Have Digital Tools led to a re-visioning of historical writing?

In the first part of the collection of essays, Writing History in the Digital Age, authors explore the impact that digitalization has had on two of the most fundamental traits of history as scholarship: argument and narrative. Sherman Dorm makes the case for digitalization being one of the biggest challenges for 20th century historiography, alongside methodological and philosophical curents such as quantitative history and post-modernism. However, the outcomes of this latest challenge remains uncertain. Is digital history at its best when acting as a new medium of dissemination of the traditional historical monograph? Or is it at its best when it embodies a paradigm shift that could potentially revolutionize academic AND public history?

Stefan Tanaka’s piece on the role of narrative in digital history provides a historical context to understand the rationale and implications of ideas of universal time for understandings of the past. Tanaka calls attention to the origins of the ‘modern literary system,’ shaped by the assemblage of knowledge authority, libraries, universities, institutions, and licensing. This literary system was is based on the ‘gatekeeper,’ a remnant of its elitist past. This literary system was founded on the paradigm of information scarcity and on Leopold Von Ranke’s linear, hegelian, and eurocentric conception of linear time. The democratization of knowledge, political power, and institutions that is embodied in the digital tools of the 21st century can have monumental implications for the historical thinking inherited from Von Ranke.

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