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History as dialogue


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History as dialogue

  1. 1. History as DialogueOn Online Narrativity Sheffield 6 Sept. 2012 Chiel van den Akker VU University Amsterdam
  2. 2. history writing “despite the fact that an historian may “summarize” conclusions in his final chapter, it seems clear that these are seldom or never detachable conclusions; not merely their validity but their meaning refers backwards to the ordering of evidence in the total argument.” “the distinctive characteristic of historical understanding consists of comprehending a complex event by “seeing things together” in a total and synoptic judgment which cannot be replaced by any analytic technique.” L.O. Mink, “The Autonomy of Historical Understanding”, History and Theory, 5 (1966), 24-47, respectively 39 and 42.
  3. 3. overview talk• three not fully satisfactory responses to the question of online narrativity• why the online dialogue is an alternative to academic history writing
  4. 4. response 1 “the “book” should no longer provide the exclusive model for theoretical reflection on narrativity and the production of historical knowledge.” “film and other audio-visual media, (..) the visual arts, museums, and video games as alternative platforms for shaping and disseminating historical knowledge”. “Where “emplotment,” “explanation,” and “representation” were key terms in earlier discussions of narrativity, these have been replaced by terms like “interactivity,” “accessibility,” “distributed authorship,” and “dynamics.”” Ann Rigney, “When the Monograph is no Longer the Medium: Historical Narrative in the Online Age”, History and Theory, 100-117, respectively 108, 106 and 117.
  5. 5. response 2 [1] “a concise account of the subject, available perhaps in paperback. (..) [2] expanded versions of different aspects of the argument (..) [3] documentation, possibly of different kinds, each set off by interpretive essays. (..) [4] selections of previous scholarship and discussions of them (..) [5] suggestions for classroom discussion, a model syllabus, and course packets. (..) [6] readers’ reports, exchanges between the author and the editor, and letters from readers.” Robert Darnton, The Case for Books. Past, Present, and Future, (Public Affairs: New York 2009), 76.
  6. 6. response 3 old narrative new (online) narrative --------------------------------------------------------------------------- book blog, wiki, film, game, exhibition linear interactive, hypertext monographic participatory, collaborative authoritative personal panoramic viewpoint collage continuous discontinuous series texts hypertext, different and mixed media writing and reading communication
  7. 7. written and spoken word “That’s the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive: but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words: they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, they go on telling you just the same thing for ever.” Plato, Phaedrus, 275D.
  8. 8. elenctic dialogue “there are two vital aspects of the Socratic dialectic which transcend the mere attempt to convict a pretender to knowledge of inconsistency. One is that both participants can hope to profit; the other is that unlike written treatise, it represents a process which engenders change. If it attains its purpose, an elenctic* discussion is an event in which the meanings of words, the concepts entertained by the speakers, evolve and are clarified. In this respect it is a model of every successful attempt at communication.” Donald Davidson, Truth, Language, and History, (Clarendon Press: Oxford 2005) 254. * “elenchus” means “refutation”
  9. 9. the argument The elenctic dialogue provides an online alternative to academic history writing; it is neither a supplement to nor a substitute for it.
  10. 10. conclusion “The goal [of digital history] is not to displace argument, synthesis, interpretation, and understanding in favor of a celebration of infinite possibility, but to broaden the participation in a dialogic process of engagement, questioning, and reflection on answers.” Michael Frisch in Cohen, Frisch, Gallagher, Mintz, Sword, Taylor, Thomas III, and Turkel, “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History”, Journal of American History Vol. 95 no. 2 (2008), 452-491.
  11. 11. Thank research group Agora
  12. 12. Type of dialogue Initial Situation Participant’s goal Goal of dialogue-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Persuasion Conflict of opinions Persuade other party Resolve or clarify issueInquiry Need to have proof Find and verify evidence Prove (disprove) hypothesisNegotiation Conflict of interests Get what you most want Reasonable settlement that both can live withInformation-seeking Need information Acquire or give information Exchange informationDeliberation Dilemma or Co-ordinate goals and actions Decide best available practical choice course of actionsEristic [strife] Personal conflict Verbally hit out at opponent Reveal deeper basis of conflictDouglas Walton, “The Place of Dialogue Theory in Logic, Computer Science and Communication Studies”, Synthese123 (2000), 327-346, there 336.Elenctic Issue Clarify concept and Agreement and shared understanding understanding