Joshua Brown and Daniel Cohen both discuss how the computer and the web have and may affect the discipline of history. Brown explores the circular process visual medium, for the purpose of education, has taken over the last 150 years. One of Cohen’s articles looks into the viability of using a digital medium for archiving and preservation. His second focuses on methods of improving history through the use of the internet.
In The Future of Preserving the Past, Cohen discusses the ubiquitousness of the web and how simple it has become for the average American to express themselves after a major crisis over the web. Because so much information was sent over the web discussing important aspects of 9/11 and even just feelings about it, it is important that this record be saved. However computer software is ever changing, new programs may soon be unable to read previously persevered documents. As more and more people turn to the internet as a means of venting, showing grief, and general communication it will become even more important to find ways to preserve a variety of voices from being silenced.
Cohen’s other article, History and the Second Decade of the Web, examines, after 20 years of experience, the strengths and weaknesses of the web for chronicling and preserving our past. Obviously there are many of both. One way is improving the dialogue between the historian and his/her audience. Through blogs and posts the historian can have direct interaction with fellow researchers or people with queries, through e-mail individuals across the globe can be questioned or contacted for research. A very useful idea is the concept of interoperability. It is the concept of combining different institutions collections under single search engine. Instead of wasting time searching the limitless web, a single search can pull up information from many different entities. Finally, the ability to data-mine is discussed. This involves searching a large mass of data for overall themes or currents. Using programs designed for this saves the researcher hours or even days of manual searching, the program does all the work and reveals the results for ones perusal. Because of the amount of information that is available on the web we need to develop these advanced tools in order to make proper and efficient use of the web and our time.
Brown’s article History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries is rather interesting look at how visual media helps and discourages education as well as how the medium has evolved over the last 150 years. After completion of a 3-D interactive project, Cohen and company found that their program did not educate students and teachers as much as they would like. They found information tends to come in two varieties, one that blends and combines information into a seamless environment and the other that maintains separate objects that can be manipulated and changed. Looking back to P. T. Barnum and illustrated newspapers, Brown realized that by keeping separate objects it gives the viewer the opportunity to make their own connections and concentrate on things that are relevant to them. Brown believes part of the future for educational visual media will be drawn fro our past in order to have its most effective outcome.
While the articles were all similar, each had its own take on the future of computers and their ability to preserve and enhance the study of history. The most exciting thing, I think, is the consensus on globalized communication. Through the internet we might one day get the opportunity to work with some great minds from across the globe without having to buy a plane ticket. As these men have said the future for our discipline is exciting and filled with many possibilities if we take advantage of them and work together to realize some of these far reaching goals.
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