Tag Archives: Global Perspectives on Digital History

Auf Wiedersehen, Mein Freund

Over the weekend my friend and colleague Peter Haber passed away after an extended illness. I was only fortunate enough to know Peter for the past four years, but I benefitted greatly from his friendship, his collegiality, his ideas, and his good humor.

Like my former colleague Roy Rosenzweig, Peter was a “connector” — one of those people who brought others together for the benefit of everyone. Through Peter I have met and begun to work with a number of colleagues in Switzerland and Austria, colleagues I never would have met otherwise. More importantly, though, my understanding of digital history and digital humanities is so much richer for having read Digital Past. Geschichtswissenschaft im digitalen Zeitalter (2011). What Peter brought to the study of digital history was a scientific rigor, a style of analysis, that is so often lacking in English language scholarship on our field. If I could quibble with one thing about the edition of the book that I own, it is the photograph of Peter on the back cover. In that photo, he seems dark and mysterious. Those who knew him well, know he was anything but dark or mysterious.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence of Peter the Connector is his co-authored volume (with Marin Gasteiner), Digitale Arbeitstechniken (2010). When I read these essays I came away with a much better sense of the kinds of work being done by my German-speaking colleagues in digital history — work I would likely not know if Peter and Martin had not collected it. More importantly, though, I began to think about several issues near and dear to me in new and different ways. That is what the best scholarship does for us.

But really, Peter’s greatest academic contribution, in many ways, has been Hist.net, perhaps the longest-lived digital history blog in any language. With his close friend and collaborator Jan Hodel, Peter spent more than a decade making all things digital and historical available and accessible to a wide audience. I knew of the blog before I knew Peter and Jan, and one of my happiest professional moments was the day I received an email from the two of them inviting me to speak at a conference in Basel. For my own family health reasons, I couldn’t attend that meeting and so I was very pleased (and relieved) when they kindly invited me back the following year to speak in Basel. That meeting was the starting point of our three way friendship and collaboration on Global Perspectives on Digital History, a project that kept us connected until he became too sick to continue.

One the most enjoyable days I’ve spent in the past several years was with Peter, when he was still feeling fine, touring the Fondation Beyeler, then returning to Basel for a coffee. That is the Peter I will remember. But I will also remember the Peter who, when you said something he didn’t entirely agree with, would cock and eyebrow, pause, and then ask a probing question that politely disagreed, while trying to find a way that the two of us could agree. I will miss both of those Peters very much.

 

Global Perspectives on Digital History

Today, my colleagues Peter Haber, Jan Hodel, and I (along with the indispensable help of Dan Ludington) are pleased to announce the launch of Global Perspectives on Digital History, the latest of the PressForward publications from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

Like Digital Humanities Now, Global Perspectives on Digital History aggregates and selects material from our Compendium of the Global Perspectives, drawing from hundreds of venues where high-quality scholarship is likely to appear, including the personal websites of scholars, institutional sites, blogs, and other feeds. It also seeks to discover new material by monitoring Twitter (someone else is going to have to do that for me given my aversion to the whole Twitterverse) and other social media for stories discussed by the community, and by continuously scanning the broader web through generalized and specialized search engines.

Unlike Digital Humanities Now, Global Perspectives on Digital History is focused more on history, rather than on digital humanities in general. This is not to say we won’t be bringing in content from other digital humanities disciplines that seems relevant to our readers’ interests in digital history. But, as much as possible, we will remain more tightly focused on a single discipline. The other big difference in approach with the first of the PressForward publications is that Global Perspectives on Digital History is a multi-lingual publication. Our initial languages are English, German, and French, but we expect to expand soon into other languages. The only thing holding us back at present is a lack of editors to help with the scanning of content in those other languages.

At present we are using the GoogleTranslate plug in for translation. If you have any experience with this plug in you know it is wholly insufficient for what we are about. Over the coming year, we will be exploring other options for machine translation of our content and hope to learn some things worth knowing through that exploration.

Like Digital Humanities Now, we will also be moving toward some traditional publication of content that appears on our site. Whether we use the model currently in use at Digital Humanities Now or something else, still remains to be seen. We are going to watch the development of the open peer review process carefully before deciding on our approach.

At present, we are splitting our coverage of digital history from around the globe between longer “think pieces” that we are tagging as “editor’s choice” content, and briefer entries we are tagging as “short takes.” We suspect we will expand into reviews and other content from around the globe that examines digital history sometime in the near future.

For now, please visit the site and be sure to let us know what you think.