Final Project

Rethinking Holocaust Education in Germany

Introduction:

The Holocaust has often been examined in terms of its uniqueness both in scope and impact. In particular, it represents the ostensible end of European Jewish life due to of the Nazis’ systematic extermination of European Jewish communities from 1939-1945. Because of the difficulty in grasping the dimensions of suffering and the agency of Germany as the perpetrator of this attempted genocide, post-war Germany has been engaged in an educational struggle of how to teach this part of its lurid history.

After a period of silence indicating the inability of post-war Germany to deal with the horrors of its recent past, since the 1960sGermany has undergone a number of phases which represent some kind quest to find  the “right way” to come to terms with this event. The educational scene, however, seems to shift continuously and Holocaust education still reflects the (in) ability of German educators to adapt accordingly. Since the end of the Second World War, Holocaust education in Germany is shaped by one major ambition: how to understand the darkest part of one’s history and how to convey that to future generations so as to prevent it from happening again.

The present proposal will outline major themes encompassing Germany’s struggle in teaching the Holocaust, as well as discussing alternatives using a variety of tools, including the New Media, touching upon fundamental misconceptions having found its way into Holocaust education. This study will address aspects of Holocaust education used in other countries, such as the United States, in order to provide an additional perspective to German Holocaust education. It is important to include general questions addressed to an audience regardless of national or ethnic origin. For instance, how can teachers make students comprehend horrible Nazi crimes without traumatizing them; how do educators, especially in Germany, reconcile different German-Jewish worlds to enable students to comprehend their complexity before/during/after Hitler’s regime? It appears that Germany has not yet fully divested itself of its bias since 1945. It is understandable that Germany lacked the necessary distance for appropriate reflection due to the fact that an entire country, including its education system, was implicated in this period and subsequently severally traumatized.

However, the public today appears to have moved on and a more objective attitude has been observed by the educational system. It is a gap that Germany’s educational system has not quite grasped because the theoretical approach (i.e. making future generations understand the horror of Nazi crimes) has not changed. There is a lot at stake in Holocaust education in contemporary Germany. A study, conducted in 2008 by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) shows a significant deficit in Holocaust education. One indication of this might be that some adolescent Germans today still use “Jew” as an epithet. (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/943953.html)

Stages of Holocaust Education in West-Germany[1] – an Overview:

1)      1945 – 1960 “Silence, Silencing”

After the horrors of Nazi rule and occupation became clear (post 1945) the German public was preoccupied with coming to terms with its own history and responsibility. However, because the German public was too close to a phenomenon that was almost impossible to comprehend, it lacked the ability to address educational issues immediately following the Second World War. In addition to this incapability due in large part to proximity, other factors also contributed to the omission of Holocaust education in post-war Germany. Opportunist figures who called themselves “Nazi” in one era and “democrat” in the next were still part of the public sphere, including politics, education, and art. Hence, failing to recognize their own participation in such a horrible regime they encouraged silencing the public sphere, which had a significant effect on education.

2)      1960s “Uproar”

Characteristic of the 1960s young people could not bear this impressed silence by the older generation and challenged their parents and other people of that generation to break the silence and face their own history. This marked the beginning and set the foundations for a future Holocaust education.

3)      1970 – 1985 “Adaptation, Reform”

The last taboo in the German public sphere was broken when the TV mini-series “Holocaust” was aired in Germany in 1979 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_%28TV_miniseries%29). It was a collaborative work between the United States and Germany and, on the whole, it was received positively, albeit harshly criticized by renowned scholars, such as Elie Wiesel. Yet in Germany it was a cornerstone in reprocessing German history brought forward and dominated by the public sphere, specifically the media. Holocaust education finally curbed schools in West-Germany with the legacy to come to terms with its own history and to prevent it from happening again.

4)      1985 – 2003 “Reconsideration”

In 1985 the German-Israeli Textbook Commission (http://www.gei.de/en/the-institute/history.html) highlighted the need for an essential overhaul of Holocaust education. It called for a major shift regarding the perception of the Jewish People. The Commission encouraged major editing of German History textbooks. Due to the heavy focus on the Holocaust in the context of German history the Jews were mainly portrayed as passive victims without any form of agency.

