By Michael Roth
Digital media has become such an ingrained part of American culture that historians are now able to utilize it in presenting the past. The prevalence of smart phones and mobile Internet access allow a large part of the population to get immediate answers to their questions. We as historians can play a significant role in how people are looking at the information they find. Teaching how to look at a particular piece of information from a historical perspective can allow people to judge how it plays a part in the story being told.
There is so much information at people’s fingertips through the Web, it becomes necessary to differentiate between historical context and complexities. Using media to compare how different time periods view a particular event. As an example, the American Civil War is one event that has had numerous films produced about it from the earliest use of the medium. A film produced in the mid 20th century is very different from one in the 21st century. Looking critically at the content and presentation in both films can provide insight into not only the Civil War, but also the time is was made.
The role of digital media within history can have a huge impact on how we teaching it. Not only can we find a large source base for research, but new tools allow these sources to coalesce into a coherent narrative of the topic. Educators can provide content in ways that text alone cannot, using visuals like film and photos alongside text to provide a clearer sense of the topic. With access to the Web being readily available, it is easier than ever to walk through how historians find and use sources in their work.