A few months back I introduced my two projects for the year. I have made more progress on my prototype for an online dissertation chapter than redesigning the front-end of the footballscholars.org site, so I will focus on the Ciudad Deportiva chapter prototype.
Kora and the Ciudad Deportiva
KORA is serving as the digital repository for the Ciudad Deportiva chapter. As a reminder, the chapter deals with the curious case of the Ciudad Deportiva, a mix between a stadium complex and amusement park. It was built over seven artificial islands on sixty hectares of land filled in the Rio de la Plata. Besides an enormous 140,000-seat stadium and various athletic facilities, the project was to include an aquarium, mini-golf, mechanical rides for children, and a drive-in movie theatre for 500 cars. This project combined public and private funds, embodying a new vision of middle-class consumption that fit into city planner’s designs for a modern city with ample leisure space. Yet, a combination of poor engineering, financial mismanagement, and political disputes ensured that the ambitious plans started in 1965 would be largely abandoned by the 1978 World Cup deadline.
I have set up the repository and will begin uploading my sources this week. I have been fortunate enough to receive a Fulbright IIE award to conduct my dissertation research, so I now know that this prototype will be developing into a working component of my project when I leave for Buenos Aires in the fall. After I finish uploading and sorting my sources, I will be working with a developer here at MATRIX to produce a front-end for the repository. Another KORA project, David Robinson’s Failed Islamic States, and MATRIX-hosted soviethistory.org are serving as useful models for front-ends that invite users to engage with the materials in their repositories. The central issue in my design thinking is how to engage the user in a long-form historical argument without confronting them with a wall of text. How can I use images, short descriptions, and media like oral interviews and videos to engage people with my wider arguments about the role of soccer in Argentine society?
This brings in the question of audience and public history. My project aims to engage fans of soccer and members of the communities I study in Argentina as well as historians and anthropologists interested in questions of culture and politics. Such a wide audience presents challenges a website’s ability to capture varied interests, but it also presents an opportunity to develop a model of popular and public history that can preserve a long-form argument closer to a monograph or dissertation in an online platform.
I am working with a number of Argentine scholars at the Centro de Estudio del Deporte at the Universidad de San Martín to gather sources and insights on my own project, but working with a digital repository like KORA presents the opportunity to work with them in the long term towards developing an NEH Digital Preservation and Access grant. Many of us take an annual report required of soccer clubs called Memorias y Balances as a base sources in our projects. The reports contain a general account of the year’s events, membership statistics, and team results and they are in the public domain. These are valuable public documents that could form the spine of an excellent repository with data that could be linked to ask very interesting questions. The Argentine football association, or Associación del Fútbol Argentino has already taken an interest in digitizing their own memorias y balances and has a few decades worth online already.