Sunday, February 4, 2007

Oral Histories in a Digital Age

Here is my Oral History page project thingfriend. I thought it was interesting that almost all the oral histories in our readings were about professions. I was hoping mine wouldn't be all about jobs, so I just solicited my friends to tell me about whatever they wanted that had happened to them. Only one of them wrote about jobs, and it was in a roundabout way. Then I wrote my own, and I put it all together on a website. Hurrah!

I would like to use the rest of this post to talk about how frustrating Google pages is, about how you can either write your HTML from scratch or just not edit the HTML, about how it will only let you upload a file, not a folder, so that you have to host all your pictures on the Internet and load them from hosting sites, rather than just saving them all neatly in a nice folder.

But I'm not going to talk about that.

Instead I'm going to discuss a couple things I noticed while putting this project together.

1) A lot of the people who I solicited help from asked me, "Um, if this is a project about oral histories, why are you doing this with text?" And I think that's a good question. I think that the Internet lets us transmit text so instantaneously that it becomes almost oral. We type on AIM or other instant messenger services, and everything is so immediate that it's very similar to having a conversation in real life. Before the Internet, if you read someone's history textually, it had gone through editing and printing and all that. Now we can just type something out and slap it online, just as casually as we might speak to someone transcribing our lives for that writing project from the Depression. So I, for one, think Internet text is a valid form of oral history, even though it's stretching the definition a bit.

2) It was interesting to see what people sent me when I said to them, "Write about a memory." Some people wrote about childhood, others wrote about more recent things. My friends Amy and Andrea, who are dating, wrote sweet stories about each other, independently of each other, which was just ridiculously cute. The weirdest part came when my friend Michelle sent me what were ostensibly three entries from her diary. The last entry is definitely true; I was there when it happened. But the second entry, which supposedly happened a few days before the last entry, is about her getting married and having adult kids. This definitely did NOT happen. It kind of got me thinking about what prevents people from lying when they tell their histories, and how everyone obviously has their own version of events. The Internet probably makes it easier to exaggerate, or spin things, because it's harder to tell when someone is lying when you can't see their body language clues. I guess that wasn't really an issue that I foresaw coming up. Kind of strange.

Anyway. That's that. Oral history. The end.

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