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Digital History Projects as Boundary Objects

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Presentation at AIUCD 2017, 26 January 2017, Rome, Italy

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Digital History Projects as Boundary Objects

  1. 1. Digital History Projects as Boundary Objects @MaxKemman University of Luxembourg Reflections on reading history from a distance AIUCD 2017, 26-28 January 2017, Rome, Italy
  2. 2. Incentives for digital history projects Official incentive: to build a new tool using new technologies to be used for historical research (in a new way) Interviewing participants for individual incentives (Weedman 1998): • Reasons for joining the project • Goals • Expected effects of participation Two case studies (10 participants)
  3. 3. The structure of a project Methodological interdisciplinarity: Incorporating methods, concepts, tools from other disciplines to improve historical research (Klein 2014) PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator Project team Historians Computer experts EngineersPhDs
  4. 4. Reasons for joining PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator Historians EngineersPhDs
  5. 5. Goals PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator EngineersPhDs
  6. 6. Expected effects of participation PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator Historians? EngineersPhDs
  7. 7. The structure of a project Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998) beyond disciplines PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator Project team Historians Computer experts EngineersPhDs
  8. 8. Incentives per CoP Research CoP “if [the project] fails, it cannot be the case that my thesis also fails. You can to some extent see it independent of one another, as I do, so there is a secret clause, if [the project] fails I just graduate with a historical thesis” “what he must do is to write a thesis of 5 chapters that are of [theoretical] value… And there he must just write conventional stories, narratives. And at the same time he uses digital means in his research” PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator EngineersPhDs
  9. 9. Incentives per CoP Technology CoP “the project is basically building an interface where all this information is presented in a … user-friendly way, in a good way. That would be the success of the project. What I'm doing might provide additional information to this interface from the original text sources that are not yet structured, that would be good, but it's not … paramount for the success of the project” PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator EngineersPhDs
  10. 10. Incentives per CoP Tool CoP “the investment, the knowledge-building, the technological know-how, that we’ve developed” “the idea of the project has always been a proof- of-concept … and … bring attention to our system that we can try with them to get continued funding” PI/Prof Computational researcher Coordinator EngineersPhDs
  11. 11. Incentives for digital history projects Official incentive: to build a new tool using new technologies to be used for historical research (in a new way) • Tool CoP: tool probably not finished and stable in time for historical research • Technology CoP: technology probably not stable in time for tool • Research CoP: research does not require the tool
  12. 12. Digital history project as boundary object “you have a research idea, and you fit that to the call you’re applying to, and then you get funding … And if you then hire researchers, yes they too have their own idea of course, and their own line of research they’re working on, and they try to fit that in the research project” Boundary objects: an object that maintains a common identity among the different participants, yet is shaped individually according to disciplinary needs (Star and Griesemer 1989, Star 2010)
  13. 13. Why boundary objects? Coordination of incentives “we're supposed to be advising the team developing the tool. And trying to then carry out research on a specific case study. And so originally it was like wow we're going to be able to use the tool, but very quickly it became clear ok actually probably we're not going to be able to use the tool” Beyond disciplines
  14. 14. Questions for digital history projects • Can historians already do big data analysis if all of the methods are still under development? • Timing of funding: should PhDs start together with tool development? • Technology management: can digital history tool development be reduced to smaller steps? • Technology management: clear communication of incentives between CoPs • Risk management: how much risk do we want to take in digital history projects? Can a project fail?
  15. 15. Future research • Revisiting case studies • Looking at more digital history projects • Analysing output of historians in such projects
  16. 16. Grazie Thank you for listening www.maxkemman.nl @MaxKemman max.kemman@uni.lu

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