The YMCA, YWCA, and YWHA/JCC on Wikipedia
The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Jewish Community Center (JCC, formerly the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, YMHA) are all recreational, social, and leadership organizations aimed at specific groups.
When looking at the Wikipedia pages for these three different organizations, it is easy to determine their popularity and where people’s interests lie by looking at the contents. The contents for the YMCA is comprised of 13 sections, each with 1 to 4 subsections including History, organizational model, logo, activities, Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates. The YWCA is less researched, with only 9 sections and a few subcategories, including Advocacy, Programs, World YWCA Councils, History, and YWCAs around the world. The JCC has the least information containing 8 sections with no subcategories: History, services, locations, incidents and security, and notable members. All three pages contain a list of references and external links and due to the sections, the articles are split into it is very easy to access any information you could want on the page. It is also worth mentioning that the YMCA and JCC provide photos.
Here are some observations on the “talk” section of Wikipedia (which until looking into this, I did not know existed):
- YMCA : The contents provided in the talk section has 42 topics people are addressing. Starting with a question about how much Christianity is tied to the YMCA (asked in 2004) where the answers basically say it varies. One section where people are in a lengthy conversation revolves around the heading “Gay Subculture.” The question posed was “From what I can gather, everyone in mainstream culture perceives YMCA as a front for gay activities. Why is there so little mention of this?” which sparked a series of answers about people’s perceived views on the YMCA and whether or not that idea comes from the song of the same name. Other people provide sources in case it wants to be included in the actual article. The conversations occurred from 2006-2011.
- YWCA : There are only 5 sections in the talk section of the YWCA: Boys in the YWCA, Platform 51 change, Controversy section, Waldegrave vs Weldgrave, and World YWCA edits. It is not even close to being as extensive as the YMCA article. At one point, in 2011, the controversy section was questioned with a statement that said “This section needs sources to back up its claims; if they can’t be found, it should be removed” to which many people agreed due to both a lack of evidence and incorrect grammar.
- JCC : There are only two sections in the talk section for the JCC which are, Wikimedia is not a promotional site and external links modified. The person posting in the first section stated that using the words “exceptional quality” is in violation of neutral point of view policies.
I have never given much thought to copyright and the laws that surround it. That’s not to say that I am unaware it exists, it just has never been something that I actively thought about. In doing some readings, I’ve learned that:
- The first copyright laws came from Connecticut in 1783
- Copyright automatically applies to almost anything people create, starting in 1976 with the creation of the Copyright Act.
- Starting in 1989, it is no longer necessary to place a copyright notice on your work.
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) bans tampering with copyright protection and basically limits how we use digital products even after we purchase them.
However the main thing I learned is that copyright can get very complicated. It was compared to history at one point, making the case that it is subject to confliction interpretations. Copyright law faces contention between those who protect the rights of the owners of intellectual property versus those seeking to enlarge the public domain.
Which brings us to a question raised by Roy Rosenzweig: Should scholarship be free? In his article, “Should Historical Scholarship Be Free,” he mentions how scientific journals are able to make their peer-reviewed journals free to everyone but history has not been able to do that yet. Unless someone is a college student, they are limited in their access to historical materials; Rosenzweig writes “Professional historians routinely complain that their students and neighbors pick up “junk” on the Internet but they don’t adequately consider that the best online scholarship is often only available to paying subscribers.” He also provides six possible approaches that could help make this happen: Self-archiving, author charges, delayed access, partial access, electronic-only journals, and cooperation with libraries.
If you were to ask me, I don’t have a good answer for you yet. I mean, ideally, and in a perfect world, of course I want scholarship to be free. I think everybody has a right to an education and should have access to materials to research what they want. But we don’t live in a perfect world. There is so much that goes into writing and publishing scholarship that options must be weighed and there needs to be a plan. I haven’t been presented with a solution that makes me think that this is entirely possible with where we are at but I think that with problem solving and time, future generations will have more access to scholarly works than we do currently.
The web has made doing historical research easier and more accessible, especially as a student. I have a tendency to do my work at odd hours, specifically late at night, because that is when I focus the best. So with the ability to access sources like journal articles and books through databases, I am able to get work done without any closing-time restrictions like I would at the library. It also allows for me to gain access to sources quicker and get some sources that are not available at my university or local library as well as giving me the ability to find out which places have what I am looking for. In regards to primary sources, I have access to countless newspaper articles and photographs that, without the web, it would be nearly impossible for me to gain access to.
Depending on where the information is coming from online changes the way I think about sources. When I pick up a book, I am generally trusting of its accuracy. However, I do look into the author and the publisher and that is almost second-nature to me at this point. When I look at a source online, sometimes it is hard to find who the author is or where they come from, which tends to make me warier of what I find. With access to many online peer-reviewed journals, I look at those the same way I look at a book from a credited author. I feel more apt to trust a source that I know has undergone rigorous editing and has been looked at by other professionals in the field.
As I stated in last weeks post, I do not believe that there is necessarily a qualitative difference between digital archives and more traditional sources. In terms of ease of access, there is no question, with digital sources, there are countless sources available. However, there are just as many analog sources as well, a historian might just need to work a little harder to obtain them.
What does the title have to do with defining digital history? Not much. But much like how the invention of the train changed how people travelled, the world wide web has changed the practice of doing history.
The 1990s saw the emergence of webpages, which meant that all sorts of information started becoming more accessible to people. With the rapid advancement that we’ve seen in the past couple of decades, many disciplines were changed, including history. The digitization of materials allows for more exploration, access, and preservation- ranging from newer sources to older, more fragile ones. However, like Toni Weller brings up in her book History in the Digital Age, it also raises a whole new set of challenges and questions surrounding preservation. The web is fast-paced and always changing, so in order for a historian to get the full effect of a webpage, there has to be a way to save the original page before it changes or is deleted. But there is such a large number of sites available, so how does a historian know what to save? And while a person can scan a set of letters to be accessed online, that can take away the other sensory experiences. Weller gives an example of a medical historian in Portugal doing research on a cholera outbreak. He was in the archives and rather than reading the letters, he was smelling them because the letters were disinfected with vinegar to prevent further spread of the disease and he could use the smell to chart the outbreak. While digitizing these letters allows for the content to be shared, the tangible experience is lost.
Digital history seems qualitatively different from history, but in reality, I do not believe it is. The internet allows for the mass sharing and receiving of information, so it seems like there is a lot more information. There are historical artifacts all over and in archives across the world, that one may never have access to. As historians, we take in and sift through a lot of information determining what is and is not useful. The internet can make it easier to fake documents and photographs, for example, but just as historians learned to recognize it in older sources, they have to do that with the advancing technology. Digital history makes information easier to obtain, but one still has to be critical of the information they are receiving.