Big Data in History

Patrick Manning, Big Data in History, London 2013

The author, Patrick Manning, is Professor of World History at the University of Pittsburgh. He pursues a big goal: As a Director of the Center for Historical Information and Analysis (CHIA) he wants to develop and build up a world wide historical archive, thinking that time has come to create a coherent record of human social change. He compares his project to those in climate modeling and genetic databases. The small book is an introduction into the project of the CHIA, that exists since 2007. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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After Literature – Some Comments on the Current Boom in History

Sometimes memories throw long shadows into the future – as in the case of the commemoration of the First World War. Long before the anniversary of its inception in August 1914 the first books on the subject appeared in the stores. A very special one is the view of Philipp Blom on Europe from 1900 until 1914. The tumbling of a continent, he calls his impressions, which he skillfully unfolds before us. He takes them from reports from former newspapers, contemporary novels and essays and interprets them with a whole armada of secondary literature. The result is a panorama of an era, which, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “was remarkably similar to the our’s”. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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Deep Map

A deep map as for instance the Swiss Storymap anchors historical objects – letters, photos, reports etc. – in time and space, thus allowing us to obtain layers of views on our cultural heritage. Such a  universal humanities GIS (Trevor Harris) would base on a geospatial Web in which participants are both producers and consumers of data. So, geography would situate us on a physical map, history in time. It is necessary to combine both, structure and activity, to cater the “dense contingency” of all social life, David J. Bodenhamer says (please see my review on his input at the Luxembourg Conference to this). He is an expert on the spatial turn in historical research and links it to the potential of Web 2.0.  So, at the end Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can reduce the distance between observer and observed, let the past appear as dynamic and contingent as the present.

In the time of World War One a well equipped patrol of the Swiss Army is making a break. Do you know where the photo has been taken? Locate it on Swiss Storymap.

Copyright photo: Swiss Federal Archives, E27#1000721#14094#2592.

Guido Koller

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

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Everyone’s history?! An inventory on writing contemporary history in the digital age

Frédéric Clavert, Serge Noiret (Editors), L’histoire contemporaine à l’ère numérique, Contemporary History in the Digital Age, Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 381 p.

Review

The humanities are subject to a continuous, but recently accelerated change. In the meantime, this change has a powerful name: Digital Humanities. And this name is program – the humanities are to be made ​​ fit for the digital age. To this, in october 2009, a symposium took place, organized by the Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe and the University of Luxembourg. The aim was to take into view the new sources, tools and methods of contemporary history. The contributions are now available in a rich anthology, edited by Frédéric Clavert and Serge Noiret, two protagonists of the Digital Humanities in Europe. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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Big Data

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data, A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think, London 2013

A short review for the Digital Humanites

The already vast amount of data doubles every two years. In Big Data Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier describe the opportunities that lie in this abundance of hidden digital data that, so far, have been analyzed only to a small extent. Big Data is one of the most important current digital trends. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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WikiLeaks: Documents, Journalism and History

WikiLeaks und die Folgen, Die Hintergründe. Die Konsequenzen, Berlin 2011

Review with respect to Digital Humanities

The scenario could be that of a spy novel: Hackers publish hundreds of thousands of secret and confidential documents of the US and other governments. Who is going to evaluate and interpret all this information? What are the motives for this action? What are the consequences of the affair? Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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Digital Humanities and Google: Ancient Places

Google has digitized around 15 million books  and supports researchers in their analysis

15 million books – that is around 10 percent of all books that have been published since Gutenberg. How can so much material be handled usefully? Historians help Google to create “Google Ancient Places”. Which sites play an important role in books about the classic Antique? See http://googleancientplaces.com

Guido Koller

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

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