About this course

HIST 890-005 Digital History:

Trends, Challenges and the Future of the Historical Method

What will history be like in an ever more computerized and connected world? Historians, librarians and archivists are exploring new ways to publish sources, to study them and to share the results of their work. All these efforts can be linked to the umbrella term “Digital History”. This course will explore how software and the internet are currently reshaping the field of history.
The course consists of three segments. The first segment will look at new ways for historians to communicate with each other and to share the results of their research with peers, and  more importantly, with non-professionals. Do blogs and social media lead to sloppy and superficial work, as some critics claim? What effects do online social networks have on academic communication? Are we entering a period of collaborative history-writing as others claim?
The second part will examine the changing nature of historical sources in the digital age. We will engage with software tools and explore how they are used by historians. How does software relate to the traditional triad of hermeneutics, source-criticism and interpretations? Can history be computed? What role do digital archives, online research platforms and network visualisations have to play here? What role will public history and crowdsourcing play in future research projects?
In the third segment students will be working in small groups on their own Digital History projects. Students can choose whether they (1) transform an existing historical narrative into a digital narrative, (2) use network analysis to study online academic communication, (3) explore the conceptual frameworks behind online research platforms or (4) develop their own project. Three sessions are reserved for this project, the results will be presented in the final session.
The course is accompanied by a WordPress-website which will collect student output during the course and serve as an archive of the course and its materials.
This course is built around readings, short student presentations, hands-on tests with software tools and interactions with practitioners.

Please note:
This course is designed to provide historians with a first overview of the field of Digital History. No technical skills are required, and successful completion of the course does not require the development of any advanced technical skills.

Learning outcomes

Students will get an overview of how the historical disciplines adapt to the digitization of sources and to increased connectivity between scholars. They will become familiar with current debates in the field and gain practical experience with online communication and publication tools. Finally, through group work they will hone their skills in collaborative project work and study closely an element of Digital History of their choosing. This course has three objectives: (1) to provide students with a critical view on recent developments in Digital History, (2) to prepare them for their own projects in the field and (3) to provide them with transferable skills in social media communication and the analysis of digital contents.

Course convenor

My name is Marten Düring, I studied cultural history at the universities of Augsburg, Germany and Manchester, United Kingdom with a focus on the history of the Second World War. I have a strong interest in interdisciplinary and computational research methods in the Humanities and History in particular. In previous projects I consulted Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe (CVCE), Luxembourg on a network-based tool for the analysis of digitized primary sources and worked on event extraction from Dutch and US newspapers together with a team of Computational linguists at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In July 2012 I successfully defended my PhD thesis which introduces a relational perspective to the analysis of help for persecuted Jews during the Holocaust. This is the to-date first formalized analysis of relations between helpers and recipients of help and among the first projects which apply formal network methods in Contemporary History.

As a side project I developed the website http://historicalnetworkresearch.org which bundles information on network analysis in the historical disciplines and established a workshop series on the topic together with colleagues. Over the last years these efforts succeeded and resulted in a steadily growing international network.

During my Postdoc at UNC CH I will work on MERIT – Machine-based Extraction of Relations in Text, a research project developed together with Antal van den Bosch of Radboud University Nijmegen. MERIT utilizes tools developed in Computational linguistics for a multiperspective analysis of eye-witness accounts of end of the Second World War in the Arnhem/Nijmegen region and for the comparative analysis of memories of these events.

You will find more info on my work here: http://martenduering.com and here: @martenduering.

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