I have to say, the more i look into digital history, the more confused i am getting about where i stand on it. Reading the Digital History book by Cohen & Rosenzweig has been really helpful to define what the positives and negatives are about it, but when i browse around, there is just SO many sites, its a bit overwhelming and a bit annoying when you are bombarded with bad, invalid, outdated, suspicious looking, poorly designed sites when all you want is some reliable information about a topic. But, i will stay positive and hope to find my viewpoint soon – but first, lets talk about storytelling. I found two websites and compared below.
The website from the British Library was the first one i found that offered some really cool primary sources and allows viewers to interact virtually with these texts as it displays each page. You are able to zoom and move around the page. When you go into one of the online exhibitions, the items are listed and you chose one and it comes up with info on that item alone. There is no over-arching narrative, just the sources. To me, this is aimed at academics or researchers because unless you were interested or looking in something specific it gets really boring, really quickly. This is an example of having no narrative/story.
The second website i found after searching the word ‘Vikings’ (click here to view it). This provided a brief historical narrative about the vikings, which was so much easier to engage with and i actually read the thing from top to bottom. What i liked is that it had a creation date on the top along with the author – giving it some authorship and traceability. It also allows for comments at the bottom. It was good to see people disputing the article or presenting alternative facts with links to other sites, backing up their points. This is what i believe is positive about digital history – when people can interact with it.
When comparing these two sites, i found the one with an overarching story so much better. Now the creator was relatively unknown, and the facts perhaps a bit sketchy (according to the comments of contributors) i still found it a more enjoyable experience. Yet the other from the British Library was much more credible and the sources were exponentially more valuable, it was hard to engage. We have been talking about narrative in the last few lectures and this confirmed why i love narrative. I like stories like the next Jane Austen fan, but here i could see that having a narrative allows greater engagement for viewers. My brain likes to have beginning (context), middle (juicy facts) and end (summary) and I’m sure I’m not alone.
But one also needs to keep in mind the intended audience. Wouldn’t most narrative style websites be for the public, and the non-linear be for the more selective researcher? Each has benefits for different audiences. However, for the interests of the wide audience, narrative style is so much better. The great thing about digital history is that it is not limited to what can be read, but what videos we can enjoy and audio we can hear.