5)      2003 – ? “A New Beginning?”

Aside from the success and willingness to implement revising German textbooks, German Holocaust education continues to face challenges. The Commission for the Distribution of German-Jewish History of the Leo-Baeck Institute published a directory for school education dealing with German-Jewry in 2003. (http://juedischesmuseum.de/fileadmin/user_upload/uploadsJM/PDF/Museumsp%C3%A4dagogik/orientierungshilfe.pdf) The Commission’s main concern included the lack of contextualization of German-Jewish history where the Holocaust “only” represents one part of that complex history. The Commission called for the inclusion of pre-Holocaust Jewish contributions to German culture as well as developments post-1945. In addition to this problematic, Holocaust education is prompted to altercate with matters such as growing distancing of German youth and multi-national classrooms.

Teaching Holocaust – Theoretical Approaches

This section discusses and evaluates a number of theories by putting them into the overall context of Germany’s continuous struggle with this subject.

Source A

In 1997 the German historian and pedagogue Matthias Heyl wrote a great analysis of Holocaust education since 1945 (http://www.fasena.de/download/english/Heyl%20%281997e%29.PDF). He summarizes educational theories as well as points out the most influential scholars and scientist on German Holocaust education. In his text, he quotes Mark Weitzman, then the director the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as he addresses a German academic audience in 1995:

“You have the responsibility of instilling the subject [of the Holocaust] into the curriculum and not just in the formal sense. It also requires absolute honesty between teachers and students […] what is preserved and taught to the next generation indicates what a society finds valuable. What is not preserved or taught equally makes a judgment upon values of that society.”

This statement reflects the attitude of Germany’s general public, especially in politics and the arts, after the awakening to deal with the subject in the 1960s. The political scene had become very sensitive to the issues at hand and receptive to outside requests. These included suggestions to stress commemoration and engagement with Germany’s dark history in order to instill a long-lasting awareness of what ancestors of future German generation were capable of doing. It was certainly necessary to use political and educational advice from non-German parties because Germany mantled itself in silence after the war and thus the educational sphere suffered enormously.

Since the 1970s Germany has taken on this agency of commemoration and the association of students’ being in direct relation to the German perpetrators. Hence, German schools taught about the Nazi regime with a heavy emphasis on the horrors of the Holocaust. This might have proven effective with the first post-war generation as part of elucidation of what had taken place; but with the third generation the effectiveness already declined. One of the reasons might be related to the growing distance from the historical event which can cause a dangerous abstraction regarding the Holocaust. It can be too easily seen as a terrible moment in  history without any context. On the educational level, this policy produces students who are do not feel any connection to the Holocaust and, even worse, develop negative feelings such as resentment towards the subject. This phenomenon will intensify the more time passes and survivors eventually disappear. . This may ultimately result in lack of appreciation of responsibility Germany has to incorporate as part of its history. It appears that the concerns of initial post-war efforts of Holocaust awareness by ambitiously attempting to establish a long-term memory has already failed only a few generations later.

Heyl starts out his essay by stating that,

the “subject matter is so complex that it represents a particular challenge to language, in which we communicate with each other on this topic. The limits of language reflects the limits of our comprehension and our understanding”

Here Heyl draws upon the general human inability to comprehend such horrors produced by human nature. Philosophy and literature have dealt with this subject even during the Nazis’ efforts to exterminate the entire Jewish population in Europe. Similar to the previously discussed difficulty of commemoration and the resulting pressure  is the emphasis on the inability to understand such a horrific event. In the case of the Holocaust it appears that our limitations to actually understand what happened already imposes a growing limitation on students’ ability to learn about the Holocaust. . Although the earlier discussed fundamental problem of German Holocaust education requires significant rethinking of how to incorporate the subject of the Holocaust in High School education, finding ways to deal with the limitations of language can be addressed on a smaller scale, however. For example, how do the New Media and digital tools come into play? What can be done to ease the tension between human inability to comprehend an event and the necessity to communicate this event to best suit a German audience.

