Never AloneBy Jonathan McQuarrie

#gamergate inflicted a well-deserved black eye for video game culture. Whatever the movement may have been (and there are many facets to it), one of the core consequences became a rash of threats against prominent critic Anita Sarkeesian, who rightly pointed to the many harmful and tiresome ways in which video games portrayed women in her series ‘Tropes versus Women’ and through her website Feminist Frequency. On the website Play the Past, which encourages historical thinking about video games, Trevor Owens argued for the value of collecting the various memes, chat logs, and terms that emerged from the debate. As he rightly notes, the entire moment will provide future historians with insight into the early 21st century culture of technology, as ugly as that culture can be.

I begin with the #gamergate controversy because it generated one of the widest discussions of ‘gamer’ culture since the debates on video games and violence. The discussion spilled well beyond the typical confines of video game journalism, producing several (rather bewildered) discussions from wider publications—in my view, Tabatha Southey wrote the best (and funniest) of these. I wish to acknowledge that significant problems with video games and their representation of women, sexual orientation, and people of colour remain, and that I, as a white, heterosexual male, am not qualified to adjudicate whether or not these issues are being ‘solved.’ For instance, the cold, detached, alpha male protagonist remains a staple of many popular online games, which can contribute to the frequently hostile online environment.

However, this post is motivated by a desire to share how video games, now as much as ever, also encourage players to engage with the past. I am writing with an assumption that many readers of ActiveHistory.ca are not active game players, but that they are aware that many of their students, friends, and, dare I suggest, colleagues engage with history through video games. I also wish to impress that I am not part of the emerging field of Game Studies, so this post is the perspective of a layperson into what is a rapidly growing academic field. Through the various links and references in this post, I want to provide a few reference points for people who teach or think about history, but who are not necessarily prepared to invest the time and money into what can be a rather distracting (if delightful) hobby. [click to continue…]

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By Ian Milligan

This post is a bit technical. My goal is to explain technical concepts related to digital history so people can save time and not have to rely on experts. The worst thing that could happen to digital history is for knowledge to consolidate among a handful of experts.

From the holdings of Library and Archives Canada, to the Internet Archive, or smaller repositories like digitized presidential diaries, or Roman Empire transcriptions, there are a lot of digitized primary sources out there on the Web. You don’t need to be a “digital historian” to realize that sometimes there is a benefit to having copies of these sources on your own computer. You can add them to your own research database, make them into Word Clouds (I know, they’re not perfect), or find ways to manipulate them with tools such as Voyant-Tools, a spreadsheet software, or many other tools that are available. If you can download sources, you may not have to physically travel to an archive, which to me suggests a more democratic access to sources.

Digital historians have been working on teaching users how to access the databases that run online archival collections and how to harness this information for your own research. In this post, I want to give readers a quick overview of some of the resources out there that you can use to build your own repositories of information. If you ever find yourself clicking at your computer, hitting ‘right click’ and then ‘save page as,’ or downloading PDF after PDF after PDF… this post will help you better utilize your computer’s tools, making the digital research process a bit quicker.

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Civilian Internment in Canada: Histories and Legacies

November 21, 2014

Rhonda L. Hinther It was by a mere two hours that eleven-year-old Myron Shatulsky missed seeing his beloved father, internee Matthew Shatulsky, when the train transferring Matthew and his comrades from the Kananaskis Internment Camp to Petawawa passed through Winnipeg earlier than anticipated on a July day in 1941. Myron had not seen his father […]

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Vacating Science and Forgetting History at the Central Experimental Farm

November 20, 2014

By Peter Anderson On November 3rd, John Baird announced that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada transferred approximately 24 hectares (60 acres) of the Central Experimental Farm, in Ottawa, to the National Capital Commission. The NCC in turn offered to lease the land to the Ottawa Hospital to build a new Civic Campus. The Hospital then mused about […]

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The Gender of Lying: Jian Ghomeshi and the Historical Construction of Truth

November 19, 2014

By Beth A. Robertson On the evening of October 26th, I found myself staring at a computer screen, dumbfounded and confused. What I had unwittingly come across was Jian Ghomeshi’s bizarre facebook post that told a story of him being fired from the CBC because of his private sex life. He argued that he was […]

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New paper – Victory in the Kitchen: Food Control in the Lakehead during the Great War by Beverly Soloway

November 18, 2014

ActiveHistory.ca  is featuring the following paper as part of  “Canada’s First World War: A Centennial Series on ActiveHistory.ca”, a multi-year series of regular posts about the history and centennial of the First World War.  It was first published by Papers & Records, Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 2014.  By Beverly Soloway In the summer of 1914, the […]

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‘It’s history, like it or not’: the Significance of Sudbury’s Superstack

November 17, 2014

By: Mike Commito and Kaleigh Bradley Standing at a height of 1,250 feet, the Sudbury Superstack is the second tallest chimney in the world and runner-up to the CN Tower for the tallest structure in Canada. Until 1987, Sudbury Ontario had the dubious honour of having the world’s tallest smokestack. Today, the Stack is seen […]

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Ignorance of History as a Site of Memory

November 13, 2014

By Raphaël Gani The discourse about Canadians ignoring their collective past, or not knowing their national history, is neither new (Osborne, 2003) nor limited to Canada (Wineburg, 2001). Such a view tends to be legitimized according to surveys in which people fail to identify famous events and politicians. This failure is also linked with angst […]

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Jean Baptiste Assiginack: The Starling aka Blackbird

November 12, 2014

By Alan Corbiere This post marks the third in a series of essays – posted the second Wednesday of each month – by Alan Corbiere focusing on Anishinaabeg participation in the War of 1812.  On the morning of October 5, 1861, 96 year old Odaawaa Chief Jean Baptiste Assiginack of the Biipiigwenh (Sparrowhawk) clan rose […]

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1864 vs. 1914: A Commemorative Showdown

November 11, 2014

ActiveHistory.ca is featuring this post as part of  “Canada’s First World War: A Centennial Series on ActiveHistory.ca”, a multi-year series of regular posts about the history and centennial of the First World War.  By Sarah Glassford As I sat by the window of a popular coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown on a warm afternoon in […]

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