Thursday, January 12, 2006


New digital history blog

There's a new blog called Digital History Hacks that has been started by William J. Turkel, a colleague of Rob's at the University of Western Ontario.* The blog is off to a great start with this post, which makes the case for teaching young historians to use the Internet properly, critically, and to their advantage. I've posted before on the promise and peril of using keyword searches for historical research, but I'm looking forward to more posts from Dr. Turkel on these subjects. (Thanks to ClioWeb for the tip. I also discovered a lot of new blogs thanks to ClioWeb's recent link to staff blogs at the CHNM.)

I especially like Turkel's suggestion that most historians, whether they realize it or not, are adept at "spidering" and "scraping." It would demystify what search engines do if historians were to realize that we do the same kinds of processes all the time (by following footnotes, for instance). It's not that searching online represents a leap in kind from the type of research we already do, it simply makes that research more efficient, accessible, and speedy. I also think Turkel raises some interesting pedagogical possibilities: could it be that before long, the facility of our students with search engines will make it easier for us to teach them that "following footnotes" is kind of like "spidering," instead of the other way around?

Speaking of pedagogical possibilities, Turkel also points to this very helpful guide on "How to Read a Book" by Paul Edwards, which does a much better job at what I was trying to do in my post on How to Skim.

* By the way, Rob's taking nominations for the next History Carnival.

Collective Improvisation:
Hey, you just scooped me on those links!

Just kidding, I'm glad you posted them. Bill really knows this stuff and I think his blog is going to be great. Thanks, too, for the Carnival suggestions you sent along.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 1/12/2006 10:48:00 PM : Permalink  

Not a historian myself, but I think this applies to many areas, including mine.

I sometimes think there is a certain romance involved in finding stuff in the dusty stacks that I do not experience at the keyboard of my computer. But on the other hand, I cannot imagine doing the type of interdisciplinary work that I currently do "the old fashioned way."

Clearly a sense of balance is needed.

Thanks for the links!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 1/13/2006 12:12:00 PM : Permalink  

If you haven't already, Caleb, you should check out the latest article by Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig at First Monday entitled "Web of Lies?" They make some great points about the accuracy of historical information online using Dan's H-Bot and talk at length about search engines and search programming.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 1/13/2006 08:51:00 PM : Permalink  

Caleb, thanks for the kind remarks! I have to second Jeremy's recommendation of the new Cohen and Rosenzweig piece, which is very thought-provoking. In case you were waiting for an actual digital history hack, I've posted one today... it doesn't spider but it scrapes.

Posted by Blogger William J. Turkel on 1/15/2006 05:01:00 PM : Permalink  

Thanks for the recommendations of the Cohen and Rosenzweig article, and for the comments all around!

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 1/16/2006 02:32:00 AM : Permalink  

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