Crushed by the Weight of the Digital Past

By bethgarcia444

Most of our discussions this semester have taken place in a macro-level plane where “big questions” abound. Digital history, as a developing field, needs to ask these big questions, but, for somebody like me who understands the world at the micro-level, this persistent macro-level dialogue is particularly challenging. So you might understand the difficulties I encountered with our recent readings on collecting and preserving history in a digital age.
Digital mediums grant us the opportunity to do history in new and exciting ways, to incorporate sources and use tools in ways that are not possible in the print world. There is no doubt that some works can be enhanced by inclusion of images, video clips, sound bites, and interactive links. But to recognize these benefits presumes that these tools are functional and accessible. There is nothing more frustrating than reading about an “extraordinary” video and not being able to watch it or clicking the “further information” link only to find that it is dead, as signaled by an inappropriately cheerful “oops!” epitaph. Such instances raise interesting questions about preservation generally and collaborative efforts to preserve the past more specifically. If I write an article or develop a site that links to other sources that add content as well as context to my work, then how do I ensure that those sources will be available in the future? I may have some authority over the preservation of my own work, but what of those supporting pieces that are not my own? (Interestingly, even the greatest proponents of digital scholarship have not (yet) adequately resolved such issues as some of the linked citations in Rosenzweig’s and Cohen’s text are inactive.)
This discussion broadens considerably and gains in complexity when we consider that virtually everything on the web (the future historian’s
Source: My Digital Angst  

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