Foundations for Research: Comp Sci Minors for History Field Majors

As part of the Digital Media class assignment this week, we set up TweetDeck to follow users who did what we wanted and are successful in the given field or professions. A cross sampling of Dan Cohen, The Ancestry Insider, RootsTech 2012, and GISCloud revealed that I feel as far behind the times as is possible in some areas of my life-research, such as in GIS, but my technology skills are not so behind that it is useless to attempt catching up.

What I want to do is unusual at best, and darned useful otherwise. I see where GIS is right now and unless I am mistaken, no one’s taken the time or data crunching software to perform this build yet. I grew up in a technology-loving household. My Dad was an early adopter of business hardware and software for computer programming purposes and I used my first computer shortly after their distribution to personal homes. I learned how to read, played with computers, and saw my first pedigree charts all during my kindergarten year. My addictions to these fields remain. Add to that an historical architecture bent at seven that I have not yet explored to a full extent but intend to, and basic love of my religious convictions, and that is a barely capping summary of my existence.

The way that I see this field heading, there is a tremendous need for inter-disciplinary training. Why does not my department allow minors in Comp Sci? A professor of mine from last semester delved into the “We are NOT antiquarians!” camp enough times to engrain the thinking structure into my mind. We are not programmers in the traditional sense, using years and programs to keep current, but computers are not new anymore. They have history, trends, and similar features based upon market trends and technological history is how history works. Although not everyone has the same resources, for marketplace competition, there needs to be deeper understanding across the board. Comp Sci majors do not have to understand us perfectly, and we may not understand them in like manner, but Comp Sci should be part of basic GE instruction since more than twenty years passed after the introduction of personal computers into homes.

Moments to Be Grateful for: Recent Semester Review

It’s the end of my first semester of grad school. I am surprised at how fast it all went by. I started out being terrified, and after trying some things on a whim, they worked out exceeding my best expectations.

Coinciding with this is my first avid use of Twitter and I adore it. It’s a place where I’ve learned quickly that not much gets filtered, (unless there’s something that I don’t know), and I’m starting to not be nervous as my personal and professional lives intertwine in ways that I never expected. Parts of my life already bled between atmospheres, but I am re-learning that you get back what you put towards others. The more-positive I become about life, the more wonderfully or beautifully infectious the thoughts processes become. Bottom line? I’m in love with grad school and so grateful that I felt to come to Chicago back in ’06. It took a really long time to get here, but I’m here and I adore this place. The people are nicer than I ever expected, the driving as intense as I like it, and the food is fabulous, albeit more expensive than I wish. My schools are a beautiful blend of city meets suburbia and I can’t get over how much I love the  thing. The people, the day, the feel of it all is better than I ever planned for myself.

Being a temple worker is also exactly what I need. During the LUC conference, one of the questions that the commentator posed was about the theological aspects to the topic. I purposely left out most of it. Although I could give him very solid answers for any theological questions that he has about LDS family history, the thought was not to over-explain but to simply be cool with it. I am very much willing to discuss any belief in question. Although I am not unequal or uncommitted, there wasn’t a strong need to delve into the theology at that forum.

I am extremely grateful for the respectful response that the paper generated. Because of this, I can move and continue scholarship. This past week there was a reading for Oral History class that dealt with the lives of people who live in Mexico, revolving around an oil boom/bust period called Mexican Lives. Part of what I read made me think of people who win the lottery. When you’re not used to having money, it gets to you and you blow it quickly. There are options for you that were never available before and it’s nearly a manically high feeling attached. At least, that’s what is reported. After taxes, it’s this big spending spree that normally leaves people in worse condition than previously. I do not wish to denigrate anyone who has won a lottery, but that is the stereotype. So, yes, the money got to the heads of the people in charge and financially destroyed the country before it had anywhere to go.

There are also the social implications inherent in a society where it is taught that there is a Mediator figure or a Savior in terms of the people of the society expecting someone else to save them. I agree with needing a Mediator, and there is a crucial need for a Savior, specifically Jesus Christ. I am a fan of grace, and believe that my works are a result of believing in grace. Feel free to disagree. No problems.

I definitely have nothing whatsoever against the Catholic Church, the major Church background of Mexico and much of the world. My family was Catholic in earlier generations, and I go to Catholic schools. Far be it for me to ever rant on another person’s religion. When you’ve been a minority your whole life then you know that what you appreciate and love more than anything else in the world is not appreciated by everyone. You don’t mean to be defensive. It’s just that you never know what other people’s experience is with your religion, how people practiced the religion or didn’t, and you have to have faith that your own life is your best “defense” against nay-sayers while still admitting and acknowledging your own humanity.

