.  Ever.

The author argues that these online blog makes student write more.  Well maybe by word-count, students do write more online.  We tend to ramble on Facebook, so why would a blog be any different?  My question concerns the quality of the work students produce.  1000 words of well-written, academic writing is preferable to 2000 words of rambling, slang.  Japan totes should not have bombed that harbor, yo.

Furthermore, the author seems to implicitly state that these factors are permissible simply because it will probably be the student’s last history course anyway.  I feel like the author almost wants to sweep those students under the rug and get them through quickly, without the hassle of an actual classroom environment.  Yes, they may hate history, but I think you should still try to make it more enjoyable.

Finally, the author argues that the blog/site gives students the opportunity to use various media sources.  Yes, images and video are fine and dandy.  But part of me still holds on to the fact that we are historians.  The best part of being a history student is occasionally getting to handle really old stuff.  Taking that away really hurts the student.  And yes, they are intro students, but why should they be denied the joys of microfilm? (Just kidding with that one.  Spare them all.  But they should get to hold old documents with white gloves.)

I think I am just too old-fashioned.  But not old-fashioned enough to resist Pox in the City!  (Seriously.  I am playing it right now.)

One thought on “Novel Ideas Concerning History on the Internet

  1. Loved your take on both articles — the Columbian Expo game sounds like a winner! Your impressions of an online intro class — I do agree. But what if we were able to do something like this class — small class distance mentoring, at least for part of the class — what could that look like? Put your imagination to work on that one and see what you can come up with.

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