A response to the blog posts “ATTENTION AND INFORMATION” (http://theaporetic.com/?p=228) and “EVIDENCE AND SCARCITY” (http://theaporetic.com/?p=176).

I fear I stand in disagreement with the author (my professor) on both of these topics.  Though I applaud his recognition of the intellectual complexity of pre-modern life (something that many of these times miss) things go astray when the discussion turns to the profession of the historian.  That information is now more easily accessible is a given, but the assumption that this increased access automatically equates with increased efficiency is a stretch.  Just as the amount of time required for a housewife to keep house has not materially reduced despite all of the technological aids at her disposal, so too the historian’s work is not necessarily so reduced.  For one, the medium involved (the net) in accessing the data that used to be accessed by hand is not one that lends itself to the same level of effective intellectual collection that an archive is.  The increasing access to data requires more time spent reflecting on and integrating the wider body of evidence available, and that time is best spent off-line. (Carr, 2011)

I also fail to understand why, in an age of increased source access, that “It seems to me, as men­tioned, that his­tory will prob­a­bly become less about evi­dence and more about the struc­ture of the argu­ment.”  The author’s assertion that the traditional historian’s accumulation of sources as evidence as little more than a display of “triumph over scarcity” ignores the sources’ value as actual evidence (this may be the historical philosophy of the author in action).  Sources were evidence, and that approach is a byproduct of scientific influence, but the profession still expects that evidence to be at hand.  If the evidence is easy or hard to come by – if you were an employee in the archive or traveled half-way around the world made no difference, either way the sources, the evidence, was expected.  In this day and age I would expect a blend of the traditional citation – with increasing expectation of presence and diversity, and the search-parameter based information that the author proposed.  That balance will allow for the enriching of the profession.

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