The Power of Digital Tools

When designing a website defining who your audience for is key. Your audience will determine all the information presented, and how it’s presented. Cohen and Rosenzweig, point out that if “significant numbers of your site’s visitors are not part of your intended audience,” re-making your website is not out of the question. In fact any digital historian worth their salt would be constantly changing and up keeping their website in order to serve its visitors.

One way to reach your audience is to use the community networks you are already familiar with. For example, let’s say you are an American Historian at a local university that simultaneously works with students who wish to be academic historians and secondary education students wishing to obtain social studies endorsements. You create a website that serves both of these audiences, but in different ways, as Cohen and Rosenzweig recommend. You, in this metaphorical world, have connections already with 2 very large communities with their own networks, professional organizations, and personal connections. It is imperative to use these largely FREE communities to your advantage when promoting your website. This is done through word of mouth, mass emails, conference presentations, and in person connections that happen naturally in the course of your work.

Mass marketing of your website seems to be something only the very well funded website is able to afford, but there are some way that one can use the tools of mass marketing to your advantage. One is through utilizing Google’s use of keywords. When naming your website make sure the header has common keywords that would be utilized by potential site visitors.

However, I think, Google, and other digital tools, to a certain extent, are not the bastions of democracy we would hope for. One example, of something that I think is more than it appears is the National Digital Public Library. The library’s goal of “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations,” is a wonderful goal. (Darnton) I can’t help but wonder though the very real cost of such a project, and the advanced infrastructure that it relies on that limits the creation of such a library as only possible for very wealthy countries. In a way this increased digitization of history is a form of imperialism. If only documents and works from these certain wealthy cultures are the only ones that are preserved it will be the only history that is told because of the ease of access, and the free sticker tag to site visitors; it will encourage research in that direction because of those practicalities.

One way I think some impoverished or war torn cultures are combating this are through creative use of the cheap mobile phone cameras that are everywhere. In Syria they created a “Mobile Film Festival.” I think this is amazing. These people are actively participating in the creation of a collective memory of the conflict. The problems I forsee for them is the ability to compile, and store all of this data in a network, like the National Digital Library. I don’t think this will be possible for quite some time.

This was taken from Al Arabiya News. This is a picture of young Syrians filming a protest.

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