Digital Story Title:
“Northern Virginia: A History of Changes by Those Who Call It Home”
Northern Virginia has grown and changed tremendously in the past 50 years. The region morphed from being just a rural suburb of Washington DC into a dense and economically independent region in a relatively short amount of time. This project explores the changes that have occurred, including population growth, transportation, and economic changes, through the words of long-time residents. These residents have witnessed first-hand the dramatic changes that have taken place, and through their words this project demonstrates the recent history of change that defines today’s Northern Virginia.
Having just moved to the Northern Virginia area in September, I was instantly struck by the density of the region. Looking into this defining factor of the area, I found that this population growth had really only occurred in the past 50 years or so. Once just a suburb of Washington DC area, Northern Virginia now holds its own in terms of population, economics, and character. I wanted to explore the reasons behind the change by finding long-term residents that could give me first-hand accounts of the changes that they experienced.
As an “outsider” to the region, I wanted to avoid telling this story through my own perceptions of the region. Therefore, my project is narrated entirely by long-time residents, whose experiences with the region are far more compelling than my own. I want this story to resonate with the people that have lived through the changes, but also with shorter-term residents who found Northern Virginia to be a desirable place to live.
In addition to presenting a historical change, I also want to be able to show how “normal” people can be invaluable resources in presenting public history by compiling a digital story that is almost entirely oral history based. So often we look to the so-called experts as our authority on history, but I find that in the case of something like regional growth the actual residents living through the changes can actually tell us more.
Who is your intended audience?
People interested in local history; meant to present oral history for popular use of local history.
Quick question -
Can I extract audio from video clips already in my project? What I want to do is add still photos to my project in the middle of an interview clip…it let me do it by adding the photos as a “title,” but the transition still shows like a second of the actual video clip. Is there anyway that I can get rid of that awkward transition? It seems like there has to be a way to do this…
In the Open Access Now article, Lawrence Lessig is quoted as saying, “My view is that the law has, for unintended and intended reasons, radically changed the burden on creators and producers of knowledge who wish to share and make their work available to a larger public.” After reading all about copyright, I can’t help but agree with Lessig’s choice of the word “burden.” Copyright appears to be so unnecessarily complex, and my current understanding is that copyright laws seem to be enforced very sporadically. While I understand that it is close to impossible to go after all violations, this lack of uniform enforcement seems to make the copyright laws even more difficult. And it just seems flat out unfair that, with the increased ability for all sorts of people to be able to be “creators and producers of knowledge,” everyone be expected to know all of the convoluted ins and outs of copyright.
I found the videos from the Moving Image Contest to be particularly interesting. These short films really demonstrated the challenges of working with, and around, the copyright laws. The most compelling one to me was “An Army, One by One,” which not only helped to explain some of the challenges that copyright poses for documentarians, but also how today’s culture has drastically changed in terms of corporate goods and logos present in our everyday lives. I also liked the short film “Intellectual Property Law and Supersize Me,” which in turn demonstrated how these laws can be manipulated, and how the documentarian can avoid trouble.
Up until this point, I had felt fairly silly asking each one of my interviewees to sign multiple release forms for my project. Now I feel as though you just can’t be too careful in getting permission…and very grateful that I interviewed them in places that provided very basic backgrounds with no need to edit out the corporate logos.
Here is a link to some software, called Stories Matter, that Concordia University developed for oral history indexing.
This article, about the reasons and processes behind the software, also addresses some of the challenges within oral history and digital storytelling.
I am finally starting to feel like I am making progress and that things are starting to shape up. I am now focusing on how long-time area residents have perceived “change” in the Northern VA area, and am letting these residents tell the story in their own words. Since I am relying so heavily on oral histories, I have felt like I have been almost entirely at the mercy of those willing to talk to me. In the last couple of weeks, I have done a few oral history interviews on my own of long-time residents and I feel more in control of my project with actual video footage to work with now. Despite a couple technical setbacks (camera battery dying before interview was over…recording 40 minutes of blank audio and having to contact the interviewee again), it has been an enlightening and rewarding experience to interview all sorts of people I would otherwise never meet. I am really beginning to wish I had more time to interview a wider range of people, but with the time and deadline restraints I am just going to have to work with the interviews that I can fit in by the second week in April. Right now I have interviews with just older, white males so I am hoping that I can diversify my interview pool in the next couple of weeks!
Despite having started my project editing in Final Cut Express Academic, I think I have moved over to iMovie. Although I have never really used iMovie (and just learned the basics last week!), it is proving to be pretty user friendly and, at least for me with an impending due date, a more efficient use of my time. Final Cut allows for a bit more freedom with effects and personal touches, but after a series of frustrations and anxiety over getting this done in time, I made the move to iMovie and think that I will end up being happy with that decision.
A couple questions to pose to you all:
1) Since I want the people I have interviewed to tell the story of change in Northern VA in their own words, I have posed short text questions in between my sections for transitional purposes. I know what they say, so I feel like I might be moving them along too quickly. What is an appropriate length of time for a frame of text?
2) I am having some trouble with Handbrake on my Mac (it’s a Mac Pro). It keeps telling me that I need the appropriate vlc, and even though I attempted to download what Handbrake is recommending, it is still giving me the same message about the vlc. Any suggestions from seasoned Handbrake users?
