A Reflection of the Course

Going into this class I thought that the course was going to be taught similarly Professor McClurken’s other classes centered around the history of technology, but I soon realized that the course was turning into a completely new kind of experience. I love how this course utilized various digital tools to provide a new sense of hands-on learning which framed the class just as much a digital studies course as it was a history course. The course also satisfied the hope that I have when walking into any new history class which is how a course will impact the way I approach, research, and understand historical subjects. In the case of this class, it framed how the history of technology is approached through the artifacts themselves and analyzing how multiple variables that got impacted adjusted and evolved to make the world around us today. On top of this approach was the notion of how scholars of technology and digital history are managing to study the era that we grew up in with the rise of social media and smartphones. I absolutely loved the idea that we went from cave painting Pictionary and the basic fundamentals of communication to the potential implications of AI on the horizon which is making history as of this very moment.

I think that my favorite assignment of this semester is the AI generation assignment because the results for the image generation surprised me, and I also think that my classmate’s assignments all had really fascinating results with their respective approaches to it. I think that the AI conversation also was a great call back to the themes of adoption versus anxiety when it comes to the introduction of these new technologies. Another assignment that I enjoyed was the propaganda campaign. Not only did they teach us about what propaganda truly is and how the implementation impacts us, but it was also so cool to see everyone applying themselves in such a multitude of ways. Overall, I think that all of the projects that we worked on this year were pretty creative and entertaining, but anything would beat another research paper.

The class did a wonderful job weaving our current issues and understanding with technology with how they were managed and adapted to technologies of the past. The notion of how these emerging technologies impacting the world of business and the changes that were made in industry, to predicting what artifacts of technology will become obsolete next. One idea that I took away was the idea of remembrance of the past that comes with technological change to the world around me. For example, throughout the course Professor McClurken deconstructed the romanization of the past like watching the same TV schedule. It’s not that the world is better or worse, it is about recognizing and welcoming change which has both good and bad impacts as it always has. I also think the idea of having the class build the course along with our professor is an innovative and effective way to keep the class on the same page while also providing us with a path to apply our own input and creativity. This idea allows us to make this course just as much of an individual experience in tandem with a group experience through our other projects and discussions.

AI Engines’ Grapple with Native American History

AI Generated Essays Linked Below:


This was an assignment that may have surprised and fascinated me the most in this course. Whether you love it or hate it AI generators have been on a bit of a hot streak lately as many of these engines appear to be honing and perfecting their craft as time goes on; however, having Native American history on the brain I wanted to see how the AI would describe some of the most prominent figures of many Native American communities. I asked the text generating AI’s to “write a two-page essay about the achievements and legacy of Chief Joseph”. Chief Joseph was a historical figure that the text could briefly highlight much like my previous attempts, but the image generators began thinking in a similar direction. With this project I managed to check the essays for historical accuracy as well as their writing style and what I had noticed was different yet similar approaches from the text generators.

For instance, EssayGenius provided me a paper that included more specified dates for his biggest events such as the negotiations of a treaty between Old Joseph and the U.S. Government in 1855, the Nez Pierce War of 1877, and his death on September 21, 1904, but faced a small hiccups when stating that their journey to Canada lasted 1,300 miles instead of 1,200. This generator also used vocabulary that was more simple and emotional stating that Joseph and his tribe “Fought fiercely and skillfully” and that by 1855 “tensions had boiled over”. Chat GPT on the other hand had more accurate and concise descriptions of the events such as the specific land names of the original Nez Pierce reservation and a slightly more detailed account of his attempted flight to Canada but lacks in the same department when it came to his advocacy after being moved to Oklahoma. Though I feel as if one is not better than the other because they both have their own set of faults and have practically the same conclusion that Chief Joseph’s legacy is one of resistance, bravery, and diplomacy that continues to be a symbol for Native American struggles today.

Though both of the essay’s touch on the overall story of Chief Joseph neither of them discusses the various battles that made him such a good war chief, nor do they discuss the government’s role in altering the terms of surrender or the specifics of how they were treated by the government following the surrender and his famous speech. Another issue in the historiography is while the general idea is that the trek to Canada was 1,200 miles sources, I have consulted that it ranged from 1,100 to 1,800 when accounting for setbacks looping etc. I also noticed that it is almost impossible to tell his story without bringing any romanticized elements into the narratives because of how historical records have been kept and accounted for this period. But compared to the AI Images these are small discrepancies.

For the Image generation AI engines, I was confused and surprised to see the white caricatures of Chief Joseph. I attempted to aid the AI’s by asking it for photo and photo realistic depictions of the native leader but received verifying results. Surprisingly DALL-E being the most popular AI engine created all of the images to the right. The notion of the AI engines gradually departing from the chief identity is seen in almost all of the generators I used. Though Canva’s Image generator followed a similar fashion by depicting a gradual decent of native figures all of their photos were black and white. Interestingly, the AI engine that got as close to the indigenous figure without these hiccups on the first try was Deep Dream which made the photo in the center. This idea of Joseph has lost much of his regalia and now wears glasses, but it no matter how many runs it received never deviated from this initial look.

