History Changing in the Digital Age (Week 2)

It is commonplace for many institutions to embrace shifting trends into technology and the digital age, the study and pursuit of history is no different. But the distinguishing factor is that there needs to be purpose behind the move to utilizing technology; it must provide solutions rather than just using the technology for technology’s sake. As Turkel states about conducting online research without a clear purpose, “The longer you work on something, the more behind you will get”. When we seek out sources, we must act less like a sponge just absorbing everything that we are able to find, but rather like a sieve, sorting through what could seem like an endless amount of material.

Just like a mechanic or carpenter, historians in the digital age cannot begin their work without possessing the proper tools and skills (which is difficult when your “toolbox” often gives you 1.5 million results) and a clear purpose to work towards. As suggested by Cohen and Rosenzweig “Popular history preference clearly takes precedence over professional concerns” so it is up to historians and researchers to hone their skills and targets to sort through the vast amount of information that is provided with a quick Google search. The digitization of most historical sources is also not provided by one universal organization, which drives those conducting the research to draw the connections between the information they discover, which helps them sort through pertinent data and conflicting issues. Researchers must also compete against many search engines’ focus on monetization, which favors simple summary results over valuable primary resources.

When practiced correctly, the research of history in the digital age opens up multiple avenues that were previously very difficult to pursue. Local history can be connected to its national or global impact, or how different groups responded or impacted different periods of history. It provides different perspectives and lenses of the same events which open discussion and ideas. It also makes researching history more feasible and accessible for those who are not professional historians.

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