Looking back at my first post on this blog, I talked a lot more about myself and random personal details than I did about this course and about digital history as a whole. So, there’s not a whole lot to go off of in terms of responding to my first post. There isn’t much to be agreeing or disagreeing with as it was largely a statement of personal facts rather than one of opinions.

Getting to the subject of this post, though, do I still think that digital history is important? Of course I do. I also see that digital history has an uphill battle ahead. I originally thought that copyright and intellectual property were the biggest obstacles facing digital history and, while I still believe those are big problems, there is another issue to face as well. That issue is the stubbornness of historians and of academia as a whole and their unwillingness to change with the times.

Historians study the past, but that doesn’t mean they have to be stuck in the past. Historians are woefully ill equipped to take on the digital age. The training of historians hardly touches any aspect of digital history outside of the use databases like JSTOR. The fact that, when building a hugely valuable historical tool like the Google N-Gram viewer, the historians that were originally brought in on the project were let go because they couldn’t contribute is a huge shame on the entire field of study. A project like that should be our time to shine, not our time to fall flat and not be able to contribute.

With the advent of the digital age, we now have access to so much more information so much easier. I’m not only talking about websites such as the 9/11 archive, but things that you wouldn’t necessarily think to be historical sources at first glance. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Usenet, web forums, blogs and all other manner of sites are all huge collections of primary sources from everyday people. Google Earth overlays allow us to use geographical data for the study of history in ways that we could have never imagined before. 3D printing technology makes us able to recreate physical objects long since lost to time and can bring a level of detail to historical study unlike anything before. Basic computer coding can let us process enormous amounts of data at a rate far beyond any human is capable of doing. But these technologies are constantly expanding, advancing and becoming more and more complex and if we don’t start learning to take advantage of it now, we are going to be forever left behind.

That’s not to say that the classic methods of studying history have to go away. Nothing is quite like having a centuries-old book in your hands or being able to examine an ancient artifact that has been preserved in a museum or looking at old maps from decades ago, if not longer. However, digital history is the way the world is heading and the study of History has to evolve with the times and take advantage and protect the tools and sources we have available to us in the digital age. For if we do not embrace digital history, we, as historians, will soon find ourselves to be an anachronism and completely irrelevant to society and even to our own field.