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’: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.
Update April 3rd 2018: The survey is now closed, thank you for your interest and participation.
For this PhD research I have selected several digital history collaborations in the BeneluxBelgium, 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.