January 18, 2015 by kdaly3
This past week’s readings help audiences and readers gain an understanding of how digital tools can be used as more than secondary sources or how they can be used as interpretive materials in their own right instead of merely tools to showcase primary sources. However the readings also discussed many pitfalls of digital media technologies, especially in terms of credibility, the amount of materials that appear on sites such as Wikipedia and how scholars need to sift through sites to find accurate information. These ideas will be useful when thinking about the histories associated with the Beltline project and how these projects can be used if presented properly in order to maintain stakeholder and constituency support as the project continues to grow.
Writing History in the Digital Age makes multiple points in the essay “Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?” More specifically, this essay discusses the ways in which digital media has opened up the ability to provide active commentary to historical arguments and the importance of constancy of historical writing in the digital age. For instance, another chapter in the text (“Teaching Wikipedia without Apologies”) mentions how scholars who wish to edit Wikipedia must do so constantly as information on the site is constantly changing and being updated by people at varying levels of knowledge. However this digital scholarship, as the authors see it, seems to be more advantageous in terms of experimentation with digital tools. They do just this in the online version of this text by opening the chapters up to the public and other scholars to provide their input and opinions on the research done by others. This allows authors’ scholarship to be strengthened by comments. The nonlinear ability for digital media to interpret and present history and interact with audiences is key to historical research as we understand it today with a wide variety of interpretations coming to light. There must be the ability to engage with content on a collaborative interface such as commentary left for authors on a website; books only allow readers to take in information, not necessarily interact with it or the author.
History in the Digital Age relates to the discussion of how digital media is used as a form of historical interpretation in its own right. Sometimes digital history is not merely a discussion of histories. It is used to interpret its own forms of history, which is not viable in any other form of media. The Reader Experience Database (RED) project, mentioned in this text, comes to mind most explicitly. The RED project demonstrates that digital tools and scholarship can be used most effectively in a digital arena. This also goes back to the discussion of Wikipedia and the ability to edit information. The information that is a part of this database is ever-changing, therefore it distinguishes itself by the fact that it is constantly up-to-date. In this case, digital information is not only used as a tool for understanding history, it is also a primary resource used to interpret history. How the audience interacts with this new medium in historical interpretation is unique and valuable in that it can be a resource that is both derived and processed digitally, that is, interactively. It deepens the understanding of physical primary sources in a way that reveals new connections in the information being presented. In this sense, it is often the case that digital media is the only viable way to engage with this information effectively.