Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Digital History" readings

Well, I can honestly say two things about the readings for tommorow's class (acutally today since it is technically a few mins past midnight): my head is swimming with terms like HTML, IP addresses, DNS, URL; and I was actually very suprised to see the names of software I have used in the past in the readings (maybe I'm more cpu-literate than I thought...nah, probably not!). I have used or at least heard of several of the programs from Adobe to Dreamweaver and more. Now, I'm sure I am nowhere near capable yet of doing the things with those programs needed to create my own website, beyond the oft-mentioned syllabus online (and even that, done in the fancy manner of our Clio I class, may still be unattainable right now).

As for the readings themselves. It seems like one of the biggest debates for our time is whether the diversity and accessibility to history by the "masses" is good for the discipline or not. We have already touched on this debate in our first class, by looking at those websites, and in our first PhD colloquium. Out of 3 classes my first week at GMU, this topic appeared in 67% of them! So, I guess it is not going away. At this point, I will reserve judgement except to say that, throughout history, when more people, of all races, creeds and colors, have gained access to almost anything (i.e. education, opportunity, political power, etc.), it has usually been for the betterment of society in general. And after all, this country was founded on the principle of equality and opportunity. Now, regardless of whether that meant only for white males of a certain stature back then, it now should mean for all people everywhere. We will just have to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be, as historians. I have faith we can.

And wow did I go off on a tangent. Sorry, I do that on occasion.

Anyway, going back to the readings one more time, I did want to take issue with one thing, and it is a minor point. Overall, I loved these 2 chapter plus the intro, even with all their technical mumbo-jumbo (which wasn't really that bad at all). In the "serving your website" section, when referring to the free web hosts who put ads on your site, the authors say it "detracts significantly from its serious historical tone" when showing an example of a history web site using this free host, Netfirms (see this at http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/starting/6.php). Now, I don't know if this is because I have grown up with advertising everywhere all the time, but I don't think it detracts that much. I am used to ads on every page on the internet I go to and don't really notice them one way or the other (although some can be really annoying like the ones that blink or have other annimation...but even those, I give no more than a glance). We live in a very consumer culture, like it or not, so ads are just a neccesary evil of that. I take pains to avoid them (I have owned a TiVo since 2001 so I could skip commercials in my TV-viewing), but their being there no longer really bothers me or causes me to even notice. I am numbed to them!

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