Digital history & historiography

Introducing the DHARPA Project: An Interdisciplinary Lab to Enable Critical DH Practice

In this article, we introduce software under development by the Digital
History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator (DHARPA), an interdisciplinary team of researchers and developers working to enable best practices
in the humanities through technology. We argue that the strength and
appeal of historical inquiry lies largely in the relationship between scholars
and their sources, a connection in which the former engage with the latter
through critical assessment, contextualisation and documentation. However, we also contend that these symbiotic processes themselves need to
be evaluated and recorded. While digital tools and techniques have been
accused of alienating historians from their materials, critically informed
digital methodologies can also fortify and extend this relationship. To that
end, we are building software that will enable users to not only apply best
practices to their sources but also to allow them to write the history of those
interactions, thus providing material for self-reflection and critique. In this
article, having laid out our goal, we describe how the modular and datacentric design of our software’s backend and the interactive documentary
capabilities of its frontend operationalize a critical epistemology centered
on the scholar-source relationship. We continue with a discussion of our
team’s internal dynamics in creating this software, and conclude with an
invitation to readers to contribute to the process through commentary and

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