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Week 10 Notes


March 25, 2015 by Adina Langer

Last night, Daniel Pollock and Brian Croxall presented to our class about the development and implementation of the Battle of Atlanta mobile application. Below are detailed notes from the presentation and the rest of the class discussion about mobile tours, apps, and games.

Digital History Class Notes Week Ten

March 24, 2015


Emory Library Center for Digital Scholarship


  • Presentation by Brian Croxall ( and Daniel Pollock ( about the Battle of Atlanta mobile tour website
  • Daniel A. Pollock, MD, is a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, where he leads a unit responsible for national surveillance of healthcare-associated infections. Since arriving in Atlanta in 1984, he has pursued an independent scholarly interest in the city’s Civil War history, and he has conducted over 150 tours of Battle of Atlanta sites.
  • Brian Croxall is the  Digital Humanities Strategist in the Robert W. Woodruff Library and Lecturer of English at Emory University. In this position, I’m helping to establish Emory’s new, Mellon Foundation-sponsored Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS). Along with developing and managing digital scholarship projects in collaboration with faculty, graduate students, librarians, developers, and more, I teach courses in the English department, including “Introduction to Digital Humanities” and work to integrate digital technologies into the whole of the library. My interests in the digital humanities include visualizinggeospatial and temporal data as well as integrating digital approaches into pedagogy.
    • My follow-up questions:
      • How does the app work in tandem with the long-form essay in Southern Spaces to give sites context? Why did you choose to have a separate long-form essay instead of including all the detailed information in the mobile app itself?
        • Brian: Didn’t have someone to program IOS and Android so decided to create HTML5 for Web and styled for mobile devices. A year into the project, it became easier to develop for IOS and Android, but didn’t look back.
        • Brian: Question of content. Daniel had done all of these tours, but had never set it down in words. Daniel spent time writing this essay while team worked on software development and getting primary source materials from MARBL. Also spent a lot of time at the Atlanta History Center (papers of Wilbur Kurtz– responsible for historical markers around Atlanta. He was the historical consultant on Gone With the Wind. Did oral histories and created maps.)
        • Had to pin down the order in which the tour stops occurred.
        • Noticed that the amount of screen-text was entirely too long for a handheld device.
        • Image layout doesn’t work on a mobile device too.
        • So, Daniel was tasked with writing a very public accessible version of the tour.  What’s the one story or interesting fact we want them to know?
        • Daniel: What is it that people should get at each site or they missed the point? Distill down to the essentials.
        • Brian: Thinking of cub-scouts using this application or K-12 audience. Georgia standards for education. 8th and 11th grade U.S. history.
        • Video gives you a sense of exactly where you should stand and look around.
      • How did you decide on exactly where to include the battlefield terrain stop? What is the greatest challenge in communicating what spaces were like 250 years ago?
        • Daniel: Kurtz markers very useful for knowing where significant events took place, but you had to already know about the events to get anything out of it. But generally, the markers are properly placed.
        • Battle unfolded in a geographic way, so you can see where the competing generals set up their headquarters and then follow troop movements.
        • Easiest to understand in a chronological fashion.
        • Brian: Linearity is helpful for knowing that you’ve seen everything.
        • You don’t have to do the tour in order, thru overview map.
        • Directions took longest to develop. Uses Google API. Get directions, but it’s not a GPS. But you can refresh directions if you get off the path. Users wanted a physical address in order to use GPS. Prose telling you where to park and what to look for. Visual cues for what to look for and where to park.
        • Hardee’s Night March is a good way to understand what this felt like— doing the movement via car gets you a feeling for this.
          • Notes field provides you detailed directions for each segment of the march. Noticing the creek and the terrain.
        • Lots of user testing!
          • Started with observing people doing basic tasks using the application without even leaving the library.
          • Decided on embedding the google maps api in order to standardize user experience.
          • User testing up to 10 days before launch… Your interest far exceeds the public’s interest, so you have to think about how to make it interesting.
          • Used Wilbur Kurtz’s maps and superimposed them on a contemporary street grid using Michael Page’s geo-rectification technique.
            • Fortification map is particularly impressive.
      • Why did you choose to create a mobile website instead of an app?
        • Lack of resources, but then universal utility.
      • Will the website be updated to reflect the move of the cyclorama to the Atlanta History Center?
        • Cyclorama could benefit from a slower-paced tour narrative.
        • Would love to add a tour spot once it moves.
        • Most people go to the Cyclorama a different day anyway.
        • Pretty easy to update the content management system with new information.


