I am excited to announce that my book on the trading zones of digital history has been published by De Gruyter and the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History. As the first volume of the Digital History and Hermeneutics series, this book lays the theoretical as well as empirical groundwork for analysis digital history and its contributions to the historical profession. The book is open access and can be read here.
In this book I analyse digital history collaborations and the establishment of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History and reflect on the positioning of digital history between the digital and the historical. While digital history/humanities are commonly discussed as a single interdisciplinary space, I argue that each digital history collaboration is a different trading zone, leading to different results of how digital history affects historians.
For this analysis I developed a model of trading zones that considers: 1) how collaborators connect (e.g. sharing an office or international emails), 2) how collaborators negotiate power relations, 3) to what extent collaborators maintain distinct practices and goals. I argue that digital history does not occupy a singular position between the digital and the historical. Instead, historians continuously move across this dimension, choosing or finding themselves in different positions as they construct different trading zones.
I find that 1) not all historians engaged equally, some were more active in adopting new practices than others. 2) all historians aimed to preserve control over their own practices, otherwise disconnecting engagement. 3) sharing of practices can be shallow or transform research. Furthermore, I find that the central figure is very often the professor of history who serves as PI/director of a collaboration and who brokers the incentives of historical research, technological research and project ambitions. I call them “digital history brokers”.
I show that these digital history brokers transform their own practices, conducting project management, learning and promoting the potential of digital research, so that other historians do not have to. The value of digital history brokers is that they enable the negotiation of computational practices on behalf of their disciplinary peers. The historical community is thereby able to import and adapt methods and tools without losing its disciplinary values.