When I first started reading “Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre”, I was a bit unnerved by the first couple of lines, “A story has a beginning, a middle, and a cleanly wrapped-up ending. Whether told around a campfire, read from a book, or played on a DVD, a story goes from point A to B and then C.” I was shocked that this this was the way the article started because if there is anything that we have learned from this class, it is that there is no universal way to define a story, and that as our society evolves, the ways that stories can be told are becoming increasingly diverse and innovative. Luckily the article continued on to tell us about how storytelling has changed.
The readings and stories explored for this week’s class show that interactivity can give the recipient greater agency in digesting the story. For example, The Washington Post’s “TimeSpace: Inauguration” allows the visitor to jump from photos to text to videos about President Obama’s inauguration. This format allows the viewer to interact with a timeline in the way that he or she desires; the participant is able to experience the event in a way that makes sense with his or her preferred style of learning. Interactivity also gives the author/creator more room for creativity. The Library of Congress’ The Exquisite Corpse project allowed multiple authors to breath life into a story. Although this particular story takes a somewhat linear story line, it demonstrates to the reader that interactivity is allowing for new modes of creating stories. Stories developed through the digital storytelling format are no longer relegated to this “A then B then C” format, but rather are allowed to explore outside of the traditional realm.
In regards to how interactivity can change academic arguments, I think the possibilities are huge and could give great returns on the academic front. For example, historians often critique one another’s work based on the argument that her or she would have said. How many history book reviews have we read that say something to the tune of, “I wish the author would have explored [insert topic not particularly relevant to this particular work],” or “I would have liked the author to focus more on [insert subject matter related to reviewer's area of interest].” Perhaps increased interactivity in academic writing would help deflect some of this criticism by making modern academic arguments less of a linear statement and more of a well-researched but roundabout path of exploration.
Working under the question of “how did Northern Virginia become the region that it is today?,” I would like to take a look at the formation of current Northern Virginia. This is a topic that I want to look at for a couple of reasons: 1) not being from the area, I think it has a distinct and interesting history, and 2) the GMU Special Collections & Archives has a wealth of interesting primary sources on the history of Northern Virginia. I would like to be able to look at Northern Virginia from the 1960s to today in order to show how it became the incredibly diverse and powerful region that it is today. Since the current NoVa is such a large area, I will be focusing primarily on Arlington and Fairfax.
Utilizing oral histories and primary documents like maps, photographs, and correspondences, I hope to be able to piece together a “then and now” look at Northern Virginia. I would like to look at influential events that have taken place over the last 50 years: the expansion of the metro, George Mason University, Dulles International Airport, the growth of information technology in the area, etc. If feasible, I would really like to look at current long-term residents of all ages to get their perspectives on how the region has grown and changed, and would be able to foil these participants with oral histories from the Northern Virginia Oral History Project (housed in Special Collections & Archives), which is a series of oral histories done in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though I will likely find a lack of video material to correspond with these earlier oral histories, I would be able to use photographs and pair them with more recent footage of the places talked about in their interviews. Although there will be some agreement about major changes and developments in the region, I think that this project idea would lead to some interesting commentary on history and memory as well as hopefully draw in some interesting personal perspective.
During the summer of 2008, I interned with the National Park Service at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Hopewell Furnace is the site of an 18th/19th century iron plantation, which means that they produced the pig iron that would later be sent off to forges. I lived on site with another intern, and really got to experience the beauty of a quiet historic site. Although we were curatorial and research interns, on weekends the staff let us interpret some of the things that women might have done…which meant full out costumes and intense hard labor (starting a fire is hard work!). I used photos from my summer at Hopewell Furnace to show some of the things that women did in a seemingly male dominated place.
Click here to watch, and enjoy!
In his book, Dead Certainties, Simon Schama attempted to fill in the blanks of a historical occurrence in which the sources we have do not leave us with a neat and conclusive story. We know that Mr. Parkman was murdered, we know the main characters involved, and we know the details of the trial and sentencing. However, we are left with only blurry clues to how the all pieces fit together, which is where Schama tries to use what is documented to blend history and fiction together to tell the story of the Murder at Harvard. As I was reading the book, I was at first confused by the mix of fact and fiction that Schama presents in novel form. He does not distinguish between what we know to be said “true” in the case, and that which are inferences that Schama himself is making from these “facts,” and for the student of history, I found this to be a fairly frustrating form of presentation. I personally do not mind the idea of blending history with inferences made from the details we do know, but I would have felt more comfortable with Schama letting the reader know what was fact, and what was derived from fact. Modern historians have been told to uphold the ideal of objectivity, however impossible that might be, and therefore Schama’s method is unnerving to most. The PBS film we watched did a much better job of informing the viewer of exactly how and why Schama made inferences to tell the story of the Murder at Harvard the way he did. It also presented interesting counter-arguments to his version of the story, as well as historians who do not agree with his blending of fact and fiction. For those of us who are reliant on footnotes and endnotes, this form of the “innovative” historical narrative gives us a crutch on which we can rely. By seeing Schama admit to places where he made leaps of faith in his narrative, it gives us a more reassuring feeling, and there is less actual blending of fact with inference.
However much I was initially confused with Schama’s method and narrative, and dissatisfied with the end result, I think that he is on to something for the future of the presentation of history. In order to present new perspectives and ideas about older history in which we do not have an abundance of sources, today’s historians must be more innovative in the way they present their works and analyze their sources. Perhaps one day, more historians will embrace Schama’s method and refine it to something more mainstream.