Writing, Teaching, and Researching History in the Electronic Age: Historians and Computers

Writing, Teaching, and Researching History in the Electronic Age: Historians and Computers

Writing, Teaching, and Researching History in the Electronic Age: Historians and Computers

Writing, Teaching, and Researching History in the Electronic Age: Historians and Computers

Synopsis

Fifteen leading pioneers in the marriage of computer technology to history look at how computer technology is changing historical research, teaching, and publication, and how history as a discipline may be altered.

Excerpt

According to popular mythology, historians are a neo-Luddite bunch. In reality, historians are not strangers to computer technology. They have long been at the forefront of the humanities in adapting electronic innovations to their discipline. The birth of social history during the decades following World War II was directly tied to the invention of programmable computers that could manipulate large, complex groups of data. When personal computers began to enter schools and households during the mid-1970s, historians again quickly responded to the possibilities for easing and improving their teaching, research, and communication. With the advent of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and faster, more sophisticated personal computers, historians are again moving rapidly to embrace the possibilities and benefits afforded by computer technology.

Consequently, history is a field of vibrant discussion about the future these days. The Internet, the World Wide Web, and hosts of new software packages have opened up seemingly limitless possibilities for historians. From multimedia presentations that combine sights, sound, and text to virtual universities that conduct classes on-line, from immense collections of primary sources that can be accessed from anywhere in the world at any time of day to discussion groups where scholars share insights and questions with colleagues from across the globe, the new technologies are presenting invigorating new modes and mediums for practicing history. These new technologies are not all milk and honey, however; they do not come without economic and human costs or limitations.

Fortunately, history at its best is a discipline that inspires a grounded and reasoned approach to the present and to the future. The 200 scholars from forty-two states and eight foreign countries who gathered together in Cincinnati in May 1997 to discuss the future of history in the computer age provide proof that a continuing and productive debate about the marriage of history and computers has begun. This volume, which grew out of that conference, is intended to help present a panorama of the new prospects introduced by computer technology and to foster a dialogue about their consequences and pratfalls.

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