Tag Archives: History

Memory as Augmented Reality

6 Sep

Pennellwood Water Tower, OvergrownOr, Pennellwood: Years Later

Pennellwood was summer.  It was childhood.  It was long days of sunscreen and endless nights of bugspray, weeks that seemed to last for months – it was summer camp, for the whole family.

Pennellwood was underwanter; the business plan wasn’t sustainable.  It closed, but our family traditions didn’t.  So we looked for something else, a new place in which to continue.  We found it, but it wasn’t the same.  We spent days by the pool and nights tending bar.  (Some things about family camp change when you grow up.)  But a large part of the time, we spent talking about Pennellwood.  Remembering it, missing it, wishing that we were there instead.  Leaving the new camp today, someone suggested that we go to Pennellwood.  Just to see what it had become. Continue reading

Civilizing Facebook

1 Jun Civ V Logo

Original Civilization video game boxHow did I miss this news?!  Civilization is coming to Facebook!  (And now you’re probably like, what, Facebook is the bane of civilization and is ruining our culture and ability to communicate effectively and to interact with each other.)  No, Civilization with a capital C.  Civilization the video game.  Probably the only game I’ve ever actually loved.  (Although Super Mario 3 for Super Nintendo may be up there.) Continue reading

They didn’t have video games in 1776

26 Apr

Currently, I’m in Colonial Williamsburg – thus the few days without a post.  But, today I took this picture that I wanted to share.  Yep, it’s a little boy wearing a tri-cornered hat while playing a video game on a smart phone.  When worlds (erm, historical eras) collide…

Williamsburg is great and I’ll have a much longer post with better pictures (it was hard to take this one without the kid’s mom thinking that I was a creep) later.  I’m really interested how they choose to represent the era.  It’s all been pretty shiny and happy, but I guess that’s easy when you’re portraying the side that won.

Also, Colonial Williamsburg’s website is history.org – how cool is that?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Social Media and the Art of Storytelling, Reader Responses

20 Apr Open Book

This is the customary follow-up piece written by someone who didn’t consider all of the lovely ideas that the commenters brought to the table while she was writing her original article.  Unfortunately, a lot of times writers of these pieces seem to miss the bigger issues that the commenters brought up and instead focus on a few straw men that they can tear down to bolster their argument.  Of course, I wasn’t really making an argument, so hopefully I won’t fall into this trap.  (But, let me know if I do!)

Thanks to being featured on Freshly Pressed, Social Media and the Art of Storytelling has become my most viewed post.  After reading the comments (and responding to as many of them as I could), I realize that I left some lose ends in that post.

One thing that was pointed out time and again was that online communication cannot fully replace face to face interactions.  I think broadsideblog said it best:

There is something much more powerful about telling one another our stories face to face, not pixel by pixel. We need to know the effect on one another of our stories, whether tears or laughter, sighs or gasps…. I want to hear the voice, see their eyes, and when I am story-telling I need to see and hear what’s compelling — and what’s not.

Of course, that’s totally correct and applies not only to storytelling, but to communication in general.  You don’t comfort a grieving friend through chat and you don’t celebrate your child’s 5th birthday with an e-card.  It’s just not the same.  Some things do require physical presence, eye contact, and touch.

But, the medium through which we communicate is changing and we’re losing these elements in many of our day-to-day interactions.  (Earlier this year, I did a Facebook poll of my siblings and cousins to see how they wanted to celebrate Christmas…)  That’s happening and we can’t stop it.  So, really, the question is, how can we make sure that changes to the medium don’t affect changes to the message?  (Yes, yes, I know – “The medium is the message.”)  As commenter Jaime Greening said:

the medium of the story matters, but it neither stops nor starts the story. the story originates in the storyteller and germinates until it finds an audience. human beings must tell stories, and we will use what is available–twitter, fb, blog or cave walls.

Perfectly said.  Now can someone please make an evolutionary chart that shows the progression of storytelling mediums from cave paintings to twitter?  Information is Beautiful, maybe?

Another thing that came up a lot was people wondering how all of these stories that we’re creating and posting online could be preserved.  Listener commented:

And to think, for millenia the vast majority of people existed with no record of their existence other than their DNA. I suppose we are lucky.?! This should be motivation to make use of the new-found ease with with we can create.

