As this volume well demonstrates, the impact of digital media on oral history is wide and far-reaching. In a relatively short time, new technologies have revolutionized countless aspects of the work of oral history—from creation, to preservation, to use—and raised a multitude of discussions among oral historians on the impact of new technologies on oral history practice. What is also needed is a discourse on the nature of oral history in the midst of this dramatic change. In the revolution brought about by the introduction and rapid evolution of the digital age, what is the place of oral history as information in that new environment? As well-known professor and management consultant Peter Drucker declared in 1999, the first phase of the IT (Information Technology) revolution was focused on the “T” rather than the “I.” In the new millennium, Drucker argued, the most pressing question that must be dealt with is the nature of information itself: “What is the MEANING of information and its PURPOSE?” 2 For this conversation, I would argue that oral historians need to follow the same path. It has been important to examine the technological aspect of this revolution, but what about the meaning and purpose of oral history as part of this new information landscape?
- Digital Data
- Digital Information
- Oral History
- Digital Humanity
- Digitize Book
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Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end … We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.1
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden
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Henry D. Thoreau, Walden (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1910), 67.
Peter F. Drucker, Management Challenges for the 21st Century (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999), 97.
Luciano Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 5.
Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), 16.
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 40.
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 6–7.
William Grimes, “Big Data Becomes a Mirror,” The New York Times (December 24, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/25/books/uncharted-by-erez-aiden -and-jean-baptiste-michel.html?_r=0.
William Cronon, “How Long Will People Read History Books?” Perspectives on History: Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, 50 (7) (October 2012): 6.
S. Shunmuga Krishnan and Ramesh K. Sitaraman, “Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior: Inferring Causality Using Quasi-Experimental Designs” in The Proceedings of the 2012 Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Internet Measurement (Boston, MA: Association for Computing Machinery, November 2012), 221.
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2010), 7.
Stephen Ramsay, “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do with a Million Books,” Lecture, presented at the Playing with Technology in History, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, April 17, 2010, http://www.playingwithhistory.com, 3.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 201.
Bill Wasik, And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture (New York: Viking Penguin, 2009), 5.
Maria Konnikova, “The Six Things that Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You,” The New Yorker (January 21, 2014), http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/the-six-things-that-make-stories-go-viral-will-amaze-and-maybe-infuriate-you.html.
Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 3.
Dave Eggers, The Circle: A Novel (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), 207.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2014 Douglas A. Boyd and Mary A. Larson
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Sloan, S.M. (2014). Swimming in the Exaflood: Oral History as Information in the Digital Age. In: Boyd, D.A., Larson, M.A. (eds) Oral History and Digital Humanities. Palgrave Studies in Oral History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137322029_11
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Print ISBN: 978-1-137-32201-2
Online ISBN: 978-1-137-32202-9