E – Concepts and digital tools, fields and disciplines in global history

Digital history and the writing of minority (global) histories

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    E – Concepts and digital tools, fields and disciplines in global history
Convenor
  • Martin Dusinberre (University of Zurich)
Chair
  • William G. Thomas (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Commentator
  • William G. Thomas (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Panelists
  • David Ambaras (North Carolina State University)
  • Kate McDonald (University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Martin Dusinberre (University of Zurich)
  • Helena Jaskov (University of Zurich)

Papers

  • David Ambaras
    Kate McDonald
    Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping Modern East Asian History

    Bodies and Structures: Deep-mapping Modern East Asian History

    The fundamental intervention of spatial humanistic scholarship is the notion that space is multi-vocal—that places are made up of layers of meaning and history; that layers of place produce distinct geographic footprints and sets of spatial relationships; and that one’s social-historical positionality or “body” shapes how one encounters particular spatial “structures.” Yet the cartographic map visualizes only a small fraction of these complex historical relationships and experiences. Launched in 2019, Bodies and Structures provides an environment where users can identify, explore, and analyze the dynamics of place-making within the historical space of "modern East Asia" without reifying any one perspective. In this presentation, we will discuss how, through a combination of individually-authored modules and collectively-curated conceptual maps and visualizations, Bodies and Structures encourages reflection on the kinds of spaces, places, and modes of being in and seeing the world that are excluded from the operations of hegemonic cartographic rationality. We will discuss how our digital platform (Scalar) and tagging method permit us to apprehend the logics of place-making and spatial ordering that produce normativities and minority positions (or vulnerabilities) from which "resistance" might become possible or thinkable; and how the nonlinear character of the digital environment enables such conceptualizations. Finally, we will reflect on what more is needed, both conceptually and technically, to provide an even more robust environment for exploring power and contestation in and over space and place in East Asia and beyond.
  • Martin Dusinberre
    Helena Jaskov
    Lives in Transit: Gamification and Global History

    Lives in Transit: Gamification and Global History

    Lives in Transit is a tool both to narrate and to teach global history in a digitized age. It offers historians a model for presenting their research in the form of serious gaming; and the game itself simulates the real-life experience of research for BA and MA student-players. Unlike conventional academic formats—the essay, the chapter or the monograph—the game allows the writer to explore nonlinear storytelling and to create parallel and multi-directional narratives. Through gamification, Lives in Transit invites players to experience the genesis of a piece of global history research and offers them innovative ways of chronicling and mapping this creative process. At the same time, it encourages them to reflect on the nature of doing research in a digitized world. With its strong focus on the present-day research environment of academic work, it points to the unevenly distributed access to research funding and even online sources. In this presentation we will introduce the game’s potential to reveal the asymmetries that characterize academic knowledge production in the field of global history (including the marginalization of “minority” languages in the writing and theorization of global history).

Abstract

This panel examines the interface between minority, global and digital histories. It focuses on two projects which have their roots in the history of the Japanese empire: ‘Bodies and Structures’, and ‘Lives in Transit’ (launched in 2019 and 2020 respectively). ‘Bodies and Structures’ combines individually-authored, media-rich content modules with conceptual maps and visualizations to explore the multiple topologies of historical experience in modern East Asia. Meanwhile, ‘Lives in Transit’ employs the genre of serious gaming to write global history, using role-play partly to expose the player/student to “minority” languages and historiographies. Both projects exemplify the challenges—epistemological and technical—that arise from their adopting multivocal approaches to the study of space, place and mapping. They also both use the potential of digital technologies to practice nonlinear argument-making, thus diverging from the ways historical prose has usually been taught in the Euro-American academy. The panel will introduce both projects and, with the intervention of one of the leading pioneers in the field of digital history, critically reflect on their origins and future possible development. We aim particularly to address the production of normative narratives in the writing of digital and global history—and the ways our problematizing the “minority” might help us resist such normativities.