Digital History “Theory” – Week 2

My Sunday morning motivational run

What IS digital history? “Medium”, “genre”, “field” or “methodology”?  The theory behind digital history seems continually to evolve and change (even defining and redefining itself) over the very medium which has generated this new  “medium”, “genre”, “field” or “methodology” – the internet.

First, I will touch on the readings, which I enjoyed as they flowed from a general overview of history as profession, to a discussion of digital history to some examples of digital history in action.

Professor Leon’s smile when she mentioned that we would be reading Bill Cronan this week made sense almost as soon as I began the article.  How interesting to think of everyone else in academia studying history (from geologists to physicists to anthropologists), and to ask the question, “how are we different?”!

I felt this article offered an excellent overview of the profession of history, covering such wide topics as media (digital history!), teaching, mentoring, writing and camaraderie.  It helped me to appreciate this course specifically, our biweekly PhD colloquium – which encourages academic community – and the access to CHNM.

The “stream of consciousness” conversation in the JAH article was fun to watch develop.  Most applicable to our course, I thought, was the comment about first developing a “comprehensive vision” of what you are trying to accomplish, and then concerning yourself with the tools and methods of development.  That struck a chord with me because I had initially focused on learning HTML and CSS as the most important outcome of this course.

Now, I think differently about our first assignment.  What is my overall intent?  Who is my audience?  Am I focused on an archive, a learning module, or developing a collaborative space?  I admit, this also takes a bit of the stress away from the assignment (at least temporarily!).  It feels much easier to think about what I would like to accomplish, before I think about the how.

That being said, I looked at some of the “successful grant proposals” examples from the NEH website and admit to being more than a little intimidated.  It sounds very much like we will need first: to choose an area to research, second: to conduct a digital “literature review” of the tools and/or websites already available, and then come up with a new idea.  The narrative should discuss how our ideas our new and different from what is already out there and how our project contributes to continued scholarship.

That sounds very much like a research paper to me, just in a different format.

My statement from the first class still applies – “I am equal parts excited and terrified”.

For those who are curious – the picture is the marker where Tun Tavern once stood.  It also represents my first attempt to incorporate my research area of interest into my posts.  Look for more to come with this week’s practicum discussion. (And, I successfully uploaded a picture into a blog, another great accomplishment!)

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