Jenny Reeder


Soggy Digital History–
September 5, 2006, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I moved to Virginia two weeks ago, I was suprised at the dry grass and trees. I had always thought of Virginia as the lush, green East in stark contrast to the dry West where I had grown up. And certainly different from the concrete jungle of New York City where I have spent the last two years. The past weekend of rain, however, has raised my hopes of fertile growth and a colorful fall season.

The expansion of digital history–and a clear understanding of the Internet benefits and challenges–provides new directions in history. Rosenzweig and Cohen have provided solid, simple insight into the mystical world of the Web. I appreciated their explanation of servers, IP addresses, web design, and political and social commentary. The metamorphosis of history through the Internet raise interesting questions of access.

While the Internet democratizes information, making the Library of Congress available to the non-scholar and additional examples cited by Rosenzweig and Cohen, other implications arise. While the Internet is widely available, there are certainly different levels of access–for some people virtually anywhere from the airport to the backyard patio on a laptop with a wireless connection, and for others at a public library. There are obvious social implications for socioeconomic, race, education, and geography. 

I am intrigued by the comparison of quantity and quality of information. A plethora of sites are readily available, some with more quality information than others. I guess in this respect, it’s sort of like the rain; while moisture is welcomed and needed, excess flooding causes more problems. The lack of access also provides problems. Sites such as JSTOR require membership, accessible to university communities for the most part. The high cost of membership usually prevents individual subscriptions, raising questions of truly open access.

When it comes down to valuable and valid online history, we need to be aware of the implications raised in Digital History. We need to understand the tools of the Internet–to design sites appropriately and to discern sites appropriately. In the same light, I embrace the rain at the same time that I protect myself within it.

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