Omeka is a great tool, but it isn’t the alpha and omega of the concept of digital history. It’s an iteration of a concept. For instance, there’s many types of hammers, but they’re all hammers. Sure, it has features that other web programs don’t, and so far it seems to be the best one for humanities work, but the most important idea is the concept of what one can do with a digital format.
The examples that we looked at for this week made one thing clear: websites are a superior medium of presenting information. Books are still a wonderful thing and should not be forgotten (they’re still the most portable, and there’s nostalgia, etc). However, websites allow imagery and interactivity that levels the learning curve of different types of learners. For someone like me, who is increasingly finding it hard to concentrate on slogging through books, websites offer a way to stay engaged with material and not burn out as quickly. Furthermore, these features allow one to see concepts which only adds to the experience. Take a timeline for example. I can read a story and map out a timeline in my mind from the narrative. However, it’s more pleasing and engaging to have an interactive timeline on a website.
Another concept that these example sites show is simple organization of data. For a traditional history book format, all the information comes in a narrative, with maybe some charts and graphs if data is concerned. Yet, these sites can take that information and group it under headlines and subpages. Many books don’t even come with indices. With a proper website, one doesn’t need an index; just click on the right link and be taken to the right section of the site. This is also another example of adding visualization to the information.
Basically, I can envision websites becoming the standard form of information publishing, especially as generations shift in history departments. As the new crop comes in, it’s going to be filled with people who have increasingly grown up in a digital world, which will influence how the structure of the institution is viewed. Plus, as time goes on, the internet is going to become more accessible which is going to lead to more people being online in previously inaccessible spots. People will be walking through the jungle looking up trees on Google. Therefore, books will no longer be the most accessible form of publishing, leading to more people looking for history online.