This first chapter of Jack Dougherty’s and Kristen Nawrotzki’s book, Writing History in the Digital Age contains two separate essays: Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past? by Sherman Dorn and Pasts in a Digital Age by Stefan Tanaka.
Dorn argues that the way history is researched and published is changing rapidly, due to the introduction of digital tools. Thus far, scholars have been writing their books about narrow arguments, based purely on available resources. Now, a number of different digital tools could be used to make not only their research richer and easier, but it could also make their finished work more accessible and more interesting. With previously inaccessible documents or artifacts becoming available in digital form, different projects could be linked together, illustrating further connections. However, does this mean that a new breed of historians is needed, or would digital technicians and artists become part of history departments? Could this mean the end of traditional publications?
Tanaka states that until the late 18th century, history was seen differently compared to what is taught in schools today. Instead of mere lists of dates, it was more about story telling; an event described then, included other relevant information such as social or environmental factors as well. This means that events are now seen out of context, which makes them sometimes appear incomprehensible. Tanaka argues that – with the help of digital tools – we may be able to return to the ‘old way’ of teaching history, thus making historic events more readily understandable again.