When I was sitting in our GTA workshop class the week before actual classes started, I was introduced to a term which I had never heard before. This moniker was “digital age immigrant.” You see, that explains what I feel that I am right now. I grew up in an age when there were no computers in classrooms, we were not allowed to have calculators in class, and people didn’t all have smart phones. This has turned almost a complete 180 degrees now, as students mostly have laptops in college, they used computers since elementary school, and almost everyone has at least a cell phone, if not some sort of smart phone. Young people now are considered to have been born in the digital age and since I am a student during this time, I am considered a digital “immigrant.” This kind of sums it up for me, as I often feel like I am behind the 8 ball when I am in class with these younger students. I am at a loss on the newest and best technology, and couldn’t tell you how to hardly turn on some of these smart phones, let alone operate one of these new I-pads.
I thought at first that this was going to be a tough assignment (only because it is something that I am completely unfamiliar with,) on using digital sources to record history. However, reading the “digital born” articles this week gave me new insight into the possibilities of how the use internet to help get the subject of history out there on the “cutting edge” of technology. While reading the article on the ship’s logs and being able to actually see the ship’s voyages and routes (which certainly outlined the continents,) I was pretty amazed and I did not have to try and “visualize” what the author was trying to say, I could actually see what was meant in the way it was posted online. In this article, I was most impressed by the way the information was shared, and as the author stated right from the get go: “the differences mean that we need to reinvent, not reaffirm, the way that historians do history. This leads me in a very different direction form my previous train of thinking. The way that new, more recent historians are writing about history does not mean that they are not good historians, they are just trying to write about history in such a way that it will benefit the most people in a more accepted way.
The drawback that I was envisioning, is one that Leslie Madsen-Brooks discusses in her article “I nevertheless am a historian”: Digital Historical Practice and Malpractice around Black Confederate Soldiers. This shows where anyone can post something online, without any shred of proof or fact based research. This can be very misleading to the inexperienced researcher. My fear was conveyed in class, but after our discussion and after thinking on it a while, I have come to realize that there are also countless sites out there that provide very valuable research right at the tip of our fingers. This fact was made apparent when we looked up MLK, and Dr. Nelson talked about the various sites we found on Dr. Martin Luther King. This was very educational to me, and I found myself changing my mind and leaning more towards a more open minded approach to the use of the internet when doing research, which I previously had seen as an unfortunate direction in which modern historians were heading.
I am a more traditional learner and need the books to read, have my hands on, write my notes in the margins, highlight, or underline information if necessary, and actual books allow me to do that. However, I can see the definite advantages of having all the information anyone could ever want right at the tip of our fingers. This could also possibly be the downfall of some researchers and newer historians because, like I mentioned before, anybody can post something online, male a webpage, list information, etc. and in doing so, if it is not correct information, it can be very detrimental to more traditional; researchers and historians.
One last thing that I have a concern, if not a fear about is that everything is electronically stored on the internet. This can be very problematic if for whatever reason the internet ever goes away, either through government control of the flow of information, (from what I understand, or read on the internet somewhere…haha) people in China have limited access to information, or through Cyber terrorism. This is a very real threat and if someone can hack into the internet and destroy files, information, etc., it could be a severe setback as well as a major stumbling block for future historians. One last thing I worry about is that people have become too reliant on the internet for their daily lives. Again, I ask what would we do if the internet would suddenly become non-existent?