The Concept of Contemporary History

History has been an academic subject focused on the past. However, what happens today will be history in the future. News and current events are can be described as a documentation of contemporary history. Current events as time passes will eventually become history decades and centuries later. While news and current events are elements of contemporary history the concept itself can be expanded further. Contemporary history places an emphasis on collective memory. Such memories can be the source of a wide range of emotions. Collective memories can be periods of extreme jubilation or tragedy. They have the power to last through time by either oral tradition or through writings. Such memories have different meanings to various groups and peoples. Contemporary history involves the people, politics, and culture of the world. It contains multiple narratives recorded in multiple events. What makes contemporary history unique is that it happens at a rapid pace. Since the 20th century the world has undergone an incredible amount of political, social, and cultural transformation. Technology has drastically changed human civilization. Documentation through video streaming, the internet, and photography has revolutionized the study of history. The ability to obtain information is more simple compared to previous periods in human history. When materials and information preserved over new mediums become artifacts historiography will still be required to understand the past in a wider context. The concept of contemporary history has been enabled technological based archiving, the rise of mass media, and greater access to information. The concept of contemporary history is the recording of world events in the present, that will eventually be subject to debate and discussion by future generations.

            News and current events will one day be part of an archive or preserved for historical documentation. Events such as war, social movements, and upheaval are captured when they happen. The ability to do this did not occur in previous centuries. News gathering was a slow and cumbersome process. Many events could have transpired before it reached the public.  The printing press brought about the newspaper as seen today. Prior to that ,  information was spread in newsbooks and pamphlets. Johannes Gutenburg introduced the  mechanical movable type  printing press in 1450. After ten years of experimentation Gutenburg  found an efficient way to print documents and papers.  His technology began a spread of information that could continue as centuries progressed.  Telegraphs, telephones, and radio would emerge radically changing culture and civilization. However, television would reach a wider global audience.

Contemporary history being captured with cell phones. This protester is voicing their frustration  over the Omar Al-Bashir presidency in Sudan.
Another  important historic documentation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first  Japanese Prime Minister  in decades to make a sate visit to Iran. Here he is talking with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
War in Yemen
The war in Yemen has received a large amount of media attention. Images and video show a country gradually becoming a failed state. Here citizens are attempting to flee a war zone.

Television exposed the global population to people, events, and places they had not seen before. Current events become a common topic of discussion among the population. There is a problem with past news and media materials. Distortion or fake news could be a problem for scholars attempting to decipher the past media materials. Bias can be seen in primary source documents. This is why it is important to acquire as many sources as possible to get a complete picture of a historical era. Leaving out a certain perspective or group only gives a limited and minimal description of what happened in the past. News would not be a rough draft a history, rather sections of primary sources. History emerges from examination of both primary and secondary sources as well as the methods of historiography used. Historical revision is required when new information is discovered. That means the narrative must be adjusted to include multiple perspectives, artifacts, and revelations. News just reports what is happening. It does not provide an explanation why it is occurring. There are programs  that attempt to do this yet it suffers from bias or opinion based commentary. Critical analysis become even more  important when deciphering videos and news from the past.

       Collective memory has impacted many peoples’ lives. It has molded culture and discussion about political and social matters. Some may have a more pleasantly nostalgic attitude about the past or more lugubrious  feelings. Contemporary history leaves a wealth  of visual and material objects that shape the global public’s understanding of history . What emerges from collective memory is an agreed upon narrative. The issue that arises from  this is that agreed upon narrative may not be  reflection of  the truth. National history is designed to instill patriotism, rather than developing critical thinking skills that may have the public question the political system. Popular myth grow out of contemporary history . World leaders are held up as heroes, nationalism  is embraced unquestionably, and the more negative events are ignored. People long for what they describe as a “simpler time” or “the good old days.”

