To be sure, I, a budding historian, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about preserving the history that we are making now for future generations.  My interests lie far in the past, in eras where (I thought) there was little to be gained through the digitization of information we are now bearing witness to.  All is not as it seemed.

For a moment, a focus on one element of these issues.  The availability of massive amounts of information is slowly being unlocked through the specialized and very powerful search tools discussed by Cohen (http://chnm.gmu.edu/essays-on-history-new-media/essays/?essayid=40).  One potential for these tools is an ability to cross-reference (to some inherently limited degree) ideas we have had regarding what we can infer from evidence.

As historians we are often faced with limited amounts of data from any particular individual.  By examining those documents against writings of the person’s peers and the events of the period we make deductions about motive, intent, etc.  Perhaps our burgeoning ability to access vastly larger quantities of information from much wider scopes about a particular subject or activity will allow up to test assumptions that we would make about that subject were it a more limited historical source in an effort to better refine our analytic process.

There are, to be sure, many limitations to this possibility, most notably the way in which individuals are products of culture in time and whether or not assumptions based upon actions taken in one time period can be used to draw parallels with actions taken in a different time period (or worse yet, in a different time period and a different culture).

 

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