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Yesterday was the first Digital History seminar this term and, as what has become a continuing thread for many of the papers, the focus was again on the Old Bailey Proceedings.  However, this time the topic was rather different – at least from an historian’s perspective – Magnus Huber (Gissen) is a linguist and his area of investigation was to look at what – if anything – the proceedings can tell us about spoken English in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.   

If anyone would like to watch the recording it is currently available on the ‘past live streamed events’ section of History SPOT.  Over the coming week’s I will be reviewing the video and audio to produce a smoother edited edition which will then be archived in the Digital History seminar section of History SPOT.   So watch this space!

As per usual I was sat in one corner of the room monitoring the live stream for the session while seminar conveners Peter Webster (IHR) and Richard Deswarte (History Data Service, University of Essex) entered the ‘Twitter-sphere’ to keep the digital world abreast of what was happening in the room and to field any questions from the online audience that were not directed through my ‘chat’ pop-out. 

Those who were watching, either in the room or online, will have been aware that we started with a few technical issues, however – thankfully – I was able to resolve these fairly quickly.  The problem amounted to the failure of the wired internet connection (either the cable or the connection itself).  We were therefore reliant on wifi which was far from ideal but did nonetheless seem to withstand the high broadband usage I was chucking at it. 

The next session promises to be something of an interesting experiment for us as the speaker, Dan Cohen – will be speaking from his home institution of George Mason University in Washington DC.  Dan will be using the same live stream system that we use while we in the room will maintain a skype connection with Dan in the background to deal with any technical hitches and for the post-paper questions.  Those of us in the room, therefore, will be joining our other online viewers by watching the seminar on the computer screen (via a projector in our case).  I’m quite excited by this prospect as I have not yet had the opportunity to watch any of our live streams in real-time for obvious reasons. 

Digital History Seminar
Dan Cohen (George Mason)
Finding Meaning in a Million Victorian Books

The next session will be live streamed at approximately 5.15pm GMT on Tuesday 6 March 2012.  For those of you who would like to attend the event in person we will be gathering in S261 on the second floor of Senate House (a slight change from normal).  This can be reached either through the Senate House North Block stairs or via Stewart House (instead of turning left towards the usual room (ST276) keep on going forward.

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Podcasts now available (click here):
The History PhD: Past, Present and Future conference
28 January 2011
 

Last year marked the 90th anniversary of the PhD in Britain.  I must admit I was initially surprised at the modernity of the PhD.  Having worked my way through the system from undergraduate to Masters to Doctorate it never really felt as if this qualification was a new innovation to a very old system.  I could almost imagine scholars in the sixteenth-century receiving their PhD certificate at a ceremony not all that dissimilar to the one that I took part in over two years ago.  Of course such imaginings were simply that: as an historian I can see quite clearly how wrong that belief is.  Nevertheless, I had never given it that much thought before and so my mind simply imagined that the PhD was unduly ancient. 

Of course the doctorate itself is not such a new idea although it was a lot less common in past centuries.  As a term it was first used in the early Christian church as a qualification to teach (Doctorate deriving from the Latin doceo – i.e. I teach).  Many centuries later (around the early thirteenth to be more precise) the training for a doctorate became entangled with the rise of universities across much of Europe.    

I feel much the same surprise about the modern concept of an historical seminar.  This was a German innovation borrowed from philology by Leopold von Ranke in the nineteenth century.  The spread of historical seminars as a key aspect of the profession was accompanied by a greater emphasis on archival research and of course scientific methodology.  Indeed, much of what we consider to be essential to the History profession today only stems back to the nineteenth-century. 

Coincidentally 2011 also marked the 90th anniversary of the Institute of Historical Research.  The IHR presently works under the umbrella organisation of the School of Advanced Study, which is itself part of the University of London.   The fact that the IHR is over 90 years old is less of a surprise of course.  From the Common room (a space provided for relaxed scholarly discussion) to the layout of the library, it has a feel of early twentieth century ideals to it.  At least it did until last year when we temporarily moved out for a 2 year refit.  The new IHR, I’m sure, will be an agreeable mix of the old ideals and the new.

