How does the medium of the World Wide Web change the practice of doing history? Is Digital History qualitatively different from History?

When I was in school learning basic history, books were king. Every single class, no matter what topic, era, or subject, used massive 500+ page textbooks to carry the flow of the class. Back then, the internet was mingling around, and had yet to be fully implemented in the classroom as a serious learning tool. Instead, it was this nebulous thing that people used occasionally to look up cat videos and print out directions on Mapquest.

Today, classrooms are slowly starting to evolve. Online databases make it much easier to filter through primary and secondary sources, while Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit have made finding current news stories instantaneous. This quick and easy access to information can help immensely in the field of history, but it also can just as easily lead to trouble. The desire to get quick and easy answers has created a resurgence in the misinterpretation of historical narrative. The Civil War and the struggle for answers to what caused it are a perfect example. Recently, the battle to solidify slavery as the primary cause of war has started to receive backlash from some who may have read otherwise on sketchy, low-effort sites.

With books, most readers assumed that the majority of the facts residing in them were fact-checked (regardless of whether or not they even were). Now, the latest generation must grapple with the fact that much of what they read online is fabricated in some way, shape, or form. We need to be careful about addressing this as historians.


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