Historical Production and the Web

The World Wide Web, as distinct from the Internet within which it was constructed, is now over ten years old. This would hardly seem old enough to make it a subject of history, regardless of the fact that quite a few "histories" of its development have been written. Yet in terms of the conceits of technological change and innovation, ten years is considered quite a few generations. If measured in terms of the amount of writing that has been generated about the web and its impact on society, the field is as broad as many in historical study.

As the web continues to expand and to change it offers new opportunities for historians to both redefine how they "do" history and to help alter the course of how the web develops by how they use it. Are historians pouring the old wine of their historical craft into the new bottles being shaped by the web? Are they re-shaping those bottles by the work that they do in and through the web?

In this paper I will propose that the answer to both questions is yes and will explore some of the dimensions of that shaping. I will begin with a brief look at the craft of the historian. Although teaching plays a large role in the historian's craft, indeed is perhaps inextricably entwined in that craft, I will try to limit my focus to the other areas of historical production: research, writing, communication, and analysis and synthesis.

This will not be an examination, per se, of the web-related technologies that apply to or are applied by historians in these areas, though it will, inevitably, explore how these technologies can limit or enable historical production. For example, the web has been called a "digital library." I will not detail the technologies involved in creating a digital library, but will explore how the technical necessities that shape the creation of such libraries might impact their use by historians.

Central questions will focus on:

hope.greenberg@uvm.edu, created/updated: 21-Oct-2004/22-Oct-2004
Back to 287 Home