This blog post address the particularities of Digital History, and how it stands out and differs from other Digital Humanities, such as digital literary studies. It was written almost a year ago by Dr. Stephen Robertson in preparing for the Center’s 20th anniversary conference and reflecting on the history of the discipline and organization.
While looking back over the Center’s projects and initiatives, Robertson saw a new debate about digital humanities happening. He noticed the lack of digital history in the conversation, and how the default for digital humanities appeared to be digital literary studies. Because of this, he decided it was more important to parse out what makes digital history unique and different than to fight for its place under the big umbrella term.
Robertson sees value for the field in separating the terms, mostly in making it seem approachable and useful for all historians (as opposed, I think, to only those who want the “digital” part to be their main focus). This part of his post really struck me: Most historians at least understand the growing place technology has in the field. “But that recognition does not mean that most historians have explored what can be done with digital tools, are equipped to do so, or are even convinced that those tools have anything to offer their own research and teaching. Efforts to extend the conversation about digital history beyond the digitally fluent, those able to teach themselves, are not helped by calling our work “digital humanities.”
One of the main conclusions I’ve come to in this course, is that there is a lot of hesitation, and uneasiness about accepting it as “real” history work. I think that in itself may be a component of digital history, where digital humanities as a whole might be more open and understand the change more intuitively.
Perhaps then, “digital humanities” is a scary term evoking the unfamiliar, and it’d be more useful to be clear that digital history is still history, just with added tools, collaboration, and availability.
He also explains that digital humanities has historically been more focused on humanities computing, while digital history has its origins with presenting material online, and being more of an archive. These roles are obviously blending at this point, but it is interesting to look at how different disciplines joined the digital age, and have evolved in it to best suit their needs.
The Green Historian is a blog kept by Pasadena College history professor, Stephen Campbell. As a professor at the community college level, the blog is not as concerned with research as other blogs we have looked at. Rather this blog tends to emphasize teaching over research and I would presume it is primarily directed at other history teachers, although Professor Campbell occasionally addresses students in his writing. In his article “What Makes Good Learners” Campbell addresses recent articles regarding the psychology of learning, seemingly intended for other teachers, but concludes by urging college students to work less than 20 hours a week. As a graduate student who works 20+ hours a week, I was put off by this statement, as it reflects a disconnect in the professor’s understanding of the current economy and rising cost of higher education. As a teacher at the community college level, I suppose this is an excusable statement. I find much of his writing flippant and unprofessional, even for the more casual format of blog. One such example would be in his 02/08/2015 post, “The Politics of Teaching History,” where he states “And then of course there’s good ole Texas, a state whose rabid, evangelical anti-intellectualism is so glaring that it pretty much embarrasses every sane American.” Whether or not I agree with the statement, I don’t think it is wise of the professor to be inserting such opinions so viciously on a website where he posts his curriculum-vitae, particularly while he is in the process of getting his dissertation published. Aside from the theme of education, Campbell also writes about other historian and puts a historical perspective on current events, which I find he does well. The blog is hosted on his own website, rather than Blogger or WordPress and for that I must wag my finger at the professor for not including an index of the articles in the sidebar. Overall I am not crazy about this blog.
Whewell’s Ghost is a blog dedicated to the History and Philosophy of Science. The blog’s name is a tribute to William Whewell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Whewell), a nineteenth-century Englishman credited as being one of the first historians of science. The site was created in 2010 by Rebekah Higgit, John M. Lynch, and John Wilkins – each professionals in the fields of science, technology, and history. Since its creation, the site has recruited a long list of contributors of varying levels of professional qualification (ranging from the purely amateur to the distinguished professor).
The site publishes an entry every week. This entry generally begins with an “Editorial” – a short, informal essay on a particular topic relating to the history of science or technology. The most recent entry, dated Monday May 4th, addresses briefly the topic of prejudice and discrimination in technology. It mentions the issues of technology design historically favoring the right-handed, as well as the racist aspects of film and professional photography technology being optimized for white skin tones. Examples of other recent topics include: the Hubble space telescope, famous figures in the history of science (Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Sloane, etc), and the effects of natural disasters on human history. This “Editorial” entry is typically very short, and does little more than introduce the weekly topic. The site then provides several links to other recent and more in-depth discussions of the issue from elsewhere on the internet. It tends to follow this with a very long list of links to other unrelated recent discussions and articles, broken up by category. In this way Whewell’s Ghost functions more like an informational hub than a blog in its own right, though it still technically follows the blog format.
