I know nothing about web design and am excited to learn more about how to make websites, including this blog, more aesthetically pleasing. This week’s readings encompass a broad variety of themes: appearance, creation, and preservation. Two of the articles solidified the fact that the appearance of a site can affect how visitors gauge the credibility of information found on that site. Appearances do matter, especially for information found on the web, but also in the analog world. How likely are you to pick up a book that has a heinous cover? I’m a librarian and I will admit that yes, I judge books by their covers. What is most important for me, as an academic and a digital historian, is that the information I put onto the web is deemed credible, reliable, authoritative, and accurate. And that is where web design comes into play. I found the guidelines established by the Stanford Web Credibility Project to be particularly helpful as a means to evaluate my own site.
Stephen Ramsay’s “Who’s In Who’s Out” asked a question that I found myself asking quite often at the beginning of the fall semester: what is digital history, and more broadly, digital humanities? There is no unifying definition to answer this question. Everyone you ask will probably have a different answer. This is what I think makes the field so dynamic, creative, and adaptable to changing technologies. The lack of a definition is one of digital humanities’ greatest assets. Ramsay pointed out the very foundation of digital humanities: the act of creating, or as he says, “building things.” This is one definition to add to my own working definition of digital history that I use when I’m explaining my area of study to people unfamiliar with DH.
Jill Lepore’s intriguing piece reminded me of the importance of preservation for digitally born works. It remains to be seen how digital projects will fare 25+ years from now, and that is a serious concern for scholars. My first impression of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is that it is overly ambitious. Yes, it is important to capture information on the internet and preserve it for future viewing and use. But why does the entire internet need to be archived? Most of what is on the internet isn’t worth being seen years from now. What needs to be built, if it isn’t already, is a tool similar to the Wayback Machine that captures the sites that most likely will be accessed in several years’ time. Obviously criteria and guidelines would have to be established, but digital projects, academic articles, government information, popular and/or influential blogs, news websites, and much more might be some of the sites that are acceptable. I just don’t see the point of attempting to archive the entire internet. Who really wants to see their MySpace page – or Facebook page – in 2050?