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The controversy between Historians and “wisdom of the masses”
May 21, 2019
by: Historia Team

It is not exactly a secret that Historians often disagree about the past. One popular debate is about whether the collective contribution of history—which relies on the wisdom of the masses—should count as historical practice.

Traditionally, if you wanted to write a fresh accurate account of any historical event (such as the 2018 Kivu Ebola Outbreak), research was pretty straightforward. You would head over to the National Archives, and spend months digging through hundreds of official reports in search of something new.

Today, however, you might do something different. Your research might begin with an online search where you will be greeted with thousands of unofficial websites reporting on the same issue. These online gathering sites work by aggregating grassroots knowledge and recollections of several people to organize information, in what is increasingly known as “crowdsourcing”.

The most obvious advantage of the crowdsourcing model is that it saves historians from having to toil in the dusty archives gathering and organizing knowledge. But many historians have questioned the extent to which the power of crowds can be used to guarantee depth and accuracy.

Take, for example, Wikipedia, an open-access platform that relies on thousands of volunteers to write and edit knowledge about past events. Wikipedia has generated controversy for its democratization of historical expertise and authorship. In particular, many of the contributors are not academically trained historians and as a result, their actual interpretation of history is potentially obscured. Academic historians argue that while crowdsourcing can be self-regulating, it is difficult to ascertain the reliability of information posted by the crowd.

But as history opens itself to the wisdom of the masses, it is exposing an interesting fact about the power of the masses. Often, crowds are smarter and make better decisions than an individual historian. Under the right circumstances, the collective judgment of a large group can compensate for the bias of a small group.

The Historia Project sees the potential of partnerships between the professional historian and crowds of helpers, particularly as the authenticity of information is increasingly becoming significant. It is possible, for example, for a political historian to interpret accurately the events of Sept. 11 by evaluating the photographs and documents that have been collectively analyzed and validated on the blockchain. Thanks to blockchain technology, it is possible to capture accurate accounts of events and verify their authenticity so that correct conclusions can be drawn. Even in the cases where the original information has been legitimately edited, an audit trail is automatically created to track the changes. This provides historians with a greater degree of certainty when writing about past events.

Historia decentralizes the recording of history from the few to the many, providing a change log to history and a platform to combat censorship, bias, and misinformation.

 

When a user submits details about a particular event (such as photos relating to an ongoing Hurricane) to the blockchain, all other users will have a chance to vote this record up or down. If the majority of users come to a consensus after evaluating the proposed entry and determining that it is accurate, then the record will receive funding and be permanently added to the Historia blockchain.  The record will, therefore, become immutable and can neither be altered, edited, or deleted. Not only does this enhance the authenticity of historical records, but it also ensures that information is recorded in an immutable manner to help prevent possible censorship, editing or doctoring.

Harnessing the power of the crowd and blockchain is the key to ending the conflict among historians concerning the validity of historical records.  Join Historia today and take an active role in making our history deeper, richer, and more accurate.

 

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Historia is a community project. The influence of any one superpower does not endure in Historia. The project is for the greater good of the global community with allegiance to no one except the everlasting truth of how it actually happened. If you would like to be a part Historia discussion, join us on Discord and let us know your thoughts. All spectrum of opinions and facts wanted, come all.

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