This volume brings together papers given at the Expert Seminar held in Sheffield in April 2006. The seminar allowed historians and archaeologists to share their insights into the use of digital media in their areas of study. Judging from the resulting book, this must have been a stimulating and fruitful occasion.
Gutenberg-e’s Digital Gumption
Second only to movable type, as far as libraries are concerned, is the emancipation of journals from their printed-texts. Gone, or nearly so, are those titles irregularly delivered, with their maddeningly unanticipated supplements, infernal name changes and gargantuan space requirements, in lieu of their let-freedom-ring electronic environments.
Most famously, Aristotle declared that men are by nature political. It’s chancy, of course, to take on the genius of Stagirus, but he did manage to get it wrong once in a very long while (oh, to be so wrong so infrequently!). Chaucer, however, may have had it more accurately (and certainly did so as he anticipated our digital age) when he argued that men by nature ‘love newfangledness’.
The bard, of course, was on to something when he posed this now proverbial line. A rose is a rose no matter what you call it – unless of course it’s a turnip – well, you get my drift. The principle is a sound one, but try to get that across to the men on fifth in Marketing.
Between 2004 and 2008 something happened to the digital network. It changed from being something we visited to something that colonised our everyday; it turned inside out, or, to use William Gibson's parlance, it 'everted'. Concurrently something happened to humanities computing.
For the past decade, digital history students have really only had one book upon which to draw to introduce them to the field: Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s 2005 Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web.(1) The book continues to appear on nearly every ‘digital history’ syllabus in the English-speaking world.