Category Archives: Digital Humanities

History journals in the new ranking proposed by Google

Google proposes a new ranking for scientific journals based on Google Scholar, called Google Scholar Metrics (GSM)1. It establishes a slightly different image from the one created by Thomson Reuters and “its” impact factor.

The top 10 publications proposed by Google in comparison to the Thomson Reuters Index2

Name of the journal Google Scholars Ranking Thomson Reuters Index
Nature 1 3
New England Journal of Medicine 2 1
Science 3 7
RePEc 4 not considered as a journal
arXiv 5 not considered as a journal
The Lancet 6 4
Social Science Research Network 7 not considered as a journal
Cell 8 6
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 9 11
Nature Genetics 10 2

The initiative is quite interesting. First, there is no longer one single reference but at least two. The monopolistic position of Thomson Reuters is slightly challenged. Second, with RePEc, ArXiv and Social Science Research Network, Google takes into account initiatives outside the medical and biological fields, which is beneficial for a broader image of what science is.

The limits of Google Scholar Metrics appear however quickly when I tried to use it for historical journals. In the English top-100 list, no historical journal is recorded. In the German top 100, one historical journal – Historische Sozialforschung – is listed at 33. And in  the French top 100, Genèses (48) and Annales (57) represent history. If you ask GSM for the most influential journals in history you get the following top ten:

  • The Journal of Economic History
  • Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
  • The Economic History Review
  • Explorations in Economic History
  • Journal of Natural History
  • Amsterdam Studies in the theory and history of linguist science series 4
  • Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • The International Journal of the History of Sport
  • Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part A

If I am quite pleased by the importance of journals dedicated to science studies3, it does clearly not represent the major trends in the field. So I wonder if Google Scholar Metrics will be another Google Beta project that will disappear in a few months or if it will be improved by a new magic Google algorithm.

  1. All the requests for this post has been done on 6 April 2012 []
  2. The Thomson Reuters Index I used is the one published for the different journals on Wikipedia (2009 or 2010). Google’s ranking covers articles published between 2007 and 2011 []
  3. Based on GSM, I will claim from now on having published an article in a top ten historical journal: Pieters Toine et Majerus Benoît, « The introduction of chlorpromazine in Belgium and the Netherlands (1951-1968); Tango between old and new treatment features », Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 42-4, 2011, p. 443–452. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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A Survey on the Digital Humanities

Statistics compiled by @melissaterras (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities) - December 2011

Together with 18 other colleagues and Cléo/OpenEdition.org, we launched a survey to map the Digital Humanities in the world, excusez du peu. This project has to be put in a larger context: in autumn 2012 a European Association for Digital Humanities should be launched at the THATCamp Paris. The Digital Humanities are quite a new “thought collective”1. In 2007 the first academic journal – Digital Humanities Quarterly – was founded and since then the community has known a quite vividly extension.

As often when a new scientific field is in the making, the battle for the Deutungshoheit over what is Digital Humanities and who will speak in the name of the Digital Humanists has just started. Several organisations represent the field at he moment: The Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC), the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), and the Society for Digital Humanities. The European Association for Digital Humanities will be a new player in the field: its main characteristics are its advocacy for open access and multilingualism. Even if I am very new in the field, Humanistica appears as a reaction against DH that seem sometimes dominated by English speaking linguists. One goal of the survey is therefore to discover the extent and diversity, the geographical and linguistic composition of the Digital Humanities.

On Monday, 1 April 2012, more than 280 humanists had already answered out the survey. For those of you who have not yet filled out the survey, click here.

  1. Fleck, Ludwig (1980) Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache : Einführung in die Lehre von Denkstil und Denkkollektiv (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp); funny enough the Wikipedia article does not furnish a history of the DH []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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#iamjustanhistorian

Word cloud of the first day of #dhlu realised by Frédéric Clavert with "many eyes"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last week was entirely dedicated to Digital Humanities, first with the DHLU Symposium 2012 and than with the THATCamp Luxembourg/Trier. Impossible to resume the four days in this post so I will just highlight five points.

