Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is Google Good for History?

On January 7 there was a panel entitled "Is Google Good for History?" at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in San Diego. One of the panelists was Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media, at George Mason University, who provided a balanced view of Google's utility for historical research. Though Cohen discusses a number of limitations of Google, not least some problems with the digitization of Google Books, he is quite positive that Google is indeed good for history: "We historians are searchers and sifters of evidence. Google is probably the most powerful tool in human history for doing just that. It has constructed a deceptively simple way to scan billions of documents instantaneously, and it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money to allow us to read millions of books in our pajamas. Good? How about Great?"

Cohen's talk is available on his blog site. Scott Jaschik gives an overview of Cohen's and the other panelists' talks in Inside Higher Education (8 January, 2010).

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