History at Your Fingertips

Normally I’m so deeply focused on my clients, my projects and the input into my brain of news and information that keeps me abreast of everything in social media, that I often don’t just fool around and seek out what I love: images, video, audio and writings of times past, but it’s early on a quiet Saturday morning and I’m off on exploration adventures on the ‘net.

Knowing what has come before helps put what’s happening today in context. I often bring forth analogies of historical events in ways that helps my clients or audience see the bigger picture and gain insight into ways in which they can predict the future…or at least begin to narrow possible scenarios of what might happen in the future. This is especially important now as many clients ask if they should “rush to build a presence in Facebook or Second Life” or “do a viral video” or “with all these new social media types, what do we do?”

Adding to my thoughts for this post has been my growing feeling of dread about our great economic insecurity with our huge national debt and an influx of money into our supply causing a falling dollar; possible $3 trillion dollar cost for the Iraq war; crumbling US infrastructure; looming Social Security crisis; and the difficulty we’re having in finding out the exact nature of our woes and how perilous our situation really is right now.

Yikes. After writing that paragraph I realize how pessimistic it sounds and it’s pretty tough for a “glass is 51% full” guy like me to wallow in the crushing and accelerating issues weighing us down right now. So let’s move on…

Poking around this morning with all of these thoughts in my head, I searched Google Video for “Minnesota” just to see what was out there. I’ve found that Google Video’s are usually more meaningful vs. YouTube’s jumping, lip-synching “musicians” (ooh…I know that’s an unfair comparison but couldn’t resist) and I found a wonderful historical one entitled, “Cradle of the Father of Waters 1938” which I’ve embedded after the jump…and was surprised by the thoughts it sparked.

Why is this relevant? Several reasons:

  • Continually blown away by how much content is out there and I’m coming across more and more history like this one that previously was locked up in vaults or minimally on display in some museum
  • There’s a jewel in northern Minnesota that is also the headwaters of the Mississippi: Lake Itasca Park, which this video is about and if you haven’t been there, it’s a beautiful place with mature trees not harvested in the great lumber harvests of the last century and earlier. The irony is that the park was built by, as the video states, the “emergency conservation work program” (Civilian Conservation Corp) which was instituted in the Great Depression to put people to work with more than 30% unemployment at the time (and I hope we don’t have another one!)
  • The other thing I’m finding are the huge volume of remixed videos like this censored one by the Minnesota Historical Society or this powerful “The Other Side of Thanksgiving” video by a clearly angry young Indian man and as I’ve written before, this is a perspective most Americans would rather ignore.

What I do delight in, however, is the sheer volume of phenomenal content and, specifically, the historical and perspectives at our fingertips in today’s Internet age.

The participation culture, our new capabilities to communicate with one another (unless you’re living in Tibet under a controlling regime) and a generation of young people (like my own kids) that increasingly are eschewing the consumptive values of their parents and focusing on social connections as THE most valuable thing we can do as humans. This fills me with hope and optimism that we’ll get out of some of these messes and soon.

So enjoy the 10 minute long Cradle of the Father of Waters 1938:


  1. PXLated on March 22, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Love the old videos.
    Your searching tied into the latest Cringely post (at least for me) about how education needs to change, it’s all about “search”, finding things, rather than “memorizing” stuff…

  2. Steve Borsch on March 22, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Couldn’t agree more…and love Cringley’s post too.

    Two year ago a buddy of mine with an undergrad, two master’s and a PhD (and was dean of students at a college) and I got into a “veins popping out of our necks” argument about this exact subject.

    His premise? A status quo one and he was adamant that “imparting knowledge” could only be done with personal interaction in a classroom without other distractions.

    Mine? How elitist and protectionist a perspective that was to hold!

    So we did a test. I asked him “What are the two seas that border the Ukraine? He was stumped and I didn’t know either (but I did know there were two since my son had had a project about it weeks earlier). So I whipped out my Palm Treo 700p, did a Google search on “seas by Ukraine”, and found the answer in less than two minutes (Black Sea and Sea of Azov which, amusingly, I had to look up again just now!).

    My premise was that teaching facts was a waste of brain storage capacity since most of us can’t retrieve the stuff anyway. What was more important was teaching context and how to “connect the dots” as it were.

    Broadband — and especially the wireless version — is only going to increase as are the device types ensuring that we’re always-on and always-connected. So that’s why I agree that learning to seek, critical thinking skills, ability to create combinatorial output (mashups, video remixes, slideshows) are what should be taught and why education needs fundamental reforms.

    Cringely just touched on MIT’s Open Courseware initiative but there is A LOT more going on in this space: http://www.ocwconsortium.org/ so imagine a time when the “best” educational materials are available for free and all any of us have to do is seek them out?

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.