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.

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

Shawn Graham, Ian Milligan and Scott Weingart jointly write a book on 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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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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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

Any room left for freedom in a programmed world? – Vilém Flusser and the Digital Humanitites

Now, if one accepts the basic thesis that the world is experienced, recognized and evaluated in the network of codes, […].

Flusser thinks history as a sequence of codes of an alphabetical order. This suggests a linear historical world. In contrast, Flusser sees the computer as a phenomenon of post-history. It dissolves structural oppositions such as subject and object, nature and culture. Now adays this Decentration is seen as a network phenomena. Continue reading

Virtual History

Bild Ferguson Virtual History2011, Penguin published a book with the promising title: „Virtual History“. There, Niall Ferguson presented 9 articles “towards a ‘chaotic’ theory of the past”. Exciting, the digital historian thinks, and begins to attack the introduction of almost 100 pages. Soon, he finds out that the book deals with questions as the following: What if Britain had stayed out of the First World War? What if Hitler had defeated the Soviet Union? So the point of the book is counterfactual history and not, as expected, virtual digital history. A close look on the circumstances of the publication makes it clear: Penguin has reprinted the book that has first been published 1997 – probably because the editor has become famous. Continue reading

Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research – Visualization in the Humanities

In communicating and teaching humanities visualization become more and more important. One popular visual communication instrument are slides. More and more of them are shared on Slideshare. A very nice example is Sampling in Qualitative and Quantitative Research from Sam Ladner. The Senior Researcher at Microsoft Office shows us sampling methods and let us have a practical how-to-do. Her key themes are quantitative and qualitative assumptions in sampling, types of samplings, ethnographic and interview sampling and content analysis sampling. Continue reading

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

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

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

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, <>.

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

Humanities, Texts, Books, Digital Age — The controversy in Switzerland

The Swiss National Science Foundation wants research results freely available on the internet and links the promotion of scientific research closely to this requirement. Does this Open Access Strategy mean that the culture of the book is threatened in Switzerland? A petition in the internet calls for more money for publishers in the  humanities and more freedom for the  authors. Meanwhile, more than four thousand people have signed it. Continue reading

We need Digital Texts — Data that can be processed: About NLP for Historical Texts

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

The Thinking follows the Data

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

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