The DTU is built on a dual yet complementary approach – an epistemological and a methodological one. Following the heuristic tradition of history as a humanities discipline, epistemological and methodological questions are intrinsically intertwined. The digitization of historical sources and the continuous emergence of new digital born sources confront the historical discipline with a multitude of challenges, touching upon all aspects of his professional practice. With this idea of history as a reflexive practice in mind, a critical approach to digital history and hermeneutics asks for a multiple reflection:
  • How does the digitization of sources and its online accessibility affect the classical concept of “archive” (redefinition of archival evidence and provenance)?
  • Which new retrieval and visualisation strategies are necessary in order to cope with the masses of information at hand (algorithmic criticism and new heuristics of search
  • in the age of big data)?
  • How to critically interpret digital sources in terms of their authenticity and reliability (data integrity and source criticism in the digital era)?
  • How to make use of new digital tools and techniques for the analysis and / or visualization of large data sets (appropriating digital literacy and tool criticism)?
  • What new forms of storytelling and non-linear narratives do digital environments offer for the historian?(multimedia and transmedia storytelling)?
  • In what way do digital research infrastructures and online dissemination platforms affect the relationship between professional and “amateur” historians (crowdsourcing
  • and public engagement with history)?

The DTU systematically reflects upon these six domains and how they affect the practice of doing history in the digital era. While these (often interrelated) questions reflect the general challenges of doing history in the digital age in a general way and constitute the broader epistemological framework in which the DTU is settled, the Doctoral Training Unit will touch upon a specific number of concrete topics and practices which will function as the thematic pillars upon which the DTU is structured.

  • Archiving & data management. The Questions and problems involved are: best practices in retro-digitization of historical sources; standards for metadata description; long-term preservation of digital data; data enrichment and retrieval; semantic interoperability in relational databases; protocols for en- and recoding (data manipulation); web-archiving (see: Stadler / Veit 2009).
  • Digital editions and enhanced publications: strategies of visualisation; possibilities for user enrichment; description and annotation tools; collaborative (online) working platforms; sustainability of online presentations (linking); evaluation of long term edition projects.
  • Text mining & corpus identification: best practices in named entity recognition, entity grounding and relation extraction; reliability of optical character recognition tools; accuracy of text normalisation and correction; development of query interface adapted for the need of historical research.
  • Digital cartography & mapping technologies: geographical information systems (GIS) in historical research; best practices in digital cartography; annotation tools; visualisation strategies; geo-referential mapping; animated maps; (see Pickles 2000).
  • Visualization technologies & simulations: visualisation of research results and large datasets; timelines; visualizing GIS; modelling of historical data (for example in archaeology and history of architecture); 3D scanning and printing; tag clouds and semantic pattern visualisation.
  • Transmedia storytelling & online narratives: non-linear narratives; multi-media productions; audio and audiovisual documentary; factual storytelling; user driven narratives; multi-narrative scripts; popular history.
  • Public history & crowdsourcing: public engagement with history; democratization of historical storytelling; crowdsourcing; collective storytelling; participatory spaces of historical research; communicative memory production.
  • Human-Computer Interaction: investigation of researchers’ practice and elicitation of user requirements, user profiling, best suitable visualisation strategies and algorithms, adaptation and definition of existing User Experience (UX) frameworks to the specific purposes of digital humanities.

These topics form the thematic clusters on which the DTU will be structured in terms of concrete research projects (PhD’s), thematic workshops and in terms of interdisciplinary collaborations and strategic partnerships.

Keywords, describing the DTU

Digital History, Digital Hermeneutics, Digital Humanities, Historical Epistemology, Sociology of Knowlegde, Human-Computer-Interaction, Data Integrity, Big Data, Digital Literacy, Public History, Corpus Linguistics, Data Science.