Module Three: Born-Digital and Made-Digital
28 January 2021
This week we do two things:
- Learn about what does it mean that we are digitizing all of these primary sources? Are all historians “digital historians”?
- Learn about “born-digital sources” – what does the explosion of web and social media-based primary sources mean for the writing of history?
Readings for this Week
I always hate assigning my own work, but this is my active area of research. You don’t have to agree with everything I write! There are two sub-topics for this week.
- Tim Hitchcock, “Confronting the Digital: Or How Academic History Writing Lost the Plot,” Cultural and Social History, vol. 10, issue 1 (2013): 9-23. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/147800413X13515292098070.
- Lara Putnam, “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” American Historical Review, April 2016, vol. 121, issue 2 (April 2016): 377-402. https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article/121/2/377/2581842.
- Alexis C. Madrigal, “The Way We Write History Has Changed,” The Atlantic, 21 January 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/01/smartphone-archives-history-photography/605284/.
- Ian Milligan, History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Research (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s, 2019), introduction. [I’ll provide a PDF]
- Roy Rosenzweig, “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era,” American Historical Review, vol. 108, issue 3 (June 2003): 735-762. https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/108/3/735/22504?redirectedFrom=fulltext.
Homework for the Week
Watch this walkthrough of how to use the Wayback Machine to help with the homework.
In addition to reading the above, please:
- Get Aquainted with the Internet Archive: Do some digging around in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine at https://archive.org/web/. Some things to do:
- Search for your high school’s webpage: This is just a hypothetical; but what did your high school’s webpage look like when you were a student there?
- Check out - what did University of Waterloo/Laurier/Guelph’s webpage look like back in 1997?: Check out the history department’s page. Any familiar faces? What has changed? What has stayed the same?
- Can you find any trace of your earliest digital presence?: Dig around. This is where you might want to use the keyword search function. Did you have an early website? Maybe something on a school webpage? A project at some point? Can you find it? If so, how do you feel about that?
Our Discussion for this Week
In our Microsoft Teams discussion, we will cover the following topics:
- Are we all digital historians today? Given what you know from Modules 1 and 2 as well as the readings for Module 3, given that historians mostly use digital cameras to then read their sources on screens… are we all digital historians? Make sure to have one hypothetical reason yes and one hypothetical reason no.
- How will web archives and digital abundance transform the study of history? Will it? Does working with web archives represent a fundamental shift in how historians practice history, or is it just more of the same?
See you then.
Want to Meet with Me?
This will create a Microsoft Teams appointment. The URL for the Teams link will be in the calendar invitation e-mailed to you.