Heyl further touches upon various theories such as “working on one’s identity, which takes a reflexive and reflective form”, in addition to “identificatoric learning” (Birgit Rommelspacher), which embraces the theory of assimilation of history through confrontation, study, research, and learning” (Raul Hilberg). Recent studies bring forward theories where establishing memory and commemoration appear to be the ultimate goal and thus the question is how German education can achieve this goal. The UNESCO Guidebook on Textbook Research and Textbook Revision explicitly points out the importance of being aware of politics of remembrance as a powerful instrument to shape peoples’ and pupils’ view on the past. [They also] may restrict the freedom of interpretation to a certain extent (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001171/117188E.pdf ).

Confrontation and empathy are two key principles encouraging students to embrace the model of memory throughout their adulthood. The former principle stems from requests present since 1945. Moreover, its effectiveness can be highly questioned after sixty years and a current generation where one in two Germans do not know what the Holocaust is. At the end of his study Heyl emphasizes the necessity to create a framework in which our future efforts towards enlightening, reflected handling of this history and its conveyance could first gain a foothold – for this we need your help [addressing the non-German audience].

It is interesting to point out that even in 1997 this long-lasting legacy of external advice based on confrontation and memorization is favored by pedagogues who face shifts in behavior of the German youth. It is difficult to understand why educators in the 1990s did not draw any parallels between the theories developed since 1945 and thus failed to implement them in the German school system. Perhaps it is crucial to recognize the changing nature of behavior patterns of a young generation for whom the Nazi regime appears to be in the distant past. Therefore educators might be better off reevaluating their approach to Holocaust education with regards to searching for ways to bring the “distance past” closer to a young globalized and multicultural generation. Due to the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors new forms of conveyance need to be established. The New Media has to play a significant role in part because Western society already relies heavily on technological achievements in the general public and the youth culture is very accustomed to being informed through these new forms of communication.

Sources B and C

In Ten Suggestions for Teaching the Holocaust (http://www.jstor.org/pss/494162) Jeffrey Glanz presents some interesting ideas, which can be helpful in applying an external angle to Holocaust education in Germany by using theories that are tailored according to human understanding and reaction disregarding the origins of the students. Glanz brings forward the following theories which have not been noticed anywhere in German Holocaust education since the 1970s:

Grounding any work about Holocaust in sound pedagogy; preparing students to cognitively grapple with subject by connecting previous learnings and conceptions to the new content; encourage active and meaningful activities; relating teaching the subject to one’s own educational philosophy (548/49).

Another study Teaching the Unteachable by Christopher Friedrichs (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1048545) tackles the difficulty of teaching the Holocaust from a Canadian perspective. This study is geared toward undergraduate education. Here too Friedrichs stresses important issues that can be adapted to the German situation because he addresses general difficulties in coping with a subject that is largly beyond human comprehension. Here are a few arguments:

  • Holocaust can never be fully comprehended […] this does not mean, however, that we should not make the effort. To teach about the Holocaust will always be inadequate – but to ignore it would be immoral (95)
  • in my teachings I have come to deemphasize a detailed description of technology  of mass murder and the use of graphic material to illustrate it – rather focus on why it happened and what it meant (100/01)
  • Those who have forgotten the past are doomed to repeat it is obviously false because it was unique, the Holocaust as such will never occur again; but to know that it happened in twentieth century will at least teach future generations never to underestimate human capacity for evil in their own days (104)

In particular the third point touches on a fundamental issue ignored by German Holocaust education. It is crucial to find ways bridge the gap between the past and the present by relating current political and social affairs to similar circumstances in the Third Reich. This does not imply in any way to abstract the Holocaust and reduce it to the level of other horrible regime . Rather to encourage students’ understanding and empathy by drawing sensible comparisons to more recent events.

