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People's History Project

"History is written by the victors." Churchill's famous quote holds true to this day, but what if the Internet can change our understanding of what history is and who writes it?  Professor Lorie Loab and Sang Jin Lee '13, explore this question through an online web application and database that allows history to be co-written by a community of authors.  With funding from Neukom Institute, they have created a web application that is a mix of wiki, social networking, search tool and database/catalogue, all combined together to create a collaborative history book. Howard Zinn's history book "A People's History of the United States" presents American history from the vantage point of the common people rather than through the more standard viewpoint, that of the elites and victors.  In a 1998 interview, Zinn said he had set "quiet revolution" as his goal for writing A People's History. "Not a revolution in the classical sense of a seizure of power, but rather from people beginning to take power from within the institutions"

peopleshistoryproject

Loeb and Lee began their own "People's History" project as an attempt to modernize this concept in the age of the Internet.  What would happen if history could be written collaboratively, utilizing the tools of the Internet, cloud computing and social media to create a rich and diverse version of events?  They tested this idea on one particular application—the 50th Anniversary of an arts center at Dartmouth College and a general celebration of arts at the college—but propose this as a way to create "people's histories" for a variety of topics and subjects, e.g. women in science, political histories, organizational history.

The look and feel of the ArtsBook was compelling enough to the college that it is being used as the site for Arts at Dartmouth.  They have integrated an RSS feed for future events, making the ArtsBook a site that looks both forward and back, displaying events and activities related to the arts at Dartmouth and allowing users to contribute to both.  http://arts.dartmouth.edu/  The site was launched on September 15th.  They are collecting user data, working with the college on advertising the site and conducting user testing.

Next steps on the project is to develop the capacity to scrape other databases and integrate with Facebook and twitter.  They want to make it easier to collect data for future applications of the site.  For example, LoebI is working with Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, CA, to create a version of the history book that would serve as a place for veterans to share information, memories and images from the Iraq wars.

Last Updated: 10/2/13