One of the first questions I’ve had placed in front of me in my History courses is “What is History?” – the follow-up question was “Why should we study it?” As I started to contemplate my answers – I also started thinking about the conveyances (a nice $20 word for transportation) we utilize to transmit the essence of what History is – information. In the computing world, my background for the most part, the primary conveyance comes from data transmission packets – which when broken down into their prime essence, makes information into ones and zeroes – which broken further down becomes nothing more than a switch state of “on” or “off”. Our languages make for a much more difficult methodology. To move information between two groups of people, we need a translation matrix – essentially a code system – to provide the appropriate meaning. And even then, we can totally miss on a translation, when the meaning of the symbology doesn’t come across correctly due to societal differences. For instance, tell a joke in English and then translate it to German. The meaning changes, and the “funny” aspect of the joke gets lost. And its obvious that the same would happen in reverse. Add to the language issues, are societal differences. For instance, it is customary in Japanese culture to remove your shoes prior to entering an abode. That’s not necessarily the same case here in America. In fact, it can be interpreted as making yourself “far too” comfortable in someone else’s home.
Communication is important. To convey our history, our information, our data, those ones and zeroes – we need to find effective and efficient methods to do so. In our modern society, we have found ways to do so. In this digital age, there are many ways to store data – that information – for the future. So that we – the people here and now – can showcase where our future generations have come from. So that we can document how our world was now – in its fantastic elements – and in all of our inherent flaws. So that we may communicate more effectively, while we still have difficulty trying to talk to people in other countries in a clear and concise manner.
As I sit here and listen to Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” – and contemplate the extremely large issue of communicating – I realize how big all of this really is. History encompasses a very large area of human-kind. We find out where we’ve come from. We document where we are. And for what? In the hopes that future generations don’t make the same mistakes? Each successive war we wage on this planet showcases our collective ineffectiveness in delivering that keynote speech. Instead of learning to value the lives of others, we invent new ways to achieve a larger body-counts and wider-spread destruction. We’ve even learned to utilize methodologies that not only poison our enemies but lay waste to their homelands – insuring that their future generations won’t have a place to inhabit.
In my Introduction to Business Communications classes, I teach my students about the archival of business processes and why this particular concept is so important. Every business process utilized is documented – regardless of its success or failure. Through this methodology, businesses can look back to see what worked, what didn’t, and puzzle out a reasoning of why. Sometimes business processes fail because the technology wasn’t available to make it successful. Therefore, in archiving that information, a business can look backwards to find an answer for moving forward. I would like to believe that we, mankind in general, could utilize our collective History in that manner.
In our current digital age, information is truly powerful. Look at how our personal information- as consumers – is traded and sold as a commodity between businesses. There are Data-Marts where consumer is available for purchase. Companies keep Data Warehouses for the storage of information on consumers. Everything that you do on a company’s website is monitored, tracked, gathered, and analyzed. That information provides insight to companies on how to present products to the consumer. It also showcases the effectiveness in marketing of the products, as well as the relative power of the product in the digital marketplace. All of that information is a company’s History – and its considered to be the lifeblood of the company.
Again, I would hope that we look at our own generated History – as a society in general – and guard it with the same zeal…I hope.