Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scarcity and Abundance

In the growing digital world. According to This Public Historian:
Roy Rosenweig argued that historians are shifting from a culture of scarcity to a culture of abundance. I agree with this statement, but I do see this as being a problem in a couple of ways. It is because of the internet that we have so many more resources than ever before, and now we can preserve whatever we like. In the past decade there has been a shift in our daily lives to creating a more digital world. To illustrate this point, I would argue that almost every student at UWO owns a computer of some sort, whether it be a laptop or desktop. And for those who do not have their own computer, the school puts a large emphasis on having multiple computer labs for students to access at any time of the day. Furthermore, adolescents who go to university are given email addresses from their schools so that teachers and administrators are able to contact them quickly. All of this indicates how much we have grown to depend on our computers in our everyday lives. With such widespread access to computers, it is easy to rely so heavily on the internet. All of this leads to a build up of information on computers and on the internet, but now there are no hard copies of this correspondence. And here is where the problem lies.


R J said...

Hmmmm, there's plenty of historiographical material out there which has never made it into digital form at all. I suspect this is especially true in non-English-speaking countries of Europe.

We Anglos tend to assume that the whole of Western Civ. has become as "wired" as we are. But in Europe (even in the Europe of 2009), laptops, iPhones, etc., tend to be rather rare - and cybercafes, conversely, rather common - by American standards (if only because electronics and electrical power supplies in general are more expensive in Europe than in the States).

Consult (in particular) the catalog of any major European library - easy enough to do via the Internet now - and over and over again, one finds early and mid-20th-century books which have simply disappeared from the public consciousness, purely because nobody has (thus far) been interested enough in them to make them, or even parts of them, available online. The "pre-1950 books" sections of such catalogs can be, and usually are, quite a revelation. I'm reminded, by this revelation, of A. J. P. Taylor's witty half-truth: "All the secrets are already in print."

elena maria vidal said...

You make some excellent points, RJ! Thank you!