For those of you who do not know much about the history of the IHR here’s a brief summary: The IHR was founded in 1921 by A. F. Pollard as a meeting place for researchers from across the world.  Initially based in pre-fabricated huts along Malet Street, the IHR was set up to promote the study of history and provide support and leadership to the historical community.  From its early days it was home to both research seminars and research training (for postgraduates and academics) both of which remain core activities of the institute. 

Original IHR huts (click on the image for more details)

I think what interests me most about these ramblings above is how little thought I had previously put into the history of my own education.  In my studies of scholars in sixteenth century England I was of course very aware of the differences in approach and methodology.  This was a period when scholastic training was beginning to decline (although it was still taught in Oxford and Cambridge long after its rejection by various scholars of the period) and it was a time of renewal and re-interpretation of long held beliefs and knowledge systems through the methodology of humanism.    But it was there that my knowledge and interest had stopped.  I had thought very little about the actual education that these scholars had received or the processes and qualifications that formed the basis for their world. 

Last year’s The History PhD: Past, Present, and Future conference provided an opportunity to pause for a moment and recall the heritage of one element of higher education.  The availability of the conference talks now one year on in the form of podcasts certainly provides food for thought!

To view the podcasts please visit History SPOT: The History PhD: Past, Present and Future

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History SPOT has now left the beta testing stage thanks to ULCC (University of London Computer Centre) who have recently worked hard to get the site completed.  Over the coming few months you will see History SPOT expand and grow as we add much more content and elements to the site.  In the meantime we have updated the project page on the IHR website which I thought worthwhile to repeat here.  In the coming days and weeks you will also see an increase in blog posts here as well as content appearing on History SPOT itself as we attempt to work through the backlog especially of seminar podcasts.  More news soon!

History SPOT [Seminar Podcasts and Online Training] provides an archive of Institute of Historical Research seminars, conferences, lectures and workshops as podcasts or live streamed events and is host to our online research training materials including handbooks and training courses. 

 

Research Seminars, Lectures and Conferences

History SPOT is brimming full of podcasts from IHR seminars, conferences and lectures from 2009 to the present.  In addition to our extensive archives you will have access to all new podcasts from the IHR in the coming months and have the opportunity to discuss, comment upon and debate their content online.   Unlike many other podcast sites History SPOT attempts to embed the podcast within other resources such as abstracts, bibliographies, and discussions. 

Link to Podcasts   

 

 

 

 

 

Live Streamed Events

A small selection of our events are now streamed live on History SPOT with the additional capability for viewers to not only listen and watch in real time but to also comment and ask questions of the speakers in the post-paper discussion.  Slide show presentations and twitter feeds are also available to enable online viewers to get as close to ‘being there’ as possible.  

Link to Live Events

 

 

 

 

Historical Research Training

History SPOT presents to you for free and for the first time material from our research training courses and from our expertise’s as a research institute.  Initially we have provided several research handbooks but training courses will follow shortly.

Link to Historical Research Handbooks

 

 

 

 

 

Interact

History SPOT is not just a place to search for content it is also designed so that you can interact with the subject matter.  When you listen to one of our podcasts let us and other users know what you think.  Is there something that you disagree with or do you have something to add to what our speakers discuss?  You can also add your own tags to the podcasts to help others find the resources they want more easily. 

In addition you can create your own profiles, take part in social networking through Groups and Friends and create basic web pages.  You can also write your own blog posts and discuss our activities with each other in various group forums. 

Link to History SPOT Collaborate

 

 

 

 

 

Project Background

The History SPOT platform was developed between March 2010 and March 2011 as a pilot entitled IHR Digital Seminar and Research Training Project.  Its purpose was to re-develop IHR core activities as online resources.  This “Phase One” focused on establishing procedures to record the IHR Research Seminars as podcasts and to develop live streamed events in both audio and visual media.  The greater part of Phase One was focused upon the development of a new multi-system platform which would enable the IHR to lead the way in the provision and use of digital technologies in the humanities.  This platform went live as a beta (test) site on 19 September 2011 and became fully active in January 2012.

 

The initial project had two key aims;

  1. To deliver the IHR Seminars online through podcasting and live-streaming with additional content
  2. To develop an online presence for the IHR postgraduate research training programme

 

The Project Team

The project is managed by Dr Jane Winters, IHR Head of Publications and IHR Digital, with Dr Matthew Phillpott working as the Project Officer. It is also more generally supported by the IHR Digital team. Design and development was provided by the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) and by IHR Digital’s website manager Martin Steer.  The content of the Research Training Programme is being handled by the IHR’s Dr Mark Merry and Dr Simon Trafford.

