The Internet has sometimes been perceived as a dirty and scary place for academics. After all, the walls of the ivory tower are torn down, and anyone with the slightest inspiration can quickly and easily design their own website to glorify any topic they please. Peer reviewing and proper references seem to be flung out the window in this new and uncertain world.
However, there are historians currently working with this new medium to produce exciting and extremely interesting work. The article “Towards a Theory of Good History Through Gaming” suggests that the Internet offers amazing opportunities for historical education in immersive environments. Said piece describes how history-centered games can be incredibly advantageous, since “multimedia fosters engagement and facilitates critical thinking.” Additionally, historic sites have incredible new opportunities, such as the Tower of London’s program which allows visitors to use their cell phones and learn about the history of the famous site while helping virtual prisoners escape from their cells.
John Bonnett’s “Following in Rabelais’ Footsteps: Immersive History and the 3D Virtual Buildings Project” lauds the potential of new technologies to enable individuals to reconstruct their own three-dimensional historic buildings using sophisticated computer software. Students engaged in such an activity become acutely aware of not only the typical difficulties historians face during their research (for example, inadequate primary sources) but also the problems that accompany historical representation. History becomes an active and engaging pursuit, and students emerge with real critical thinking skills as opposed to the headache and frustration they might feel after spewing names and dates onto a final exam.
When I began reading the first article, “History on the Internet: The ‘Atlantic Canada Portal,’” I found it ironic that a piece praising the presence of exciting history online was only available in print; however, towards the end of the article, Corey Slumkoski, Margaret Conrad and Lisa Charlong admitted that the periodical Acadiensis is “unhappily” not yet available on the Internet. This article detailed numerous endeavours that are currently bringing history alive online. One of the points I found most interesting was the assertion that online syllabi are not only convenient, but also far more engaging than their paper counterparts because of the potential to provide hyperlinks to readings, pages of interest, and pictures.
Slumkoski, Conrad and Charlong sum up these innovations nicely: “When used critically and judiciously – in other words, when we apply the same standards to the Internet that we do to any other source – the Web can be a great boon to the scholarly community.”