Crowdsourcing Participation, Zooniverse Project: Operation War Diary

For my crowdsourcing participation, I decided to participate in a Zooniverse Project called “Operation War Diary”. In this project, “citizen historians” are asked to review World War I documents related to the British Army. Volunteers are asked to first tag the kind of document they are viewing (from a prepared list of document types) and then asked to tag details in the document. These tag-able details include: times mentions, dates, locations, people, unit activity, army life, unit strength, weather, grid references and “other”. The goal of this project, as stated, is to, “create new ‘Citizen Historians’. Working together…[to] make previously inaccessible information available to academics, researchers and family historians worldwide, [while] leaving a lasting legacy for the centenary of the First World War”. The project is teamed up with the Imperial War Museum’s “Lives of the First World War” project and affiliated with the National Archives (UK).

Participating in this project was relatively easy and straight forward. You are given a quick tutorial of the User interface and how to accomplish your task. The documents are clear and zoom-able and the tagging tool bar is very easy to use. The project clearly informs its volunteers that it is not looking for a word for word transcription, but instead, well tagged documents. This is a very reasonable request to make from volunteers, which is essential to any crowdsourcing project. As a prospective historian, I enjoyed looking at the documents themselves and trying to decode them; the ease of the interface made the work very less daunting. The project However, there are several things I did not enjoy about the project. The project should have a target goal for how many documents it wants its volunteers to help tag and some way to acknowledge or reward/incentivize its volunteers. A Reward could be as simple as delivering a positive message to a volunteer after completing so many documents. People should be incentivized to conduct good volunteer work, even if it is just a small generic pop-up window that positively affirms a participant’s work after so many documents. Another issue I foresee is if documents are poorly or wrongly categorized. However, I can assume once the project is complete, individuals who access the documents can correct them.

This project is crowdsourced because of the number of documents available. The cost for these documents to be categorized by paid professionals would be astronomical.  In addition, it is a way to get amateur historians and students into the field. It Is very fitting that this project is being conducted during the anniversary of the war years (1914-1918). The contributions volunteers have made will be used to categorize these documents for further historical reference by scholars and the public. Crowdsourced document analysis projects, such as Operation War Diary, not only save time and money, but ensure that archived documents are actually viewed by the public. Rather than forgotten in an old storage room or collecting dust on a self, these documents are once again being read by not just professional researchers, but the public.

Mapping Torture: CIA Black Sites during the early War on Terror

For my web map, I decided to chart the locations of eight CIA’s Black Sites that were operational at various points between the years of 2001-2009. These secret sites were used by the CIA and its affiliates to detain, transport and interrogate terror suspects. These sites were disclosed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “Committee Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” (2014) resulting from Senate investigations into the methods and outcomes of Enhanced Interrogation policy. Later journalism, including works notated in the web map I created, would further decode the locations of sites named in this report. It is unknown how many sites were operational during this time.

Web Map of 8 CIA Black Sites using (not Pictured: Sites G,H)

The reason I chose these eight locations is due to their direct reference in news articles and the Senate report; these sites became known due to the disclosure of documents and of individuals who were either aware of operations at various sites, operating at the site or who were being held at the various sites. These sites, stretched over long geographic distance, illustrate a chilling fact. The United States had the ability to detain individuals and make them disappear to various secret sites. In some cases, these sites were overseen by U.S. personnel and theoretically subject to U.S. policy while other sites, notably the Site near Rabat, operated outside of U.S. law with CIA funds (see map for Human Rights Watch reference source). Geography can also tell the role that other nations played in the War on Terror and in U.S. interrogation policy. The citizens of many nations had no idea that CIA facilities were operating within their national borders, nor did the American people know the location of these sites and the nature of the interrogation policy implemented on detainees who were denied legal and human rights by their interrogators. 

As this map illustrates the War on Terror­—also aptly named Global War on Terror—was in fact, truly global. The CIA would spearhead the War on Terror, projecting power onto every corner of the globe in the search for intelligence and the hunt of individuals deemed a threat to American security. The CIA, use to operating in the dark, stretched its power with the use of black sites, where its methods could go on in secrecy. Agencies following the CIA’s lead, tasked with a similar objective, would fall prey to the same methodology. With the Prison Abuses in Abu Ghraib, which also housed CIA personnel, the American public would see the face of torture, bringing the operations of black sites to face the light of day.

