History and the Internet

A conversation with my Mum sparked probably my most original thought in months so I have made haste to publish my thoughts for all to see.

How will the Internet shape the grand narrative of human history?

Historians today try and piece together what they can from many sources. Newspapers, census data, diaries, the list goes on. What got me thinking was, what impact the net will have in a couple of centuries time? Until recently I wouldn’t have thought much. Despite the archiving ability of the net, assuming it doesn’t blow up, or take on a mind of it’s own and kill us all, for many years it fell inline with traditional media. A handful of people dominated content and the rest of us just sat back and sucked it all in. But this is changing.

Since time began humans have looked towards some one or something to provide us with a narrative of our existence. These have always been parents and scholars but also religion and it the last half of the twentieth century vast media outlets. It was those peoples accounts of events that we all subscribed to.

There is however a very new mediaspace that bloggers, podcasters and vcasters alike inhabit and the defining factor behind it all is how easy it is for anyone to enter. There isn’t really a world event that doesn’t get blogged, dissected and discussed in this new arena. Indeed the coverage of the London bombings and now the devastation bought by Hurricane Katrina are prime examples of this.

So, how will future historians receive this new resource pool? And how will it alter our perception of history? I would like to believe it would be received with open arms. It is a fantastic measure of public opinion, and creates opens avenues of discussion that are easily overlooked by the main stream media. It is the voice of millions of people expressing their views on politics, economics, philosophy (I could go on) like never before. It will allow the people a greater opportunity to write the story. It’s an electronic renaissance.

I would like someone to conduct a little experiment with me. For a given time scale, maybe just a few days or a week, one of us will gather our news only from traditional news outlets. This includes the net but, just the big outlets. The other can only collect their news from the blogosphere. When it’s all over we can discuss our findings on some of the days big news stories. Anyone game?

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.