Digital History, chapters 2 & 6

The book’s introductory chapters (see previous entry) gave a general overview, in broad terms, of the consequences of history-making on the internet. I reiterate that here because in comparison, those thematic elements are immensely more relevant than the specifics which are discussed in this week’s readings.  In a sense, this time-sensitivity is illustrative of the momentum inherent in trying to keep up a website.  In another sense, it’s plain old disheartening.

Chapter 2 gives tips on building a website; from choosing a host to learning html.  Maybe I’m wrong, and call me out if I am, but html to me seems a lot like manual transmission on cars.  It was necessary at one time, but we’ve moved on since then.  Yeah, some people  still do it for their own reasons.  There’s a lot of pride in that.

Now that I think of it, I’m positive that html is a required skill for plenty of people.  So I digress.  For the purposes of this book, though, and for the novice audience that they seem to be targeting, it seems unnecessarily intimidating.  I built my first websites  about 14 years ago on good ol’  Not a shred of html required.  Pick your element, type your text, stick it on there.  It was easy in those days to create your own (generic as it may have been) online presence. (Hey, remember geocities?!)  For me, though, image editing software (the one that came with my scanner was called photoimpact, and I easily moved on to Photoshop via a pirated copy.) helped a lot with the Times New Roman doldrums. Don’t forget to sign my guestbook.

Speaking of Photoshop, I have another bone to pick with the archaic nature of this book.  The authors warn readers (61) that the web just doesn’t do well with fancy kinds of media like audio (oooo) and video (ahhhh).  Ouch.  The list goes on and on.  Livejournal, AOL Journal, IMing with “younger soldiers” as a form of collecting histories?  If these are the things that the book’s readers are going to look for online, I fear that they will be sorely disappointed.  Spam?  Ads?  A simple filter will take care of those.  On page 175, the authors mention (actual, real-life) social networks without mentioning social networking sites.  Oh, take it off, mommy, it burns.

I don’t blame Rosenzweig in the slightest.  The man has done more than anybody to keep historians on pace with technological advances in the 21st century.  The book, as I understand it, is the definitive available text on the subject of history on the internet.  But my angst and consternation about graduate school flares up when I read things like this.


One response to “Digital History, chapters 2 & 6

  • savannahldarr

    Yeah, the book has great advice weaved in with some very outdated advice. There have been so many advances in technology since the book was published, which makes it difficult to read sometimes. The Center for New Media and History is still running, which makes me wonder if they have published any articles to update or supplement their book. If not, they should,

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