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.

This shift precipitated a debate in politics, society and science. Viktor Mayer- Schoenberger’s book delete provided an important contribution to the discussion about the “right to be forgotten”. The European Court of Justice confirmed such a right: the European data protection law had to be adjusted. The recent enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation by the EU Parliament acknowledged and expanded this right.

Several political changes led to a process reflecting on what to remember and what to forget about one’s national history. To mention just one example: Remembering and forgetting are still affecting the relations between Japan, South Korea and China to this day. The politics of memory play an important role in a country’s identity and the way it is seen in the world community.

But also, private organizations are facing challenges to memorize. Not only have they often been involved in crises of national memories, but also the requirements of the modern information state have created an increasing amount of recording duties and information preservation obligations.

The law has to take into account how individuals, organizations and the state are remembering. Information technology has brought new dynamics to the interrelations between memory and law. Digitization, storage technology and retrieval led Mayer-Schoenberger to the conclusion that extensive recording and keeping was becoming a social normality. How is this affecting traditional archiving? And what would it mean for the protection of privacy?

Do the digital technologies require a new perspective on the interrelation between memory and law? To what extent should social steering mechanisms be adapted to meet the challenges? To address these and related questions, this publication combines three aspects: law, technology, and interdisciplinary perspectives that bring together a variety of authors who survey various areas of the interplay between memory, technology and social intervention from their own unique disciplinary perspective.

The issues of the book are extremely relevant. The article by Christoph Graf, the former director of the Swiss Federal Archives, is particularly interesting for measuring the tension between the new European law on the protection of privacy and requirements for archiving. I have repeatedly addressed similar issues for the digital humanities and the digital historiography, respectively; I would like to mention here three of them: Big Data in History; Forget it!? Erinnerung und historische Sinnbildung in der „breiten Gegenwart“; Geschichte Digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen.

Guido Koller

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

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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

Guido Koller

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

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JSTOR Lab Text Analyzer – A Summary and a Short Test

JSTOR Labs has developped a new application: http://www.jstor.org/analyze/. It analyzes a text that you upload on the JSTOR-Lab-Site by detecting and priorizing terms, and suggests related documents.

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Guido Koller

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

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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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Guido Koller

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

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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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Guido Koller

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

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Digital History delayed

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.

Guido Koller

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

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Geschichte Digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen

Abbildung 1-1Guido Koller, Geschichte Digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen, Stuttgart, 2016

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.

http://www.kohlhammer.de/wms/instances/KOB/appDE/Neuerscheinungen/Geschichte-digital-978-3-17-028929-1/

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.

Guido Koller

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

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Living Books about History

Living Books about History BildLiving Books about History represent a new form of digital anthology. They present short essays on current topics of scholarly interest accompanied by selected contributions that are freely available online.

The project is testing a new form of scholarly publication and aims to draw attention to the potentials of open access by rediscovering and reusing scholarly texts and sources. Contributions:

  • Tara Andrews: Digital Humanities
  • Almut Höfert: Miracels, Marvels and Monsters in the Middle Ages
  • Guido Koller, Sebastian Schüpbach: The History of Modern Administration
  • Martin Lengwiler, Beat Stüdli: History of the Welfare State
  • Daniel Speich Chassé: La situation coloniale

Have a look on Living Books about History. It’s cool.

Guido Koller

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

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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.

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Guido Koller

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

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Digital Humanities – Limits and Possibilities: A New Journal in Germany

The new German Zeitschrift für Digitale Geisteswissenschaften (Journal for Digital Humanities) of the Forschungsverbund Marbach, Weimar and Wolfenbüttel, supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung in its first volume discusses limits and possibilities of the Digital Humanities.

The editors, Constanze Baum and Thomas Stäcker, want to present theories, methods and projects of the Digital Humanities in the German speaking part of Europe. Not all texts are already available. But what is there is really interesting – here a small selection of articles:

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Guido Koller

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

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Pamphlet No 6 – Between Distant and Close reading

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

Guido Koller

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

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Forget it !? Memory and the formation of historical meaning in the “broad presence”

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 [1] for three theses. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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Also digitally produced history needs a shop to sell its products

A contribution to the Debate about Texts and Books in the Digital Age

Production and distribution of books are expensive, which is why researchers are in need of financial support. In Switzerland, so far, researcher counted on the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which subsidizes such projects. However, the SNSF has now changed its conditions: It finances only work before printing on the condition that the texts after a certain time, for example two years, are accessible online. So, the SNSF confirms its strategic support for the #OpenAccess Strategy in the sciences. But, apparently unexpectedly for the SNSF, parts of the scientific community respond comparatively fierce and critical. The debate was also held in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ, see below) in the last weeks. Continue reading

Guido Koller

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

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Digital History in Zurich and elsewhere

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

Guido Koller

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

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