Friending the PastThe Sense of History in the Digital Age

Friending the PastThe Sense of History in the Digital Age

Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226451817

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Friending the Past asks if today's society, increasingly captivated by up-to-the-minute information media, can have a sense of history. What is the relation between past societies whose media forms fostered a communal or self-aware sense of history—for example, storytelling in prehistorical oral societies, or the great print works of historicism in the nineteenth century—and today's "instant" networked information society? How did the sense of history once balance between the feeling for the present and for the absent, the temporal and the social, the individual and the collective, and the static and the dynamic? And how do digital networks now change the balance? Blending the approaches of intellectual history, media studies, and digital humanities, the book proposes novel ways of thinking about the evolving sense of history. Topics include the relation between high-print historicism and social networking; narratives of "new media encounters" between societies; graphically visualized and conceptualized understandings of history; and "network archaeology" as the variant of media archaeology needed to grasp the networked texture of our contemporary feeling for history. At its close, the book asks the question: is there a sense of history in the digital, networked age? The book concludes with an example of what a digitally networked sense of history can be by examining (in a manner poised between "close reading" and "distant reading") the code of one of today's JavaScript "timelines" and comparing it to the experience of temporality encoded in William Wordsworth's poetry during the era of romanticism.