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Friending the PastThe Sense of History in the Digital Age$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226451817

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226452005.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

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Friending the Past

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

This concluding chapter defines the sense of history of any era or culture as a set of parameters—ontological, epistemological, socio-historical, and others—that can be studied through a combination of close reading and digital humanities distant reading. Splitting the difference between close and distant reading, the chapter studies visualized "timelines" as a traditional mode of distant reading history (analyzing and visualizing long vistas of historical event). Then, to define the sense of history specific to the internet age, it "close reads" at the code level an influential contemporary form of history: digital timelines. Focusing on the genre of JavaScript digital timelines, which dynamically draw data from backend sources to populate the "document object model" (DOM) of web-based timelines in frontend interfaces, the chapter postulates that the digital era is characterized by its own sense of history—one attuned to the contingency of networks. Setting this contingent sense of history in relief against that of an earlier era, the chapter ends by comparing the TimelineJS Javascript timeline, in particular to the time sense, and implicit timelines, in William Wordsworth's poetry and romanticism. Code meets poetry at a junction between the internet era and the humanities.

Keywords:   close reading, contingency, digital humanities, distant reading, JavaScript, networks, romanticism, sense of history, timelines, William Wordsworth

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