      • Daniel Pollock
        • Interested in place-based history. Learn about the south through studying its history.
        • Avid reader on Atlanta and the civil war.
        • Most interested in the historical memory of the battle and the forms of remembrance.
        • Civil War to Civil Rights in Atlanta– shared space and different forms of remembrance.
        • Confederate Memorial Day and Emancipation Days
          • Different attitude and belief systems underpin these different memorial days.
        • Brian Croxall
          • Southern Spaces — open access peer-reviewed journal.
          • Daniel’s tools seemed like a good candidate for Southern Spaces.
          • Mellon Grant to create Center for Digital Scholarship.
            • Funding was actually more abundant than needed for outlay costs
            • Bought time from software developers and project managers, etc.
            • More soft-costs than anything else.
            • Images were largely public domain, and some of it was Daniel’s
            • Paid archives to scan items and license for this use, but helped that everything was public domain.
          • Software development
            • OpenTourBuilder is free and OpenSource. Would need a server administrator to install it. Being used at Emory– created a platform that people could do public history with.
            • Looked at a lot of examples, but this project was unique.
            • This is not a walking tour.  Most people would not want to walk this.
            • Knew that needed to get people to locations and to give them content at these locations (audio/video, and images)
          • Logical collaboration
        • Daniel Pollock
          • Image accessibility through Southern Spaces and tour.
        • Interactivity and Analytics
          • Google analytics for site
          • Talked about whether they wanted to have user-created content, but decided against it RE the mission of the project and the contentious nature of the project.
          • Labor question for moderating comments.
          • Social media links on site– Facebook and Twitter (Facebook page and Twitter cards).
          • Worked with a deadline: July 22, 2014.
            • Communications team created a great deal of press. Emory Report, WABE, Journal Constitution. Had launch party at the Cyclorama. Filmed Cyclorama in high definition. Physical exhibit opened about a month later.
          • Challenge of physical markers it that you don’t know they’re there until you walk into them. But the app is potentially just as hard to find.
          • Could put laminated placards in the ground at the sites.  Do more outreach in schools and local historical sites.
          • Had plan to develop teacher continuing education experience. There is a lot more that could be done. How do you get people to keep coming? That’s the next step question.
        • Daniel Pollock’s next idea
          • Post-civil-war Reconciliation tour through popular images.
          • 1885-1917 Uncle Sam images… Global that we’re living in still today.
          • Would love to create a site with those images.
          • Could use a digital history consultant and archivist!
          • Used American Chronicles newspapers to learn about the history of the 2 cycloramas.
          • So many possibilities!
        • Exhibit
          • Created an exhibit about the process of creating the app, not about the Battle of Atlanta, per se.




  • Project check-in
    • Exhibit outlines due next week
  • Assignment check-in
    • Comments on digital tools review due next week.
    • Digital site review due in two weeks.
      • Select any kind of digital history site.
      • Focus on audience.  Please engage with the readings the way you would have for a reading response blog post in addition to reviewing the site.
  • Mobile Applications and Games
    • Mobile Applications
      • The mobile Web vs. the app universe
      • (note to self– get customized theme off of github)
        • Using Omeka for the mobile web.
          • Explorations use exhibit builder
          • Maps use custom layering plug-in based on leaflet.js libraries for tiling and serving historical map layers that works together with Omeka’s Geolocation plugin
          • People and Events organize Omeka items in accessible ways.
        • Historic Jewish Atlanta
          • App requires download
          • Gathers information
          • What do you have after all that?
        • Next Exit History App
        • Games
          • What kinds of history games are out there?
            • Don’t all have to be digital.
            • Many people learn history through non-academic game experiences:
            • What kinds of experiences do games provide?
              • Role-playing
              • Goal setting
              • Incremental learning
              • Pedagogy
            • What’s special about academically-motivated digital history games?
            • Should academics and digital historians even get into the business of making games?
              • Problems of competition with sophisticated graphics and game design by experienced game companies.


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