Sardar and Van Loon addressed the dangers of taking media at face value over a decade ago. Many of the same problems addressed in their graphic article persist within corporate media today. However, as “From Papyrus to Pixels” demonstrated, creation and distribution of media is becoming democratized through digitization. This means that, with the majority of human beings on the planet simultaneously creating and consuming content, there sometimes arises an abundance of ideas and opinions which rarely agree. However, the propagation of biased information is in no way a modern issue. If one were to check the young United State’s post-revolutionary presses, one would discover multiple cases of political slander, many perpetrated by the nation’s founding fathers. However, as humanity and technology progress onward, so does understanding. Many people are increasingly aware of biases within the corporate and private media. While many during the previous election cycle fell victim to misinformation, others became more informed, and more discerning. Instead of being a threat to intellectual progress, in many ways the digital data deluge is just the most recent, and most accessible contribution to the historical narrative. Despite its associated challenges, there are many positive results of widespread digital media.
Many advantages to the digital creation of history involve ease of access. Historical sources are currently limited to what relics physically survived. The majority of historical study is made more difficult by a lack of sources. For example, those sources which survived the Haitian Revolution are the sources made of lasting materials, and the sources deemed important enough to preserve. Until quite recently, information was limited to original documents, or physical copies of those documents, which have been either intentionally preserved or recently discovered, and (specific to the example of the Haitian revolution) were only accessible by traveling to Haiti, or France. If a young researcher from America’s heartland decided, after reading a historical monograph about Toussaint Louverture, that her purpose was to research the great revolution of Saint Domingue, she would have to not only scrounge up travel expenses, but also learn traditional French as well as Haitian Creole. Access to materials over the past decade has grown increasingly simpler. While any serious Haitian scholar will still need to learn French and Haitian Creole, most modern studies of foreign lands do not require as much traveling. As time progresses not only are historical sources becoming more available, but the nature of public record itself is changing. While the Haitian revolution began mostly by word of mouth, more recent resistance movements (perhaps not as violent, but just as revolutionary) were begun by the stroke of a keypad. Individuals who self publish their memoirs in the method outlined in the reading, or who keep any form of social media are consciously (or subconsciously) contributing to the historical narrative. In many cases, these perspectives are less filtered, and less edited than many historical accounts. Future historians will not have to wonder how individuals reacted to historical events because those tweets are being archived, along with any photographic evidence. Born digital records also expand the scope of contributors, granting a platform to groups who traditionally had no means to voice their concerns in a meaningful public manner. These born digital archives will provide an abundance of historical resources to scholars who will have equal levels of access.
Despite these advantages, skeptics abound. Many people discount social media content because it is faster, less credible, and more liable to be manipulated. The article “From Papyrus to Pixels” examined the similar concerns revolving around the current creation of digital media, specifically in the form of books. This article particularly focused on the history of the written word, examining its various incarnations. Just as books have changed over the past centuries, so have historical records. In both cases, previous generations have called into question the legitimacy of any new public platform. This will likely never change. Regardless of technological advances older generations will contribute dissenting voices to debates on the validity of the newest mode of communication. As humanity progresses towards the digital age, it makes sense that the format of the written word becomes less written. In reality, many things have changed about the dispersal of information throughout society, but the mode of distribution should not minimize the validity of ideas.