On page 1 of David Weinberger’s book, “Too Big to Know;” he includes a couple very thought prevoking lines; “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” I mean change is often meant to be good or at least is thought to be better than what we currently have. Everyone wants to get what is newer and better, or to keep up with the Jones’, but is change always for the better? When past generations changed with the times, wisdom was exchanged for what was thought to have been better or more advanced and in doing so a lot of common, everyday skills, arts, traits, and ways of life back then, became only distant memories. Take for example the art of starting a fire, cooking over that open fire, sewing by hand, curing meats, making shoes, milking a cow, making material to have clothes, etc. By progress, we have moved forward and have let knowledge slip through the cracks. I am not saying that change is bad, but when we become too reliant on the ease of doing something, (take for example Google search,) then having to do for ourselves becomes too much work. If we were faced with having to provide for ourselves without electricity, i.e. no lights, no heat, no refrigeration, no transportation, then we would be in a world of hurt. That means no Google to look up how to do something, let alone the zettabyte, or sextillion bytes Weinberger talks about (pg.7.) Speaking of bytes and such and with the internet having (according to Weinberger) at least a trillion pages, there is no way that all of those pages can contain fact filled accurate information…(again, what exactly is a fact?) That is where Weinberger says that we can get into knowledge overload, I mean 3 million hits on Google as to what knowledge overload actually is, come on. (pg. 11)
Weinberger also mentions “cherry picking” facts, which can hurt an historian just as quickly as can, reporting wrong facts, or not being objective, critical, or analytical of the research that one collects. For instance, last week we read how in the 1960’s, historians began looking at history in a more social science aspect, when we read this week, that this was not a new train of thought, i.e. looking at different points, such as social, economic, etc. to learn more about history. Malthus, as mentioned in Weinberger (pg.26) saw “facts” in a social point of view, i.e. “logical deductions from premises that he presents as self-evident.” However, later in his life, Weinberger writes, Malthus did further delve into a more analytical method of research. Weinberger also says that “Knowledge has always been social.” (pg. 51) It is this mode of research, that we, as up and coming historians, need to learn. This will allow us to move forward, using critical analysis in our own future endeavors. If we do not follow the methodology of proper research, and just start forming opinions on baseless facts, then as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.” Weinberger (pg.36) This can be misconstrued when using the internet, even by some people reading this very blog, as it is only my opinion on what I took away from the reading. It is often inculcated in us (as the general public,) that what we “read” on the internet, is “fact.”
Tosh goes into great detail on how to use the various sources available to us as historians. These sources, such as WHOA…….what??? The WRITTEN word……Heaven forbid that we break open a book, or even visit the stacks in the library. There is nothing like getting out there and finding new information, be it in a primary sources, such as a narrative, a memoir, a diary, etc. I absolutely LOVE the feeling of finding something new to add to the story/conversation within the historiography of a subject, be it a person, or an event. He even goes into some options that many overlook, such as record sources, bureaucratic records, church records, government records, firms, etc. These can be a wealth of information. His details of how to go about uncovering this source material is very insightful, and is of great importance to us as budding historians. I found that the “gaps” section of Tosh’s text (pg. 132) left me wanting more information on how to manage those gaps in my research methods…but that might be something that I can just search the web for….,how about I use Google, … Bing, … Yahoo, …Ask Jeeves, …..just kidding.