Getting started

Finally, I’m sitting down to write my first post here. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous and excited, but well…here it is! The blog to accompany my research project on the changes that history and memory cultures are undergoing due to the digital turn. This will be my public research scrapbook, my “open journal”, where I will discuss all kinds of matters connected to my research on this exciting topic. There will be some distractions, some marginal aspects, but also a lot of sweet little toppings on the cake, i.e. links, hints at recent publications on the field, CfPs etc.

But what you will read here mostly is how the project is emerging, the stages it will be going through, including drafts of texts I am and will be writing, but also questions, all sorts of ponderings about how to address the topic, methodological questions etc. I’ve taken the inspiration to do so from two people: the leading digital historian Peter Haber (1964–2013), who recently sadly passed away, and Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University. Both have based the writing of books strongly on blogging about the subject. Weller stated that he wrote his fascinating volume The Digital Scholar through his blog. Peter Haber on the other hand wrote his seminal study on the Digital Past (which, despite its English title, is in German) by posting more than 500 mostly rather short entries on the blog he co-administrated weblog.histnet.ch.1.

Whenever I read about the positive experiences that authors like the mentioned ones described, I felt in awe but could not imagine to do the same. Actually, I first had to overcome my own skepticism towards blogging. When participating in a course on the use of web 2.0 tools in academic teaching and research I discovered the world of blogs, twitter and (academic uses of) Facebook. As an experiment, I started a blog on the field I have been teaching and doing research on for more than ten years now, which is Northern European History. NordicHistoryBlog, which is predominantly in German, has become quite a successful project, even winning the poll on the German-speaking branch of hypotheses as most popular blog 2013. From a solo project, this blog has grown into a group blog with other permanent authors as well as guest authors.

This has not only been a most encouraging experience, but also the impetus to start a  blog on my post-doctoral research project. I’ve been working on it for a while, but to tell the truth, it took me a while before deciding to submit the application for this new blog. I was rather hesitant at first, unsure whether it’s a good idea to go public still at a rather early stage of my project. In contrast to my other blogging experience, I feel rather…naked, one might say. I was not sure if I were confident enough to present unfinished thoughts, drafts, a project still in its infancy. But then I finally said to myself it should be worth “taking the risk”. Well, what risk, actually? I decided that there is nothing to lose and much more to win. I hope you will be joining me on my journey through the digital world of history. I am looking forward to your comments and remarks!

  1. Haber and his colleague Jan Hodel were pioneers of scholarly blogging in the German-speaking humanities when establishing their history portal hist.net in 1998, followed by the blog in 2005. []

Jan Hecker-Stampehl

wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter für nordeuropäische Geschichte · Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Nordeuropa-Institut · Begründer und Administrator von NordicHistoryBlog

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