 

Project Links:

History SPOT Platform: The online home for IHR podcasts, live streams and research training content

History SPOT Project Blog: The Project Officer’s blog and home to the SPOT Newsletter (a regular summary/review/opinion piece, for resources uploaded to History SPOT). 

 

Reports:

Scoping report (2010) – Exisiting services for online lectures and seminars

Survey report (2010) – IHR Online Research Seminar Delivery Survey

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Last night was the IHR’s eighth live streamed event, the fourth for our Digital History seminar, and the second since the launch of History SPOT.  Unfortunately on this occasion things did not go as planned. 

This blog post is, therefore, part apology to all of you who tried to tune in last night, part explanation, and part a look towards the future of this service.  First of all then – an apology. 

Last night the stream failed to connect for the first 10 minutes of the presentation and when we were eventually able to stream live the quality of the audio was particularly bad. 

On behalf of the IHR I apologise to all of you who tried to tune in and found your time wasted on this occasion. 

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.  After the workshop that we live streamed a few weeks ago we were trying the downloaded application from livestream (rather than the web based interface) to stream our seminar.  The hope was that this would improve video and audio quality as we were not happy with the resolution from the workshop.  In theory that is still the case but it seems we still need to fine tune and test the new interface.

The second reason for the failure appears to have been an untimely update from Adobe to the flash application.  Although declined the update appears to have caused the streaming application to crash early on in the seminar.  The laptop that we were using had been updated earlier in the day so I can only presume that this update only came through around 5pm.       

I have hinted many times on this blog that we have plans to improve the service.  We have looked into alternative streaming applications as a way to primarily avoid the advert at the beginning of the stream.  Although there are a few other possibilities we have not yet pinned down a viable alternative.  However, this is still a work in progress.  In the meantime we wish to experiment with a higher resolution camcorder.  Although the nature of live streaming would mean that the camcorder was reduced in quality anyway it would hopefully be clearer and more manoeuvrable than the current webcam that we are using. 

Our next live stream will be the second Digital History seminar in two weeks’ time (Tuesday 15 November).  We will do all we can to make sure that this stream goes well and I very much hope you will give us a second try. 

For those of you still interested in Matt Thompson’s paper from yesterday we hope to be able to provide you with audio and video coverage sometime in the next week or two.      

Matt Phillpott
History SPOT Project Officer

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I have been waiting to write that title for well over a year now.  After a delay of over 5 months History SPOT is finally ready to launch!   

Research Seminars, Lectures and Conferences

History SPOT is brimming full of podcasts from IHR seminars, conferences and lectures from 2009 to the present.  In addition to our extensive archives you will have access to all new podcasts from the IHR in the coming months and have the opportunity to discuss, comment upon and debate their content online.   

SPOTLight

In addition to the podcasts themselves History SPOT contains an archive of SPOT Newsletter reviews and abstracts which have thus far appeared on this blog along with various other additional resources.  The SPOT Newsletter will be growing over the coming months adding opinions, additional facts and information, and mini bibliographies.

Historical Research Training

History SPOT presents to you for free and for the first time material from our research training courses and from our expertises as a research institute.  Initially we have provided two research handbooks: one on the subject of Databases for Historians and another on podcasting.  More will follow soon.

Interact

History SPOT is not just a place to search for content it is also designed so that you can interact with the subject matter.  When you listen to one of our podcasts let us and other users know what you think.  Is there something that you disagree with or do you have something to add to what our speakers discuss? 

In addition you can create your own profiles, take part in social networking through Groups and Friends and create basic web pages.  You can also write your own blog posts and discuss our activities with each other in various group forums. 

Click below to access the site

 

 

History SPOT will be in Beta Mode for approximately one month while we iron out the final glitches and errors, however we would very much appreciate your feedback.  Do you like the new site?  Is there anything that you don’t like?  What could we do better?  Is there anything missing?  Please do let us know at History.spot@sas.ac.uk or through the Contact UsLINK option on History SPOT.

At some point soon I will write up another blog post here about the road to launch but in the meantime please do register for History SPOT, have a look around, and let us know what you think.

I hope you enjoy the site!

Matt

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