Researchers in Humanities and Social Sciences? Come to THATCamp Paris!
My plunge into Digital Humanities began recently, in 2008, after I began working in Luxembourg. I attended some conferences (notably, here, there, and there), participated actively in some others and even organised one.
One thing struck me. When I explained that I was a specialist in the history of central banks and in the European integration at these conferences, my interlocutors were astonished that I was interested in digital humanities. Nevertheless, these developments are strongly relevant for me:
- I work for a digital library that contains interviews and documents useful for my research,
- The European Central Bank publishes its archives online, and
- When I am doing research into opposition to the Euro (the currency, not the soccer championship), most of my sources are on the web.
In short, even if I weren’t currently working in an institution oriented toward the digital, I would need to rely on a digital methodology and on digital sources.
Because I am far from alone in this, the participation of researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences at THATCamp Paris is important. The evolution of new technologies (no longer so new anymore) and the risks of obsolescence that accompany them, the transformation of the Web into both a primary and a secondary source, the burning question of researcher data . . . are only some among many of the thematics that should not leave researchers indifferent.
To illustrate my proposition, here’s an example (provided by Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media): the number of « memos » in the archives of the Johnson administration runs to the tens of thousands. That’s a lot, but it’s usable by a single historian. In the years since 1990, the equivalent of the memo has become the e-mail. For the Clinton administration, there are about 40 million. How to manage such a mass of data? How to prepare historians, sociologists, etc. to use these archives? How to make sure that public officials archive these data and make them usable, over the long term, for researchers?
Researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences and engineers of research, I propose to you the following sessions:
- Are sources for HSS researchers data like any other data?
- Is the Web an infinite archive? (After a phrase coined by William J. Turkel)?
- What are the digital needs for researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences?
- A more specific session on oral sources and their revalorization on the web might also be interesting.
Don’t hesitate to propose others, more interdisciplinary or centered in other disciplines. Leave us your ideas in the comments for this post. You may get some inspiration from a non-exhaustive list of themes addressed at other THATCamps.