This post documents two more digital skills.  I have been wrestling with sound editing since I produced my video file, and haven’t had a whole lot of luck with the sound management programs that come with Windows.  So, I downloaded WavePad, a freeware audio editor, off the Internet and used it to tighten up an interview I did with my father several years ago.  I was planning to write an article for a magazine, and wanted to get some information from him about his WWII experiences.  I recorded him on a portable cassette recorder and retained the tape after I finished my project.  As it turned out, this tape was one of the only recordings my family had of his voice after he died in 2000.  So, I converted the analog recording to digital format using a Pioneer CD burner connected to a cassette player.  I cleaned up the files using WavePad and uploaded one example here.  Its in the blogroll under “Entering Tokyo Harbor, Sept 1945.”  It is in .mp3 format.  The link will take you to the Archives page of the Kam Zero website.  Click on the underlined text and if your computer has an audio capability the file should play.  I’ve tested it on RealPlayer and it works fine – much better fidelity than the original analog recording.  I will work through the rest and upload them as well, with a little commentary on what documents we were looking at while he talked.

My next digital skill to discuss is wiki entries.  I did one a few weeks ago on the Battle of Niihau – the link is in the blogroll – and was underwhelmed by my first participatory experience with crowdsourcing history.  Shortly after I made my entry, someone else came behind me and overwrote most of my material, including annotations and references.  I spent a good deal of time on my entry (it was originally part of my Master’s thesis) and I think the group result isn’t as clean and to the point.  There’s a lot of what I consider extraneous material in the latest entry, which overshadows the main point of the Battle.  I don’t think I’ll be in a rush to wiki myself again, though I will probably continue to use wikipedia as a pointer for more reliable sources.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to read this week’s material when I reached the three-quarters point on my project, because now I’m wondering if I violated any copyright laws in my gathering of resources and posting of images.  My preliminary response is “I don’t think so” because most of my material was produced originally by the US Government and has no restriction on its use.  There are three photographs I copied from personal websites, one of which no longer exists.  I don’t recall any copyright markings on these sites, but since the project is for a class assignment (I guess that makes it not-for-profit) I think I’m OK.

The Sonny Bono-Mickey Mouse law aside, the issue of music copyrights and online piracy is a serious one.  Current artists have a right to sell their properly copyrighted products, and uncontrolled copying and distribution such as seen on the Napster site cross out of the grey area of the law and squarely into the unethical side.  But how do you write a law that you can’t enforce?

Kam Zero Location Video

This audio-video file was constructed using slide show features of PowerPoint, which allow the timed “building” of images and also allow the synchronization of the video with audio narration.  I saved this file as a PowerPoint slide show (.pps), so clicking on the file should pop you straight into the show IF you have PowerPoint on your computer.  Make sure that your speaker volume is turned up.

I’ve taken the first steps toward putting my project (described the the Prospectus entry below) online.  I’ve established a website that can be accessed through the link “The Kam Zero Website” in the blogroll.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  As the disclaimer says, the site is definitely in the “under construction” phase right now, but I’ve put three pages, the thesis and some of the background material on it.

For those that are keeping track, this makes four skills so far – blogging, wikis, images, and websites.

Fort Kam Images

Part of my project (described in the October 30th “Prospectus” entry below) involves the manipulation of images, specifically digitizing, editing and aligning old maps with satellite imagery.  I’ve decided to post two of the most significant images to give an idea of what the project involved.  First, I had to download some pdf files of old Coast Artillery maps that were posted by the Coast Defense Study group.  These maps were part of a 1922 survey of US coastal defenses.  They were fairly accurate and detailed maps, showing all significant cultural and geographic features.  Additionally, they were aligned to true north, which would prove to be a big help.  The map I was concerned with came in two sheets of an L-shaped area, so I had to print out the sheets in question, cut-and-paste the aligned sheets, and then re-digitize these by scanning them into a jpeg.  The resultant image is on the first slide of the attached ppt file (see the link above).

The next image is a satellite image of the Fort Kam area, extracted from Google Earth, with the 1922 map superimposed.  I selected the present-day Fort kam area in Google Earth and after making sure that the area imaged was approximately the same as shown on the map, I saved the photo as a jpeg.  I made the white background of the 1922 map transparent and superimposed it over the Google Earth photo.  There were a few cultural features from the 1922 era that still exist today, so I was able to properly size and align the old map over the new photo.  By doing this, I was able to determine where the majority of the old structures once stood.  The composite image is on the second slide of the attached ppt file.

Gutenberg HimselfThe Manning article on Gutenberg-e posed many questions explicitly, but after finishing the article I had more questions about the questions than I had answers. The stated purpose of the Gutenberg-e is to “create competitions to identify and to reward excellent work at dissertation and first-book levels and thereby to enable endangered fields to thrive.”  Maybe I’m missing something.  Are monographs and first books endangered species?  If they are, is it their traditional, linear, hard-copy format that is holding them back?  Manning circled back to this question at the end of the article, asking whether the electronic format enhanced the content of the books.  His answer seemed to be an emphatic “well, maybe not quite.”  His criticisms are that the works submitted were too narrow in approach and in intended audiences.  Personally, I think this was inevitable and had little to do with the format.  The Gutenberg-e competition is aimed at junior historians.  If the subjects chosen by the contestants had one common attribute, it was that they were do-able.  I don’t know many budding historians who would chose for their dissertation an unknown field that carries substantial risk of failure.  Ours is a community different from others in that we continually look within as opposed to beyond.  And it’s unrealistic to expect that junior historians will be the ones to buck that trend.  If the Gutenberg-e aim is to encourage and produce really ground-breaking topics explored in new and exciting ways, maybe the target competitors should be established historians who don’t have as much to lose.