Source D

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum devotes a great part of its web presentation to teacher’s guidelines. It is considered a standard resource in Holocaust education in the United States. Hence, it is worthwhile to illuminate a few of its pedagogical tips. http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/guideline/

  • Why should students learn this history?
  • What is a good medium to teach what?
  • Sources
  • Individualize statistics
  • Don’t pick images and texts that exploit students’ emotional vulnerability; if visuals are too graphic use other approaches
  • Refrain from simulation game; rather survivor testimonies
  • By exposing students to some 2,000 years of Jewish life in Europe balance perception of victims and traumatic disruption

These broad guidelines represent a great opportunity to engage in a variety of methods, employing digital material and other forms of the New Media. It can significantly transform the learning experience in the German classroom because students can relate to technology, which also makes History come to live in a way students can grasp it better.

Source E

The above mentioned teaching directory by the Leo Baeck Institute  (http://juedischesmuseum.de/fileadmin/user_upload/uploadsJM/PDF/Museumsp%C3%A4dagogik/orientierungshilfe.pdf[2]) is the most recent study addressing major flaws in Holocaust education in Germany.

  • Anti-Semitism, persecution, and Holocaust are still focused on primarily in a one-sided fashion; although it shouldn’t be omitted reducing German-Jewish history to those events is a didactic failure
  • Consistent representation of Jews as victims and objects instead of pointing out their significant contribution to modernity
  • Lacking in Jewish accounts; rather portrayed through their environment
  • Result: one-sided historical portrayal where any positive aspect of German-Jewish history has been blanked out
  • A change of perspective is required and German-Jewish history needs to be put into the European context where anti-Semitism, Enlightenment were present as well
  • Judaism is also part of the historical foundations our [German] culture and thus a fair amount of time needs to address cultural achievements by Jews in Germany
  • German-Jewish history does not end with the Holocaust; the existence and meaning of a flourishing Jewish community has not been mentioned at all in Holocaust education

The Leo Baeck Institute summarizes fundamental issues that offer some explanations for the current generation of students distancing themselves from the Holocaust.

Public Discourse/Realities in Education

This segment will include two perspectives on Holocaust education in Germany. The first one is an interview conducted in 2005 with a German professor, Lars Rensman, at Munich University (A) (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/germans/germans/education.html) and the second is an overview of Holocaust education in the Holocaust Education Report (http://www.holocausttaskforce.org/education/holocaust-education-reports/germany-holocaust-education-report.html), undated (B).

A

Very often children in Germany get their knowledge through TV – this is an ambivalent situation because what you learn through TV or Internet or other media might not be so reliable and might not be so differentiated compared to knowledge you might acquire in a school class through active discussion, participation, and under guidance of teachers

This statement concentrates on the (post) modern phenomenon of limited control of technology and the students’ limitless exposure to unrated data. Despite the obvious dangers, it seems any attempt to control this exposure to media is potentially doomed. Therefore, it is important to train teachers in technical skills which they can pass on to students in order to be able to evaluate source material and select contents carefully. Overall, because of the endless opportunities students have to engage with technology and multi-media, teachers need to embrace this media as well and didactically approach the advantages as well as disadvantages of using such media. Another theme Rensmann addresses includes the students’ (active) role in Holocaust education. He values students who ambitiously want to figure out roles of victims and perpetrators because the

Holocaust is indeed part of one’s German collective self-identity and self-image and needs to be because you can neither rewrite history nor escape the fact that you are shaped by your social and cultural background. Those students who fully accept this particular responsibility and legacy develop cosmopolitan, universalistic ethical values and post-national identity.

Here he touches on an essential conflict and misconception in the definition of responsibility versus confrontation of one’s own past. The consistent emphasis on confrontation of the students’ past since Holocaust education has been established is not a helpful factor in contemporary German society in part because of the lack of distance to the subject. Furthermore, it is also questionable how morally justified it is to demand one to identify with the perpetrator’s role in German history instead of using alternative ways to communicate responsibility in the twenty-first century. Overall, it is highly questionable what evidence Rensmann can provide about how students who confront their individual German past transform into “better” and more responsible citizens.