At what point will historians, museums, or historical societies start to preserve and catalogue the virtual world? It seems quite a daunting task to take a snapshot of the entire web. Since things online are always changing, you’d need to somehow capture everything at once if you wanted a representative view of the web of 2011, for example.

I do have real answers to this one, not just the meandering thoughts that I’ve had to the previous two.  (But, don’t worry, I have meandering thoughts on this, too.)  We as bloggers aren’t alone in recognizing the need to capture our stories, our culture, and our communications and to save them for the future.  The Library of Congress does, too.  Last year, they began archiving tweets.  They’ll be searchable for scholars in the future.  To learn more about the archive, read How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires  Entire Twitter Archive.  Imagine if historians had similar data from different periods.  What if a civil war scholar could get data about opinion and chatter on any given day in the lead up to the war.  What if a WWII scholar could look into the social networks of Germans leading up to the war and see how densely Jews were tied into larger social networks and at what point those ties broke?  (Have I mentioned that I’m a history nerd?)  Also, the Internet Archive, is working to catalog the Internet and its growth and changes for future scholars.  (Who knows, your blog may appear in a book 100 years from now!)  Their project, the Wayback Machine, allows you to see to internet site at different points in the past and view their development over time.  So cool!

I did have one commenter, Alecia, who kind of stumped me.  (Unfortunately Alecia didn’t link to her blog, so no pingbacks for her.) She asked:

Why is storytelling so important in relation to digital social media?

When I first heard about the importance of storytelling in today’s tech world, I was a little confused. Storytelling doesn’t seem that important to me. But Guy Kawasaki and other ‘connected’ people I’ve read about stress storytelling’s importance.

Why do you think digital storytelling is important?

I think I may have failed a bit on my response:

Hmmm. For me, I guess I’ve never questioned that story telling is important. I think of it as a basic way that we interact with and connect with each other. It bonds people together and forges shared experiences.

I’ve always been really interested in the study of what myths and creation stories say about a culture. I think that you can tell a lot about a people and what they value from the stories that they tell. Are you familiar with the Horatio Alger stories? Stories are often shorthand for our hopes as fears.

My real interest in writing this is that we don’t lose storytelling’s place in our culture as we become a more physically disconnected society.

So, readers, commenters, I put it to you.  Why is storytelling important?  Can you help me articulate it any better?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Too Hardcore with the Smithsonian

2 Apr Smithsonian Logo

Teddy Roosevelt is more of a badass than 50Cent.  Does that make you want to go to a museum?  Jenny Burrows and Matt Kappler, creators of the “Historically Hardcore” ads hope so.

According to Geekosystem (which I found via MentalFloss), the artists teamed up to create this fake Smithsonian ads as part of a portfolio project.  But, it seems that the ads were a bit to… um, hardcore for the Smithsonian which asked to be disassociated from them.  Sad, because I wish museums would take more of this type of approach to history.  (It might cause more people to want to visit.  Or at least stop my siblings from groaning when I suggest we go to a museum.  “Why do we have to learn about history?  We’re on vacation.”)  But I guess bragging about how many people Ghengis Khan slept with is probably not kosher for a government funded museum.  (Your tax dollars at work and all that.)  (Also, does anyone know if that is actually true.  I found it on Wikipedia, but their source link for the fact was broken.

I never knew this fact about Andrew Jackson and his parrot, but it doesn’t surprise me.  (I like to think of Andre Jackson as a presidential Jack Sparrow type figure.   A bit of a rapscallion, if you will.  Please don’t disabuse me of this.)  This is just another reason to add to the list of why he is my favorite president.  (Yes, I understand that he did terrible things and that this is not a very PC choice.)  Seriously, wheel of cheese, the kitchen cabinet, slaying the bank…  (Look them up, you’ll be glad that you did.)  Obviously he had some issues with overreaching of executive power, but he was also awesome.

On other history nerd topics, I bring you these recommendations: Bangable Dudes of History and Stuff You Missed in History Class.  The first is more funny than defensible, but I’ve actually learned quite a bit from the second.  Although it comes from How Stuff Works (which doesn’t always seem like the best source), I’ve found that the history seems to be pretty accurate.  Also, they introduced me to the awesomeness that it Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of the most fascinating historically figures that I’ve had the pleasure to encounter.

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