Lab Experiment 12: Conversations 1 – 1102

Conversations I Assignment

Learning Goals and Grading Criteria

  • Student identified three different credible social media posts.
  • Sites appropriately addressed pre-1914 industrialization in world history.
  • Student summarized the posts accurately using standard academic language.

Our module "Conversations" will focus on the period of industrialization from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The conversation part will be addressing how social media shapes our understanding of the history of industrialization. Our first week we'll work on understanding industrialization by using social media and our second week we'll use social media to help others understand industrialization.

As you've read in our article for the week, industrialization transformed the world, advancing some countries and leaving others behind. There are a number of different ways to study industrialization: we can look at it's technologies (railroads, steam engines, factories, interchangeable parts); or its geography and people influence (increased urbanism, lower quality of living, increased pollution, decreased ties to traditional social structures) or its effects. We'll address all of the history of industrialization, but I want to paint a big picture for you so you understand why historians and even modern public thinkers are somewhat obsessed with this economic transformation.

Consider the following graph: Gapminder-England and Japan. The graph shows England and Japan from 1800-2018. WE're interested in what happens before 1914. You can hit play to see the chart roll out, and what you see is a whole lot of nothing going on until around 1870 in terms of life expectancy. Now, England was the first to industrialize, but they don't start to see population-wide increases in life expectancy until around 1870, at least forty years after the start of the process. Japan doesn't see the life expectancy benefits until 1938, approximated 40 years after it starts industrializing. Historians treat 20 years as a generation. So, what we have is process that disrupts labor patterns, where people live, social relations, and national resource management that offers no significant benefit to its participants for two generations.[^1]

In fact, quality of life for many who move to cities to work in factories goes down. Herein lies the challenge: almost all economists agree that industrialized economies offer significant advantages over non-industrialized economies. We now call these developed (industrialized) and developing (non-industrialized) countries. But every historical example we have of industrialization requires two generations to go through massive disruptions. Imagine if someone told you that you had to move to Mars, learn to code in a Martian language, teach your kids to do the same, and your grandkids would have a slightly better life than you do?

This is why scholars from many different fields of study remain interested in industrialization. If we can figure out what works and what doesn't there's a chance we can shorten the awfulness of the process for those countries going through it today.

There is no other historical event we study this semester that has more relevance for today as industrialization.

Why Social Media?

So, why are we focussing on social media when studying revolution? Well, for one, social media allows us to practice what we call public history. History written by historians for other historians is very small in scope and in audience. Museums, plaques at public parks, blogs about minor subjects that just happen to fascinate people; these are all public history. A historian's book published by a university press will get maybe 200 copies printed. A good history blog will get at least 200 hits a day, and a good twitter feed will have 200-600 followers. If we think history matters (and I do) we have to be attentive to where it will have the biggest impact.

So, to begin, you need to get comfortable operating in three social media platforms:,, and Pinterest requires an account to look, but wordpress and twitter don't. is a web log hosting website. Lots of historians and history-minded people post their research, analysis, and material on blogs.

Pinterest is a web log that focusses on images, which the site calls "pins."

Twitter is a mico-blogging site. It allows users to post blogs in 280 characters, with a limited number of pictures. A "feed" is all the tweets from a particular user.

I. Assignment

Find a pinterest page, twitter feed, and wordpress blog that are a) credible and b) address the industrial revolutions of the period before 1914. Each media type may focus on a specific country or a particular group. For example, women workers in factories are frequent subjects of interest for historians of industrialization.

Post your three links in a discussion post and under each link post a one-sentence summary of the media and a three-sentence evaluation of the credibility of the site. Due on Thursday at 8 p.m.


Social Media posts do not often in and of themselves give you sufficient information to evaluate their credilibty using the SIFT process. You WILL need to go upstream to find better information to evaluate your social media finds.

To limit a google search to a particular domain type :.doman name. For example, if I wanted to search for "women workers shirts" only in wordpress blogs, I'd type "women workers"

Twitter uses a particular grammar that takes a while to get used to. Topics are "tagged" with a # . For example searching for #industrialization will get all the most recent tweets about that topic. People or institutions who are writing on twitter "tweeting" are tagged with @. So, I'm @historyjack and I tweet on education and history. I am happy to have students follow me, but I do not follow students unless they invite me to and then only if they tweet on their profession. To find good industrial revolution material on twitter, you may need to find good historians of the industrial revolution.

Pinterest is the shallowest (has the least historical) content of these three media types. It has hoards of non-credible sites, which pinterest call "boards." Be prepared for lots of images that are not attributed (cited). No-citations = not credible.

[^1]: For the uber history geeks, you can check out two articles on historical mortality rates in England at "The Determinants of Mortality" and "Mortality improvements and evolution of life expectancies" . Nerd fighterly awesome.