I came into this course with little understanding of what the term “digital history” is or means. Reflecting on the course readings and discussions, I think digital history is, in some ways, the study of the way that technology is changing how we do history. Just from looking at everyone’s course projects, it is clear that there are a plethora of new modes and methods of communicating history.
From twitter to TikTok to blogs, there are more platforms available to present information and engage with the public than ever before. Digital analysis tools like Voyant, the Time Magazine Corpus, and Google n-gram allow us to understand the past in a more sophisticated way. Audacity, Omeka, and Storymaps provide still more ways to edit, collect, exhibit, and present digital objects in engaging ways. Digital archives and collections have changed the way we conduct research. Sites including Scalar, the Programming Historian, and MLA Core reflect the way the digital allows for the expansion of scholarly communication and community-building.
But with new means also come new complications. How do we preserve and sustain the digital? What is a digital archive and what implications does it have on the research process? How do we create respectful communities online? And why is the digital still not considered to be “scholarly” when print is not the only—or even the primary—means of publishing or disseminating information? I remember Professor Owens mentioning in one of our first classes that most history courses typically seem to pose more questions than answers. I don’t necessarily know the answers to these questions, but I feel like I can at least engage in the debates.
From my own project, I found that the Made By History blog was really interesting in its model—as a political history blog that publishes an unlimited stream of op-eds under the reputable Washington Post. I feel like it is an intersection of so many things—the blog, op-eds, online newspapers, history, politics, etc. From my interviews with six recent contributors, I came to a few conclusions including (1) contributors consider writing an op-ed when a current event directly relates to their own research; (2) contributors hope op-eds both demystify the role of the historian and provide readers with historical perspective that will inform their interpretation of the present; (3) contributors do not view this type of work as “scholarly,” but rather as a way to explain their scholarship to the public; and (4) writing clearly, concisely, and quickly—to keep up with the news cycle—is a skill that gives historians immediacy and flexibility as writers. I am also so appreciative of all the participants who were willing to answer a random student’s questions!
Below you can find my final print project and my poster!
Here’s to another semester of zooming! Hope to see everyone in person in the fall! (fingers crossed)