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This Day in Labor History: The Research Project


This is a guest post from our long-time commenter Bijan Parsia.

Over a year ago, Erik (with my help) put together a grant proposal to explore increases public engagement with history using the This Day in Labor History (TDILH) series as a corpus. Naturally, this was rejected, but I really liked the idea so I offered 3rd year (i.e., senior year for you yanks) and MSc project proposals along these lines.

The basic problem we’re looking at is that given the massive size of TDILH (over 300 posts!) simply accessing the corpus is rather difficult even for the labor history enthusiast. The main existing mechanisms is search, the manually maintained index (sorted by month). Search suffers from the issues of all search based approaches, roughly, you need to have a target in mind. That’s great for people who are looking for something specific, but less helpful for getting a feel for area as covered by Erik. The “browse” methods offered are both list based and a bit grim. The index is better for exploring the whole corpus, but only gives you a date and title to lure you in. The tag based index gives you an image and blurb as well, but is organised in reverse-chronological order and is pagination based. It requires a fair bit of dedication to slog through all 26 (currently) pages.

The goal of the project is to provide mechanisms that make the corpus more accessible and, we hope, engaging.

This being a computer science final year project, the students tend to take an engineering approach (e.g., “if we build a thing, does it help?” rather than “let’s study the basics of engagement with history”). One of my students has built an Android app designed to facilitate browsing through the TDILH corpus. We’d like to do a little bit of end user validation on this. This is where you, fellow members of the LGM commentariat, can help!

If you have a recent Android phone, an inclination to help out a student or interest in TDILH, and a reasonable tolerance for risk, we have a small exploratory study for you to participate in!

Obviously, this is totally voluntary and you can stop at any time. Also, I give no warranty on the app: It’s student work and we didn’t have time to go through the Google Play process. It shouldn’t cause any problems, but per usual back stuff up and take care.

There’s documentation (including “how to install”):

To participate, install the documentation including installation guidance.

Try it out. Familiarise yourself with the features.

Keep it installed for about a week. Feel free to use it naturally i.e., don’t force yourself to play with it for the sake of the study. Just use it if you feel like it.

Fill out the survey here!

(Up to hitting submit, you can stop at any time and that’s fine! We won’t have any data from you and that’s cool. Once you submit we can’t purge your answers because we store no identifying info.)

The app, itself, does not gather any data at all.

We have a brief video of the app in action if you’d like to check it out without installing :

We’ll close the survey around April 25th. I’ll report on the results soon after that!

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