Bottom line: don’t panic.


Read this first:

Here is some historical context for why we offer a course like this in our public history MA program…


In this course you are going to need to provide regular documentation of your work in progress. If you don’t already have a blog, create one at Blogger or WordPress and send me the URL.  It is also a good idea to sign up for a photo sharing account at Flickr or Picassa, so that you can upload screenshots, drawings, and photographs of your work, and then link to them in your blog.  You can also create a YouTube channel if you plan to make videos or screencasts of your work.  Consider putting Creative Commons licensing on your stuff (this is not a course requirement, however).  Now you are ready to do the assignment.

Start by familiarizing yourself with some of the projects that people have already done using Processing, Physical Computing, Desktop Fabrication, or some combination of the three.  Your goal isn’t to understand exactly how particular projects were implemented, just what kinds of things are possible.  While you are exploring the space, try to get a sense for which kinds of documentation practices are successful or helpful, and which are not.  Once you’ve seen some of the neat things that other people have designed, try to brainstorm a “history appliance”:

  1. Start by choosing an appliance (e.g., washing machine, microwave oven, hair dryer, lawnmower), a tool (e.g, scissors, key, hammer, shovel, knitting needles), a toy (e.g., sock monkey, ball, doll or action figure), an item of sports equipment (e.g., hockey stick, badminton birdie), a musical instrument (e.g., kazoo), or something else you might find lying around your house (e.g., key fob, eyeglasses, PEZ dispenser, erlenmeyer flask).
  2. This  is step two.
  3. Now when you perform some action (e.g., press a switch, shake it, add water, turn a knob, put on a costume)…
  4. The device somehow connects you to the past or to the flow of history (e.g., dispenses particular historical facts, puts you in communication with the dead, provides you with access to primary or secondary sources, etc.)

At this stage, don’t worry too much about practicality.  Have fun imagining something that would be really cool to have, and then write a paragraph or two describing it in your blog.  If you want to add drawings, photographs of a cardboard model, or whatever, please do so.  If you were inspired by other people’s projects, be sure to link to them in your post.