Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

History in the Digital World

As our world moves further into the digital age, we are seeing changes in every aspect of our lives, including academia. History is no exception. In reading through articles about this shift to digital methods, a few key themes came to light.

One of the greatest differences between digital history and traditional modes of history is the former’s intersection with public history. With millions of resources available on the Web for anyone–professional, student, curious citizen–to find and use, historical narratives are more accessible than ever before. This expansion of accessibility has a few implications of its own. Because public digital history projects could be used by anyone and everyone, they have to be designed so they can be used by anyone and everyone, with people of all abilities in mind. While it is important that digital history projects be accessible to all, it is also a good idea for the creators to identify target audiences, people who would benefit the most from a particular collection of resources. Public digital history projects must also be centered around public history. This means that they don’t just focus on the famous, white men and the events they are associated with. They must include discussions of the lives and histories of ordinary citizens of all backgrounds.

It is also important to note the impact that the advancement of digital history has had on education. The rise of the digital age has had many effects on our education system. For example, remote learning is now not only possibly, but necessary due to the current pandemic. Many educators who had not already changed their syllabi to keep up with technological advancement are now forced to do so. I think that we will see a lasting change in the ways people are educated, with more of an emphasis on digital approaches to education in all disciplines, including history. As aforementioned, historical resources are far more accessible than before thanks to the Internet. History educators now have the ability to require their students to utilized both primary and secondary resources. The utilization of digital approaches to history education opens many new possibilities for teaching and learning. The next step is learning how to best utilize these resources.

Overall, digital history has proved to be successful in expanding the reach of historical thought throughout society. One new problem that digital historians are facing, however, is digital preservation. Not all resources are digitally stable, and they break down over time. Therefore, that is one of the biggest challenges facing the discipline today: figuring out how to preserve online resources so they can not only be accessible to people of the world today but also to future generations.

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