My BatchGeo link:


Digital History Project Proposal: Veteran Podcast

For my Digital Project, I would like to create a podcast where I interview several veterans to establish the experience of service members over several historical periods. I will ask veterans a series of questions and later frame the interviews around a narrative. I intend to make the podcast between 30-60 minutes and provide my audience with an outline of the questions, a list of further reading, and an outline of the podcast as reference. I intend compare the service of several veteran’s ranging from 20th to 21st century conflicts. Some themes I would like to address are: the backgrounds of veterans, the reasons veterans decided to serve, their active duty service, their opinions on war and how they adjusted to life after serving. My hope is to discover the ways in which veteran’s experiences remained similar throughout the 20th to 21st century and the ways in which veterans’ experiences are drastically different. Ideally, I will interview at least two to three people and record the interview via a Sony ICD-PX333 audio recorder. I will be sure to have the interviewee’s consent to record their story and utilize their recording. The interviewee can edit their interview and their consent will be recorded. I will archive all my materials in case I decide to post my project publicly.

A podcast will be the perfect tool to use for this project due to the amount assess it provides to an audience, the ease with which I can create it using tools I possess, and the editing and production value I can achieve using this medium. Veteran’s stories, especially those told in the veteran’s own words, are a valuable source not only for current audiences, but also future audiences who may not have the opportunity to interact with these veterans. In terms of archival usage, MP3 (which will likely be the format I will utilize) has been in continual use for 24 years, will likely be accessible for a long time. Also, MP3 can be easily accessed all over the world and via multiple media devices. My project is a primary source since it will utilize veteran’s own accounts of their experience but will also be secondary in its construction and the questions I will ask. The best public history practices are encapsulated in my project; open and easy accessibility (with the permission of my interview subjects), the use of audio and written word to present information, and a project tailored for a wide public audience. I intend to tailor my work towards military buffs, scholar, students and a general audience interested in the U.S. military, veteran’s affairs, and military service. A traditional project, which would either consist of a paper interview or an unedited and recorded interview, fails to capture the attention of a millennial audience wishing to digest quality-produced audio programming from smart phones and laptops. Also, It is important that veterans’ stories are told through their own spoken words; emotions are often lost in the simple transcription of words. The ability to produce a quality edited podcast also allows for the project to be professionally presented and properly tailored to a larger audience. Finally, traditional forms of media around interviewing are not as easy to access or archive digitally. It is my hope to use this veteran podcast not only as a narrative oral history project but also as a tool that may be used as both a primary and secondary source by future students and scholars.

Digital Visualization Project: a Visual Timeline on the Use of Enhanced Interrogation During the War on Terror (2001-2004)

For my Digital Visualization project, I decided to create a TimelineJS timeline of the Use of Enhanced Interrogation Methods during the War on Terror from 2001-2004. For my Digital Visualization project, I decided to create a TimelineJS timeline of the Use of Enhanced Interrogation Methods during the War on Terror from 2001-2004. In addition, the data I’ve complied includes a Word Cloud vie Wordle derived from ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody (depicted below).

The purpose of the timeline is to both portray how quickly torture became legalized and to pinpoint significant moments between the years of 2001-2004. TimelineJS allows for an interactive timeline which serves two purposes; first, it allows for for the user to interactively engage with the basic torture timeline with the intention of further animating difficult to comprehend topics. Second, the timeline allows for the user to be better acquainted at an introductory level with my topic and background information related to my research. The intention of my timeline would be in creating a “hook” for my proposed research. I wanted to attach videos as a way of incorporating various modalities into my presentation while also inserting parts of my proposed argument about the legalization of torture. I kept the text and overall format minimalistic with the intention of provoking the user with my content rather than my layout. At the same time, I find format changes can distract a user if they are too “busy” or overly stylistic at the price of easy readability and user-friendliness.

Courtesy of Wordle and based on the “ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody”, February 2007

For my data visualization, I decided to utilize a Wordle to create a word visualization that displays frequent terms expressed in the ICRC Report. What is compelling about the Wordle is the frequency of words related to torture; the viewer can understand the connotation of the report without reading its entirety. The report typifies the descriptions of many CIA and U.S. Military detainment facilities in which detainees were subjected to torture. While the visualization itself does not offer compelling data that will lend itself to my research, the representation is an excellent way to familiarize a layperson with my topic.  I intend to use both the timeline and the word cloud in my presentation of my research topic following its completion. I believe both tools are excellent in both acclimating laypersons on my research topic and give a window into the research process itself.

* If the hyperlink for the TimelineJS is not functioning, please attempt to view my timeline utilizing the following URL:

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