How Can I Collect History Online?

This week’s readings struck a chord with me. I have been trying to think of ways to incorporate more oral histories into my research, as most of my previous work for my thesis has been done through interviews, newspapers, and magazines. After reading through Collecting History Online, I am wondering if it wouldn’t be beneficial to myself and future researchers on video games (and, of course, those just interested in the topic!) if I were able to create a website to gather online oral histories from gamers from the past. 

To create a digital archive of these oral histories would be really interesting for me, as it would allow for contributors to explain their stories, their thoughts, and their perception of the gaming world at the time. At the same time, I also wonder how easy or difficult it could potentially be to get both contributors and the information from those contributors that is pertinent for the topic. As Collecting History Online’s section on Qualitative Concerns asks, is it easier to ask specific, colloquial questions or would it be more interesting (and also get more participation) if the question is left open ended? Would it be beneficial to ask for advertisement or news stories on popular gaming blogs such as Kotaku or Polygon to attract contributors? 

These are all interesting question to ask, and I might end up tackling these. After reading this week, I really feel that it might be a great way to get some information that I am looking for, while also creating a really cool and interesting website for other gamers. We will see! Any ideas?


8 thoughts on “How Can I Collect History Online?

  1. I don’t know how you could do it, but it would be cool if you could set up a way for people to record their oral histories on their own computers and submit them or upload them to your archive. I’m thinking of something like this:
    There is another group that does it as well, I want to say it is the Library of Congress but I can’t find the link. It would probably require quite a bit of infrastructure to make it work–but it would allow you to collect their histories and memories.

  2. I completely agree with Amanda – creating a website for self-submission of oral histories would be fantastic! It would be especially useful given the demographic you’re targeting. However, the problem with this might lie in the credibility of the source, something already at question when dealing with issues of memory. Additionally, I’m wondering how the IRB/human subjects infrastructure would deal with a project like that. Though the project would maintain it’s optional nature, it seems to me that the inability to meet with the subject in person might cause problems.

    • So a question that might be worth asking here is what does an oral history contribute to the project? I don’t mean that to be dismissive of oral history (which are fantastic) but as a researcher of video games, you increasingly have really interesting venues to collect people’s reactions to video games. Forums, comment threads, reviews from peoples blog, and other online sources offer instant access to peoples unvarnished opinions about the games they’re playing. You could, for more recent stuff, use Let’s Play videos to get some really granular reactions to specific games, although these would be time consuming to go through. If the sorts of information you hope to collect from oral histories can be found readily online, the process of setting up a collection point and soliciting contributions may be less effective than a good search engine and the right forum pages.

      • It’s a little more complicated in that I examine gaming from 1958-1986. It’s not as easy to access online, and from what is there, it doesn’t answer many of the questions that I need to ask.

  3. If the LOC site was up, I’d point you to the Veteran’s Oral History Project, which asks for contributions from American veterans. It’s one possible model for what you are thinking about.

  4. I’ve been thinking a little about the advertising side of a project like this – that is, trying to get people to the site in the first place. I like your idea about advertisement or news stories on gaming blogs/sites. Are there conventions or other meeting places for gamers particularly interested in these games? That may not draw the people who originally played the games, though. Maybe other types of meetings for people in that approximate age group? Maybe you could arrange to have computer versions of the game on your site to draw in people who remember the games from their old arcade days? (this might be too ambitious depending on who owns copyrights etc).

    • There are conventions, but they tend to skew younger. In terms of the games, they are all under copyright, for the most part. Definitely my hardest task is to make it interesting and advertise it well.

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