Creating Spatial Historical Knowledge - New Approaches, Opportunities and Epistemological Implications of Mapping History Digitally

20.-22.10.2016, Workshop und Konferenz, DHI Washington

This event brings together into critical dialogue historians from North America, Germany, the international institutes of the Max Weber Foundation, and beyond, to comparatively examine emerging digital approaches, new research problematics, and implications for the discipline of history and its understanding, for those using or producing digital maps to create spatial historical knowledge. For centuries, historians have provided maps within their work to visualize complex information. With the increasing awareness of spatial dimensions in history and the invention of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), historical research should grant mapping a greater methodological role in processes of research and scientific discovery. Reflecting through the international exchange of ideas upon the impact of digital mapping today on conceptions of history, methodology, Quellenkritik, and theoretical frameworks, offers understanding into how the discipline of history and the knowledge it creates are changing in response to a new digital spatial turn.

The ascendance of neogeography and digital humanities has resulted in a global explosion of scholarly mapping projects that appear to overcome limitations of traditional Historical GIS by utilizing dynamic content to represent temporal change, and through accessible tools to construct independent and crowd-sourced databases often derived from archival materials beyond census data and other forms of official record. Concurrent with these recent historiographical developments, contemporary historical research has given increased focus to the role of print-based maps e.g. in the construction of nations, surpralocal identities, and imperial territorialities. The interest in digitizing such maps and enriching them with metadata and other information useful for scholars is more than apparent at an international level. However, mapping projects are often focused on technological solutions and rarely discuss methodological or theoretical implications for historical scholarship.

To open up opportunities for critical inner-, but also inter-disciplinary theoretical-methodological reflection and comparison, the event seeks to present a large range of methodological approaches and geographic scales and topics. We especially welcome, therefore, proposals that are comparative in scope, projects integrating multiple digital techniques, and approaches operating at multiple spatial and temporal scales. While the overriding concern of the event is mapping within historiography and within history from the Early Modern period to the contemporary, the range of approaches is open and may involve digital humanities, cultural history, political history, history of knowledge, (post)colonial History, urban history, the history of historiography or other critical frameworks. Although research centered on nation-states is relevant, we are particularly interested in the question of how to map transnational and transregional history sufficiently.

We plan for the conference to unfold over three days at the GHI Washington: Thursday (Oct. 20), co-convened with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, is dedicated to workshops focused on new methodological approaches and digital tools; Friday (Oct. 21) and Saturday (Oct. 22), co-convened with Digital Humanities at Berkeley, are comprised of panels, roundtable discussions, and lectures.