Bridge digital and conventional history

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 For the work on my final project, I am revisiting our early readings on digital history—its uses, origins, and cautionary tales. I am obviously compelled by the exciting opportunities digital spaces invite for historians. These are well articulated by Rosenzweig and Cohen (n.d.). I found interesting some of the challenges they cite to their view, such as Harold Bloom’s, who claims that interactivity “only permits us to explore more of ourselves” rather than the “lives and thoughts” of others

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 I am intrigued by a revolutionized conception of creating historic knowledge, or a shift “away from the product-oriented exhibit or ‘web site’ and move it more toward the process-oriented work of employing new media tools in our research and analysis” (Seefeldt and Thomas, 2009). But how will this adaption happen? If sources in the “future will be almost entirely digital—instant messages, e-mails, doc files, pdfs, digital video, podcasts, and databases,” and a generation of historians develops practical and sound analytic tools, will we miss out on the perhaps boring work of traditional work of history? To illustrate my concern, take the coming and important use of force database from the DOJ (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-outlines-plan-enable-nationwide-collection-use-force-data). This will be an invaluable tool for scholars and activists to bring attention to the state’s use of force, particularly against marginalized communities. But given the texture of this data (administrative, so hopefully neat and thorough) how will it be reconciled with the very important stories of state-sanctioned violence that rely solely on victim or witness testimony, or even film footage and media reporting?

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Perhaps my concern is unfounded. Perhaps a longue durée approach to phenomena that are on both sides of the digital revolution will meld old and new methods seamlessly. But as I consider my own project, which deals with lynching in a discrete period before the digital age, I am concerned with how this work could eventually be connected to shifting forms of extrajudicial racial violence. To put it blandly, there is value in old methods that new ones cannot replace. As scholars are able to answer or pose more questions using digital methods that new datasets enable, the need to bridge old scholarship with new analysis becomes ever more urgent

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Sources

Justice Department Outlines Plan to Enable Nationwide Collection of Use of Force Data. (n.d.). Retrieved December 22, 2016, from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-outlines-plan-enable-nationwide-collection-use-force-data
Rosenzweig, R., & Cohen, D. (n.d.). Digital History | Promises and Perils of Digital History. Retrieved December 22, 2016, from http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/introduction/
Seefeldt, D., & Thomas, W. G. (2009, May). What Is Digital History? Retrieved December 22, 2016, from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/may-2009/intersections-history-and-new-media/what-is-digital-history
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One Comment

  1. Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Eduard, these are important questions you are raising. Correct me if I misunderstood your intent, but I think that “almost entirely digital” sources is less about where the information comes from more about the shifting mode of documenting, circulating and analyzing history. But I do agree with your concern in that certain entities (e.g. government, corporate) hold more power in creating these data, which come in forms that are easier to use. But I also think this was the case in traditional research as well. So in addition to digital v traditional, we could also draw the line between state-provided v other sources of information. But this still is also not a comprehensive distinction, because everyone is outputting data and everywhere new boundaries are drawn—which I suppose is the challenge of history in a digital age.

    Your project about lynching (and the non-abundance of lynching-related data) made me think of Mimi Onuoha’s Missing Datasets project (http://mimionuoha.com/thoughts/), where she explains: “Calling something ‘missing’ automatically implies that it should exist. . . . For every dataset where there’s an impetus for someone not to collect, there’s a group of people who would benefit from its presence.” Put another way, how can we take into account the source of the historical information, and how can we create and preserve data that powerful institutions care less about?

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    Encouraging students think about the impact advancements in digital technology have on the future of scholarship from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, the Digital Praxis Seminar is a year-long sequence of two three-credit courses that familiarize students with a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures offered by high-profile scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies in their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work. The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students.

    The syllabus for the course can be found at cuny.is/dps17.

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