The conference builds on the assumption that the digital transformation is currently changing historical research and storytelling profoundly and irreversibly – and that this will have lasting effects on historical studies and their relevance in the public sphere. Therefore, the value of the past is to be re-assessed against the backdrop of digital transformation, and the relation between communicative and cultural memory is being redefined. The contributions to the conference should thus explore crises of evidence and factuality that arise from the transformation of media formats and media usages. They should address the impact this transformation will have on the formation of future historical consciousness. The conference will therefore also contribute to the critical reading of the concept of the ‘post-factual age’ and its ‘positivistic bias’.
The conference will cover the topic in several sections. A first focus will be on epistemological foundations. Under which (new) conditions does the canonization of historical narratives take place in the digital space and how do corresponding communities of memory emerge? How should we assess the obvious return of “grand” historical narratives and of historical myths? For example, how can memory institutions and museums react to this kind of “perceived truth” with their activities in the field of knowledge transfer?
Against the background of current history content in digital space and new forms of digital storytelling, it is also important to ask how the representation of the past in digital formats will have an impact on historical methods in the future. Here, current practices of analyzing, presenting and discussing facts and interpretations in the historical disciplines and research museums need to be contrasted with phenomena outside of a pluralistic understanding of science. Historical theories of conspiracy, cultures of disinformation and (pseudo)scientific narratives of the past come into focus here. The main question is whether the “post-factual” is more likely to be promoted by digital formats and if so, by which ones? And what opportunities arise from dealing with “fake pasts” for the further development of historical disciplines? What consequences does this have for the future skills of historians?
Another focus of the conference will be on the transformation of the validation of evidence in the course of digital transformation. In regard to key questions of source criticism in the digital age, the new conditions for the production of evidence upon which historical narratives are based are to be discussed. On the one hand, the conference is concerned with the consequences of the loss of sources – due to the lack of archiving of digital communication – as well as the sheer quantity of sources due to the massive availability of digital text and images online. It is important to ask which new methods are available or need to be developed in the field of digital humanities to ensure appropriate treatment of genuine digital sources (born digitals) in the future. This ranges from digital forensics to the hermeneutic analysis of digital corpora with technical tools requiring new methods of quality assurance.
Last but not least the conference will address the political dimension of the “post-truth” and its medial foundations. Especially against the background of Russia's war against Ukraine, but also in view of populist challenges for democracies, the aim is to reflect on how history is weaponized, becoming both, an instrument for the creation of political legitimacy and an device for disinformation in the digital space. In this context, strategies for establishing and discrediting systems of norms and values are to be analyzed: for example in relation to historical concepts, “alternative” and counter-narratives in authoritarian systems and populist movements, or in relation to the questioning of scholarly-historical findings, as they can be found, for example, in biologistic images of history, in the questioning of climate change or in the creation stories of creationists.
The conference is directly linked to the German Historikertag 2023 in Leipzig on the general topic of “Frag-ile Facts“. With the Luxembourg Center for Contemporary and Digital History, one of the most important international centers of digital history will be co-organizer, as well as the Ľviv Center for Urban History, one of the central hubs for digital humanities in Ukraine.
Conference languages are German and English (with translation of German contributions into English). We welcome suggestions for individual and group presentations. Please send the title, short abstract (up to 15 lines) and short CV in English or German to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by November 30, 2022.