  • Thomas Lebarbé presented the Stendhal’s digital manuscript project. Coming from the IT-field he was easy to understand what is quite rare. He pleaded for a greater respect of the “technologists” by the “humanists”. If both fields want to work together, both fields have to find their interest in it. As long as technologies are only considered as auxiliary tools there will be no real cooperation. I know why we should use digital tools but why should computer scientists be interested in humanities?
  • I discovered a lot of new tools during the four days. And at several moments we had a discussion on a minimal digital toolbox for the students:
    • Zotero as reference manager,
    • WordPress for blogging,
    • Google refine for data analysis,
    • Google Reader to follow journals, blogs…,
    • many eyes for visualisation,
    • Python for coding but do we need coding,
    • ? for web content grabbing,
    • ? for creating timelines,
    • If you have other ideas please feel free to put them into the comments.
  • In a session we discussed a class I am planning from next year on. Inspired by the work of Alwyn Collinson on WW2, we will tell the story of the Great War through daily tweets. The idea was to make students write the tweets. Mark Tebeau pleaded for a more interactive approach where we will ask followers of @realtimeww1 to send us material that will be checked for its accuracy by the students before being tweeted. During the Open Day of uni.lu, we experienced World War One goes Twitter for the events happening 96 years earlier, on 24 March 1918.
  • It was my first conference where Twitter really played a major role. For the Symposium 25 people produced more than 680 tweets. Most of the time, Twitter did accompany the presentations but at one point an independent discussion on the (un)necessary distinction between digital humanities and digital history took exclusively place on Twitter. 30 people covered THATCamp (more than 450 tweets) and this time a lot of references to projects, ideas, etc. came in through Twitter. Twenty years ago, conference proceedings published sometimes the discussions after the presentations. How tweets from a confernce will be saved and made accessible today?
  • The last point is related to the philosophy of Digital Humanities. For me, it was mainly using digital tools but a part of the participants had an other definition. When I was asking, on twitter, what I should teach my students in a DH-class Marin Dacos answered

And Mark Tebeau argued that when you are using closed tools, such as closed wikis, you are no longer doing Digital Humanities. The importance of openness and collaboration appeared as central for the definition of DH and a whole discussion “spinned off” on the question if the Humanities without the “D” have been/are open.

Peter Haber, one of the keynote speakers of the Symposium, has written this post on the conference.

Sean Takats from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is not amused by a phrase he heard quite often at the Symposium and which is the title of this post.

To read the resumes of the THATCamp sessions, click here.

 

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Using Twitter during a lecture – accessibility of internet devices

In order to evaluate the Twitter experience I tried last term, the education service of the ULB distributed a questionnaire at the end of the class. A first set of questions revolved around the accessibility of devices that would allow students to use Twitter in the classroom. 95.5% of the respondents had either a laptop or cell phone which give them access to Internet. Without minimizing the argument that the use of new media could be a factor of social exclusion, these figures indicate that this seems no longer to be the case.

The laptop has become particularly widespread: four fifths of respondents have one. More surprising for me was the high rate of students who have a smartphone: 47%. If the equipment rate is very high, all do not bring their laptop or smartphone in the classroom, far from it. 39% always leave at home, 32% use it sometimes in the course and 29% consistently. Internet use during the course was therefore limited not by the financial inability of students to have the necessary equipment but by their reluctance to bring it to the university. The reasons for this are multiple.

Reasons not to bring your internet device to class (n = 101, multiple answers possible)

Too bulky to carry Not enough battery life Risk of loss or theft Risk of distraction during the class I do not see the point
63.4% 28.7% 30.7% 46.5% 16.8%

Two aspects are problematic for most students. On the one hand laptops are considered too bulky to transport. Is this related to the fact that cheap laptops are often relatively heavy? Why are netbooks like the Asus Eee PC not used more heavily? Will the arrival of the tablets change the game?1 A second barrier is the fear of distraction, fear also expressed by colleagues when I told them about the exercise. The limited autonomy of the battery (given as the only reason in 7% of cases) and the risk of loss or theft (given as the only reason only once) are other significant barriers.

  1. I did not see students using one during my class. Contrary to the States where tablet ownership is already widespread, this seems not to be the case in Belgium. Liberat Ntibashirakandi actually plans a study on the topic at the ULB []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Making a virtual encyclopedia – Part Two

 

Screenshot of the website (20 January 2012)
Screenshot of the website (20 January 2012)

No doubt, 14-18-online will be a big encyclopedia: they plan more than 500 long articles and more than 1000 encyclopedical smaller articles (about 10 000 pages).1 But will it be more, as among others John Horne asked during a two-day workshop dedicated to the project?

