Assignment 1: Reviewing a DH Tool
The Digital Humanities Tool that I have chosen to review for this assignment is SepiaTown.
SepiaTown is an online digital tool that maps historical images around the world. It’s as they describe it, “a cultural history project”. The makers of this Website’s goal is to “provide a window to the past by merging photography, Geography and Technology, as well as a forum for institutions and individuals to share and map historical images”.
I found this Digital Tool in the DIRT Directory when I browsed through the “Mapping” category. I clicked the link that was provided, http://sepiatown.com/ , and it brought me straight to the SepiaTown website.
I checked the site’s identity by viewing the site’s information, to the left of the URL, and it stated that the site hasn’t provided the browser with a certificate. However, this is deemed as “normal for regular HTTP sites because certificates are usually provided only if the site uses SSL.
While I was registering, it asked me if I was an organization, and if so, to state my number, web-address, address, and to give them a description of the type of organization or collector that we were, or collection that we had.
SepiaTown is a website that has an interactive Google-Map displayed on the homepage, which allows you to search for historical images all over the world, in the exact place that they were taken then. They love to describe them as “Then & Now” images.
The site has a great layout, and provides any information possible that is frequently searched by users. It even has it’s very own Image Guidelines as to who can upload and what can be uploaded. They have strict rules that either you have to be the copyright holder of the image to upload it onto the website, or the image is in the public domain, has been given a creative commons licenses which would make it acceptable to upload and that you follow all the protocols of that license.
In regards to what can be uploaded, a picture more recent than 1985 is not acceptable, taking in the fact we’re in 2015 now. They like the image age to be at least 30. When uploading your image, they would prefer the image to be placed accurately on the map. If the image is a portrait, it either has to display a good amount of the location, or of a person of significant historical interest to be added to the SepiaTown map. Any graphic subject matter (Violence/Sexual Imagery) is rarely allowed, but, as I will state later in regard to a Road Map, they hope to build a filtering system that will allow the upload of images from an important part of history, that naturally would be inappropriate for certain ages.
When you’ve followed these guidelines, each image you upload gets it’s own page and permanent URL, along with it’s own comments section and a “share link”. If you come across a photo that doesn’t match the criteria, or a problem with the website, you can report it on the Report a Problem page.
There is a Latest Uploads page that lets you view what’s been recently added onto the interactive map around the world.
When I searched for Research Articles on this tool, I used the search engines Google Scholar, and DuckDuckGo, and all that arose was small reviews from magazines that SepiaTown had previously linked to their page in their Press section. All were good, but none fit my criteria of being a “research” article. I changed my wording to a “discussion” about the tool, and I found this small, but useful review from a website called http://www.teachersfirst.com/ . This teacher showed their take on the tool, and said that it would be perfect for a projector/interactive whiteboard while teaching a class like history, or before they would go on field trips, so they could view the “Then & Now” pictures.
Maturity/stability of the tool
From my research, the tool was made in 2010, and looks somewhat the same as it did then, feature-wise. But, in the FAQ section of SepiaTown’s page, there is a title called “The Future of SepiaTown”. They state that they are working hard as we speak, on several new features that will make the user’s experience better, from Improved search capabilities and uploader profiles, to a cool new mapping game.
The creators, Jon Protas, Eric Warren, and Eric Lehnartz, believe that SepiaTown is still in it’s “infancy”, and in the coming months it will be growing in it’s scope and offerings. Their Roadmap for the future entails an enhanced member presence within the core SepiaTown website by:
“having greater community interaction opportunities, embedded SepiaTown technology for member websites, more options for uploaded media types, a mobile experience, and opportunities for members to generate revenues by leveraging their archives”. So there isn’t an app for phones or tablets at the moment, but the process of making one has begun, with on-location viewing becoming available in the near future.
Sustainability of the tool
As I stated above, the tool has been available since 2010, along with the creation of the tool’s social media pages. It doesn’t seem that they have a strong community supporting them in relation to the amount of followers or “likes” that they have built up over the years. Their twitter page @SepiaTown has 524 followers, and their last tweet was May 2014. That’s nearly a full year ago, so they don’t seem to have the urge to build this website, as they claim they do on their own website, which was last updated Jan 2015. They have a collective 1,361 likes on Facebook which their last update on that was March 2012, and on Pinterest they have 27 followers in total. Not much for an up and coming tool. They also have a blog, that they link on their own website with their Twitter and Facebook, and their last blogpost was Jan 2012.
SepiaTown is not an open-source website where you can contribute code to their page to improve it, however you cam contribute photos that you own, to help build the website even more.
There is no export tool on this website. It’s an online based mapping tool that you’ll have to connect to the internet to experience it’s features.
Sustainability of your research
This website is information filled, with how-to’s on everything you need to know about the site and using it. So it’s very clear to the user straight away how easy this tool is, and enjoyable at the same time.
I was confused at first how to even work out what to click on this website, because there’s so much going on, on the screen. But I was steered in the right direction by the information toolbar on the top right-hand corner, which told me everything I needed to know and answered any question I had previously thought. Everything I have stated is verifiable and reproducible and you can see for yourself if you visit the website, or the research articles I have mentioned.
Finishing my research on this tool, I evaluated how unique it is, and how much it would appeal to the common history enthusiast or even a life enthusiast. It displays the impact history had on certain buildings, the role science had on technology. For example, in images these days you’d see cars, telephone wires, etc. The difference between culture and dress sense would be astounding to notice if you were never born in that era, and if you were, the nostalgia would come flooding back. Since learning about all the new features that are to come from this tool, I’m even more intrigued than I was to begin with and I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for SepiaTown.