Pierre Mounier, Die Werkstatt des Historikers öffnen: Soziale Medien und Wissenschaftsblogs, November 4, 2011
Review with respect to digital humanities
How digital technologies are changing the work of historians?
Data bases, (retro)digitization and analysis of social networks are important milestones. Digital technology has changed the toolbox of historians and their publishing fundamentally. Digital technology and its social impacts carry all signs of a “permanent revolution” according to Philippe Breton. These are new practices of interconnected communication, which are also broadly reflected in the humanities. The tools of Web 2.0 are characterized by their easy use and their horizontal and immediate nature of communication: Platforms for sharing content (documents, photos, references), blogs and social networks provide an ensemble of social media for scientific use.
What is the role of a blog in research and when is it used? On a blog the historian is working “in an open workshop”, he reveals his routine working, reading, knowledge, his hypotheses. A blog gives its author great freedom in terms of theme, rhythm, shape and length of his publications. This draws a “hybrid readership” that gets in contact with the author. Blogs therefore are methodically and thematically very different.
News and comments out of the research of the author are often found in blogs. They are becoming a monitoring tool, a scientific radar – as Nuevo Mundo Radar for Latin America for instance. Other blogs have detailed notes about specific aspects of research. In many team blogs, historical sources are shared and commented. They are then research journals, which themselves may become a source for research for others.
Archives still play a central and crucial role in the workshop of a historian. His discoveries may give him a competitive advantage, which is why he might hold documents back. Nevertheless, some researchers are working on “open archives”. The blog about the Parliament of Paris for instance is a collection of sources as well as a research journal.
In a number of disciplines methodological blogs are created. This often are tools for the self-reflection for researchers. Who is going to read this, then? It varies. A blog can unlock creativity because it is exempted from academic formalism. However, this process functions only if the blog is subject to public reading, Mounier says. It is not quite clear why that is so. A blog is a risk, howsoever. But it is worth it.
Pierre Mounier’s short, vivid and interesting article describes what is state of the art in “digital history” today. We are curious what Digital History will be tomorrow.