Historians and the Digital World

Blog about what you see as the key change(s) for historians in an increasingly digital world

Seen on the Writing History in a Digital Age piece on wikipedia, academic knowledge has already begun the shift to being accessible online, yet online information is still not being seen as a legitimate source of academia. Wolff contributes this to the fact that not a lot of historians have shifted to online in response to the lack of respect surrounding it; it is a daunting task that their peers can make fun of them for doing. Which, in my opinion, is outrageous! Too look at the abilities and practices of online and digital mediums and say that they are no practical for historians is short-minded. At this point, I feel like there is a decent amount of online primary source collections and knowledge that has been digitized but a distinct lack of public historians engaging in those mediums and making their research and conclusions as accessible as the primary sources were. This highly contributes to the narrative that online history is not as legitimate as other forms of publicizing.

Accessibility is a hugely important topic, and one that interests me personally. Today, it is assumed that everyone has access to a stable-internet connection and reliable smart technology, but in reality, that is not true. There are huge areas in the United States were internet access is spotty or completely vacant. With all different forms of media and disciplines relying heavier on online and digital platforms, more infrastructure needs to be built to ensure that this assumption becomes a reality.

This is a huge topic that is being discussed nationwide as we are tackling COVID-19 and the repercussions of social distancing. Even those who are privileged enough to attend higher education (because, it has to be admitted that there is a certain level of financial/economic privilege associated with higher learning) are struggling with gaining physical accessibility to the tools that are required for distance teaching.

Going beyond physically accessing online and digital items, there is another layer of accessibility that historians need to be addressing as they navigate the digital world. Websites and projects need to be accessible to all people with disabilities and that includes being created in a platform that allows software and other programs to run over top of it (programs like text-to-speech, for example).

March 23-27th

This week I am focusing on contacting all of my interviews and either rescheduling the ones that I had to cancel (due to the school closing and having to rewrite our plan of action) or updating the means of the interview. I have one already scheduled for Thursday afternoon. I am waiting to hear back from the others. I have also sent out the consent form to our interviewees and are waiting on that response as well.

As soon as I am done with the chaos of interviewing people, I will be more active in the creation of the website. So far, I have been a little overwhelmed and haven’t been helping John as much as I wish I could be (Sorry, John!). While I enjoy doing the interviews, it can be a lot to think about and prepare for. If I miss something up, it is hard to go back and fix it.

March 16th-20th

This week I did my first oral history interview through Zoom. On Wednesday, I did a test Zoom interview with my roommate and shared the recorded footage with my group members.

Yesterday, I completed my first interview and I also ran into my first problem with transitioning to online learning. I have been having internet problems on and off for about a month now. We had the internet provider come out and rewire our internet, but it still goes down frequently. Right before I called my first interviewer yesterday, my internet went down. I had to connect my laptop to my phone’s data in order to get the interview done. I was lucky that it worked for that interview, but I can see myself running out of data fast if that is what it comes to. I have another interview scheduled for next week and I have already uploaded and shared my interview from yesterday with my group members so that they can begin to edit the footage.