One of the most obvious and glaring problems with the site is in its editing. The entries tend to be full of amateurish writing and punctuation errors. It can also be time consuming and monotonous to sort through the haystack of links they provide if your interests are narrow. The content they link out to can vary in quality, though patience is rewarded with occasional gems. Though it has its faults, Whewell’s Ghost is a must-follow for anyone interested in the histories of science, technology, and medicine – less for the merits of its own original content than for the variety of links it provides to other excellent content. Furthermore, it has been in continuous, active operation since its advent in 2010. For a site that posts consistently every week, that is fairly impressive – especially considering the amount of effectively dead history blogs out there.
I caught a fascinating digital doomsday story last night on NPR.
Google Vice President Vint Cerf’s presentation centered on the possible “digital Dark Ages.” to come. All of the ideas he raised were ideas that we discussed in the seminar, so it is primarily relevant as a summary vehicle for the question: how do we preserve data? Or, as he states: “What happens when today’s high-tech data storage systems become tomorrow’s floppy discs?”
I have been listening to several podcasts on the website, “Stuff You Should Know” for several years now (good for long commutes!) One of my favorites is a podcast called “Stuff you Missed in History Class” hosted by the “amateur” historians Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey.
What I love about this podcast (and their blog which follows along) is that they base their selections on what their listeners want to learn about. People call in, email, Tweet, Facebook, etc. suggestions for new episodes. As a result, they have a wide assortment of topics, and I’m frequently exposed to material and subjects that are often new to me. Recent episodes include “Louisa May Alcott,” “The Sutherland Sisters,” “Soap People,” and the History of Carousels. Since people call these ideas in, many of the subjects have a more “popular appeal,” but they are often rather obscure selections.
The “Stuff you Missed in History Class” blog includes a substantial bibliography which lists all of the sources that they used for each episode. This is good because you know that what you are listening to is for the most part correct, and you can go and find out more about a topic if the episode piques your interest. In addition, the blog includes “Tags” so you can search based by topic.
The podcast has been around for several years now, and has gone through different hosts. I believe the quality of their work has improved over time. I would highly recommend it to anyone!
A free public history database for historic images, video and audio clips uploaded by 60,000 “citizen historians” and 2,500 libraries, archives, museums, universities and historic institutions
Its mission is to “use collaborative archiving, using local heritage to build communities and strengthen local connections,” under the assumption that local social capital is disintegrating.
-Users can search the website based on location or tag and narrow the search by date
-Or browse collections, user profiles, private projects and tours
-Uploaded pictures are pinned to their locations on Google Maps
-With each image the user finds: details (uploader, tags, date of image, address of image and any additional uploaded information), comments, repeats of the image and copyright information.
-When available users can view an image overlaid with the Googles Street View of the location, with adjustable transparency.
Tours and Collections
-Users can take or create guided tours through specific locations based on events, periods or themes via Google Street View.
-In “Collections” users can explore thematic digital exhibits.
-Founded by Oxford history graduate, Nick Stanhope in partnership with Google.
-Supported by Google, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Fujitsu Laboratories, Heritage Lottery Fund, Nesta, Stanford and the Lisa and Douglass Goldman Foundation.
Review HistoryPin is primarily a utility for public history, with its mission being to reconnect communities through the exploration of their history. In terms of historians, HistoryPin’s main appeal would be to the public historian, as it allows visual archives to be presented to the public in the form of interactive digital exhibits. It may be useful in terms of research and I have found useful images for my research that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. The majority of the uploads come from historical institutions. With the exception of the images uploaded by “citizen historians,” HistoryPin’s main innovation for the researching historian is in how it presents and organizes it’s data and perhaps in the consolidation of multiple collections on one site. The ability to view the juxtapose then and now may also provide the researcher with insights and lines of inquiry they otherwise may not have considered. The historical value of some “citizen” uploads may be questionable, such as a laptop selfie in a cafe in Casablanca, but I suppose over time any image may prove valuable. Overall, I think this is a brilliant website, but with it’s primary utility being for the publci and the public historian.