Technological Pasts in the Digital Age

Decoding Europe

9th Tensions of Europe Conference

The 9th Tensions of Europe conference was organised by the C²DH and held at the University of Luxembourg from 27 to 30 June 2019 Tensions of Europe is an international scholarly network and hub for international research, education and outreach initiatives on technology in European history. Founded in 1999, ToE explores social tensions in the making of technology and Europe, and Europe’s transatlantic and (post)colonial connections.

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The conference was opened on 27 June 2019 by Prof. Stéphane Pallage, Rector of the University of Luxembourg, Prof. Andreas Fickers, Director of the C²DH, Prof. Aristotle Tympas, Chair of the Management Committee of the Tensions of Europe network, and Prof. Valérie Schafer, Programme Chair. Some 170 participants from all over Europe, mainly historians of technologies, attended the conference over the four days. The event was made possible thanks to the support of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), the C2DH and a number of sponsors (Luxinnovation, Digital Luxembourg and the Robert Schuman Initiative led by Prof. David Howarth at the University of Luxembourg). The conference was held in English, with 32 sessions of 2-4 papers. Participants were selected via an open and widely disseminated call for papers and a double peer review process.

Special attention was given to the involvement of young researchers:

  • The 9th Tensions of Europe conference was preceded by an early career summer school on the topic “Towards Digital Science and Technology Studies: Challenges and Opportunities”. This pre-conference was attended by approximately 25 young scholars over three days. In addition to several lectures, discussions with advanced scholars were held, with a final discussion with the US historian Paul Edwards.
  • A session of four “My PhD in 10 minutes” presentations culminated in discussions under the supervision of two advanced scholars (Prof. Jane Winters and Gabriele Balbi).
  • 15 travel grants were awarded to young scholars after a process of application and selection by the programme committee.
  • A reduced fee enabled 38 external young researchers to attend the conference.

“Coding Europe, Decoding its History”

In addition to the two keynotes by Prof. Bethany Nowviskie (James Madison University) and Prof. Niels Brügger (Aarhus University), who discussed digitised and born-digital material culture in European history (videos available at, the plenary session, which adopted a theoretical approach to the topic under the heading “Coding Europe, Decoding its History”, and a special event dedicated to media archaeology, 10 sessions (approximately 30% of the sessions) focused on the specific topic Decoding Europe: Technological Pasts in the Digital Age selected for this edition. Prof. Andreas Fickers and Prof. Pascal Griset presented the most recent volume of the series Making Europe, which they co-authored.

Themes that come under the general research agenda of the Tensions of Europe network (e.g. transnational histories of technology, history of European infrastructures and networks, environment and technology, conflicting interests and technology, technology and hidden integration of Europe, etc.) were also well represented. The presentations included emerging trends such as maintenance studies, sound studies, etc.

In addition to a broad audience from all over Europe, we were also pleased at the participation of scholars from the USA and Asia. One important event was the presentation “Making Modernity in East Asia: Technologies of Everyday Life, 19th-21st Century”, which involved several scholars from the University of Hong Kong.

ToE website,

The results of the event were published on the ToE, C2DH and RSI websites (see for example

A series of short interviews with Niels Brügger, Andreas Fickers, Bethany Nowviskie, Aristotle Tympas, Jane Winters and Nina Wormbs, addressing the history and challenges of the ToE network and/or technological pasts in the digital age, were recorded during the conference:

see also


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Media Monitoring of the past
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New Horizons

Confronting the Digital Turn in the Humanities
As a result of the “digital turn”, the humanities are currently in a process of rapid transformation, with consequences that reach far beyond the confines of academia. read more

Shifting Practices

Digital History as Trading Zones
Under the term “digital history”, historians have experimented with tools, concepts and methods from other disciplines, mostly computer science and computational linguistics, to benefit the historical discipline. read more

Forum Z

Women on the march from 1919 to 2019 in Luxembourg
Forum Z or the interaction of the C²DH with the public The aim of the Forum Z (Z for Zeitgeschichte or contemporary history) series is to promote a critical, open debate on topical issues in contemporary Luxembourgish and European history. The hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote in Luxembourg was an anniversary not to be missed! While the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) marked the anniversary with a major exhibition on universal suffrage, this Forum Z used it as a starting point for a broader reflection on what has changed for women over the past century. read more