Enthusiasts say technology allows students — and customers — to tap into the feelings behind the facts. A colorized photo of a frightened little girl in Auschwitz makes her less like an archived shadow and more like children we see every day. It is easier to comprehend how Henry V spurred his outnumbered troops into battle by hearing his exhortations rather than just reading them.
On the other:
But not everyone is embracing the magic. For many history purists, creating images and sounds that depend on guesswork, subjective choices and even acting rubs against cherished academic norms. How do you footnote the barking of a medieval dog?
Sometimes the issue is more with execution than norms and ethics. I feel like these kinds of projects have the potential to dip into the uncanny valley. According to the article, “Kennedy scholar Jeff Shesol said he appreciated the interest the synthesized JFK speech was bringing to a little-known bit of presidential rhetoric. But he found the audio rendition to be ‘creepy and unsettling.'”
Every project must be evaluated according to its own merits, of course, but it’s worth considering what it means to creatively manipulate history in this era of “fake news.” At the same time, some of the article’s commenters raise the point that history has always been manipulated (the example of Confederate monuments built during Jim Crow comes to my mind). Maybe digital re-creations can actually help historians challenge the notion of history as a series of facts and draw attention to the interpretive nature of the discipline. Maybe digital re-creations will help, not hurt, students’/the public’s ability to discern fact from fiction and recognize subjectivity. We’re doing a unit on AR/VR in my digital history minor field this fall, so I’m interested to see how my thoughts evolve as I learn more about this aspect of DH.
Read the original article here.