In this week’s articles we explore the influence of digitizing and history. The pros, the cons, the novel factor of it all are explored. Both Cohen and Brown agree that the Digital medium is an important aspect of history for the public because it provides an opening for those who already utilize the digital world. The digital history world opens up new doors and pathways for a new generation to explore the world of history.
Cohen’s two articles are unique and important because they show the up and the down side of digital history. Whereas a book or a paper can be long lasting and preserved, a cd, dvd or other digital medium can wear and tear much easier. One of the major difficulties that surprised me was the issue of how much information the Digital libraries allow in. Since space isn’t as much of an issue in the digital world, they are able to accept more items no matter their relevance or importance. The fragility of the digital world is surprising as well; one scratch one “oops I dropped it” can lose information forever. The importance of this almost becomes to not rely explicitly on one medium but perhaps to preserve the digital and the physical.
In Cohen’s other article, “History and the Second Decade of the Web”, Cohen takes a more optimistic approach to the digital medium and approaches it as an opportunity to engage in discussion among the populace. One of the truly interesting aspects of this article is that Cohen makes the point that digital libraries allow for a broader view of a subject. Since one can incorporate more items on a cd it allows for a better vision of the topic. While not completely downgrading the usefulness of books, Cohen does make the case that digital history has a future in the world of history.
Brown also focuses on the importance of this new medium as well. He refers to it as “active learning”. While a challenge for historians (as is what we learned in the Hollywood readings last week), it has a potential to be a highly successful tool when utilized properly. While a book accompanying a movie might not have a great response, a CD-ROM following a book can be highly useful and almost extremely necessary to engage the new generation of digital students.
These readings this week showed a new medium that once again challenges historians to think beyond the paper and into the minds and homes of the population. It is truly interesting to see how the way historical works change must change with the people they are attempting to reach. Within this digital world it is necessary to bring history to the mediums that the people are interested in.
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