Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

For this week I read “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians” by Roger C. Schonfeld and Jennifer Rutner, “Teaching with a Tea Set: Using Objects in the US History Survey” by Abby Chandler from AHA’s Perspectives (2007), and  “Is (Digital) History More Than an Argument about the Past?” (Spring 2012 version) by Sherman Dorn and “Wikipedia and Women’s History: A Classroom Experience” (Spring 2012 version) by Martha Saxton from Writing History in the Digital Age (2011). Here are my thoughts on each of them or what I learned:

“Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians” by Roger C. Schonfeld and Jennifer Rutner

In this final report, there were a lot of great quotes from the interviewees in the study, but this one in particular stuck out to me:

“There are too many documents for me to work on in my project… history was
a monolithic, individual activity. You sat down and translated the documents.
But now there’s so much out there and it’s only going to grow. Why not bring
in more people?”

I really liked the section on public history and collaboration, because with new media resources and the internet, history project and research can be something that a group of people work on. Those people don’t even have to actually ever meet in person either. The finding and sharing digital primary and secondary resources is much more efficient and easier to do since the resources are not actually physical. However, because it is so easy to find and share digital primary and secondary resources, there tends to be an overwhelming amount of it. Collaborating, therefore, is a great way to tackle all that information, since different members on a project might be searching different keywords and may come up slightly different, but still relevant results.

“Teaching with a Tea Set: Using Objects in the US History Survey” by Abby Chandler from AHA’s Perspectives (2007)

I really enjoyed this article since it reminded me of my Native American Religions class week when my professor brought in random objects and asked us to get into groups and try to figure out what they were. I think the idea of having historical objects that represent certain ideas or time periods is a great teaching tool, especially for those students who are visual learners like me. I know that if my professor brought in a tea set and passed it around, i’d definitely remember the information that went along with it, especially come test time. I also thought passing around the items made learning history more interactive, and therefore, would make it easier to connect certain historical events or topics together in order to understand the larger context of whatever is being taught.

 “Is (Digital) History More Than an Argument about the Past?” (Spring 2012 version) by Sherman Dorn

In this article Dorn talks about how digital historians have the opportunity to “redraw the discipline’s boundaries.” Blogs allow historians dabble in short-term arguments, while also  displaying long-term arguments. Different digital tools such as timelines and interactive maps create a more engaging way of learning important dates and places, but also can expand people’s understanding of how and why those dates and places are important. As Dorn explains though, history is not just dates and facts though, it’s more than that, and digital history allows for more variety within the historical field. For example, a digital history can include digitized archives, a larger set of public history, more collaborations within the discipline, and a way to display the process of the methodology behind research and behind creating the digital history.

“Wikipedia and Women’s History: A Classroom Experience” (Spring 2012 version) by Martha Saxton from Writing History in the Digital Age (2011)

In reading this article I learned that “popular judgment determines what history gets produced in this format,  the significance of women’s role in it and gender as a discourse or a method of analysis are likely to be devalued,” and that “material that is segregated under “Women’s Roles” or “Women’s Experience” often has a better chance of surviving in featured  Wikipedia articles than more integrated material. ” Before reading the article, I figured it was going to be about the lack of content about women on Wikipedia, but I didn’t realize it was going to be as sad as it was. Although, it was great to read that when some of the students added content about women to certain historical event wiki pages that the other reviewers of the pages accepted it and glad to build the page, to read that some of the students’ additions about women during certain events got removed or argued against was disheartening. Furthermore, I can see where having a separate WikiProject for women’s history would be nice, since it would be a narrower focus, but I don’t think that women’s history in the larger WikiProject United States should be less important. If anything, women’s history should just naturally be an important part of United States history on Wikipedia. Often when we learn about Native Americans in elementary through high school we learn about what the men’s roles and what the women’s roles were, but as soon as we get to the colonies, learning about the women’s roles fade out completely, and continue to be that way until the first waves of feminism start, which doesn’t really make sense since women are somewhat half of the entire world’s population. I hope women’s history can gain a larger presence on Wikipedia in the future.

Categories: Assignments

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