B

The following themes are listed under the heading major obstacles:

  • Holocaust denial is a marginal problem
  • Students often feel implicit accusation of guilt – can result into rejection of dealing with the topic
  • Teachers must find new ways to motivate students for studying Holocaust in depth
  • Immigrants from other countries might feel this is not their history and is less relevant for them

The first and second point can actually be related to one another. Even though Holocaust denial is not as prominent in Germany as in other countries the de-motivation of students who are made feel guilty about their identity might as well be seen as a variation of denial specific to educational circumstance in Germany. In order to avoid dangers of misconceived \ education the report stresses the need for new ways to motivate students. It is difficult to believe that since the end of the Second World War there was a distinct mode of motivation discernible in Holocaust education. On the contrary, Holocaust education has been considered a necessity as part of a larger project of post-war memory and responsibility. Consequently, due to specific circumstances in the learning environment of twenty-first century Germany a different, transformed form of rationale needs to be developed to inspire students to engage with the subject. The last point regarding the motivation of migrant students compels us to think about the actual difference in (non) identification between students with and without a migration background. Having looked at a variety of evaluations of the current educational scene, specifically pointing to the distance and educational saturation, a difference in attitude between German students with or without a migration background is hardly discernible.

Conclusion or How to See the Future of German Holocaust Education:

In conclusion, having looked at a variety of historical, educational, and cultural factors present in Holocaust education since 1945, I have concluded that the complexities that continue to plague Germany cannot be ignored. Overall, it can be noted that Germany’s public education went through a number of phases although its philosophy and “ideology” seems to have not been significantly transformed. One reason might be that there never really has been a well-crafted rationale for Holocaust education in Germany but rather a “passive” response to circumstances immediately following the war. Until recently this lack of rationale has never been questioned because of the proximity of the German public to the event. However, the general sphere can no longer ignore the tendency of German students to distance themselves from identifying with their own history, as well as the resulting lack of responsibility. Furthermore, despite the continuous efforts to establish Holocaust education as a central theme, a deficiency in basic education about the Holocaust among students has been noticed. This paradox should challenge educators to rethink the foundations of Holocaust education in Germany.

The present study is a preliminary effort to point out the complexities of Holocaust education up to the present day. Many more themes can be included to expand the framework including other historical, social, and cultural issues that need to be addressed. For instance, a more detailed analysis of the profile of the post-modern student could be provided in order to tailor the demands more accurately. This new student profile becomes central when methods and tools come into play in order to reach the student body. Another theme for the purpose of comparison and potential solutions can illuminate the controversial educational situation of teaching slavery in the United States. It would be interesting to see how the U.S. tackles certain taboos in the classroom and how teaching slavery has transformed classroom experience over time. Perhaps certain multi-media methods can also be applied in the German context. Finally, the area of methodology and digital tools available today should be discussed at great length to clarify the challenges but also opportunities the New Media pose in a classroom experience.

Further Links of Interest

http://iearn.org/hgp/aeti/aeti-1998-no-frames/holocaust-ed-in-germany.htm *another portrayal of the current situation in Holocaust education

http://www.opednews.com/articles/HOW-TURKISH-GERMANS–TURK-by-ALONE-100127-657.html *addressing the issue of the multi-cultural classroom experience

http://learning-from-history.de/International

http://learning-from-history.de/ *more guidelines how to deal with Holocaust education

http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/antebellumslavery/odonovan.html *teaching slavery in today’s classroom


[1] This study only discusses Holocaust education in West-Germany due to the dominance of material. After the reunification in 1990 East-Germany had to adapt to educational policies from the West. It is crucial to emphasize and often overlooked, however, that East-Germany approached this highly sensitive topic more openly than West-Germany (http://www.searchlightmagazine.com/index.php?link=template&story=82).

[2] All translations are the authors own.






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Question for Prof. Ulrich:

I read with great interest your article on “Erasing History” because it  was also written in an engaging way.

You mentioned that it is difficult to find proper sources for most findings on the Internet. Moreover, it needs someone whose standard research methods enable him/her to make use of what is out there.

