From Under and Overhill, Onwards

Here we are at the end of the semester. It doesn’t quite feel real yet, but I’m sure it will as soon as my deadlines start rolling around for my final papers.

In a truly reflective fashion, I decided to return to my first blog post of the semester, which was an attempt to answer the question, what is digital history? To quote myself:

“Digital history, for us, went beyond traditional primary source documents that have simply been uploaded in PDF format, or what have you. It went beyond the history itself. We discussed accessibility as a key aspect of digital history, as well as digital history as a means of research. We touched on how digital history allows for a further democratization of the subject; open access to knowledge means that it isn’t restricted to ‘professional’ historians and leads to more diverse interpretations of the past.”

After a whole semester immersed in digital history, I can confidently say that my opinions have not really changed from the above. Rather, they’ve become a bit more refined. Digital history to me now is not a discipline in and of itself, but rather a next step in methodology. And, though I have been using the phrase “digital history,” this is not something that solely belongs to the field of history. The interdisciplinarity that I rather unfamiliarly touched on in my first post is so much more vast than I could have imagined. Now, having utilized a diverse array of methods throughout the course of this class, interdisciplinarity has catapulted to the forefront of my definition of digital history.

Digital history, I have learned, requires a different mode of thinking to it than traditional scholarship. And I’m not just talking about the different academic applications and approaches used in digital history. Rather, I think digital history requires a person to have the most open of minds. Truly successful digital history is done when someone approaches a question with as few preconceived notions of how to answer that question as possible. Like I said in Post #1: “Maybe it’s a methodology and a mindset. Maybe it’s even a movement.” To post-first-semester-of-grad-school me, digital history is definitely all three of these things. I’ve talked about the methodology and the mindset, but overall I think digital history is a call for all academics—not just historians—to adapt. In a way, it’s a movement to expand academia beyond your specific niche within the academy, or maybe even beyond the academy itself. Digital history is, of course, not without its downfalls, but in my opinion it is doing more for scholarship than it is detracting.

I hope to see all of my classmates from this semester in the future. I have enjoyed reading the wild variety of posts and opinions that have come out of this semester—I would hate to never hear from anyone again in the future!

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hayley, It has been the greatest pleasure to work with so many fascinating minds this semester, and especially you. At this point in my life, when so many of my friends are saying, “Ugh! I’ve learned all I hope to learn in this life.”, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn something more. For what is life, if you are lucky, but a long road of acquiring new knowledge and experience? Thank you for showing me that it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. A toast to your prodigious computational expertise, and you’re ability to persevere under stress. You will go far, my young Padawan.

  2. I like that you touched on DH be interdisciplinary. I definitely do think it is interdisciplinary even though as a group we focused mainly on the history and art history side of DH.

  3. Like you, my definition of DH has not changed significantly from our first day of class. Unlike you, however, I have had little exposure to the field. It has certainly opened my eyes to possibilities I hope to use in the future. I like your notion that “[t]ruly successful digital history is done when someone approaches a question with as few preconceived notions of how to answer that question as possible.”

    I’ve enjoyed working with you this semester and I’m sure our journey together is not over!

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