[Originally posted on Familiar Strangers blog]
In this blog, I hope to keep a record/journal of my research for my final project for the Masters of Communication and Technology program at the University of Alberta.
At this point in time, my ideas for this project remain somewhat vague and mushy, but I know that I would like to look at the some of following areas:
– internet genealogy
– family and local history keeping on the internet
– the effects of technology on our ideas of relateness and place
– qualitative methodologies, including radical ones like self-questioning
– ideas of narrative
– orality and literacy and the internet
Too big an area? Ya, I know, but over the next few months, I should be able to whittle this down satisfactorily, I hope.
Of course, the subject of my project is not completely unfamiliar to me (thanks Olga for reminding me of this pun). While I was on maternity leave last year, I discovered how the world of genealogy had been changed by the internet. My grandmother died last March and in her honour I wanted to create a photo album of family photos. I was missing some vital dates for some of her ancestors, however. What started with typing names into Google has ended in a quite serious pursuit of family and local history. The photo album never got finished, but in its place I have been working hard at recording our family history online. I think my grandmother (and the potential recipients of the photo album) would understand.
I don’t think that it was an accident that I became so interested in family history shortly after I started my own family. The standard plotlines in genealogical research (birth, death, marriage) are real, oh-so-real, to me now. Who can understand, for instance, the tragedy of lost children better than a new mother? Navel-gazer that I am, I started to think seriously about how we record our lives, who records our lives (mostly the bureaucracy), and how we can remember those gone before us. The internet, our tool of the future, is, it turns out, quite a good place to record the past. I can use blogs to tell my family about my research. I can use Google maps to map out the original homestead of a family member. I can look at the digital collections at Libraries and Archives Canada and find out that my great-grandfather almost died of enteric fever during the Boer War. This list is endless and this flurry of information, historical minutae, is all made possible thanks to our friend, the internet. How can this not help but change how we understand ourselves and our place in the world?
When I returned to work in September, I suddenly had much less time to pursue my twin hobbies of genealogy and internet exploration. When I started the MACT program, I vowed to write a final that would be immensely USEFUL. (There’s some history here). But faced with the possibility of getting to spend more time playing in the internet sandbox, doing more genealogy, and THINKING about it all at a completely theoretical level was impossible to resist.