In 1999, Edward Ayers wrote on the the pasts and futures of digital history. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Ayers could have ever predicted the future of the internet- going from dial-up modems, primitive browsers and interfaces, to an idea that the internet has connected the world. Even writing before the current Millennium, Mr. Ayers discusses that History is the best discipline for the ideas of digital technology, and that having digital archives are a manifestation of new thinking. In hindsight, some 15 years later, I believe we can look back and say not only that he was correct, but that the digital age has matured and advanced beyond wildest predictions of the 1990’s. Today, we can talk to people around the world, face to face, in real time, sharing ideas, and challenging theories. Even beyond that, we can preserve information even more readily than ever before.
But now, the question is, where do we go from here? the advancements to get us to where we are were largely predicted correctly. But as we relish connections via social media, skype, we sit here and think? Does this get any better? do we advance any farther? We know the answer is yes, but what is the next innovation? How will it make connectivity easier and learning and sharing better?
I think that Steven Mintz gives us a good idea in his writing of “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History” in that there are stages of the evolution. We have passed through stages 1 and 2, and are now in stage 3.0 of blogs and wikis. Yes, even blogs are advancing knowledge of being able to share and challenge ideas. It takes the predictions that were introduced by Ayers and we now have the stages and levels that are making the evolution into realities. And, for what it’s worth, Mintz for his part even speculates stage 4.0 of the evolution talking about a constructionist understanding of learning that takes us beyond where we are now with blogs, wikis and shared knowledge.
We are continually evolving, and getting better. Through digital history, we are able to go further back, and develop a deeper understanding by advancing forward and continuing to share knowledge and build on theorem and ideas- which makes us wonder, what will the next big idea be?