In the First exercise, we chose to look at two pages Dear Little Nelly and The Battle of Chancellorsville.In Dear Little Nelly, you get an interactive look at a letter Hotchkiss wrote to Nelly, explaining the terrain and the visual aspects of his journey. It includes a map that he drew to explain his journey further. The letter shows a first hand account of how someone on this journey viewed geography of his route and the experience he gained from it. Because he couldn’t take pictures and send them, he needs to do his best to explain where he is. For example, he can’t give coordinates, but can only explain that something is near something else, creating a rough idea of the space. Yet the site connects this rough picture he draws with the real geography on the map behind. In The Battle of Chancellorsville, we get a more concrete understanding of a battle with a straightforward map, not one that is drawn out or interpreted by an individual. In comparison to the other selection, which is less about the map and more about a persons interpretation of the geography, this one seems to be purely focused on getting as close to the exact movements of the troops. The feature we think specifically advanced the spatial arguments being made was the ability to click and find more information about an arrow or visual marker. You get to see an event’s location in space, see its movement, and then learn about the details such as names and other related information. The Dear Nelly page makes a primary document readable and makes sense of it by letting you isolate chucks of texts. There aren’t that many issues with the sites as far as the layout goes. We genuinely think its well laid out.

Unfortunately, the Google plug-in that is required to view the information on Hypercities made getting onto the site extremely difficult and thus makes information inaccessible.  Upon checking later, we were still not able to use the project. This made us draw into question the effectiveness of plug-ins and how they impact sites such as these. While, in theory, they would make the viewing experiences for these sites more interesting and interactive, is it worth excluding an audience that is unable to work the plug-in. If someone for example, does not have a computer and is using a computer such as one at a library, often you are unable to download plug-ins to that computer. It also would exclude anyone who is maybe too old or lacks knowledge of computers to understand how to install the plug-in.  So again, the question that this lab made us consider is whether or not it is worth it to have these elaborate, virtual world interfaces that plug-ins such as Google Earth and Unity Web Player provide, or should you try to make your site as simple as it can be so that it may be accessible to a greater number of people? These sorts of questions are what create a hierarchy of users online. People who have access to plug-ins or have the understanding as to acquire them get better information – or in this case any information at all. Yet, with the shared computer science knowledge our group has (which ended up being more then most average users), we were unable to get on, which lends itself to the idea that where you are trying to access the site from plays a roll, since we couldn’t download them on Hamilton computers. All of these limitations should be taken into account when assessing the effectiveness of a site.

Kate Bushell, Dre Coston, Ryan Woo

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