History is shaped by the tools available for making it: cuneiform tablets tallying sheep or barley are less flexible as texts — they carry more limited forms of information, in smaller quantities, and in harder to reproduce form — than 17th century letters or printed books. By the same token, digital communication can do things that early modern technologies of writing and print can’t (for instance, web packets are at considerably less risk of falling into rivers during winter storms). History changes, and is also changed by, the technologies used to record it.
At the same time, however, history isn’t about those tools — it’s about people.
This thoughtful, well-written piece makes me look forward even more to the debut of the first issue of The Appendix on 21 December. Its very appropriate theme: “The end?”