Saturday, April 14, 2007

Digital History in the 21st Century at Patahistory

Dave Davisson at Patahistory has a thoughtful essay about the future of history on the web, Digital History in the Twenty-first Century: An Introduction to History 2.0.

Along the way, he defines digital history this way:

So, what is digital history? Digital history is the combination of history and computers. It may help clarify to explain what digital history is not. It is not taking materials that could just as easily be published in a book and posting them on the web. This may be the most common use of the phrase digital history, but we are after something else. Watching, or reading, primary source material on a computer, or on the internet, is not digital history. Digital history is not adding together an already familiar media form, like books or movies, with a computer. Digital history is also not an extension of a correspondence course done via email. All of these things have their own value, and computers may help or enhance, but it is not what is being considered here this morning. The computer is more than a magical chalkboard.

As for implications:

Paul Anderson and his associates at the Joint Information Systems Committee (pdf) identified six unique "big ideas" underpinning Web 2.0., and by extension digital history.

Go to the essay for the discussion of this, but the topics are:

1. Individual production and user generated content.
2. Harnessing the power of the crowd.
3. Data on an epic scale.
4. Architecture of participation.
5. Network effect.
6. Openness.

There is much more, even Tocqueville, at Patahistory. Of interest -- even to those of us still trying to get a handle on the "magical chalkboard" part.

Ralph Luker at Cliopatria notes that comments on the essay are welcome. (I don't find an e-mail for Davisson, or even his name, on the blog (thanks to Cliopatria for that), so use the comment function at Patahistory.)