For this week’s blog assignment, I decided to analyze the Digital Harlem website. The website compiles information from newspapers, legal records, and other published sources to describe the “everyday life” seen in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood during 1915 to 1930. The data is organized into three different subcategories, places, events, and people.
When I first entered the website, there was a welcome page that briefly described the data set, and throughout the website there were informational pop-up boxes. Without reading these, I would not have understood how to work the website. I like how they created these content boxes as pop-ups, to encourage the users to read them before they begin exploring the page.
I believe that the map is successful for this data set. There are three maps displayed on the interactive map page, and it allows the user to filter and search through the maps. Filters that can be used include the type of event such as arrest, extortion, drug dealing, etc. Also different features, such as the borders of black settlement during 1920, 1925, and 1930 can be analyzed. I liked that this website allowed multiple layers to be searched allowing the comparison between different events, people, and places.
I thought the map reflected the point of view of the government. I feel like this was the case because the website was focused mostly around crime during this time. Also, the people who were creating the website had legal documents describing all of these crimes to document. I was surprised to learn that the project was compiled by The University of Sydney, Australia – however it also made sense. While there was information on the different types of crime, there was not much background about why they occurred or what the cultural climate was during this time period.
Even though the website details that it is examining the everyday life of New Yorkers, it is actually measuring and describing the crime seen during this time. I felt that this should definitely be highlighted. By doing so, this website creates assumptions that these crimes describe the everyday life that was seen in Harlem. However Harlem is extremely well known for its culture, music, art, and creative people. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the website, which really skews the users understanding of what Harlem truly is. I feel like this website needs to clarify its description to explicitly state what their aims are through their Digital Mapping.