Ruminations on a Digital Tool for Drug History

Tools for the Postmodern Historian

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) gives us multiple-purposed weapons. Tools that are used to monitor drug trafficking can become excellent additions to the methods of the historian. They might help with a problem that every historian faces – not only every historian, every person in everyday life. We think, what is this person talking about? Does he live in the same universe as I do? Why does he see things that I cannot see? Based on what kind of information processing has he constructed his universe?

As historians we often face the same bewilderment. One problem I am working on is the development of opinions and sentiments around drug use and drug regulation among the more general public over the past century. Any drug history we open will contain its usual amount of quotes about public unrest, spreading horror stories, or debunking them. It is always possible (and I have been guilty of this myself) to quote some newspaper article that supports any position. But to what extent is this evidence representative of public opinion as a whole? Can ICT help us with processing the available information data that the public had access to, constructing a more representative image?

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