Digital history & historiography

For a New Hermeneutics of Practice in Digital Public History: Thinkering with

This thesis is built upon an experimental study of doing digital public history. I
aim to study the digital interferences of the digital component on the historiographic
operation as a whole. While the fields of digital and public history are advancing fast
with abundant work on development and application of new methodologies, tools and
approaches, the discipline of history is still lagging behind in terms of theoretical
reflection on the new practices emerging from it. Researchers have been exploring
alternative forms of source criticism, storytelling and publications for years now, yet
the greatest attention still goes to the outputs, while little criticism, if any, is devoted to
the process of doing digital work. By building and analysing a digital public history
platform, this research aims to make a contribution in this direction. To do so, the
research takes a fully hands-on approach and offers an evaluation of digital methods
that to great extent emerge from practice and the researcher’s first-hand experience
with the digital.
The empirical study consisted of investigating memories of Italian and
Portuguese immigrants in Luxembourg through the establishment of a
collaboratively shaped digital memory platform. The process of building the
Memorecord platform, activating the crowdsourcing through social media and
analysing the born-digital data originated from this collection informed the theoretical
reflection of this thesis. While in the more practical layer, hands-on work and
collaboration were highlighted, from the more speculative layer, the main theoretical
contribution verse on the hybridisation of old and practices and capacities
synthesized in the emergence of a hermeneutics of practice, derived from the
heuristics gesture of creative and playful experimentation, (i.e. thinkering) around the
digital tools and methods.
This specific hermeneutical approach may function as a visibility broker,
assisting historians in the process of unveiling the unspoken and implicit aspects of
historical inquiry in the digital age. Hermeneutics of practice, hence, should facilitate
the identification of the digital interferences we encounter throughout the research
process and improve the researcher’s readiness to face the new research conditions
placed by the digital component. If a new style of reasoning of/about/in/within digital
and digital public history should be stabilised, hermeneutics of practice could become
an important procedure to ensure historical objectivity in 21st Century.

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