Opportunities and Challenges: Questions on the Application of Digital Humanities in the History of Science
Historians of science are today operating within a new framework that has been shaped by a growing digital environment that enriches the field with novel practices, methods, and challenges. Databases, software, digital documents, and catalogs are transforming the access to sources, their formats, and the way they are consumed, thus reshaping the interaction between researchers and historical objects, as well as generating new products of historical research. Digital Humanities facilitates an interdisciplinary approach to this research by mobilizing a diverse set of actors — from historians to software developers — who have to cope with different perspectives on the methods of the history of science, its sources, and their production, and engage in a continuous process of translation. The diversity of those actors, their skills, and their knowledge fields also introduce new social issues into the research process.
This symposium aims to offer an opportunity for all actors who are collaborating on digital humanities projects within the context of the history of science to showcase and discuss their experiences, as well as highlight the diversity of their approaches and their professional skills, to shape a collective awareness of such essential aspects of our research practices.
Historians of sciences working with methods of digital humanities face two sets of challenges. One is common to all DH projects: digital availability of sources, cost of reliable annotated data, valorization in the ‘open sciences’ context, and sustainability. The other is specific to the history of science: solutions that may prove effective in other fields cannot always be transposed without close consideration of the sources and their compositions. Many sources, for example, include non-textual components (numerical tables, diagrams, graphs, formulas, illustrations of botanical species, etc.) that are fundamental to the understanding of the text and context of the work.
One goal of this session is to reflect on the opportunities and limitations of digital humanities applied to the history of science, to share best practices, and to identify common challenges and structural issues that need to be collectively tackled on a larger scale and with shared strategies. Another goal is to offer a space for reflection on the scientific contributions of digital engineers that address these challenges through their particular technical perspectives, as, together with their various collaborators, such as historians, archivists, curators, etc., the engineers are essential contributors in the process of transforming sources into ‘data’ which then can be further analyzed by various DH methods by the researchers.
The overall aim of this session is to deepen the ongoing and fundamental discussion on the opportunities created by the application of digital methods and the challenges and limitations of digital platforms within the history of science.
In all fields of the humanities and beyond, the era of the lonely researcher is now being superseded by an era of collaborative work. Collaboration, however, creates new social conditions and hence problems. For example, not all contributions in this collaboration are valued equally, depending on the type of intended product and its publication platform. Among the new social difficulties for historical research emerging from this changed framework, and the ensuing activities, are questions about who is an author, which rights each member of the group has, and which contributions need to be acknowledged in which type of publication (a book, an article, a database, a website, etc.).
This session will explore a set of questions resulting from this new form of collaborative work in the field of history of science. It aims to reflect on the issue of what is particular in this cooperation and their conditions within the history of science. It will focus on questions of precariousness and contested modes of recognition in collaborative projects. Continuing the discussion from the first session, where we began looking at questions of authorship and labor recognition associated with the data entry process, we now explore these issues further while considering data usage and valorization within a context of open access. Subsequently, issues of durability and sustainability of digital resources and projects will also be addressed.
Please submit your proposed title and abstract (250 max) as well as a short bio (50 max) and indicate during which session you would like to speak, to email@example.com no later than 30. December 2023.