It’s also another thing that people who are not my religion hold people of my faith to a higher standard. What I do gets scrutinized regularly, and I expect it. I have to be an honorable person, and still open-minded and positive. It’s a fine balancing line, and you just pray that who you really are comes out in a positive way as people see you. The whole “by their fruits” notion. I want to be honorable. I expect that my life can be happy now, and I am grateful for the good moments. It’s not always going to be happy all the time, but I think that it’s a combination of attitude about the potential trial and being okay with it.

During the final for a class presentation this past week I knew that I wanted to present a short video on current museum practices and a spec spreadsheet for the technical aspects of the digital needs of the historical society we were trying to help. The sound in the presentation room wasn’t working. Under a lot of pressure for this final to get everything together and for it to work right. There was a point where it appeared as if nothing could be done and I was stuck without half of my five minutes. A call to the IT person later, the problem got solved. While waiting for the little miracle, two of my presentation group partners did their absolute best to help out. At one point, I was so scared that I was sipping water in rapid succession from the drinks table. I was sitting at the main table, being quiet, trying not to freak out and sipping water non-stop. This was not content anxiety but technological disability anxiety. One of my presentation partners saw this, got up from his space at the large table where we were all sitting, and tried to help again even though there was nothing that any of us could do at this point. Both of the guys in my group worked hard to get the sound to work. Although I couldn’t express nearly adequate thanks for their efforts, I guess that this is the best that I can do now. I went over time and in a moment of hypersensitivity afterwards, and sent the group an apology email for going over time. The IT guy fixed the sound, and things started, albeit ten minutes late.

The moments that mattered to me in all of this were my group members trying to help even when it appeared that there was no hope whatsoever, and then my praying a lot while sipping water that it would work out. Finally, it worked and I was extremely happy for it. My part of the presentation was long, and as-mentioned above I felt badly about that. In wanting to make sure that I didn’t step on anyone’s toes, I went a little overboard.

It was interesting to see how much of people’s personalities came out in the presentations. I’m the girl that likes the tech and likes multi-media presentations even if I’m behind the times. I also like to give people a solution that they can implement tomorrow if need be. Everyone else has their pet projects and similar things, and the evolution of the class over the course of the semester was enlightening, rather uplifting, and I learned a lot. Those were God’s core expectations for me while in Chicago. I don’t think that they are done yet, perhaps, but it was rewarding to see changes in behavior from my first crash-and-burn horrific presentation to the multi-media slash-through that felt up-to-the-second current. It was a great change.

How I feel about Chicago has also changed a lot. I went from loving it to wishing I wasn’t here or anywhere, to being given the space and opportunities to grow into where I am. I have one last paper/presentation/take-away materials final left and I’m still in love. This is an experience is never to be forgotten, but cherished for the wonderful thing that it is. If a man could make me feel as alive as this city does, that would be incredible.

I respect my classmates more than they will ever know and I care about who they are as people. As of this upcoming Thursday, I must have my work done and that is paramount to anything else besides what I need to do for Church. Priorities come in their proper forms, I hope. One friend mentioned that she read the blog and so I will return to the focus on the practical aspects of family history. My whole life has to do with various forms of public history, and so I will try to make things better for tips on how to do this seemingly simple and dynamically complex field. Till next blog, I am,

The Genealogy Doctor

Twitter, Grad School, and Teaching Thoughts

I’ll keep this bare and stripped down since I need to get back to my transcription work. There is only one class in Oral History at my university (afaik.) I want more of it. There is not enough time to teach enough about this distinct, nuanced field. My teacher does his solid best, and he and the class are impressive beyond words. Doing this (transcription work), though, is another thing entirely. I am in love with the practical aspects of history and I soak it up like fresh-baked baklava and honey.

Being active on Twitter this past week, my mind feels like it’s riding a great wave. There are so many organizations and other things for digital humanities and history in general that I had no idea about. My undergrad ended nearly four years ago, and there was a lull of creativity during the interim due to other jobs and unemployment doldrums. You never see what is out there until you have a medium showing it to you, albeit indirectly.

I think that I am an idiot for having resisted Twitter for so long, but stubbornness needs changing through education. Wow, WHAT an education! I am not sure that I am learning so much due to opportunity, due to lack of opportunity and thus trying to absorb at almost alarming speed, or what. I haven’t felt this happy about life since I interned in New York five years back. Although other people who I worked with were avid social media early adopters, I did not see much use to Twitter until now. I was even annoyed by the Twitter ads all over the place. Resisting new media does not help. Being a part of it and leading the discussions, or at least listening does. I have relatives that are not part of any social media whatsoever. It’s ironic due to their jobs. But the privacy that my family ensconced in me as a child is dead. I understand social protocols, and there are many levels to my privacy settings. However, anyone who thinks that all of their information is private does not realize what is out there. You either control your own media, or someone else may do it for you. In another case of family, one adopted one form of media and not another. My sister and I split our media streams down between the two mega-providers of T and FB.

