Close reading or Distant reading: A new book of proceedings entitled “Reading Historical Sources in the Digital Age” («Lire des sources historiques à l’ère numérique») has just been published. The contributions of this volume base on selected papers presented at the conference of the University of Luxembourg held in 2013.
Clio online, the professional portal of the historical sciences in Germany recently published a new manual. It maps the field of digital history including institutional infrastructures and tools. The aim is a practical one: To give a fact-based introduction to the state of digital professional information and an overview of the most important tools and instruments. Thus, it is aimed at both students and teachers, as well as to researcher and historians who need an introduction to the state of the professional information for their area of research.
The guide is structured along the following issues: Digital working methods and techniques, collections, epochs, regions and topic.
The guide is in German and edited by Laura Busse, Wilfried Enderle, Rüdiger Hohls, Gregor Horstkemper, Thomas Meyer, Jens Prellwitz and Annette Schuhmann. You find it here: http://guides.clio-online.de/
Digital History is a trend in Switzerland, too. But, its position is not yet a solid one. This becomes evident, if we check the program of the fourth edition of the Historical Days in Switzerland, June 9 to 11, 2016, in Lausanne. Only two panels explicitly discuss digital media and methods: Jan Hodel, Mareike König and Nadine Fink present cases of how historians work with social media. And Anne Jobin, Hannes Mangold, Stefanie Prezioso and Valérie Schafer present the power of algorithms in historical social practices as the dragnet investigation in Switzerland, the regulation of information in France and the search for episodes and their perception in the case of World War I. It will be interesting to hear the comment of Nicolas Cachereau and follow the discussion moderated by Enrico Natale and Christiane Sibille.
In German-speaking countries, the skepticism about these new methods is still quite large, as can be read in an article of Urs Hafner in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of May 27, 2016. Amongst other, he refers to my new book Geschichte digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen. Please find here an English short cut of the book.
Die digitale Kommunikation prägt inzwischen das Berufsbild der Historiker entscheidend. Heute ist Norm, was vor 20 Jahren noch Ausnahme war: Historische Welten werden digital vermessen und analog interpretiert. Wie Historiker denken, lehren, schreiben ändert sich durch die Digitalisierung schon heute und wirkt auf das Schreiben von Geschichte zurück: Mit Algorithmen verarbeiten Forscher heute große Datenmengen, die völlig neue Perspektiven und Herangehensweisen an die historischen Quellen ermöglichen. Das Buch beschreibt den Stand des digitalen Wandels für die Geschichte als Teil der Geisteswissenschaften und diskutiert die Perspektiven über die Zukunft des Big Data in den historischen Wissenschaften. Ein Serviceteil, in dem Infrastrukturen, Portale, Tools, Standards und Blogs vorgestellt werden, ergänzt dieses Buch.
The digital communication characterizes the professional profile of historians. Today is standard, what, 20 years ago, was the exception: Past worlds are measured digitally and interpreted analogously. The digital change captures the production and communication of historical knowledge and affects the writing of history: With algorithms, we process large amounts of data and create a new digital information society, a network, a hybrid constellation of people and things. The book describes the state of the digital change for the History as part of the Humanities and discusses its further perspectives. It includes a service part, where infrastructures, portals, tools, standards and blogs are presented.
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.
Franco Moretti explains the “Operationalizing” of Distant reading in an interesting pamphlet from the Stanford Literary Lab (see below). Operationalization is a process that transforms a concept into a series of operations. This in turn makes it possible to measure objects. In an empirical approach to literature we measure the space which a character occupies in a text. Continue reading
Summary of my Intervention at the Colloquium of the University of Lucerne, Zeit-Geschichte-Unterricht, 7. November 2014
Link to the original german manuscript http://bit.ly/1svdpMg
The intervention wants to make the audience familiar with questions about the current understanding of time and its consequences for history. It examines the assumption of HansUlrich Gumbrecht, according to which we live in a “broad presence”. For that, the intervention presents 4 Tableaux from which it structures the material  for three theses. Continue reading
For a Workshop about Digital History held on May 13, 2014 at the University in Zurich, reports are now available, notably on HSozKult (in German). Here an English short cut of this report by Christina Rothen:
Christina Rothen: Digital History, 13.05.2014 –14.05.2014 Zürich, in: H-Soz-Kult, 18.07.2014, <http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-5462>.
Please be aware that any changes I made to the original, including possible distortions in meaning, are solely my own responsibility.
Here an English short cut: Continue reading
Historical texts are more often available in digital form. Digitization should preserve cultural heritage and make documents accessible. Such projects increasingly strive to create digital text—data, that can be searched and processed. Together with the increasing availability of digital historical texts, there is a growing interest in applying natural language processing (NLP) methods and tools to them. Specific linguistic properties of historical texts—the lack of standardized orthography in particular—pose special challenges. Michael Piotrowski’s book gives an introduction to NLP and deals with such problems for historical texts. Continue reading
In the Frankfurter Allgemeine of 12th March 2014, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht writes that the humanities are helpless towards the digital revolution. That we must invent new terms to get along with it. That our traditional concepts and ways of thinking are opposed to it – which means that its development and influence have drifted out of the reach of our intellectual and scientific analysis. Gumbrecht believes, that now only we see the whole significance of the thoughts of Jacques Derrida and those about The Truth of the Technical World of Friedrich Kittler. Gumbrecht forgets to mention Foucault’s L’archéologie du savoir, here. Continue reading
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
Gerhard Lauer, „Die digitale Vermessung der Kultur, Geisteswissenschaften als Digital Humanities“, in: Big Data, Das neue Versprechen der Allwissenheit, Berlin 2013
Digitization is a revolution. It shakes the hierarchy of values in the humanities: Until recently, interpretation and hermeneutics have been everything, computing nothing. Now, Digital Humanities denote a supplement, respectively, a change in methodology. Continue reading
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.
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.
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
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