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.
The first couple of months I will be writing a proper research plan, but I do like to share a bit of my ideas already so you can know what I will be doing. Below is a short paragraph to describe my ideas in general. If you have any feedback or questions, do let me know in the comments!
Some general ideas…
The past three years I have collaborated in projects where tools have been developed to facilitate scholars’, especially historians’, searching and browsing in digital collections by employing different technologies: content-based image retrieval for television archives (AXES), linking of collections for media coverage of political debates (PoliMedia) and Google-like search interfaces for oral history (Oral History Today). In these years, we have seen scholars are quite happy to use digitized collections, especially since it allows them to do their work from the comfort of their own chairs not limited by opening hours (Kemman, Kleppe, & Scagliola, 2014). Although the potential of digital interfaces for historical collections is quite clear, the consequences for the field of history are not (Zaagsma, 2013). Moreover, although historians are an interesting group to study for human-computer interaction, what sets this group apart as a specific user group? In my PhD-research, I would like to focus on the interaction between methodology and technology adoption: how does the historical methodology influence user requirements and later technology adoption? And how does the adopted technology influence historical methodology? What are the consequences for the interaction with source material? Moreover, since methodology is at the basis, and the interaction with source material at the heart, of the arguments made, how does this interaction between methodology and technology influence the epistemology of historians? I hope the discussion of these questions will be fruitful, and lead to a grasping of how Digital History could influence the field of History.
Kemman, M., Kleppe, M., & Scagliola, S. (2014). Just Google It. In C. Mills, M. Pidd, & E. Ward (Eds.), Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012. Sheffield, UK: HRI Online Publications.
Zaagsma, G. (2013). On Digital History. BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review, 128(4), 3–29.