After  listening to several historians and IT-specialists, some points remain unclear:

  • I still do not see the link between technology and history. At the moment, the plan is to write “printable” texts that are published on the web, after being adapted by the staff hired for the project. But I have somehow the impression that writing immediately for the web implies a different form of composing an argument: the text should/can/must (?) be less linear. One of the numerous problems, which Wikipedia has not resolved either, is how to deal with article-hopping, which happens quite often thanks to the hyperlinks.
  • Secondly, as a classic printed encyclopedia, 14-18-online is a very closed project. The licence is at the moment quite restrictive. Neither on the technological nor on the “content” side of the project has there been given much thought on how to integrate not planned content. I could for example imagine working with my students on “World War One in Luxembourg” and assess them on editing and writing posts for 14-18-online: today Wikipedia gets a lot of content this way.2
  • Thirdly and this is related to the aforementioned point, the refusal to think about user interaction is very problematic. Academics still seem to see readers mainly as passive users. Wikipedia proves them wrong. I know that a lot of people are quite sceptical on a collaboration with lay historians and the general public in general – I was even struck how much scholars still have reticences on publishing on the net – but this is one of the paradigm of successful publishing on the net.

I hope we will at least find partial solutions to these questions for 2014.3

During the workshop, Annette Becker told me about the Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence. This is probably the worst virtual encyclopedia I have seen so far because if the content is, as far as I am able to judge, written by THE specialist in the field, there seems to be no reflection at all on the medium used to transmit the message.

  1. The German reference encyclopaedia has 26 overview articles and 650 lemmatas on 1000 pages: Hirschfeld, Gerhard, Gerd Krumeich, and Irina Renz, eds. Enzyklopädie Erster Weltkrieg. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2003.  []
  2. Wikipedia has even a page dedicated to these projects, entitled School and university projects. []
  3. I am associated to the project as a section editor for France, Germany and Belgium together with Christoph Cornelissen and Nicolas Beaupré. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Making a virtual encyclopaedia on World War One

The planned logo of the encyclopaedia

This week I am invited to a workshop organised by a project entitled 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Under the direction of Oliver Janz from the Freie Universität Berlin, a team of international historians will try to establish the leading encyclopaedia on the topic. The goal is to have a finished product for the centenarian commemoration of the First World War in 2014. It is the third time that I participate at a dictionary on the history of the Grande Guerre1 but the first one that it is immediately built for the internet. Till today the only virtual encyclopaedia I am using regularly is Wikipedia, which defines itself as a “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”2. The project of 1914-1918-online is quite different. As in a classic printed encyclopaedia, the authors are chosen by an editorial board. As for the the copyright of the content, I have no idea, which model Oliver Janz has in his mind. I am quite curious how the editors will implement the “virtuality” of the encyclopaedia. At the moment I am quite sceptical because they are asking quite long articles (up to 7 500 characters), which nobody will read on the net. And we did get no instructions on how to implement the possibilities offered by internet. The printed encyclopaedia seems still to be the ideal type.

Besides Wikipedia, there are two other german virtual encyclopaedia, which I use sometimes: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte and European History Online (EGO). Both are graphically nice, but not very adapted to the internet because the interaction with the reader is very limited. One of the most important elements of successful products on the web is the blurring of the frontiers between readers and authors who become users. Neither EGO nor Docupedia gives the possibility to “like” (Facebook), “tweet” or “+1” (Google) an article. Contrary to Docupedia, EGO does not even allow comments. The texts are normally quite long, links to other resources on the net are rare and they do not make use of  image, sound and video possibilities.

In a recent article on the use by students of historicum.net, a german history webpage, which defines itself as a platform for students and people interested in history, Schmitt and Kowski underline the following points. The first problem of historicum.net is the low level of awareness of the existence of the platform. How can an academic site compete with Wikipedia? The missing linking between the articles was a second point that was often criticised. Finally students – are they the main public of 1914-19148-online? – prefer small, introductory texts to long articles. Internet is still only used as an introduction to a topic not as the main resource. Interestingly “facebook-functionalities” were not a priority demand.3.

If you have some examples of successful academic encyclopaedias, please let me know in the comments.

  1. Hirschfeld, Gerhard, KRUMEICH, Gerd, RENZ, Irina Hg., Enzyklopädie Erster Weltkrieg, Paderborn, Schöningh, 2003 and LE NAOUR, Jean-Yves, Dictionnaire de la Grande Guerre, Paris, Larousse, 2008 []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page 12-1-2012 []
  3. Schmitt, Christine, and Nicola Kowski. “Zwischen Handbuch und ‘Facebook’ – was erwarten Studierende von einem geschichtlichen Fachportal?” Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 62, no. 11/12 (2011): 655-668. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as an historian at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a social history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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