Wednesday, 15 April 2015

My Final Project

My Final Project:

            The final project for this course really allowed students to apply digital techniques learned in class and apply them to something we were interested in. Students were able to take a subject we were interested in and creatively make it digital. What I decided to do was take research I had done on the psychiatric survivor movement last semester and create a website. The purpose of this website is to not only be education and informative but to help guide researchers on primary source materials regarding the movement. I also wanted this website to discuss how mental illness is regarded today and inform people how they can contribute to breaking stigmas that surround it. This is discussed at the beginning of my website, where I also have linked a YouTube video for a quick guide as to what the psychiatric survivor movement is all about and provided a brief introduction about myself so users are familiar with who has put together the contents of the website. I have chosen to take this angle with this medium because I believe finding information about mental illness today is widely available, however, not many people understand its history. I believe a website is the best and most accessible way for my research to reach the public, as anybody with a connection to the Internet and a quick search online can find what I have published.
            The history surrounding mental illness is important as it dramatically transformed our heath care system by drawing attention to the abuse that can so easily happen within the system. Research on the psychiatric survivor movement suggests it has succeeded in providing ex-patients or survivors with alternatives such as: social support, empowerment, mental wellbeing, self-management and reduced service use. I had the opportunity to read a collection of primary source documents that were difficult to find, but incredibly informative as they shedding light on what health care abuses were truly like and how survivors created such alternative treatments. The primary sources used within my research were a collection of magazines from San Francisco, California and Toronto, Ontario. My website primarily focuses on the magazines from Toronto, known as the Phoenix Rising collection provided by the Psychiatric Survivors Archives of Toronto. I have linked each volume that was published in order on my website. The hyperlinks to the magazines were titled as each volume number; however, the date was also provided even more of a chronological ordered list. I have also provided a section on the website where audio recordings are provided for individuals to hear testimonies I have recorded myself reading. I also provided a link to the text copies of the testimonies I recorded to give users multiple formats. Originally, I embedded a media player into my website where the audio files could be heard, however, the application no longer works on Wix and I was unable to find any others. In order to make sure my recordings were still accessible I provided a link to where the audio files can be played.
            Another section on the website provides a detailed description of what the movement was, how it picked up momentum, and outlines both its successes and failures. This section is very heavy in text-content and after some advice given by fellow classmates; I have divided the text into sections with headings. This will make the information available easier to read and will allow users to find the information they are interested in faster. It has also made the page more visibly appealing.
            One of the sections of my website that proved to be the most difficult to construct was the maps and timeline section. I used this section to visually show geographically how the movement interacted from San Francisco Bay to Toronto and chronically outline the timing of major points in the movement. The application I originally used to construct the timeline did not function property, and therefore I created a timeline on Microsoft Word and embedded the image. I hoped to include more of an interactive map on my website that I created with Google Earth, however, it appears that there is no way to include such a thing using WIx. Therefore, I have uploaded a picture of the map I created and provided a link where users can download the KML Google Earth file, for a copy of the interactive map.
            Lastly, my website contains a section where I inform users of the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign, that combats stigma’s around mental illness today. I provided a detailed analysis of what the Bell campaign is, what it does, and how successful it has been. I have also included a comments section where users can leave comments about other similar campaigns running, discuss their involvement with Bell’s campaign, or discuss mental illness today.            

            Overall, this website does what I had hoped it would from the beginning. It works as an educational tool for users to familiarize themselves with the history of mental illness. Educational information is accessible through multiple formats, it links users to excellent primary source material and discusses ways to get involved in menial health movements today. It provides a space where users can communicate and offers a number of resources available for download. Despite encountering some hardships along the way that disallowed some of my original ideas, modifications along the way have made each goal possible. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Tori's Digital Humanities Project

   Tori has a great idea for her Digital Humanities project. She has decided to do an online exhibit that will display and discuss the experience of individuals affiliated with the House of Industry and Refuge in Aboyne, Ontario. Her online exhibit’s first page includes a brief, written historical background regarding the House and gives viewers some historical context about its importance. I have no background knowledge of the House of Industry and Refuge and I think viewers would appreciate a more detailed synopsis of the history in order to really understand its significance. Perhaps a section that explains Tori’s interest in her topic would also be of use, as she has valuable experience working with primary source documents relating to the house. Working at the museum adds credibility to her work. I would also suggest that on the first page of her exhibit a brief explanation of what the exhibit is going to show in the next few pages would be of value. 

   Tori has done a wonderful job making SketchUp animations. Her videos demonstrate that she has taken the time to become familiar with the program and is able to use it to benefit her online exhibit. Tori ‘s project has run into issues due to her position as a museum employee. She explained that she has access to some resources that the public does not have, however, when using the archives to conduct research she is a researcher and not an employee and therefore does not have access to some of the sources she originally believed she would be able to use. Despite this setback, Tori has found roundabout ways to fix this problem. Whether that was getting the permission she needed to carry through with her research or recreate documents she does not have permission to display on her online exhibit. As explained in her blog, this online exhibit will also have personally recorded interviews, which I think will be an excellent addition, as it will give a more “life-like” experience. She is hoping to keep the recorded versions of the interviews as close to the original as possible. Overall, Tori has done an excellent job with her project and I can’t wait to see the final project!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Google Earth Assignment

This week our class had an assignment that allowed us to experiment and learn how to use Google Earth. We were to overlap a map of Guelph in 1960 with a map of Guelph today in 2015. I chose to make a placement on a focal point within the map at the Wellington St & Gordon St intersection where a McDonald’s restaurant is located. Below is an image of the map I created and download link to the KML file of the map as well. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