I think that the image generating AI’s have come a long way from their initial debuts in which many nightmares fueling creations were made, but when it comes to representing people, I think that it has gotten much more advanced. At the end of this process, I’d say that when it comes to Native American history these engines have some corrections to make. They have a general idea on several occasions but there’s the issues of the obvious and issues that are more subtle when it comes to its human representations. As far as the text is concerned, I believe that the engines are actually pretty accurate when considering the prompt that is given to them. I think that it is good for establishing a baseline for a project, but many of the details of the narratives are glossed over or missing when compared to actual sources. Interestingly enough the general message and conclusions of these essays largely remain the same. But then again, the public is just now seeing what this technology is capable of and within a few years who knows where it will be.

Sources Used:

DALL-E 2: DALL·E 2 (openai.com)

Essay Genius: EssayGenius | AI Essay Writer

ChatGPT: Introducing ChatGPT (openai.com)

Deep Dream Generator: Trending Dreams | Deep Dream Generator

Picsart Image Generator: https://picsart.com/ai-image-generator

Samvit, Jain. “Leader and Spokesman for a People in Exile: Chief Joseph and the Nez Pierce.” The History Teacher 43, no. 1 (2009): 121–39. https://www.jstor.org

Howard, Helen Addison, Tonkovich, Nicole, and McGrath, George D. . Saga of Chief Joseph. Bison classic edition. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2017. https://umw.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01UMW_INST/cr9fmi/alma991005001561303326

George Washington’s Teeth (Meme Assignment)

https://imgflip.com/i/7fhlx7 from Imgflip Meme Generator

The idea that George Washingtons were made of wood was a myth with unknown origins that remained a popular in American culture and its public schools because it makes George Washington a more approachable figure to study. Though most public-school teachers and dentists today say that his teeth were made of Ivory; however, it goes deeper. Historians have found that George Washington purchased slave teeth that were most likely used for a variation of his dentures. This makes the disturbed Mr. Incredible meme a perfect fit to explain this darker element of our first president’s life.

Washington Lund, “Ledger B, 1772- 1793.” page 180. | | http://financial.gwpapers.org/?q=content/ledger-b-1772-1793-pg179

Van Horn, Jennifer. “George Washington’s Dentures: Disability, Deception, and the Republican Body.” Early American Studies 14, no. 1 (2016): 2–47. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44630814.

Etter, William M. “Wooden Teeth Myth.” Irvine Valley College, George Washington Presidential Library. https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/wooden-teeth-myth/

The Infographics Assignment

I thought it was very interesting to hear other presentations of their infographics because they were all very creative with their design. I am surprised to see the effort that went into modifying templates to make something truly original. For me personally I didn’t really like any of the templates because they just weren’t what I was looking for, so I decided to start from scratch, and I think that to a degree its present. I found it a challenge to organize my elements in the vertical format in a way that could encapsulate the amount of information that I wanted to include. If I had a better sense of the app, I would have loved to go up to the slasher movie craze of the 1980’s, but for the sake of using cinema as a technology of communication I wanted to lean into the earlier stages of the medium. I actually found quite some difficulty locating scholarly articles for this project, but the ones that I did find were a blessing. Thanks to my research I learned a lot about early cinema and even watched some of these iconic films with my little sister who thought they were weird, But overall, this was a fun project and I can’t wait to see what else we can do in the second half of the semester.


Sources used:

Loiperdinger, Martin. “LUMIÈRE’S ‘ARRIVAL OF THE TRAIN’: Cinema’s Founding Myth.” The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists 4, no. 1 (2004): 89–118. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41167150.

Musser, Charles, and Gaudreault, André. “When Did Cinema Become Cinema?: Technology, History, and the Moving Pictures.” In Technology and Film Scholarship: Experience, Study, Theory, edited by Santiago Hidalgo, 33–50. Amsterdam University Press, 2018. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1zqrmrh.6.

Dixon Wheeler, Winston and Foster Audrey, Gwendolyn. A Short History of Film, Third edition, Rutgers University Press, March 30, 2018, 1-26.

Melletta, Linnaea. “Mutoscopes” Mutoscopes Free Stock Photo – Public Domain Pictures

Berieve Story del Cinema. “The Great Train Robbery” September 1, 2014. The Great Train Robbery | Fotogramma tratto dal film “The Gr… | Flickr

Wikipedia Commons. “The Cinematograph” File:Institut Lumière – Cinematograph.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Cave Painting Pictionary

I thought that this class project was one of the most creative and enjoyable ways to learn about history. I was really surprised that the presentations got solved so quickly considering that the meaning behind many cave paintings are still shrouded in history. Our plan was pretty straightforward when it came to drafting our drawing. We had a challenge with how to explain that there was a drought in the river and I came up with the idea of including dead or skeleton fish to make it more clear and suggested if needed to add cracks to resemble split earth and tumbleweeds if needed. But the rest of the drawing was thought up by Brian and Katherine. I also found it interesting that nobody used figurative language as Professor pointed out because when I talked about the project with family later on today and brought up the cornhole prompt they said they would have broken down the phrase and drawn it figuratively. This discovery left me to question why my family went in a different direction from the rest of the class. I regret not suggesting more ambiguous phrases to use because looking back it would have been interesting to see how one would display classics like an eye for an eye or walk a mile in my shoes. This activity was by far one of the most entertaining ways to display my understanding of historical course content.

