University of Sussex
Tim Hitchcock is Professor of Digital History at the University of Sussex (UK) and Co-director of the Sussex Humanities Lab. He has published widely on the histories of gender, sexuality and poverty focussed primarily on eighteenth-century London. With Professor Robert Shoemaker and others he has also created a series of websites helping to give direct public access to 37 billion words of primary sources evidencing the history of Britain. Designed to underpin the writing of a new ‘history from below’, these sites include: The Old Bailey Online, 1674 to 1913; London Lives, 1690-1800; Locating London’s Past; Connected Histories; and The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925. He is currently Co-I on two AHRC funded projects: BBC Connected Histories; and Small Bills and Petty Finance – co-creating the history of the poor law.
Visualising the ‘Infinite Archive’
In an age of hyper-abundance, to search is to find. The most obscure keyword search on Google will deliver a page of results that appear to be ‘good enough. The long research journey downwards through a catalogue and into an archive has been replaced by an algorithm. This lecture argues that this is simply not ‘good enough. While current systems of search and discovery effectively hide and distort the context of research data, good scholarship demands a dialogue between data and its source. By demonstrating how a ‘macroscope’ can be used to practise distant and close readings of large datasets such as the Old Bailey Online, and library and archival catalogues, it suggests that we can re-imagine search, discovery and research, to provide a new form of ‘radical contextualisation’. It argues that digital history requires more than a different set of tools; it also requires a different approach to representing the evolving infrastructure upon which we rely.
Helle Strandgaard Jensen
School of Culture and Society
Aarhus University (Denmark)
Helle Strandgaard Jensen is associate professor at Department of History and Classical Studies and co-director of CEDHAR, Center for Digital History at the Aarhus University, Denmark. She holds a PhD from the European University Institute. Jensen’s work focuses on contempora ry childhood and media history in Scandinavia, Western Europe and the US after 1945. She combines historical methods with theoretical approaches from cultural studies and media studies. One part of her research has media as the historical object of study. The other looks at how digital media – in particular digital archives, sources, and research tools – influence the discipline of history. Jensen currently works on a project financed by the Danish Research Council and the European Commissions’ Marie Curie actions about the American children’s programme Sesame Street and its reception and demarcation in the US, UK, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany during the 1970s. A second project investigates digital archives as historiographical agents by looking at the production, content, and use of these from the perspective of professional historians. Since 2015 Jensen has been the co-chair of the working group ‘Digital literacy in homes and communities’ in the EU-funded research network DigiLitEY. She is the author of From Superman to Social Realism: Children’s Media and Scandinavian Childhood (John Benjamins 2017) as well as a number of articles on childhood history, children’s media culture, and digital archives’ impact on historiography.
Money, Moral and Representation: The day Stuart Hall joined my Archives 101 class
In recent decades, digitization has been high on the agenda in cultural heritage institutions in affluent parts of the world. Prompted by the easy availability of millions of new sources online, scholars in the humanities are beginning to consider what new digital possibilities mean to their research. However, most discussions have focused on the changing research practices rather than the digital archives themselves and the wider cyberinfrastructure in which they are embedded. The focus on end-users downplays the influence economic, technical and political factors have on changing research practices as well as representations of the past. This is why researching the funding, production, content and distribution of digital archives is just as important as considering how scholars make use of what is available. In my talk I argue why being able to question the economies, policies and systems design of digital archives will benefit the (digital) humanities in terms of research, teaching and outreach. I will offer a framework for supporting a professional reflection on the “everyday use” of digital archives and the powerful forces that shape what content they make available. The framework draws on ideas developed within the British Cultural Studies tradition, particularly media literacy and Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model. Hall’s model has renewed importance in the era of digital humanities because it sets up a basis for a critical exploration of how media (digital archives) influence signifying practices and interpretation (research in the humanities).