I was wondering whether perhaps our regular skepticism as Humanity scholars comes into play. I was wondering whether it might be a good idea to take into account new generations of High School and College students who grow up with computer technology, who already illustrate their lives digitally, and use advanced technology on a day-to-day basis. Wouldn’t it just as well be a natural process to be able to select carefully what one wants to give attention to? Although perhaps, not in such a complex way, will future college students have the ability to employ a quicker selection process?

Class Website Design

After I carefully examined the following 1.0 course websites I was intrigued to see how very much visible is the effort to make it appealing to the student by using a great variety of colors, pictures, and texts.

The websites represent a learning tool in itself where a great deal of information is already at hand and clicking through the website can be sufficient to reach a certain amount of skills and knowledge. It goes without saying that it is not the officially required amount. Moreover, the websites can be considered as entities, which provide little guidance to the web world outside of it. The “external” web world is only used to either underline or offer more information on topics, which already have been touched upon.

Jeremy Bogg’s Digital History website encourages to think about website designs in a whole new way, especially in comparison to the 1.0 websites.

(http://clioweb.org/courses/digitalhistory/spring10/)

It is probably the most down-to-earth website I have ever seen, where the user immediately notices the reasoning behind it: usability and functionality. The website takes the student to sources outside, which includes audio-visual material as well as texts.

I wonder whether there is a more distinct development going on where skills and learning are acquired through the do-it-yourself method by going out there. The “home” website only functions as a starting point and to reveal what is asked of the student to pass the course. Requirements are not pretty and so is not the website. What is beautiful is the web itself and students can explore it as much as they want. Moreover,  in this growing digital age a course a single website cannot reflect, neither visually nor in content, what is out there, so why compete?!

In my opinion, Bogg’s website takes us to the next level in digital age, beyond the simple excitement to see your course website on the web and draw students to what you have created. It rather seems: the more the vast internet body grows the more we need basic guidance to find our way through it. This basic guidance has to be useful and clear, above all, and not necessarily pretty.

Questions for Prof. Capshew and Prof. Pace:

First of all, I am really happy to see visually pleasing layouts and accessible designs, which generate a certain curiosity to explore. I think it is very important considering the continually growing vast amount of websites out there. This kind of design is particularly crucial in the field of education. Recently, I have noticed quite a few reports about individual experiences on the web and what the web “does” to you. The main complaint deals with the thought that, although the web trains your brain to browse things efficiently and to capture necessary information, it eventually loses a certain in-depth capacity. In addition, while looking for interesting things to read on the web we tend to get impatient with longer written pieces and lose concentration, which might even prevent us from finishing the text.

The sources I have looked at, from both of you, include a great deal of audio-visual material, as well as (in addition to) text. It appears, in order to make it appealing for the student body, that the audio-visual material is put into the forefront. My question is about how willing students actually are to explore the written text. They already might have a sense of an acquired satisfactory knowledge. (Let’s disregard the academic pressure to get a decent grade). I also have to admit that large fonts give a website a superficial taste despite their visual appeal to explore what is behind a link. In other words, will web designed courses ever go deep enough like a classroom lesson where students have to prepare a fair amount of text beforehand?

On a similar note, what about graduate seminars? Can they be presented online as well?  How important will then be visual material? What about in-depth analysis and understanding of the topic? Although I personally still need a good amount of background information no matter what seminar I visit, a website for a graduate course should also offer something else. But how can this “else” be represented in an appealing way?

Question for Dr. Bodenhamer

Having read parts of the upcoming book The Spatial Humanities,  I was very excited to see the effort to open up methods in science as well as in humanities for mutual benefit. I was wondering one thing though: It is curious to see how these cutting-edge ideas are conveyed. The text refers to visual ways and methods to enable humanities to open up for broader access and it points out how humanity scholars feel uneasy about it due to unfamiliarity. Hence, what is the reasoning behind to present those ideas just  in form of a monogroph written in a highly technical manner as opposed to complementing it with a web project? In other words, wouldn’t a web project with ideas about spatial humanities illustrated in form of clear examples provide easier access for sceptical scholars?

Prospectus: Final Project

The” Holocaust in Education” Project

Going through a wide range of German language website, which deal with the subject on how to educate High School students (roughly between the ages 14 -18) the turnout was scarce regarding the educational support.

