blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 13, 2011 @ 3:59pm
Simplifying history is a tough pursuit, even if it’s just chronologically. In an attempt to give modern American history linear coherence (and to give students a reason not to start drinking at noon), Niagara University assistant professor Mustafa Gokcek has developed an innovative way to relate his field to students through Twitter.
Condensing the period between 1945 until 2005 into a three month span—roughly equivalent to a college semester—Gokcek will tweet 90 notable events from the account NUHis199. Thanks to software developed by University at Buffalo associate professor of computer science Murat Demirbas, Gokcek’s tweets will not be sent out at the same time each day; one year of history represents 1 ½ days in the study, so if Gokcek deems that nothing noteworthy happened in 1975 and 1976, for example, he won’t tweet for 3 days. (Did anything really exciting happen in the late ‘70s?) Gokcek will start tweeting history today.
Or, if it’s a particularly crazy year like 2001, when George W. Bush became President, the 9/11 Terrorist attacks occurred and the U.S. went to war with Afghanistan, expect a barrage of tweets in a short time.
Basically, Gokcek is giving not only his students, but any of his Twitter followers, a whirlwind course on modern American history over three months. In each tweet, the assistant professor will include a link to a primary document that relates to the specific event. I always liked the dusty smell of primary documents—you unfortunately won’t get that pleasure from Gokcek’s program.
If you like history—or just like clicking links at the end of tweets—follow NUHis199 on Twitter for a crash course; for his students, it will be a heck of a lot more fun than scouring a bloated 400 page textbook.