Arguing with Digital History: A Roundtable on Using Digital History to Make Arguments for Academic Audiences

Chairs:

  • Stephen Robertson, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
  • Lincoln Mullen, George Mason University

This roundtable will discuss a precirculated white paper on general principles for integrating digital tools and methods with the arguments and historical interpretations at the core of academic history. Participants, drawn from the group of historians that draft the white paper, will be announced in the fall.

Session Abstract

This roundtable will discuss a pre-circulated white paper on general principles for integrating digital tools and methods with the arguments and historical interpretations at the core of academic history. More than twenty years after the first work in digital history, there are still only a handful of projects that make explicit arguments in conversation with the scholarly literature for an academic audience. Efforts to create argumentative digital scholarship have run into a series of obstacles: a focus on exploration rather than argumentation; a need to address methodological questions; and the difficulty of fitting arguments based on digital tools into print publication formats. Given the persistence of these obstacles, Stephen Robertson and Lincoln Mullen, the organizers of this session, secured funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to convene a two-day workshop in September 2017. This workshop will bring twenty-four historians together to consider argumentation in digital history and to produce the white paper that will be the focus of this roundtable.

The white paper, and thus the session, will consider:

  • How argumentation in digital history is different from, and the same as, traditional history, with a summary of current examples and genres of argument driven digital history.
  • The obstacles to making explicit arguments addressed to academic audiences in digital history.
  • General principles of such argumentation in digital history (such as forming questions, fitting within disciplinary and field-specific arguments, and the role of explicit statements of methodology.).
  • Specific principles of such argumentation in digital history by historical topic, chronology, and geography. The aim is not to be comprehensive, but to provide examples of how general principles are applied within specific fields.
  • Specific principles of such argumentation in digital history by methodology (mapping, networks, text analysis, 3d modeling).
  • Integration of argumentation and sources. This section will address the problem of integrating digital historical work with scholarship for academic audiences, and integrating different kinds of sources and methods within digital history.
  • How such argument-driven digital scholarship can be evaluated and peer-reviewed.
  • A description of future work necessary to advance making explicit arguments addressed to academic audiences in digital history.

The four participants in the roundtable will be drawn from the twenty-four historians invited to the workshop. The research of this group encompasses a range of different historical periods, and employs a cross-section of digital tools and methods. To ensure that the roundtable participants are those best able to speak to the issues and different viewpoints that emerge in the discussion and white paper, they will not be selected until after the workshop. Lincoln Mullen and Stephen Robertson will chair the roundtable.

The white paper will be released on the Rosenzweig Center website on 11/13/2017, and so be available to the audience prior to the session.


Host: American Historical Association | Jan 6, 2018


About

Greetings! My name is Jason Heppler. I am a Digital Engagement Librarian and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a scholar of the twentieth-century United States. I often write here about the history of the North American West, technology, the environment, cities, politics, and coffee. You can follow me on Twitter, or learn more about me.

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