My Project Plan

        When Professor Ross first mentioned our major project for Digital Humanities, I immediately had an idea what I wanted to work on. Last semester I wrote an essay about the Psychiatric Survivor Movement. The Psychiatric Survivor Movement was a social movement starting in the 1960s, that was composed of individuals who considered themselves to be survivors or ex-patients of the mental health treatment programs in hospitals. Members of the movement came together to stand up against psychiatric abuse they experienced in hospitals and other institutions. The research conducted on the movement suggests it has succeeded in providing ex-patients or survivors with social support, empowerment, mental wellbeing, self-management and reduced institutional service use. Furthermore, it proved the movement was successful in making the transition from a radical, anti-psychiatry group to one that was both recognized and respected. This was primarily proven after examining documents written by ex-patients in Toronto that discussed their experiences with psychiatric treatments that were available to them. Most of the documents I used to collect this information was from the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto website (PSAT). This website has digitized several documents, posters, pictures, artwork, and articles that were significant to the movement. The movement, originating in Toronto, developed a successful and widespread magazine know as Phoenix Rising, which have also all been digitized and are accessible on the PSAT website.
         An issue I came across in my research was navigating through the PSAT website. While they have done an excellent job making legible, digital copies of important documents, finding a specific document is extremely difficult and the websites lay out is not user friendly. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to use the research I have done and make a digital and interactive format of my essay on a website that will easily link users to the digital Phoenix Rising articles available on the PSAT website. Furthermore, my website will follow the stories of a selected group of individuals who wrote these articles by including audio recordings of their testimonies regarding their psychiatric treatment. This feature will allow visitors to retrieve the information in multiple formats thus making it more accessible. Including the first hand accounts and oral histories will best capture the thoughts and emotions of survivors.  
         As aforementioned, this movement began in Canada with a small group of individuals in Toronto who called their organization “On Our Own.” It was not long before support for the movement grew and spread across Canada. I would like my website to incorporate a map that tracks how the movement spread across the country and how its literature was distributed. It is important to note this movement was progressing in the United States at the same time; therefore, I would also like to map out how the American Movement influenced the Canadian Movement and vice versa. This can be done using Google Earth. After attending the Google Earth workshop, I am confident in my ability to make this fun and exciting feature on my website. I would also like to include a timeline in this section of the website to help users make sense of the points pinned on the maps. 

        Finally, I would like to include a section on the website that discusses the relevance the Psychiatric Survivor Movement has today. Only recent research has focused on understanding the neurological and genetic causes for mental illness while trying to unravel the relationship between the person, the brain, their body and the disease. While there are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings about mental illnesses today, it is societally and scientifically accepted as a serious condition. It has been determined that mental illnesses can take many forms and each mental case is unique. Due to the movement’s success, treatment opportunities are better suited for patients now who choose to use these services. Hospitals are equipped with trained professionals who understand mental illnesses and counselling service facilities are rapidly expanding across Furthermore, the movement has enhanced program development and funding allocations towards mental illness research. For example, Bell Canada launched their Bell Let’s Talk program in 2010 that is committed to raising funds to support a wide range of mental health organizations across Canada. Their program sets a date that allows individuals to talk, text and tweet about mental health in order to break down the barriers associated with mental illness. The program raises awareness by utilizing social media, as they donate 5 cents per tweet that uses the hashtag #bellletstalk on the set date mentioned above. Providing users with information about such programs will add to their exposure and will act as an opportunity where people may learn how easy it can be to help a great cause.
        So far, I have created the website using Wix and I am still experimenting with the possibilities for website design and layout. I am hoping to use some of the skills I have learned from Codecademy in order to personalize some of the websites features. I have also recorded the testimonies that I will be including on my website, uploading them will be the next step. I have also organized the PSAT documents I would like to include. I am still researching current mental health programs, organizations and campaigns I would like to link and provide information about. I am still trying to decide if and how I should include links and information about secondary sources I have found useful for individuals interested in learning more about the Psychiatric Survivor Movement and psychiatric abuse.  I am also debating including a section of the website where individuals can make posts, ask questions and chat with other users about the movement and mental illness.
        Thank you for taking the time to read my project plan. Any comments, new ideas or improvement suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I look forward to seeing everybody’s finished product. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Sarah's Digital Humanities Project Review

      Sarah’s project plan was well thought out and presented to the class. I thought it was a great idea that reflected both her interests and her studies. Sarah decided to create a website to inform people about Canadian theatre, as it has been suppressed in the global theatre community. Her primary goal is to not only educate people about Canadian theatre, but to act as a tour guide and provide details regarding what kinds of theatre exists and where they are located. She plans to pin locations of theatres on Google Maps and will primarily focus on lesser known theatres with the intention to help garner recognition. Her presentation explained that there are several theatres across Canada that go unrecognized and it seems her website will break stereotypes that, in order to see a good show, one must attend a big theatre in the city. She also mentioned that this website will appeal to both academics and non-academics. The only exposure I have had to theatre has been large, Broadway performances and I believe a website like this that informs users of other ways to experience theatre would be incredibly useful. Using Google Maps to precisely locate these theatres is a helpful feature as users could find venues closest to them that will suit the style of theatre they are interested in.
  Sarah mentioned she would like to include a section of the website that will discuss the history of Canadian theatre. This is a great opportunity to explain the importance of Canadian theatre and shed light onto the growing field that is overlooked on the world stage. I think an important aspect to include in this section of the website is mentioning significant figures in Canadian theatre and explain what they accomplished. If possible, another feature worth considering is embedding videos of Canadian theatre, perhaps videos of the work of key figures of Canadian theatre. As an individual unfamiliar with the sites subject matter, I would like to see some examples of Canadian theatre in media formats, such as video. I believe this would allow users to gain some exposure to Canadian theatre in the comfort of their own home.
  Overall I think Sarah’s project plan has some great ideas. I look forward to seeing the finished product and learn about Canadian theatre.