I signed up for this course because of an email telling me it was open and I thought to myself, ‘yea why not?’ I didn’t really know what to expect as the only history I had encountered up to that point was all tedious research and writing papers. I had no idea know what a class called Digital History would be about. I assumed it might just be using computers and other technologies to do research. I was, however, glad to find that this class was teaching more than just that. I pleased to find out that there was more to history than just papers and books. Over the course of the class I was able to learn a lot about digital history methods like scanning and uploading documents to be preserved online forever.
The tools I have learned about in this class make me see history in a new light. Such tools as timeline.js and timemapper made me realize that history can be presented in a variety of ways besides just the standard paper essay. These new ways of presenting history can even be totally interactive for whoever views it. The timeline, for example, presents information and research on a topic in an easy to understand way that keeps the attention of the viewer. I was so interested in this format that I decided to use it in my website project for this class as the main method of presenting my research. One thing that I found interesting was the lesson about how videogames can be a form of digital history. I learned that games like Assassin’s Creed can be used to represent 3d models of various cities and events throughout history that is presented in a very interactive way.
Digital history definitely matters because it is a way of preserving history for all to view. Ancient texts that are falling apart are usually only accessible to top scholars. Through digital history, those same ancient texts can be transferred over to an online website and be made accessible to anyone, that is if they choose to make it free. These uploaded texts can then be copied and re-uploaded elsewhere. Another big plus to digitizing history is that it can make knowledge free when you would normally have to pay for it. Most of my college textbooks I have torrented instead of paying for thanks to the digitization of the physical material. Nowadays with modern technology it is a lot easier to do research. All of it can be done from home on the computer and it is a lot easier than the old way of going to the library and finding the book and reading all of it. Now when you research you can even look for key words to make it even easier and that’s just something I really like about digital history. Another great thing about digital history are the tools used to record history. Almost everyone had a smartphone today and all those phones have cameras. History can easily be recorded with real life footage and pictures. Future generations hundreds of years from now can look back at footage of major events like 9/11 and see what actually happened instead of reading about it in a book. One of the skills I have learned that I will be taking away with me is using digital tools to present history. I can easily see myself using timeline.js again in future courses for interactive way of presenting my research. Another skill I have learned that can benefit me outside of school is website building. I would recommend learning to use and understand digital history to all history students. I used to think building a website would take extensive knowledge of html and css, but it is actually surprisingly easy.
Speaking of websites, my final project for this class is a website that I have been working on. I chose to use a wordpress-based website as my template. The rest was just plugging in the information along with the digital tools like the timeline. Once my website it complete is I can either leave it alone or continue to update it. That’s one of the other things I really like about digital history. As new information pops up or if mistakes are found in a work, usually entirely new books and papers need to be written and published and printed, but with a digital format like a website, new information can be uploaded instantly with no trouble at all and mistakes can be fixed with ease. Wikipedia is a website that represents this pretty well. Anyone can upload anything they want to an article, even false information, but false information is usually correctly in a matter of minutes by users who monitor the articles. A great think about digital history is that websites like Wikipedia can exist where knowledge is collectively stored on one website and constantly being curated.
My project is all about researching the canned food SPAM and how it ended up being an iconic food item in many South Pacific countries. By putting my research on a website I am able to easily show off my research in a format that is very different from the traditional research paper, but I think it is a lot easier to understand and view the digital way. I am able to separate different parts of my research into tabs on a menu and I can incorporate any media I see fit into my website such and music. Everything about my website was made with the purpose of being easy to view and easy to understand. Normally when I write research papers and essays I feel the life slowly draining out of me, but doing the research and making the website for this class, I actually feel proud of my work and I enjoy showing it to people. Even though I really enjoyed making this website, I still felt uneasy putting all my research into the timeline because I was so used to writing traditional papers. Now I think I’m getting more used to using the digital tools. Looking back on this class, I am definitely glad I took it. I was able to learn a lot of skills to use in other classes and I learned a lot of new concepts that I hadn’t thought about before.