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Monday, February 22, 2010

A bit of Ontario's Winter Sport History

This is a picture of the very first ski lift in Ontario. It is called the 'South Chair' and it was built in 1956, I believe, on Collingwood's Blue Mountain. Don't worry, it's not still running, but it was still in operation in 2000.

This is an important part of Ontario's skiing history, as well as the history of Winter Sport in Ontario. I am impressed that this section of it was preserved and memorialized. Of course, I think its preservation also says a lot about the make-up of the community in Collingwood. It also says a lot about me as a tourist that I saw a plaque and had to stop to read it. Needless to say the rest of my family left me at the top of the hill.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Martin Knelman: Audio-Visual Heritage of the Nation at Risk

Today I was looking through the Toronto Star and I came upon this article by Martin Knelman: Audio-Visual Heritage of the Nation at Risk.

In the article he discusses the loss of archival footage in the fire at the CTV office in Ottawa last week and laments Canada's lack of progress in both acquiring proper storage and archiving our audio-visual material. According to Knelman there are not enough facilities in place to preserve this particular aspect of the Canadian Culture. He proposes that there will not be a proper solution for this, or for the National Portrait collection of Canada which is in the same boat, until proper facilities can be constructed. He even suggests that the problem could be solved if there were a central agency, like the U.S. Library of Congress where broadcasters could deposit their materials. Otherwise important archival footage is being lost all the time due to cutbacks and mishaps like last weeks fires.

There are a lot of ties with what is covered in the Public History Class. We have been discussing why people feel the need to preserve what is relevant to their community, and it is interesting that, compared with Knelman's Australian and French examples, Canada has not felt the same need to preserve the Canadian broadcasting heritage. What does this mean for the status of Canadian broadcasting as part of the national identity? Do we care less about our own broadcasting tradition, or is it just coincidence? With our need for an emphasis on Canadian content, and the competition with American and sometimes British broadcasting, perhaps a case can be made that our lack of preservation is due to a lack of national interest, though coincidence is probably a much more likely answer.

A curated facility for national audio-visual material seems like an excellent idea. I think Knelman makes some excellent points, and that is something that I hope to see in the future, and even more something that I would like to be involved with.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Projects for IED

The Interactive Exhibit Design Class is really off and rolling now. My colleagues are all doing very interesting things. Make sure that you check them out.

Interactive Exhibit Design
Dana Johnson
Tim O'Grady
Braden Murray
Sara Sirianni
Rebecca Rahey
Jordan Goldstein

Review: Vikings in America by Graeme Davis

"The Vikings have left an enduring legacy on both sides of the Atlantic. Without the Vikings' discovery and settlement of North America the world would be a different place."

Vikings in America, published in August 2009, is a fascinating work by Graeme Davis that deals with the extent of the Viking settlements in North America. Interestingly, it argues that the Viking presence on this continent left a lasting impact in Europe and in North America. In addition to the traditional textual sources, and the verified and accepted archaeology, Davis's work makes use of recent finds as well as DNA evidence and North American oral histories to try and create a complete picture of the Viking involvement on this continent.

This is a work that is aimed at a general audience, Davis states this close to the beginning. Therefore the text is accessible. It is, however, very in tune with current scholarly trends and debates as well. Davis starts on the European side of the Atlantic, and establishes the relevant elements of culture, and the stepping stones the Vikings needed to take to get to North America, before proceeding to list the arguments for Viking involvement on the continent, including the High Arctic and in Hudson's Bay. From there the book goes on to discuss the evidence for continuous societal memory of North America and the legacy, or impact, the Viking landing and settlements had on the existing American settlements and future European settlements in North America.

The book is very well done in its treatment of evidence. All evidence is treated equally, and while usually if there is significant scholarly debate Davis will include that the evidence may be dubious, practically no evidence is left out. While this is not always academically sound, it certainly helps to show that whatever evidence we may in the future deem to be authentic, regardless it is clear that the Vikings had a larger impact than is currently verifiable with the more authoritative evidence. In particular this is a good approach to take when writing for a popular audience. Significant attention is also paid to Inuit, and pre-Inuit cultures and their contact with Europeans, and the recent archaeology from Ellis Island. These are areas which have not been as thoroughly explored, and are dealt with well in this book.

The weakest chapter is the one on the Hudson Bay, and the theory that the Vikings have gone in there, and this is arguably because it is based on the weakest evidence. Again, inclusion is interesting, because it does add to this image of widespread settlement and exploration, but it is mostly conjecture, although this entryway into the continent is linked to passages in the texts and to the dubious artifacts found in Minnesota.

