Survey on DH collaborations

Digital history is not simply a matter of asking historians what they want from a digital tool, emailing the resulting user requirements to a software developer, and waiting for the perfect system to be implemented. Instead, digital history requires an ongoing negotiation of software design and alignment with scholarly practices by coordinating the practices of computational researchers and historians. This ongoing negotiation of practices constitutes what I call a ‘trading zone’:[1]Galison, P. (1997). Image & logic: A material culture of microphysics. The University of Chicago Press. a local area within which practices and discourses are coordinated so that participants from different cultures can perform exchanges.

To go to the survey immediately, click here: www.maxkemman.nl/survey

For this PhD research I have selected several digital history collaborations in the Benelux[2]Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg as case studies. I have interviewed participants about how they negotiated their practices and goals of the collaboration. I have thereby developed a perspective on what happens inside these trading zones of digital history. However, what has been left unexplored so far are the edges of the trading zones: how do collaborations create boundaries of the trading zone, and how are the trading zones embedded in wider organisations. With the survey introduced in this blog post, I hope to explore these boundaries of collaborations further.

Contact & Participation

I consider three dimensions of trading zones, as mentioned in an earlier blogpost: 1) cultural maintenance, 2) coercion, and 3) contact & participation. The current survey focuses on this final dimension, the contact & participation. With this dimension, we aim to gain an insight in the ways people in a trading zone participate, and the organisational structures of interdisciplinary collaboration.  It is entirely possible that you are part of multiple collaborations; e.g. you could be part of a DH centre that has a lab, and you work on one or more projects. If that is the case, we kindly ask you to take the survey for each individually, and not combine answers in one go. We are particularly interested in collaborations that include historians.

Why a survey?

I take a ‘meso’ perspective on how trading zones are organised. A survey therefore provides an appropriate tool to gain a wider outlook at digital humanities/history collaborations. The survey is primarily focused on digital history, separating history while combining other humanities subdisciplines under the grouping ‘humanities’. Still, I am very interested in other DH collaborations as well. As explained on the first page of the survey, all results will anonymised, and you may stop at any time. The anonymised results will be published as open data.

The survey will be supplemented with a case study of how digital history collaborations are organisationally embedded at the University of Luxembourg, where we have a) the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, b) the history department at the humanities faculty, c) the Digital History Lab, and d) run several digital history projects. How all these collaborations create boundaries and cross boundaries will be used as qualitative information on top of the more quantitatively oriented survey.

I would really appreciate if you could fill out and distribute the survey and help me finish my PhD 🙂

You can find the survey via www.maxkemman.nl/survey

References   [ + ]

1. Galison, P. (1997). Image & logic: A material culture of microphysics. The University of Chicago Press.
2. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg
Status

AIUCD 2017 Panel and Paper abstract

Next week I will be visiting Rome to join the Associazione per l’Informatica Umanistica e le Culture Digitali (AIUCD) conference which will be held from 26-28 January at Sapienza University. See the entire programme here. The topic of the conference is “Il telescopio inverso: big data e distant reading nelle discipline umanistiche”, and as a result Mark Hill and I have formed a panel on big data, distant reading, concept drift, and digital history. In this blogpost I’ll post the abstract of the panel, and my own abstract; if the full proceedings including the abstracts of the other panel members are online I’ll add it to the presentations page. We are excited to have brought together scholars working on concept detection, ambiguity, and methodology of history, so we hope we will get a very nice discussion going.

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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

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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DH in the US: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

In the first week of June, my supervisor Andreas Fickers and I went to the US to visit several Digital Humanities centres, specifically ones working on Digital History, in Boston (MA), Lincoln (NE), and Fairfax (VA). Since the University of Luxembourg will get its own DH centre soon, we went with the goal of learning how others set up their centre, how DH is incorporated into the curriculum, and how collaboration takes place.

This blogpost is an attempt to summarise what we learned during our visit to the US. The structure I will follow is not chronologically, but by the title of John le Carré’s novel: Tinker (building and making), Tailor (specific versus generic tools), Soldier (collaborations of people), Spy (digital literacy regarding online tracking and other subjects). At the bottom of the blogpost is a numbered list of the people we met; I will refer to sources of information using these numbers.

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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

PhD-candidate in Luxembourg!

With great excitement I can now write that I have acquired a position as PhD-candidate at the University of Luxembourg, starting November 1st, 2014. Under Prof. Dr. Andreas Fickers, Professor for Contemporary and Digital History, I will get the chance to further investigate the development and consequences of digital technology for the field of History. Of course, moving to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with my wife is quite a step (on such short notice!). But this is a really wonderful opportunity for me to continue working embedded in the History department (as I have done at Erasmus University Rotterdam), under the supervision of Fickers who has been asking questions in recent papers and keynotes very close to my own (see e.g. the slides for his keynote „If content is king, context is its crown“ (PDF) at the AVinDH workshop I happened to have co-organized at DH2014). Fickers will be heading a Digital History Laboratory, and I will be collaborating with him to develop this lab and investigate the possibilities for the profession of History with digital tools.  Continue reading