Big Data and History: Some Provocations

21 January 2021 The advent of big data challenges long-held assumptions in historical research. The 59 zettabytes of data generated until 2020 reside in fragile storage devices with an average life span of 7 to 30 years. Unlike paper documents, the networked existence of big data across hundreds of thousands of servers in power-hungry data […]

Archives of the Future

18 February 2021 Historians and archivists have expressed concerns about the Digital Dark Age for decades. The short life span of storage hardware (about 7 years for SSDs under stress, 30 years for HDDs, and 100/200 years for optical discs under climate-controlled conditions only) inverts our relationship with primary sources. Advanced encryption methods employed in […]

Securing Big Data Archives

18 March 2021 The topic of our March roundtable is security as physical infrastructure and personal data protection. Future historians will have access to only what we choose to archive for them. We need to consider anonymizing and classifying selections of today’s social media data that may prove useful for researchers of the 2010s and […]

Energetics of Big Data

15 April 2021 In “Energetics of Big Data,” we will discuss big data as energy. Data centers are energy gobblers that consume anywhere between 1% to 5% of the world’s electricity, depending on how you run the estimate. While historians have known that the carving of woodblocks, mass printing, and climate-controlled archives consume energy, we […]

Big Data Epistemology

20 May 2021 The May session of Big Data and the Historian’s Craft shifts our attention to data science and methodological reflections. Text analysis, GIS, network analysis, and machine learning have become part and parcel of digital methods training. However, historians used cadastral surveys, census records, ledgers, maps, and genealogies in their research long before […]

History of the Future

17 June 2021 History of… the Future? As we saw in Archives of the Future, the fragility of digital storage media and the rise of big data have reverse the historian’s relationship with our primary sources. Future historians will have access to what we choose to save for them. Historians have been trained to stress […]