Thursday, March 25, 2010

History and Technology

Friday 11 AM Section - Blog Post #7

Gitelman’s article touches on an interesting concept: the temporality of the Web. Specifically, she raises the question of whether it is possible to archive the history of an entity such as the World Wide Web when it is always changing. Although it is true that at any given moment, a webpage can be modified and most likely will soon be viewed in a different version, these characteristics do not need to serve as enemy to history but instead can ensure that knowledge of historical events will survive.

This realization comes after following the recent history textbook controversy raging in Texas. As a Texan, I’ve kept up with this battle which points out how history can be preserved in two different mediums – the textual and the digital. In the case of this history textbook, only a few people have the privilege to decide what historical events are included. Anything not deemed important enough is not included and thus, this information becomes hard to find if the textbook is your only source of information. The Web handles these two issues differently. With the Web, anyone can access and modify its content (readily seen at sites such as Wikipedia). Yes, this means that crucial information can be deleted but the possibility of it being reinstated is easier and can occur quickly. In the meantime, one site does not make the whole entity of the Web, so the same information most likely exists elsewhere or, as this week’s readings also pointed out: digital information leaves a trace. When it is deleted, is it truly gone? Lastly, perhaps we should stop trying to mold a medium to fit and neatly archive our history. History is always changing. It needs to thrive in a medium that is also always evolving. It seems fitting that the Web would be used as the medium of choice for this task but there are lots of kinks that still need to be worked out.

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