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the magic of the interweb

Anyone with a blog or an online journal knows how much the internet has changed our lives. There's the social element, of course, and there's the fact that so much information is so easily available. But what sometimes I forget is how quickly this has all happened. I wrote my Master's thesis in 1998, and at the time, the internet simply wasn't a viable method of research for my subject (Revolution for Fun: Counterculture and the Underground Press in England, 1959-1974. Fascinating stuff! Actually, it kind of was). There literally wasn't anything online about it - not very surprising, really, and as I had come through my BA degree in the days when the world wide web was in its early infancy and simply wasn't considered as a research tool for an arts degree, I didn't care. I was used to doing my academic research the old school way, and didn't expect anything else. But just a few minutes ago I googled Spare Rib (the Spare Rib Reader was one of my second hand purchases yesterday), and up came a bunch of articles on the subject. Stuff that I had to dig around to find and call up from stacks is now at my fingertips. I know this makes me sound a million years old, but it's really kind of odd how quickly this has changed.

And it's not just academic research. Last week I was listening to a very interesting play of Radio 4 about two aristocratic English cousins in the 18th century, one of whom was white and one of whom was mixed race. The latter was the acknowledged daughter of an English aristocrat and a former slave who was brought up with her white cousins. The play was centered on the two cousins sitting for a portraitby Zoffany, so I assumed this portrait really existed. A quick google later, and there they were - the real people from 200 years ago whose story I'd just been hearing. It's times like this that make the internet seem like a miracle.

Comments

pinguin
Feb. 24th, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
It's fairly recent that scientific journals started to get published online, and the difference it makes to research is absolutely amazing. A paper trail that during my PhD would have taken me anything from a day to a couple of weeks (because of ILLs) now takes me maybe 10 minutes.

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