Neither field nor fad nor fashion

“Is Digital History a field, a fad or a fashion?” This was one of the topics argued in class.

As I read in Interchange: The Promise of Digital History, digital history was defined as “anything (research method, journal article, monograph, blog, classroom exercise) that uses digital technologies in creating, enhancing, or distributing historical research and scholarship”. “Technologies” refers to “technologies of the computer, the Internet network, and software systems”, as William G. Thomas pointed out.

Why is not digital history a field? Throughout history, technology has entered our lives. From the wheel to computers, technologies have become our lives easier. Particularly, inventions like the printing press or the Internet have revolutionize our History and the way (and speed) it is told. However, such inventions do not tell a new History but History. Technology has changed our world and our history, but they have not created new ones. In this sense, Internet and digital technologies must be seen as transversal tools in the service of existing disciplines.

The European Printing Press, 15th century

Why is not digital history a fad or a fashion? Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig assert: “The past was analog. The future is digital. Tomorrow’s historians will glory in a largely digital historical record, which will transform the way they research, present, and even preserve the past.” (Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web). I should say that future has already arrived. Alex de la Iglesia (former president of Spanish Film Academy) said in the speech he pronounced due to the 25th anniversary of Goya Awards (our “Spanish Oscar”) that “Internet no es el futuro, como algunos creen. Internet es el presente.” (“Internet is not the future, as some people believe. Internet is the present.”). I cannot imagine a world without electric light bulb or telephone. Obviously, when something works, it lasts forever.

So what is digital history? It is just History when it “makes use of sources in digital form” (my teacher, William J. Turkel).

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About mavillard

Graduate student of PhD. in Hispanic Studies at The University of Western Ontario.
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One Response to Neither field nor fad nor fashion

  1. Pingback: How would a historian tag my blog? | 2011: A Digital Odyssey

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