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What is Digital History? Why is it important for us? by Brandon Norris

Upon seeing this post, you may ask yourself, what is digital humanities? According to Wikipedia, it states that “digital humanities is the intersection of computing or digital technologies and the discipline of humanities” (Wikipedia, Digital Humanities). Digital Humanities provides a relationship between media and the disciplines of humanities and blends those with other disciplines by the usage of digital tools and analyzing those tools, simultaneously. This summarizes exactly how people research in today’s world. Our ways of sharing, obtaining and preserving information have dramatically evolved and changed with the introduction of media. Melih Bilgil’s video on Viemo entitled, “History of the Internet” is an excellent overview on how that change has transpired. Bilgil discusses that in 1957 as a result of the Defense Research Project triggered Arpanet a project which “gave way for military, commercial, scientific networks” (Bilgil, 2009). From there, transformation occurred and led towards the TCP/IP Protocol which is what made the internet possible today. In C. Anneike Romein’s State of the Field: Digital History,  he addresses how the internet has given a platform for historians to transform their means of research, as they were able to “preserve and make available historical sources for specialists and the interested public” (Romein, 2020).  However, Romein’s biggest point is digital hermeneutics, which is “the construction of historical knowledge” (Romein, 2020).  Data can be hurtful as much as it is meaningful. Digital humanities as a field also highlights the fact that the only thing that can interfere with progress, is the progress itself. Improving our research and data-sharing also provides its share of problems. Much like how books have been left-behind by the evolution of the internet, the evolution of applications and/or sharing data also becomes outdated. Commercial use, exclusion of data, selection and bias are huge problems that can be present on digitised sources. This is exactly why digital humanities is important: by utilizing different tools, the internet and historical research we can identify, critique and question what we read and see online as well as in the physical world around us. Computers can impact culture and history, as wellas the history of culture. Kit Oldman’s 2005 article  “San Juan County — Thumbnail History” illustrates exactly why Digital Humanities is key for preserving cultural knowledge, today. Oldman’s article details that  San Juan Islands inhabitants had settled there about 14,000 years ago, were Northern Strait Salish Native Americas and used “reef netting” a technique for large scale salmon runs seen nowhere else in the world (Oldman, 2005). This evidence is seen by shells, tools and other evidence of residence that illustrate over 9,000 years of human habitation. The San Juan Islands were settled by the Spanish, the British, Americans and were even banned from the island in 1850. Through the use of physical research and digitised tools, Oldman is able to preserve and detail this knowledge today and provide a voice on the past, in which we (historian) can analyze today. That is the beauty of Digital Humanities. 

References:

Bilgil, Melih, History of the Internet, Vimeo, 2009. 

Romein, C. Anneike,  et. al, State of the Field: Digital History Wiley Online Library, May 14, 2020.

Oldman, Kit. “San Juan County — Thumbnail History.” HistoryLinks, October 04, 2005. 

Wikipedia, Digital Humanities, September 8, 2020.

2 thoughts on “What is Digital History? Why is it important for us? by Brandon Norris

  1. Hi Brandon
    Good to see a familiar face in one of my classes! How are you my friend?
    Nice job on your Blog!
    I should have mine up and going here in just a little bit. I would appreciate it if you would check it out. brianoriley.com

    Talk to you later!

  2. Hi Brandon!

    You mention how books have been “left behind.” I was wondering if you could elaborate on that more. I think you mean that there are now more ways to read than just from a physical book. You also mentioned how apps and other tech related will one day be outdated. Technology becomes out dated so quickly these days, but I’m still reaching for books constantly.

    See you in class!

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