Rough draft of history

At a recent Internet Advocacy Roundtable, held monthly at the Center for American Progress, Professor David Perlmutter from University of Kansas, and author of Blog Wars, said of blogs, “They are becoming the rough draft of history.”

I don’t know if that is a phrase he came up with, or if its been kicked around for a while, but it really stuck with me. For so long history has been written (and consequently determined, to an extent) by the powerful. Those with wealth, education and money were the ones who got to shape the “official” history.

But as social media becomes increasingly available, the number of voices and the number of narratives is increasing as well.

This is not to say, obviously, that all the voices and narratives are being represented – indeed social media is still available to the relative elite. But there is no doubt that there are people and groups who are getting their histories recorded in new and exciting ways.

Installation in Libertys window, by Michael Wolf. It pays tribute to the Chinese factory workers who make 75% of the worlds toys

Installation in Liberty's window, by Michael Wolf. It pays tribute to the Chinese factory workers who make 75% of the world's toys

But giving these stories voice does more than just represent a people. It can expose the greater stories that we all share. In a fabulous article called The Story Revolution, Arlen Goldbard points out that we all share some basic human events – these are what Isaiah Berlin calls “the clear layer.” But beneath that is the “much thicker ‘dark layer’ which is a name for the aggregate of our little stories.”

“You can generalize effortlessly based on the clear layer: That’s where social and historical theories are propounded, …. But if you really want to understand something, you have to be willing to spend time in the dark layer, with its multitude of little stories.”


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