 My plan will be to provide an overview of a three German as well as three Amerian websites, which have the Holocaust as their central theme. Moreover, in particular I will analyze websites created by educational institutions, such as museums or memorial sites. I would like to trace elements, which benefit Holocaust eduction for High School students in Germany.

The second part of my proposal will include a detailed plan of my own website with features that either built upon the researched websites or improve certain aspects to make the problematic historical field of the Holocaust more accessible to High School students. My main interest, representing the chore of the proposal, is how to reach out to the audience and make a difficult part of Germany history accessible to them in form of internactive engagement. 

Because of my own experience and knowledge of how this subject in History has caused ambivalent feelings in students because of the lack of educational engagement I  am aware of potential conflict and perhaps even danger the more time elapses since the end of the Second World War. Moreover, students at schools in Germany tend to get fed up with learning about the Holocaust because it is treated like an abstract theme, with millions of people murdered, totally unrelated to their lives.

This project idea has prompted me to  ask a couple of questions:

1) When providing the archicture of the website how much “plumbing” do I need to know? In other words, is a theoretical concept of available tools sufficient?

2) Would a proposal be acceptable that includes a detailed map of features, ideas, and technological items? But mostly uses prose?

Comment on Copyright and Intellectual Property

After having read Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture” and his personal views on the issue of how copyright effects the Internet I was wondering about what that means for the future.

Within the field of education we are already in the transition regarding the tools we use and how we make the classroom experience more exciting. Teachers use digital as well as audiovisual material along with traditional formats, such as books. Although the classroom might need to be treated as a separate case, education, as a general concept, is perhaps one of the most salient themes on the vastness of the Internet. I use “education” here in the broadest sense. People distribute their creativity, in whatever form, on the Internet and recipients process their work.

Since we can already find ourselves in the transition to a more digital world, where we can access almost anything on the Internet (films, documents etc.), then, what does it mean for the future? In other words, when children at school start to use their e-readers to access the needed textbook for biology or chemistry is it really that easy to say we should leave the Internet as a vast open space for intellectual endeavor? Can we really say that any kind of restriction would limit intellectual creativity and its freedom of distribution? I think we have not quite come to understand what the Internet and our intellectual world moving digital really means and implies. It looks like that the Internet will be and already is the future platform for any cultural accomplishment due to the potential of a world-wide distribution and thus the increasing difficulty to compete in a global world. Hence, although the Internet should remain this open space for everyone, we cannot simply accept the idea that the protection of intellectual property does not have to be revised in a digital world.

Question for Prof. Gould:

We are at the beginning of the era of digitization, which promises great opportunities to access a great variety of databases from anywhere in the world at any time.  Oral History is also integrated in the format of a database, along with images and other documents.

What are the challenges of  such a database  with regards to working with them freely and having “unguided” access? In other words, how can we make the usership aware of the limitations and challenges of Oral History. For instance, when we deal with interviews conducted in another language, limitations of the interviewer, memory distortion etc. .

Question(s) for Professor Walsh:

After numerous discussion in class about the pros and cons of digital scholarship I am still not quite sure what it means to us, as graduate students and future acadamics.

The most pressing question: Do blogs or any other kind of online postings and their resulting interactive and collaborative communication really threaten the historical monograph in traditional book form? In other words, does the book face online postings in a competitive manner or can they both be seen complimentary instead?

Is the digital format as shallow as historians tend to make it?

Comments on the Victorian Women Writer’s Project

The project is an extensive database, but it raises the following issues:

  • limited accessible layout due to outdated web coding
  • can it claim completeness?
  • at first limited to poetry but then opened up to other literary genres; which ones haven’t been included?
  • text accessibility: no downloadable version, no option of pdf-format
  • how important is layout and design?
  • difficult to read format on screen
  • is it e-book reader suitable?
  • no images make it less attractive to use
  • what are important factors to keep a database alive?
  • is it sufficient just to add missing texts or does it need to keep up with general web-design development?
  • should there be a unified database design  for digitized books, which is developed on basic principles of accessibility and searchability?