Teaching and doing digital history.

Purpose-Built Content

I finished up my Type assignment last night. Like most of our other classmates who’ve expressed such things, I spent an inordinate amount of time on it. Even still, I’m not totally happy with it.

For the final project, I might do what Ruel did and use a graphic for my rule instead of that long line. I put a dividing line between my content and my footnotes and I don’t like the way you can’t tell the difference between the two rules.

Additionally, I’m not crazy about my actual text. (I know the point of this project was to code the layout of the text, but still…) Since I am creating this project from scratch I think I’m going to have to spend some quality time actually writing up my thoughts and research in a way that will be usable for my project.

Which brings me to the question of purpose-built content. It has been very interesting for me to read how all of you took existing text and applied it to this project. Specifically, those of you who struggled with how to deal with the length. Since I did not use something from my back pocket, I had length issues on the other end of the spectrum. Namely, how much is enough to formulate a real discussion online? Whatever the answer, I don’t think I made it this week, as what I have feels more skeletal than anything.

And this has led to me ponder the concept of purpose-built content for consumption online. Much like my beloved Nutshells were purpose-built to be used as training tools, and only as tools, I think I’m going to have to widen my thinking about creating and consuming history online. Not to get too metaphysical here, but this becomes a bit of a chicken and egg question: which exists first? The concept for the site or the research behind it?

If the concept for my proverbial future site exists first, specifically, if I say to myself, “Self, this is a really cool subject and I think you should study it and make it into a website, because that is the best format AND audience for it.” Well then I’ll have to visualize the guts of my scholarship in a different way than if I churn out a really good paper and decide to post it online. (And then I will get medication for talking to myself in such a way.)

Those are two very different sites, with very different purposes. As such, everything about them would be, for lack of a better word, different: design, presentation, information architecture — all would need to play the appropriate part to bring the scholarship alive in the right way.

This post-assignment rambling is meant only to really force myself to think about how to proceed from here. I’m not sure about you, but once I got past fighting with the endnotes, it seemed to me that we really are at a turning point with this assignment. We now have to get beyond making our sites work and really start thinking about the specifics about our projects and how we want to present them. And for me, that is the scariest question. And right now, I have no answers. So I throw this question to you? Do you think I’m over-thinking it?


  1. No I do not think you are over thinking it all. I’m in the same boat in a way trying to rethink my final project and figure out what kind of website do I want. Do I want to do something where the research is new this semester and therefore I have to think about the site AND the research together which would vastly impact how I do both. Or do I want to pull something “from my back pocket” like you said, and just focus on the best way to present that information online. Do I enhance essentially a 70 page master’s thesis for the web or create something totally new as an eventual spring board for my dissertation? I think the chicken and egg question really boils down to whether you have something already to put online, or whether you are doing new scholarship in conjuction with the website. That’s really where the issue lies in how to present digital scholarship, for me at least.

  2. Well, I like your thinking. I found that when it came down to it, I was unwilling to repurpose existing text, even though the assignment is about the coding more than the words. I can’t spend all these years complaining about the way websites get done, and then do the same damn thing. I think the Nutshells are perfect for the level and scope of the Clio II project, and I believe that in many ways it’s easier to start out with a fresh project, rather than trying to cram something into a different format. While you face more work, in terms of actual research, you’re also completely open in terms of your presentation. I also think it’s more fun to do something new and exciting, rather than the same old same old.


  1. […] week I have expounded upon Erin’s Nutshell project, Laura’s exciting continuation of her Clio I work, and sympathized with Roger […]

  2. […] standard background, a picture and a quote.  Yay?  What does that really provide?  Alexa’s and Erin’s posts about purposefully considering the digital applications have mirrored a lot of my own […]

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