Exploring Topics in Historical Sources

Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) topic modeling is a method for analyzing the distribution of semantic word clusters, so-called “topics” in collection of texts. In history it can be used for exploring the content of a corpus of digital sources.

Topic modeling is based on a statistical analysis of co-occurrence for words. It does not use dictionaries or external training data. Topic modeling is a flexible method for computational text analysis.

The Topics Explorer of DARIAH-DE is designed as a very user friendly tool. It allows researchers to experiment with topic modeling on their own computers.

The work flow from plain text to visualized results is done in a graphical user interface. The software allows users to load a collection of plain-text or xml-files and to analyze it by means of the LDA algorithm.

It runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux without installation. Try it here: https://dariah-de.github.io/TopicsExplorer/

The Programming Historian

Ten years ago, the Programming Historian was born at the Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE) In 2008, William J. Turkel and Alan MacEachern introduced the project by writing a series of tutorials aimed at historians looking to build their technical skills. It has attracted more than 1.3-million visitors.

The project was originally inspired by a gap. While Digital History had been an excellent resource for those seeking to put the past online, Turkel and MacEarchern worried that historians would lack to create digital tools for research. In 2008, the project has evolved into the co-written Programming Historian, focusing heavily on Python.

But the project had not yet reached its potential. The digital era had changed the types of problems many historians were having with their sources – particularly digital or digitized sources. Yet the traditional scholarly environment did not provide a venue for those conversations.

Some of the earlier contributors were environmental historians as in other countries, too. Jim Clifford, Daniel Macfarlane, and Josh MacFadyen produced a series of digital mapping lessons in 2013, which formed the cornerstone of our Geospatial Historian series. Since then, the project has branched in new directions, including tutorials as divergent as augmented reality, and data mining.

The project continues to grow in new directions. It is on the lookout for a French Language Team to help us move bravely forth into our second decade.

If you are interested in Digital History and read German please have look to my book “Geschichte Digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen”; You’ll find a short English summary on https://wethink.hypotheses.org/2161




Outlines of a new, digital source criticism

Pascal Föhr: Historische Quellenkritik im Digitalen Zeitalter, Basel 2018; https://edoc.unibas.ch/64111/ Thesis (Dissertation). Review

Not only society, but also science and with it historiography are changing. If this change takes place outside of existing basic patterns of scientific thought, there will be a paradigm shift, induced by new techniques and concepts. The “digital turn” triggered by computers, programs and algorithms and amplified and disseminated by the Internet would have to prove to be a showcase case of a scientific revolution in the sense of Thomas Kuhn, even if he developed his concept primarily for the natural sciences. The difficulty of such an investigation lies, however, in the question from which point of view we should lead it – we are in the middle of it. This can also be seen in Pascal Föhr’s dissertation. While the question of his research corresponds to the traditional historical method, the majority of the terms he uses come from the new world of computer science. Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting in the Digital Age

A joint research venture between the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the Center for Information Technology, Society, and Law (ITSL) at the University of Zurich resulted 2018 in the publication of a new book: Remembering and Forgetting it the Digital Age, edited by Florent Thouvenin, Peter Hettich, Herbert Burkert and Urs Gasser.

Today, ever more information is digital. Much of it is readily available and the storage has become easier and cheaper. Yet, digital information within networks is vulnerable; continuous curation is needed to preserve its on-going availability. These aspects of the digital data ecosphere is going to produce a new balance between remembering and forgetting. Continue reading

The Digital Culture – An Exciting Essay by Felix Stalder on Post-Democracy and Commons

50 years ago, Marshall Mc Luhan called out the end of modernity. Since then, cultural opportunities have multiplied enormously. Today, this change produces a culture of the digital. The internet is a medium with specific forms of culture and exchange.

Three of them are characteristic:

  • Referentiality – the use of existing material for the production of cultural objects;
  • Communality – resources are made accessible and meanings are stabilized through a collective frame;
  • The principle of algorithms – automated decision-making reduces information overload.

The aim of Stalder’s essay is to identify and describe two political tendencies in the digital culture: Post-democracy and commons. Digitality points to historically new possibilities for linking human and non-human actors. Find here a summary of the very interesting book of Felix Stalder.

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The connectedness of things

Sebastian Giessmann has published a book on the cultural history of networks. The network was formerly bound up with things – spider webs, fishing nets or traffic nets, to mention just a few. For some years now, it has been linked to the virtual world of social networks. Find here a short cut of and some remarks to this exciting book. Continue reading

The “Data Deluge” or “Science in the Archives”

The University of Chigaco Press 2017 published an interesting book: Science in the Archives, edited by Lorraine Daston. It shows that “the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research”: data banks assembled by geneticists; weather diaries trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. The book discusses episodes in the history of geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more. Thoroughly exploring the practices, it “reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences” including the use of Big Data. Continue reading

A Digital History Lab at the University of Zurich?

The University of Zurich is developing a Digital Society Initiative (DSI) to engage with the impact of digital technology that should be studied historically. Monika Dommann, Martin Dusinberre and Gesine Krüger therefore plan to establish a History Lab within this Initiative. They argue that digital history should have to play a key role there because Big Data, surveillance, privacy, access rights and the circulation of cultural artefacts and other digitally mediated social interaction demand a deep historical understanding. Find here a short cut of the concept.

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Oral History of the Digital Humanities and the Work of Roberto Busa

What are the Digital Humanities (DH)? This question of a quite long standing debate is treated in a new open access book in the Springer Series on Cultural Computing: Computation and the Humanities, Towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities. Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn of the Department of Information Studies at the University College London (UCL) state that the DH form an interface between computing and cultural heritage. They believe that DH transforms the objects and the methods of studying them. They did oral history to know more about this.

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Open Library of Humanities

The Open Library of Humanities is a multi-journal platform for the humanities. It is funded by a worldwide library consortium of more than 200 libraries.

The Journal accepts articles from various disciplines such as ancient science, philosophy, political science and sociology, and naturally, history, too. The submitted articles are subject to a peer-review procedure. There is an anti-plagiarism checking, too.

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Local report

A edition project of the Swiss Literary Archives, the Cologne Center for eHumanities (CCeH) and the Swiss National Science Foundation

Hermann Burger (1942-1989) wrote his first novel between 1970 and 1972. It remained unpublished until recently. The manuscript is kept in Swiss Literary Archives.

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New Book: Reading Historicial Sources in the Digital Age

bild-reading-historical-sources-in-the-digital-ageClose 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.

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Hybridity and Historiography – A Tricky Couple!

Things have power to act, Bruno Latour says. This French author alternates between natural science, social science and philosophy. For him, who founded the influential actor-network-theory (ANT), computer and their programs are hybrids between the linguistic and the real. In the language of ANT, he calls them Aktanten.

Things unfold their power because they are connected with people.

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