Thanks to Ana and Joshua for running the previous two HASTAC Scholars discussions, and welcome to the forum on doing media history! Since this discussion focuses more on issues of methodology, and thus has no clear "pros" or "cons", I'd like begin a little bit differently. Below are three initial posts using specific examples that begin to explore how the present and the past relate to each other. The questions are open-ended, so please feel to share how historical examples have informed your own work.
I'd like to start with some questions posed by Lisa Gitelman at the beginning of her most recent work, Always Already New:
"Different versions and styles of media history do make a difference. Is the history of media first and foremost the history of technological methods and devices? Or is the history of media better understood as the story of modern ideas of communication? Or is it about modes and habits of perception? Or about political choices and structures? Should we be looking for a sequence of separate ages with ruptures, revolutions, or paradigm shifts in between, or should we be seeing more of an evolution? A progress?"
How we each choose to answer these questions not only shapes the conclusions we come to, but says much about our own goals and assumptions. So: how do you conceptualize the history of media? What level of granularity, from sweeping narratives of the Four Information Ages to detailed work on one specific period, do you find most useful?