Defining Digital History

The medium of the World Wide Web drastically changes the practice of doing history because there are innumerable resources available literally at your fingertips. These resources are vast and moldable to fit whatever your need may be. History back in the day was lived through academic literature where as Turkel puts it, “scarcity was the issue, the travel to archives were expensive”. New information is constantly available, in other words, history is being made every day all the time! This new information can be duplicated, posted, reposted and created with no expenses involved. More information can be accessed, searched and found multiple times at any point in time. As Turkel mentions in his article, “the web has no structure, metaphorically, it is like a spider web hyperlinking at the speed of light creating social networks.” There is no timeline. You can start with one link and end up with forty other websites and forty other links that link you to other forty different websites and links. It can be quite overwhelming but I think we’re all used to it now. Sometimes I wonder how I end up having twenty tabs open on my computer and I eventually end up closing them so my laptop stops freezing on me. Using our digital tools, history is being made as interdisciplinary as possible.

Digital tools such as major search engines (Google being one of the most popular ones, Firefox, Yahoo search, etc) allow us to experience history in a very fast paced way where information is constantly being both given and received. With that being said, I believe Digital History is qualitatively different from History because history through a digital lens is (can be – depending on the sources) sensationalized and information is overly accessible to general population consumption. As Cohen and Rosenzweig best puts its, “plenty of inaccurate history can be found on the web.” A literature public history book, for example, can be more specific to the topic whereas digitally you may find thousands if not millions of options to choose from and harder to specifically narrow down to what you’re actually looking for. The quality of historical information changes when the medium is different. In this case, since digital tools are “immersive in various styles” (Cohen) there are advantages as well as disadvantages which have to be considered in order to accurately practice history.

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