When the professor showed us “500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art” on YouTube during class, I noticed how I haven’t payed much attention on how digital media can influence our ways of learning history.
After watching this video, we were asked, “What can we learn from this?” I thought for a moment. But nothing came out. The only comment I could make was, “It’s pretty cool.” That’s a boring answer. So I decided to stay silent during our discussion. Indeed, we have more access to material including wider range of audience by using the benefits of digital media. But “what can digital historians learn by using new technology?”
Then Professor Kelly asked us again, “What is the difference between doing digital and not doing digital?” In other words, “What is worth doing it digitally?” Then, I finally noticed something. You can see this whole history of female portraits in just 3 minutes! Now, that is incredible. If we didn’t have the software to create this video, we wouldn’t be able to see this huge variety of arts in just 3 minutes. We would be spending hours and hours at a museum or flipping pages in a book. When I thought about this I also realized that digital history is changing our everyday life on how we learn history. Even YouTube can be a very useful place to learn history. (I’ve seen many professors using YouTube while they teach their history classes, too.)
Of course, I still think that visiting museums are very important and fun. And we can’t avoid from not reading books if we want to learn history. However, this video can be still useful when we want to do a quick search on arts or find similarities or look for the changes in paintings, especially that covers a long period of time, like 500 years.
But again, we face another question; who get’s to decide which paintings to include and not? Do we have to place them chronologically? In my opinion, it’s up to the person who makes this video. It’s up to what he or she considers important in “500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.”
So, basically, it is the same as writing a book, I guess. The author needs to make his/her decision on what to include in the book, what to tell in each chapters, in what order to write and etc.
In one of our readings, “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History,” Journal of AMerican History, 95/2 (Sept. 2008), Daniel J. Cohen, associate professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the director of the Center for History and New Media(CHNM), says:
“In my seminar introducing graduate students to digital history, I do not begin with the acquisition of technical skills, which is often what entering students expect.” Instead he “prod students to ask questions similar to those one might ask for a book project: What is the overall intent of the project? What is the genre of the digital resource you envision—an archive for other researchers, a learning module, a collaborative space? Who is your audience (K–12, scholars, the general public) and how will you tailor the Web site or digital tool to their needs and expectations? What else has been done (online and off) with respect to your project, and how will your project differ?”
When I make my own digital project, maybe I need to keep in mind to think as the same way as when I write an article or start a new research. At the same time, I hope I can create something that is worth it by doing digital.