Digital History: Writing a book with the help of future readers

Shawn Graham, Ian Milligan and Scott Weingart jointly write a book on www.themacroscope.org: Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope. It deals with the chances of digital tools for the humanities. And it asks about the consequences of the digital for understanding the past and the present. The authors are convinced that future historical research must be open and public. They plan to print the book 2015 after a revision due to  comments from (future) readers.

Here a short cut of the content in some key words: Big Data, Building the Historian’s Toolkit, Basic Text Mining, The Third Wave of Computational History, Networks, Gephi.

The authors launched their project in September 2013 and tried to keep their (future) readers informed about its progress. They immediatly had over 600 pageviews from 140 unique visitors and 90 mentions and retweets on Twitter.

From time to time the authors shared their learnings from the work in progress with their public: Pushing material up on the blog made for a fractured reading experience. So, they would rethink how the overall structure of this work should come together. They also learned that if something works on a machine, it doesn’t mean that it’ll work “out there in the wild” But the coordination of the book project between three authors across two countries was even more difficult. Because: Writing can be rather messy: Rewriting first drafts, rewriting second drafts, corrections, dedicing about the publication etc. They work with Scrivener and an other writing programm and got some difficulties as weird line breaks e.g.. So, they changed to a shared dropbox folder. As they got a lot of spam, they had to turn off comments. The site should continue to be accessible after printing of the book.

I find the experiment quite interesting. Please find my comments to books in the digital age and to the Open Access Policy here: Digitally produced history, Humanities, Texts, Books, Digital Age — The controversy in Switzerland.

 

 

 

 


Guido Koller

Senior Historian, Swiss Federal Archives, CH-3003 Berne, Switzerland

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