The web makes the modern world a completely differently form of existence. The Industrial Revolution is long over, making the Interest Revolution the shaping force that guides our lives.
Sites developed for research into History have established themselves to help Historians work, but also ask Historians to help add to and correct data on the same sites. One such site for digital humanists and others conducting digital research is DIRT. Google it. It can be “used to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mind-mapping software.” It’s fun if you are into that sort of thing!
How do we harness this? Wisely, while acknowledging the pitfalls of online research. Of course historians can still access libraries, and should continuously be trained to do so. New generations of Historians may cringe at the thought of spending hours with material in libraries because so many online research sites are available. Now, research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes Web-based learning is certainly encouraged by educational professionals, with good reason, but I hope that a deep appreciation for books and newspapers and probate records continuous.
I suggest that because it takes less time to find information, we spend less time digesting, thinking, and learning about the new information. Maybe it’s just me, but often times I will forget the subject of a paper or project the moment I turn it in, even after spending hours working on it. The Internet allows for answers but disconnects researchers from truly understanding what information is being presented. As a result, we need to sort through huge amounts of information efficiently. We know how to use information and retain the gained knowledge.
The Internet has been an unendingly useful tool to me as a student. The thought of completing a degree without the omnipotent Web is frankly terrifying and I for one am glad that it exists in a fast, easy to use capacity.
There is of course a downside to the Internet, computers and tablets. It is something that has been discussed in peer groups and with older generations alike; that in some ways it feels as though the Internet usage has altered the way thank I process information and disrupted my ability to concentrate. The disruption is most notable when I’m reading a book or looking at old records. It used to be as easy as breathing, the ability to loose myself in a book or a lengthy article.
Thanks Internet (said with sarcasm)! You make the lives of historians so much easier but also have robbed many of us of the ability to truly digest the unending information that we are presented with.