A New Sense of Study

This course has been an interesting journey so far because it is structured in such a unique way. I think that it is really interesting that instead of another lecture-based history course with discussion elements the course went beyond that to give students the ability to create and lead the class as a collective. I think that this was a welcome distinction from other history courses because it is a great way for us as students to familiarize ourselves with each other while also making sure we are on the same page. I was a bit intimidated at first since I am not as familiar with technological tools as others; however, the time that we set aside to make an infographic was really comforting because I was able to pick up how these tools worked pretty quickly. I would also like to mention that having us build the syllabus from the ground up is really fascinating because while we tackled it as a class it put the job of professors at UMW in perspective for me.

I find the readings so far to demonstrate a whole new perspective on studying history because while any angle can be seen as a cause-and-effect situation it had never seemed so streamlined to me before and it’s something that I can appreciate. I liked the idea that all of the technologies that we are studying were inspired by their predecessors and has seemingly been this way when applied to all of the topics in the class so far. I think that the process of deciding which assignments we want to do is quite fun. The fleshing out process is probably the most difficult part for us as a class because we need to get as detailed as possible so that the assignments are uniform and straightforward. I can’t wait to see what else this class has in store for us as we continue on with the semester.

Assignments of Interest

There have been many ideas proposed for how we are to go about the coming projects in this course but there are a few in particular that really stuck out to me. I personally would like to tweet out historical events live, I think it is a medium that most of the class would be familiar with and we can educate others. Another assignment that I think allows room for alot of creativity is the infographics. I feel like it allows for the use of multiple digital tools, and it can be applied to any of the topics that we have to discuss in the course allowing it to be a very versatile assignment that does not require too many video or audio editing skills which for those who lack in such departments, like me, it a bit relieving.

Def Leppard Diskography – Google Sheets

The Historiography of the Information Age

I think that both James Gleick and Ronald R. Kline both made very different, but informative approaches to their works. I really enjoyed how Gleick introduced the information theory in his introduction by breaking down how mathematics and engineering collaborated together in order to create a whole new direction for the world. I think that his writing explained the importance of not only the fields that were created and the discoveries that were made because of the field, but also the importance of the people behind it like Claude Shannon. His detailed approach to the figures involved and the details he included allowed for a lot of engagement with the text. Kline’s approach had a much broader scope and separated his work from Gleick’s by incorporating the effect that the world made on the field of cybernetics almost as much as how cybernetics was impacting the world around it. For example, Kline alluded to the shift in focus from nuclear science to information science in the wake of the Cold War. He continued to keep the conflict in focus while discussing the social and scientific impact that cybernetics had throughout the mid to late 20th century.

After reading the beginning of these works, I think that it would be interesting to learn more about the hidden figures that helped shape the world as we know it today. I think it would also be interesting to focus on some technology that emerged in other fields like medical cybernetics or biological cybernetics. Before these works, I was not aware of these figures or the accomplishments that they made to the world we live in today. Gleick’s explanation of the information theory really struck me because the thought that technically everything from the smallest grain of sand to the biggest galaxy in the cosmos has the potential to be boiled down to an information itself is baffling to say the least. I particularly like a point that Gleick made at the end of his introduction, “Every new medium transforms the nature of human thought. In the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.” This point really resonated with me because I’ve grappled with many different definitions for history itself; however, this is a perspective that I’ve never considered before. The notion that I, as a bundle of 6 billion bits, am on a pursuit of awareness through learning about the past is a truly intriguing concept that I will ponder further in my never-ending pursuit of historical knowledge.

Gleick, James. 2011. The Information. New York: Pantheon Books, 12.

Weinersmith, Zach. 2018. “Quantum Bits,” Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Accessed January 15, 2023. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Quantum Bits (smbc-comics.com).


My name is Kendell Jenkins, and I am a senior at UMW. I’ve taken a wide variety of history courses at the University of Mary Washington, but I haven’t taken many that focused on the United States digital/information era. I think that it would be interesting learning about the rapid growth of technology in the United States because I think that viewing the narrative of United States history through the lens of technology to be a fascinating approach to the subject.  When looking at the past assignments of the class I like to see that they all seemed unique and fun to work on. One assignment that caught my interest was conveying a message through an early form of communication. I am not very tech savvy when it came to using computers or cell phones, but the thought of demonstrating how the beeper was used as a means to notify others to contact each other is humorous to say the least. One piece of advice I plan on using is booking appointments at the DKC and HCC way early. I state this because in the past I have failed to understand that hundreds of students need these resources for their personal school careers and the window only gets smaller as the semester progresses.