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Digital History as Trading Zone

Digital History signifies a transition wherein digital methods are incorporated in historical research. Digital History thus introduces techniques developed by computer scientists or engineers into the practice of historians, so that we can speak of methodological interdisciplinarity.[1]Klein, J. T. (2014). Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field (online). University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/dh.12869322.0001.001 ref-oa However, how digital methods affect the practices of History, in methodology as well as epistemology, remains unexplored. My PhD research aims to address this gap. This blogpost introduces some initial ideas and concepts that I will be investigating with an ethnographic study for which I hope to find interested historians, computer scientists, or other relevant actors of Digital History.

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References   [ + ]

1. Klein, J. T. (2014). Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field (online). University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/dh.12869322.0001.001 ref-oa
In the machine - Image from Galison (1997) Image & Logic, p374

Digital Humanities and Digital Physics

For my PhD research I will be using Galison’s concept of the “trading zone” to describe digital history projects where historians collaborate with people from other backgrounds. In his book, Image & Logic, Galison developed this concept to describe the development of the field of physics in the period of 1880s-1970s where physicists of the “image” tradition (taking photos to discover new elements) and physicists of the “logic” tradition (using statistics to discover new elements) ended up working together. What is of interest to me, besides his development of the “trading zone” concept, is that automatisation of work plays a key role in this development, and from the 1940s on the computer starts playing a prominent role, shaping the field of physics. What becomes apparent from reading this book is that the integration of the computer in physics was by no means a natural inclusion, but a process of debate and negotiation of what it meant to “do” physics and what kind of knowledge can be acquired using computers. In this blogpost I’ll briefly touch upon this debate[1]Since Image & Logic is an 850 page book, I can in no way summarise this satisfactorily in a blogpost, but I will do my best., as described in Galison’s work, and consider parallels with the debates in digital humanities (dh). Assuming dh describes a transition to include computers in humanities work[2]Zaagsma, G. (2013). On Digital History. BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review, 128(4), 3. http://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.9344, maybe we can describe this transition of physics as “digital physics“.[3]Not to be confused with the field of physics that describes the universe in terms of information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_physics

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References   [ + ]

1. Since Image & Logic is an 850 page book, I can in no way summarise this satisfactorily in a blogpost, but I will do my best.
2. Zaagsma, G. (2013). On Digital History. BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review, 128(4), 3. http://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.9344
3. Not to be confused with the field of physics that describes the universe in terms of information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_physics
voyantmubarak

A Republic of Emails: What are the contents?

In a previous blogpost, I introduced the project A Republic of Emails, where we created a dataset of the 30k Hillary Clinton Emails by scraping Wikileaks. Now that we have the data, we can start exploring with what I like to call the W-questions: What is the collection about? Where do described events take place? When did these events occur? Who are the actors involved? In this second blogpost, we will look at what the emails from the Hillary Clinton corpus are about. I will describe how we prepared the data to analyse a) the raw text, b) normalised text, and c) entities in the text (named entity recognition). Finally, we will look at a small subset of the emails using Voyant Tools. For all the steps I will point to the respective scripts on our GitHub so you can reproduce the project.

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republicofemails

Introducing: A Republic of Emails

This year I will teach for the second time the Doing Digital History course for the History master at the University of Luxembourg. Just like last year, students will ask several W-questions. What is the collection about? Where do described events take place? When did these events occur? Who are the actors involved? In contrast with last year, where we had different collections per week, this year students will work with a single collection to experiment with throughout the course. In a series of blogposts I will describe the collection that the students will be exploring and the methods/tools that will be used to conduct close and distant reading. If you have feedback to further improve our ideas, please comment. If you wish to reproduce the project for your own courses, the blogposts should allow just that. As a reference to the historical Republic of Letters, I like to call this project A Republic of Emails.

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DHBenelux 2016 abstract

This week I’m at DHBenelux 2016, right here at the University of Luxembourg. I am part of the local organisation of the conference, and will give a tour of the DH Lab which launched its website www.dhlab.lu this week. Moreover, I will present my PhD research in a short paper, see below the abstract for my presentation. To learn more about DHBenelux, see my previous posts on DHBenelux 2016 submissions and DHBenelux submissions 2014-2016.

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DHBenelux 2016 submissions

This year marks the third annual DHBenelux conference, which cycles through the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The third instalment will be held in Luxembourg, and as part of the local organisation and programme committee I get the chance this year to look at all the submissions. Inspired by Scott Weingart’s series on submissions to the annual ADHO DH conference (see his 2016 post on submissions here), I present you a first analysis of the submissions to DHBenelux 2016. Later posts will bring comparisons with the 2014 and 2015 editions, as well as a description of the steps taken to get to the figures below.

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