Due to a recent class in Museum Mgmt, I finally listened to the presenter (who obviously knew her stuff) and her mentioning that she got her earliest news that way… My currency on news media stopped when I went to college. Between lack of time for television and otherwise filtered reporting in the great and open spaces west, I was news starved for some time. I knew that things were happening, most of which I could ignore. It’s as if my brain went into isolation mode for about eight years to a decade, but specifically since ’05. Due to various family needs at the time and my reactions to them, it probably did.

It feels like I am back on the planet again. I don’t know that many people who talk about news that much. Most of the time I normally assume now that everyone knows what’s going on, and frequently knows it better than I do. That is usually the case. I’ve been out of the loop for a few years. Feeling like an antiquated zombie is not in my best interests.

Due to the immediacy of knowledge, it becomes instantly passe. Thus, people do not talk about it unless it is chatting online/news feeds. This limited face-to-face interaction was unheard of…even a decade ago. It is such a strange phenom for a culture that says that it wants social connection. More like generations of watchers. We can see things and we can make snide remarks or not comment at all if we do not want more interaction with the topic, but what about building something better versus cutting down and slashing and burning something?

Yes, I am an unusual graduate student who hates being snide. I do not see a use to it, but I have to swim with the PhD’s and the people who otherwise could intimidate me out of the program. One of my programs is more “touchy-feely” and the school is small enough as a nice, suburban place. I got there and I felt like I’m in a little nice cocoon, protected. Yes, it’s grad school, but it’s softer. The other school is sink or swim. The candidates in the second program know their stuff and make you fight to keep up. It’s challenging as all-get out and reminds me a lot of my undergrad institution. You either make it or break it. If you make it, you fly. I don’t want to think about breaking it. The people who go to this school are smart, savvy, opinionated (in some cases), and otherwise give me a run for my tuition.

I presented a paper at this school for a conference. The first positive public reception to the topical love of my life, family history/genealogy, dumb-founded me. These people aren’t my religion. Due to geographic density and age/marital-demographic, I would go to Church with them if they were, so I would know it. These people have no connections to my topic, but they were more respectful than most of the people who I know. My treatment was as someone who had relevancy. This has only happened a few times in my niche groups, and so I it took me off-guard in the most pleasant way possible. Perhaps I was a little defensive going into it. My topic is more-niche than most, and in the historical field it is traditionally seen with a derision that makes boiling oil look pleasant.

My commentator changed my life with a simple email and phone call. He thought that the topic was great, and after the conference (which, as stated above went over enormously well considering the pressures I was under to get the paper ready, perfected, and updated from a senior thesis of four years earlier;) he met with me about further work in the topic of my paper. It’s as if the topic is seeing new eyes in the field. I am so glad and grateful. Fighting for this for my entire college academic career (much longer than most people’s), I feel like for the first time I am coming into my own. Twitter and the resources there are opening things up for me that did not exist years ago. Although I don’t have funding for it, I’m even considering a PhD. If I could find funding, then why not? A teacher of mine in the undergrad once remarked to the class that she got her PhD at 40. This surprised most of the class. She said that she was going to turn 40 anyway, so why not? I’m kind of in a similar boat. I love learning more than almost anything. Good things, good people. The Masters degrees will probably put me in hock for the rest of my life anyway. I didn’t think about being a professor, and still don’t, honestly..

It may not work, but I’ve thought of ways to teach classes in Family History to undergrads. Maybe not the same way that BYU teaches it, because honestly, you don’t have to know the ecclesiastical to do well in it. Just that I was thinking of how to present such information to a bunch of teenagers. Well, older teenagers but people with the same mind-set. It’s different from how to present it to children or to older adults. I taught Sunday School on the topic for around five years, and my typical presentation has  entertainment value. No one has ever seen me present like that out here. It’s candid, but a little abrupt and needs refinement. I haven’t taught in a long time, either. It’s a persona, performing. Although performing like that is fun, it does not translate into the personality that I want to have when not in lecture mode. I like the idea of being strong, but being a kinder, gentler person. Teachers have the line and they play along it, but I don’t know how to put it forth for an undergrad audience where it will translate well. I guess I just haven’t taught in a long time.

That was more than I was planning to write, and I need to get to my section of the transcription and then make key lime pies for tomorrow. There’s a part of me that can’t stop writing, loves it, wants to do more of it, and when not posting on social media I am looking up information to write something else or hw. My life is busy, complicated, and I feel like I fall in love regularly. But it’s good. My life is the best that it has been in an extremely long time and I want to express sincere gratitude for that. Everything may fall apart tomorrow, but I am happy with what I am doing now.

~The GenealogyDr