Rethinking History in a Digital Age

Jeremy M. Mikecz

January 7, 2019

Rethinking History in a Digital Age

  • Big Data: threats and possibilities
  • Living in a Digital World: Surviving or Thriving?
  • Researching History with Digital Data
  • Critiques of the Digital
  • Value
  • Types of Digital History
  • History 498: Hacking History

Overwhelmed with Data

  • 90% of world’s data generated in last two years
  • we produce about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day
  • Google processes 40,000 searches every second
  • approximately 2 of 7 billion people on Earth are active Facebook users
  • every minute, the world’s people:
    • watch 4 million+ YouTube videos
    • send 16 million text messages
    • send 156 million emails
      • 103 million are spam email
    • swipe one million times on Tinder


  • What are the dangers of living in a digital world of big data? What are the promises?
  • What potential problems may arise from the use of digital tools for historical research?
  • What is the potential of this type of research?

Critiques of the digital

Problems of Data: can we trust it?

  • misleading data?
  • misleading use or abuse?
  • or are certain types of data fundamentally misleading?

Data Collection and Analysis:

  • privileges only the powerful?
  • leaves out the poor, Indigenous, people of color, and other marginalized groups?
  • but is this concern about new media anything new?

origins of

+ history,
+ geography
+ cartography
+ anthropology
+ Geographic Informations Systems
+ written language
+ printing presses
+ telecommunications
+ internet

Possibilities / Value?

Indigenous Counter-Mapping


Researching History with Digital Data

Notable Projects

Mapping Movement

Transatlantic Slave Voyages Database

Transatlantic Slave Voyages
Transatlantic Slave Voyages


Republic of Letters: Spanish Scientists, 1600-1810 The Republic of Letters - Spanish Scientists, 1600-1810

Social Network Analysis

Social Network Analysis - The centrality of the Medici family in Renaissance Italy


Urban History

Stanford’s Spatial History Project Terrain of History

Rio de Janeiro- Occupations
Rio de Janeiro- Occupations

Rio de Janeiro - Yellow Fever
Rio de Janeiro - Yellow Fever

Reconstructing Visibility

What could Lee see at Gettysburg?
What could Lee see at Gettysburg?


Digital History Project Reviews

Exemplary Examples of Digital History

Quantifying and Mapping Terror

Monroe Work Today