Rob Townsend recently published some fascinating analysis of historians’ usage of digital content and tools. I think the overall takeaway message has to be unequivocally grim: historians are not, by any stretch of the imagination, actively engaging with new materials and methods. Before I dig into the study, let me say that any criticism which emerges is in no way directed at Townsend, who teases out a remarkable amount of valuable data from a group that comes across as not only reluctant to adopt technology but often deeply suspicious of it.
Townsend’s analysis is divided into three key areas: user type, tool usage, and online publishing. I’m just going to look at tool usage here since those results intersect most closely with my own research interests. That said, I’m going to do away with the original analysis’s categorization according to user type, which when represented graphically tends to paint a rosier picture of technology usage than is in fact the case. Continue reading