History 303, The Digital History, has almost come to a warp. After revisiting the first post, I have realized that my appreciation for the current state of digital history has drastically increased. The tools mentioned in the first post such as Captcha, reCaptcha and Duolingo have become an integral part of my daily experience in academics and leisure. The power of crowdsourcing, Zotero’s effectiveness in extracting citations, and other online research platforms introduced in the course have completely changed my research methods and efficiency. Before History 303, I had never used Google Books for research. To look for academic sources, University of Waterloo’s library search was the only platform I had used. WorldCat and JSTOR were great additions to my arsenal. However, one of the biggest lessons I learned in this course was the importance of copyrights. Using creative commons to mine legitimate pictures from Flickr and the conscientiousness to properly cite the online sources despite the easy accessibility are important habits to keep in mind.
Stone, Parchment, Paper, 0 and 1
Preserving records online had never seemed controversial or troublesome before. But after going through all the readings of the problems that digital preservation inherently carries, my awareness on this subject has changed. Ian Milligan said, “preserving records become more difficult as technology develops”. For example, a jump from floppy disks to cds forced a British institution to rebuild a matching readable device to extract the data. Imagine the technological separation between now and twenty years down the road. Due to online records’ vulnerability from human intervention, natural disasters, and political and historical agenda, history on digital platforms don’t appear to be safe. However, isn’t this the same with paper?
Whether we agree if the physical libraries would disappear in the future, digital history and its paradigm will continue to develop and evolve; the gateway will be widened by the new generation. Information Technology will continue to change the way we learn, preserve, and redefine history. Since the new platform allows for a more cooperative academics, unlike the conventional history fixed on paper, history will be revised more frequently. Granted, popular history will gain majority of the interest and sources. Economy and politics will determine the lens the future generation see through. But again, history has always been a record of winners. At least digital history could allow a more freely engaging interactive platform for the history enthusiasts to exchange their views.
Digital preservation is not the first platform revolution that has taken place in history. The transition from the stone tablets to parchments and to paper were as controversial as the advent of 0 and 1. As writing materials, stone tablets and parchments last much longer than paper, but in the end, paper won the battle. Ancient writers loved parchments despite the relatively early advent of paper. They were light in colour, flexible, smooth, sturdy, and even possible to erase ink! The transition from parchments to paper caused a similar discourse in medieval times. It is important to note that a change in any platforms rely on social, economical, and technological settings of that time
“By about 1400 it become a relatively common medium for little volumes of sermons, cheap textbooks, popular tracts, and so on. As late as 1480 a ruling of the University of Cambridge stipulated that only books on parchment could be accepted as security for loans. Paper was evidently thought to be too insignificant. It was the invention of printing in the I450s which transformed the need for paper, and by the later fifteenth century it had become so infinitely cheaper than parchment that it was used for all but the most luxurious books.” Materials and Techniques of Manuscript Production
Digital history is currently winning in all three categories. History is written by winners and digital history will prevail on top.