Digital history & historiography

Doing History in the Digital Age - On Hybridity, Hermeneutics and the Politics of Digitisation

This talk centers around the changing practice of doing history in the digital age, seen within the broader historical context of developments in the so-called digital humanities. It argues that there is too much emphasis on tools and data while too little attention is being paid to how the practice of doing history is changing as a result of the digital turn. It will also contextualise and historicise what we mean by ‘digital turn’ and, indeed, ‘digital history’; the current buzz around digital humanities notwithstanding, computers have been used in humanities research since at least the late 1940s. And as long as they have existed, the question of their uptake in humanist and historical research practices has been debated. So what, then, is new?
In his talk, Zaagsma will focus on three key points that are relevant to debates about digital history. First of all, he will argue that in many ways hybridity is the new normal, and in fact has been for a much longer time than is often suggested. Nonetheless, we still need a more conscious hybrid approach to historical research that combines ’traditional’ with digital hermeneutical approaches in a new practice of doing history. Secondly, he will discuss how such digital hermeneutical approaches can be seen, in light of the often-voiced scepticism that ‘classic’ hermeneutical approaches are undermined by supposedly new, digital quantitative and/or positivist methodologies. And thirdly, he will address the broader issue of how digitisation affects historical research, and the stories we can and cannot tell, in ways that historians are only beginning to understand.

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