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2.0 History in Brazil

by Renata Duran, Londrina State University

According to the ICT in Education survey (CGI.br, 2013) conducted by the Internet Steering Committee in Brazil (CGI.br), through its Regional Centre of Studies for the Development of the Information Society (cetic.br), “almost all urban public schools have computers (99%) […]. Internet access is present in 89% of Brazilian public schools […]. However, Internet connection speed is still a challenge for most Brazilian schools”. These data point to the democratization of Internet access in Brazil. But many questions remain, including a concern for whether this growth was accompanied by the development of digital culture, especially in the use of the network to increase research and teaching in the field of History. To discuss these issues we organized a special issue of Historia Hoje (History Today) edited by ANPUH (http://rhhj.anpuh.org/ojs/index.php/RHHJ). Here we present an overview of our discussions in this special edition by analyzing two case studies

  1. Café & História: http://cafehistoria.ning.com

The Coffee & History project has more than 50,000 profiles associated with a public space for the discussion of History. Created in 2008 in Ning[1] by Bruno Leal, it aimed at promoting interaction between historians and to reach the general public. The hybrid structure of the web allowed the combination of a social network with a content portal. Currently, the Coffee & History project also has a Twitter and a Facebook profile, and a Youtube channel: the “Coffee History TV”[2]. Among its main users, 38% are 40 years or older, 54% are men, 13% hold an masters and a doctorate, 45% are interested in contemporary history, and 21% of access is made by people who did not study History formally.

“But how do historians behave in social networks?” asked the creator, and he replied “as has been observed in the general literature on the dynamics of social media, participants who produce content in Coffee & History are a small minority”[3]. The most common practice, according to Leal, is the informal exchange and the remix of historical knowledge. In other words, little by little collaborative intellectual production is consolidated in the network without formal authorship; there is limited knowledge of the historian about their rights and duties in the world of authorship. In most cases, the existence of alternative licenses to Copyright, such as Creative Commons is often ignored, as stressed by Tel Amiel in his article featured in this special issue. There are still few discussions with regards to OER (open educational resources) in the field, and reduced pressure for digital repositories to openly-license the resources they contain. In this, the Brasiliana project stands out as a model within the Brazilian landscape.

  1. Biblioteca Brasiliana Guita e José Mindlin: http://www.bbm.usp.br

Established in 2005, with more than 60,000 printed volumes, the Brasiliana Library was assembled by bibliophile José Mindlin and his wife, Gita. Under the authority of the Institute of Brazilian Studies’s director, professor István Iancsó, the library was digitized through the use of free software and the resulting resources were licensed openly. The project serves as a model in Brazil, and its creators, especially professor Pedro Puntoni, were leaders in the establishment of the Rede Memorial (Memorial Network). The network articulates around 10 principles and commitments which were agreed in the Letter from Recife, signed on 13 September 2011 by a number of representatives of GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). Among these principles were a commitment to open access, open public resources and the sharing of information and technology.

Among the network’s achievements can be highlighted the creation of a funding stream within the Ministry of Culture to promote the digitization of collections through an annual award given to small and medium-sized holdings; the network also started a discussion about the alignment of national collections, in terms of interoperability, quality standards and access, educational improvement and diffusion.

Finally, Antonio Rodriguez of Las Heras points out that the use of technology has long been part of the field of History in that our discourse is shaped by our reading technologies and by the tools we use to search and systematize our research sources[4]. A researcher of literary production, Robert Darton, head of Harvard Library, proposed a new university publishing model according to which all work produced in the (public) university setting is automatically published with an open license and is made available to all. As Darton explained, “we are at a crossroads and need to have control of our cultural resources”[5].

The same network that aspires to foster the democratization of knowledge is countered by the proliferation of closed networks (such as Facebook) and attacks on net neutrality. Collective memory can be manipulated, a keen example of which is the filtering of our interactions in social networks and feeds.[6] But privatization, fencing and homogeneity is just one possible outcome. The movement towards openness and sharing, collaboration and co-construction is a viable and emerging alternative. For historians, the problem is doubly alarming. We must keep a commitment to truth and help ensure that the products of historical inquiry are accessible to all, even in an increasingly fenced information ecosystem. The authors who contributed to these special issues helped pave the way towards a more profound discussion on the implications of these issues.

[1] Access: https://www.ning.com/pt-br. Acesso em 9 de abril de 2014.

[2] In 2014 – Twitter: 17 000 followers; Facebook: 220,000 fans; Coffee History TV: 2500 registered. To access: https://www.facebook.com/CafeHistoria, https://twitter.com/Cafehistoria eyoutube.com/cafehistoriatv. 2013 research .

[3] (LEAL, 2014, p. 179).

[4] LAS HERAS, A R. El libro digital. http://vimeo.com/57156755, acessado em 12 de novembro de 2013.

[5] http://www.revistadehistoria.com.br/secao/entrevista/robert-darnton (in free translation)

[6] http://searchengineland.com/the-filter-bubble-within-social-media-98160

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