Digital history & historiography

The Luxembourg Time Machine: An interdisciplinary exploration into the visualization of complex data from the past

This research studies and implements multiple approaches to data visualization in an
interdisciplinary context. This includes the use of visualization to explore and communicate data, but also to collect, interpret and reflect on the process itself. Different types of data visualization techniques are studied along the epistemological continuum that encompasses quantitative, qualitative, critical, and creative methods; and after, put into practice beyond the discipline of origin in our case study, the LuxTIME Machine (LuxTIME). LuxTIME studies the exposome in the south of Luxembourg, the Minett region, during the industrialization period (1890 – 1990). Exposome research studies the impact of different exposures (e.g., lifestyle, air pollution, work) on the health of the local population. In collaboration with researchers in history, environmental cheminformatics, and eco-hydrology; we collect historical data sources from natural and social archives across different data sources in
Luxembourg (e.g., libraries, national and local archives, scientific data from research centres, government agencies, digital newspapers). Based on this, we propose the concept of the historical exposome, as an alternative way to study the impact of different exposures on the health of the population. Natural archives are physical objects, collected, processed, and deposited in the environment without the interference of the human species, while social archives are the result of a conscious collection of past evidence, be it for cultural, political, or economic reasons. Since finding evidence in natural archives has proven to be challenging, looking at social archives opens new possibilities to encounter historical evidence. Throughout this research, we draw on two concepts: Trading Zones and Thinkering. The interrogation of the trading zone between the fields of history, ecohydrology, environmental cheminformatics and, of course, data visualization, allows us to perform methodological and epistemological reflections on how to critically test the analytical potential of a multi-layered research design. Thinkering – the action of playful experimentation with technological and digital tools (for the interpretation and presentation of history) – provides us with the framework to experiment with
different data visualization techniques from distant epistemologies.

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