While it may help the popularity of the book, the scholarship is in part undermined by the tone of the book. Davis is tapping into the nationalist sentiment that has fueled a lot of the writing about Vikings in America. Many argue that the discovery of Viking history is important, and it is to the telling of an accurate history. To argue that continuous knowledge of the Viking landings is important becomes more dubious, because people can not really explain why it is important. In the end it plays into the myth of national identity, as the North America we know today is seen to have been 'founded' by settlers. Essentially, statements like "in the Vikings, America finds its first European settlers. Most fittingly these first European settlers in America were people searching for what we know today as the American dream: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," colour the way we interpret Davis's attempt to give credence to all evidence. It gives the illusion of reaching, and compromises some of the excellent scholarship in the book. Especially when you view the so called Hispanic 'discovery' as some sort of conspiracy, and don't talk about other possible European landings as being as probable as the Viking landings.

This book very actively taps into the emotional drive behind trying to locate the Vikings in North America. Therefore, perhaps sometimes it accepts evidence too readily, though this does accomplish the task of creating a complete picture. Overall I would recommend this book due to the breadth of its coverage, and the sensitivity with which it treats scholarly current debates.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A motor is not a potentiometer… the more you know.

In IED we have been experimenting with Arduinos and physical computers. For one exercise my colleague Jordan Goldstein and I attempted to work a motor with a potentiometer and pulse width modulation. After some confusion between what was a motor, what was a servo, and what was a potentiometer we eventually were able to get a servo responding to the potentiometer.

Controlling a servo with the Arduino (sweep)

Since we first had difficulty with the potentiometer, labouring under the assumption that the motor was actually the potentiometer, we first experimented with controlling the Servo directly with a programming language.

We had : a Servo
Arduino software
several jumper wires

Taking the servo, we connected the red wire (positive wire) to the 5V Analog pin on the Arduino, the white (input) wire to the 9 pwm pin, the black to the GND Analog pin. Then we uploaded this code to the Arduino:

// Sweep


Servo myservo; // create servo object to control a servo
// a maximum of eight servo objects can be created

int pos = 0; // variable to store the servo position

void setup()
myservo.attach(9); // attaches the servo on pin 9 to the servo object

void loop()
for(pos = 0; pos < 180; pos += 1) // goes from 0 degrees to 180 degrees
{ // in steps of 1 degree
myservo.write(pos); // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
delay(15); // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position
for(pos = 180; pos>=1; pos-=1) // goes from 180 degrees to 0 degrees
myservo.write(pos); // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
delay(15); // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position

This code can be found in the Arduino Program, under Examples, then under Servo. It is called Sweep. If you do this then the Servo begins to rotate back and forth from one position to another.

Controlling the Servo with the Arduino (Knob)

Having figured this out we played with the length of the delay by changing the value of delay(15). We also experimented by changing the value of pos, and pos+ and played with the speed of the servo.

Once we understood this, and had found an appropriate potentiometer, we attached the potentiometer and servo to the breadboard, and used the potentiometer to control the movement of the servo.

First we attached the potentiometer to the breadboard, then ran one wire to the Analog 0 pin on the Arduino. Then we attached the positive wire to the positive input on the breadboard, and the negative to the negative output on the same breadboard.

Then we attached the servo to the breadboard. The white (input wire) from the servo was connected to 9 PWM pin on the Arduino. Then the positive was connected to the positive input on the breadboard, and the negative to the negative. Then we connected the breadboard to the Arduino, running a wire from the positive input to the 5v Analog pin on the Arduino, and the negative output to the GND Analog pin.

Then we uploaded this code:

// Controlling a servo position using a potentiometer (variable resistor)
// by Michal Rinott


Servo myservo; // create servo object to control a servo

int potpin = 0; // analog pin used to connect the potentiometer
int val; // variable to read the value from the analog pin

void setup()
myservo.attach(9); // attaches the servo on pin 9 to the servo object

void loop()
val = analogRead(potpin); // reads the value of the potentiometer (value between 0 and 1023)
val = map(val, 0, 1023, 0, 179); // scale it to use it with the servo (value between 0 and 180)
myservo.write(val); // sets the servo position according to the scaled value
delay(15); // waits for the servo to get there

This code is found again in the examples, under servo, as Knob. This allowed us to turn the servo by turning the potentiometer.

In the end this is what the set up looked like.

This is another step in our understanding of the importance of physical computing as a potential tool for interactive and active history.

Thanks to Lucky Larry for a very useful tutorial.