The Problem with Historical Accuracy within the Digital Humanities
As our class struggles through the complex subject of the digital and public humanities one must always reflect on the why. One aspect of this question is the intermixing of academic work with public dominion. When reading Letting Go what clearly is the problem most people have with the intermixing popped out of the pages. Academics and average folk alike might find the new information generally amazing or interesting and substantial personally, “…but is it history”. Is what’s being put down by the masses and also by academic scholars historically helpful or accurate on the inter-webs? As good history we could judge “good sources” by how helpful and accurate they are we must look at what history, or good history is for the academy and for individuals.
Even before getting into if the internet, and other digital areas are accurate or helpful, we must compare them to the currently used system of learning history. That is, the academically written book source, more specifically the lies that they can consciously and unconsciously teach us. I firstly want to recognize the lies I myself was told, either by blatant misrepresentation or omission of facts. When I was …I don’t know when, I realized I knew nothing of real history, a kind of history that would actually give account to the, entire history rather than that of the powerful people who ruled, or lead many. For instance, I knew that George Washington was a military leader of the Revolution War who became the first United States president all in the name of freedom. But, I did not know that when they meant men, they did only mean men. Oh, and not all men, but specifically white men. I did not know that when Washington went back to his family farm it was being worked by slaves. One could say that the historical text was “history”, but does that make it good history? Or the fact that the knowledge I gained about Indigenous people to the United States until I was…. Probably in college was that they lived in wigwams or teepee’s, fish, hunted, and didn’t really exist anymore. As I came into UWGB I was flooded with real history, what people do not consider real history. One that talks about how a number that floated somewhere around the millions dipped so low where people where sure that they would be gone by the next decade. I do not wish to give a history lesson, but rather give glimpses of examples where our “history” has anything but history. I do this to show the ridiculousness in worrying about digital and public humanities being somehow worse somehow not history, when it has already happened in many other forms. Yes, it is very likely that some information that passes through the internet is not going to be the history we want. No we get that it probably isn’t important to be and submit all the pictures of people with their cats in 2010, but what that data at least isn’t is a lie.
Any good teacher will tell you to question what you read, what you learn and what people tell you are historical fact. And so if these cemented works are not so great at telling the truth, do to partisan influence in America, we can imagine it’s the same in many, many places. Not just this but the warning goes further onto the digital and public influenced sphere of the world. It also shows, the ridiculousness of stating one way, one history is the most helpful to see when, in fact that in itself could lead to inaccuracies and untruth. If this is understood, a mass of numerous sources on events and situations may not be better but they cannot be any worse than the methods already in place.
So “But is it history”. Of course it is, it is a better history. A history that can be fluid. It is a history that can be changed with a click of a button, or a change in a graph. So instead of getting read of or keeping a text book that is to be out dated, one could just simply edit that information on the computer. On the other hand you could say, this makes the information irrelevant if everyone is just changing it all the time. Though this in itself is silly, as one will not open up the editing option to everyone, there is control shaping up on the internet.
Speaking of the control of internet and digital structures, we must be aware of who controls the sources and information that we read just like the information that we find within a text book. If you are reading e-news from the New York Times, realize where it’s being written, who is the writer, and other important observations that could lead to negative or positive connections to how you have gotten that news. Much like this if you go on social networks of Twitter or Facebook to look or statisticalized the history that is being made you need to understand the extent of anonymous or digitized networks. So, even as we answer the question of if the digital can be history and other academic settings we must clearly critic that history just as we critic the writings we read and academic books that are distributed.
To bring home the idea that history as we knew it before the digital settings was tainted, please watch Lies my Teacher Told Me from YouTube