How to Survive the Digital Age

Even though I am a student of history, I haven’t spent much time learning about the field or how it has changed over time; in fact, this semester has been really eye-opening for me as far as learning about academia and what it means to be a scholar of history.  I was fortunate enough to go to the AHA conference this January with Leah and a few others from Mary Washington, and it was great to see how much the field has progressed in recent years, and how the Digital Humanities are quickly gaining recognition.  Dr. McClurken’s tweets about all things history also help me to learn more about the field!  Anyhow, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read a few articles this week about the field, and I hope it will encourage my thirst to learn more about history as an area of study and as a profession.

The first article I read, “What Does It Mean to Think Historically,” caught my attention because I didn’t really know what this meant (isn’t that the point of the article though?).  I find that I tend to think historically, and look to the past to think about the future – but this article showed how historians think and how they teach about the past.  The five Cs of historical thinking (change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency) are used to answer questions of the past and how to form arguments.  I hadn’t really thought about how techniques come into play when historians approach topics, but now I understand how scholars approach subjects and why the field has been so successful in its foundations for historical inquiry.

The second article I chose, “Citizen Scholars: Facebook and the Co-Creation of Knowledge” (found within Writing History in the Digital Age), piqued my interest because we live in a world where social media reigns supreme.  It makes sense that Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming launching pads for discussions about the past – after all, don’t most of us have an account with either or both sites (and are encouraged to tweet about this class?!).  There are pros and cons of working with social media to gain historical insight; it can seem like a less-than-scholarly mode of discussion, and although this might be true, it offers a plethora of opportunities in connecting with historians and those interested in history who might not otherwise be engaged.  I love the idea of the “sharing” of authority amongst many people, who can then contribute to a greater narrative that might not have been realized without the aid of digital media and social networking.

All in all, after reading these articles and learning things in both this project and that of my Digital History class, even though I am a firm believer in the past and all things old-fashioned, I am thankful that this digital age has allowed us many opportunities for the expansion of knowledge and the ability to work across borders, time, and space.

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