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel taking selfies with a football team. The public’s collective memory would remember this more so than any of her specific policies.
The Rohingya refugee crisis could easily disappear from collective memory of the world. This is why historical documentation is important.
Mohamed Ould Abdel  Aziz  steps down after ten years as president of Mauritania.  The current  incumbent Mohamed Ould Ghazouani  has been in office since August. Some supporters may already feel nostalgic for the past administration.

Such descriptions  never have existed. History has been filled with violence, revolt, and  turmoil. Depending on where an individual lived and what status they had major events may have been avoided. Americans normally discuss the 1950s as being a golden age. They cite a booming economy and  a greater expansion of consumer goods. However, the existence of racial segregation, limited reproductive rights, and  the possibility of war with the Soviet Union shatters this myth. This myth is more popular among white conservative Americans who seek to regain that element of the past.  This is not unique to the United States. The collective memory  of the British Empire still remains present in the citizens of the UK. The constitutional monarchy remains intact and remains a symbol of an empire that has vanished. The mention of the British Empire for  certain  English citizens produces an image of achievement and greatness. What advocates of this idea do not discuss is the abuse that African and Asian populations suffered under imperial subjugation. Every nation seems to have a selective memory in terms of  historical events. Collective memory cannot always be a reliable record. The prevalence of mass media only makes it appear to be an accurate representation.

             Video streaming has become a revolution. This is the most noticeable feature of contemporary history. The internet enabled this social and political change far beyond what radio or television could have done. The rapid transfer of information is remarkable. An event that occurs anywhere on the globe can be reported in a mere few seconds. Footage or  videos can be discovered  from the past and get wider exposure. Public figures, common people, and places are seen as they were decades ago. Search engines also make it so that photographs not formally released can be viewed. Photos could be personal, private, or unpublished.

Millions of people watch videos on Youtube. It will eventually become a giant archive of human experiences.
Buhari 1980s
Mumhammadu  Buhari  appears in military parade in the 1980s. Photographs become records of the past.
The most recognizable search engine in the world,  Google has become a phenomenon.

Videos capture the moment instantaneously when a cell phone is  utilized. Video streaming also has similar problems just like other sources for historical documentation. If limited context is provided it would be simple to misinterpret what is being watched. While the internet does provide a vast body of information, falsehoods can also spread. Technology can either be a positive or negative force depending on how it is used. Besides fake news, fake videos are also being made. These can be easier to detect. Subjects in them do not blink and the faces appear to be computer generated imagery. Authenticity also can be a challenge for archaeologists attempting to determine if an artifact is real or even its precise date. Archived videos or rare footage can also be subject to this. Despite these challenges, video streaming can provide a record of life in the 21st century. Painting and sculpture showed what public figures and common people looked like, wore, and their environment. Photography with its rise in the 19th century provided an actual image instead of one produced by human hands. Videos can be seen without a television. More video sites will emerge in the future capturing world events. Video streaming does not only capture the lives of the famous, but the common people. Home videos,  personal content, and other related materials are available for the world to see.

       History can no longer be considered a topic of the past. We are living it on a daily basis. Contemporary history is the combination of current events, news, and lives of the world population. Most do not realize that centuries from now  the events we witness will become subject to historical investigation.  The movement to have artifacts digitally archived ensures protection of  historical records. Yet, it is not an absolute guarantee. Human civilization could collapse and all traces of our history could vanish. Mass extinctions of organisms have been documented throughout history. There is a possibility that this could happen to humanity. For now, the internet and the videos it contains a documentation of various people and places. These new developments is technology can aid both academics and the general public. Video and other forms of media can be archived and studied for future reference. For the general public it can spark an interest in history. The field is often viewed as a dull or dry subject. People gain this perception from their educational experience and how poorly history is taught in public schools.It is a much more lively, exciting, and adventurous academic discipline than how it is presented.    History must be made relevant to current state of affairs and to a person’s experience . Making it accessible and simple to understand only encourages history’s development as profession and academic discipline. The myth is that history has no significance because it occurred long ago. The reason the world is in its current state has to do with past actions. History is a constant transformation of societies in which time never stops.  Contemporary history will generate a new interest in the past and how it relates to our future.

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