Stadler MM History Paper Two

IMA 505 Second Paper

Derek Stadler

April 2, 2013


The technological advances of the late twentieth century directly impacted education and historiography.  New technologies increased digitization and the current student has more information at their fingertips than before.  Also, the last century of the second millennium developed a new school of historical thought.  The new method employs cultural history, as well as other approaches, and designs a new practice to interpret years gone by.  This paper details current technological advances in the digitized book, and how current historiography utilizes a global and comparative studies approach. 


Education became an institution between 6,000 and 5,000 years ago.  Throughout the development of education, teaching history played a significant role.  History is stories that we tell about society.  Writing stories of the past, historians create history rather than discover it.  They select the events and people that they believe to be important.  For period of time, Jewish and Christian scholars connected the divine and earthly narrative, particularly in the Middle Ages.  However, modern history teaching was influenced by positivism, or objective knowledge.  The art of transforming historical studies into a discipline attempts to determine the facts of history.  It aspires to be objective and serve as the standard of realism in political thought and action in general. 

By the 1960s, cultural history dominated interpretations of the past.  It attempted to show what people thought and how they thought, and how they construed the world, invested it with meaning, and infused it with emotion.  In the late 1970s, the cultural history school of historiography was followed by the “sociology of culture.”  Sociological methods were applied to the study of culture in the areas of music, art, drama and literature.  The current study of days gone by is global and comparative.  Beginning in the late 1980s and into the present, cultural sociologists advanced the study of culture toward a more worldwide related analysis.  Culture no longer stands for a concrete and bounded world of beliefs and practices.  It can be conceptualized in a number of different ways globally.  Culture can be a learned behavior and an institution that is devoted to the spheres of politics, economy, society and culture.  Culture can also be imagined as creativity or agency.  Lastly, it can be envisioned as a diverse collection of tools that are to be understood as a means for the performance of action.  Current practices, and most likely future historiography, use ethnography to study the way ordinary people made sense of the world.  It attempts to show how peoples of the world organized reality in their minds and expressed it in their behavior.  Of interesting note, comparative studies reveal both similarities and differences in recording historical events.

Technological advances and breakthroughs impacted the delivery of historical information since Herodotus.  Early historical records were scribed and later printed.  The advent of the computer impacted the instruction of history and changed the structure of how information is stored. The development of the World Wide Web in the late 1980s, and with Microsoft’s windows based operating systems in the early and mid 1990s, the global age of information exploded.  The World Wide Web can be “regarded as an interconnected set of different [digital] libraries that contain different kinds of collections and serve different communities of users.”  The first digital libraries contained mostly journal articles at universities such as the library at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 1994, the Digital Library Initiative mandated three United States government agencies to have their information in digital form, to be accessed through networks. 


The book as a source of historical information, and as a source of historical instruction, transformed to a digital book in the twentieth century.  CD-ROMs, diskettes, and eBooks have been around for almost thirty years.  By definition, a digital book is “just a large structured collection of bits that can be transported on CD-ROM or other storage media or delivered over a network connection, and which is designed to be viewed on some combination of hardware and software ranging from dumb terminals to Web browsers on personal computers to the new book reading appliances.”  They cover all disciplines.


The current drop in book sales and the increased role of digital books is revolutionizing the publishing and distribution of printed material, thus influencing the supply of historical material.  In 2010, the monthly searches on Google for a Kindle were 6.12 million, and on Google Books it was 1.83 million.  Downloading books was estimated to be 673,000 for kindles, 1,000,000 for eBook readers and 1,220,000 for the Sony Reader.  These figures doubled from the previous year, except the kindle which tripled.  According to a February 2009 AAP (U.S. Publishers Association) report, sales of eBooks increased one hundred seventy-seven percent compared to January and overall book sales fell.  The most recent Digital Book World conference in January 2013 boasted digital publishing companies such as Innodata, DigiServ, Biztegra, Semi-Linear, and Datamatics.  While scholarly and academic material is available at school and college libraries, more than 1,000 million people connect to the Internet and perform more than 6,000 million queries a day through Google.



While much of this material is no doubt fiction, the sharp increase in sales identifies that historical content is being received digitally.  Students and teachers are impacted by material being readily available.  The search for content takes a few seconds whereas in the past the retrieval of information was time consuming.  Two of the most popular e-book readers, Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire, engage students in interactive material.  The online classroom attempts a more student-oriented approach to learning, as tablet devices can be linked to projectors in the classroom setting.  Digitally archived historical materials can be easily accessed, making note-taking more efficient.  After the release of Apple’s iBooks2 and iBook Author in 2012, 350,000 iBook textbooks and 90,000 iBook Authors were downloaded in the first three days.


The technological advances in the classroom, whether primary or secondary educational levels, raises the question of the future.  Until recently, classrooms remained unchanged for nearly a hundred years.  The advent of whiteboards, projection equipment, and individual computers may lead to the end of the printed textbook. Companies such as DigitalOwl are sponsoring a Florida Digital Textbook Initiative, replacing traditional textbooks at several Florida schools with electronic textbooks on laptops and eBook reading devices.  Another situation to consider is that new post-2000 generations are more accustomed to reading and learning from a screen over paper.  A final issue is the question of copyright and how it can be protected in the digital age.



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