The Benefits of Using Digital Sources The Correct Way

Digital Sources are any kind of information that is encoded into machine-readable content and they have opened up a whole new set of opportunities and perspectives for historians in terms of historical analysis. Digital history and research can help us understand the patterns of history on a large-scale basis better than more subjective individual accounts like archives. Digital sources can offer tons of information and statistics about the collective group that we call society. Non-digital sources like archives or encyclopedias can be used to better understand more specific accounts such as what it was like to be on a ship in the 1700’s. Digital sources are best suited for more statistical history research such as the unemployment rate of a country during a specific interval of time. Using this can lead to a better understanding of the conditions of the economy of that country as a whole rather than researching into one or a few accounts. The major points of Schmidt’s essays consist of why digital humanities should spend more time focusing on larger trends in history rather than individual stories even though this is an unpopular idea, and what needs to be done in order to humanize the way we research using digital data.

Schmidt expresses the idea that digital history and data are much more useful to historians and their research if it does not focus as much attention on subjective accounts. If you want to better understand specific statistical changes than it is more efficient to use an account that is focused on the entire group of individuals because it offers many more perspectives which leads to more accurate research and Schmidt stresses the importance is using digital history correctly, meaning using the general, non-subjective digital sources because it will lead to the most optimal analysis. Although this idea is seen as “dehumanizing” Schmidt makes the case that his idea is less dehumanizing than forcing a history that is centered on the collective group to pretend that individual actors could or did make the difference. This is highly unlikely and therefore it only makes sense that less individuality in digital history is beneficial to historian’s research and understanding.

Schmidt feels there are three things that need too be done in order to make digital history more humanized and that is adding a filter on the information that gets digitized so we can know what information is reliable, reformulating the information into a more understandable format and finally finding ways to relate to the context. In doing these things, it eliminates the bias within digital history and narrows information down to the most vital and useful information.

Schmidt’s correct way of utilizing digital history is an unpopular opinion, but it makes sense that if we exploit digital sources and non-digital sources and use them to their strengths than it limits the amount of bias information and enhances the research historians do. The humane thing to do would be to limit the amount of bias we have in our information because it leads to a better comprehension of our history.

Why is it that individual accounts are not as useful in digital history?

Why does Schmidt suggest reformulating the content of digital history into a more meaningful form but his work is very difficult to read?

Why does reformulating the content of digital history help us understand it better in some cases?