January 11, 2012, by Gaby
One of the stories dominating quite a few Twitter feeds today relates to the recently concluded Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA).
In her blog, bit.ly/x5kDJT Jennifer Howard reflects on forces reshaping the historical profession. There is much discussion of a push and pull between traditional history and the ways in which digitisation has changed access and accessibility to an ever- wider range of sources.
This theme is explored in greater depth by Wiliiam Cronon, writing on behalf of the AHA at http://bit.ly/yTW5qb on ‘The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age’. Cronon writes that
History, like the world itself, is changing in ways that none of us yet fully understands. Some of the changes look pretty exciting, some pretty scary, but all require our engagement if history is to remain relevant to the times in which we live.
His report embraces the opportunities afforded both by the digitisation of records and the electronic publication of research for researchers, students and readers not necessarily based within easy distance of a strong library, though he is quick to point out that his vision is not ne of an ‘either- or’ scenario. there very best research, hand in glove with the very best teaching, will utilise both traditional libraries and the opportunities afforded by access to digital media.
Cronon is particularly insistent on the far- reaching implications digitisation and access to digital media may have on teaching and especially practices related to reading:
The very act of reading is undergoing such subtle and sweeping changes that it’s hard to know what it will look like in 10 or 20 years from now.
Cronon goes as far as comparing the current Digital revolution in publishing to the impact of Gutenberg’s printing press half a millennium ago. Some may think that quite scary, maybe quite overblown as a statement in its rhetoric, but isn’t it exciting to be working in the Humanities at the very time when it is possible to reflect on such possibilities? Whatever the case, the Humanities at Nottingham are ready to reflect on and explore aspects of the digital humanities. as a matter of fact, the Digital Humanities Centre in its new home in the Humanities building is the very place for helping to shape the agenda for some time to come yet!