“What has digital technology changed in our relationship to research?”

This post is the English translation of a statement given at the Journée de la recherche en Lettres at UNIL on March 12, 2021, in response to the question: “how has digital technology changed (or not) your relationship with research?”

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Making Markdown

I’m writing more and more of my papers in Markdown and use pandoc to produce PDF files for submission. The settings and customizations necessary to produce a PDF document conforming with specifications can make the build process quite complex. Consequently I’ve been using makefiles to run pandoc with the right settings for a specific publication and to keep track of the dependencies, such as bibliographies, header includes, custom template, etc.

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What Are We Uncertain About? The Challenge of Historiographical Uncertainty

When people talk about uncertainty in a historical context in digital humanities, most of the time they talk about questions such as the exact date of birth of a person, whether two names refer to one or two persons, what geographical location a place name refers to, or the location of a person at a specific point in time. These are important questions and it is important to find ways to computationally model the associated uncertainty. However, history is ultimately not about drawing exact maps or time lines, even if those can certainly help: history is about causality. In this talk, I would like to reflect on some of the issues on the level of historical interpretation, i.e., historiographical rather than historical uncertainty.

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Localizing Place Names in Bibliographies

If you need to create bibliographies for different purposes, in different languages and styles, one problem is that sometimes you want the place of publication (or, if applicable, the venue) to include the country (e.g., “Lausanne, Switzerland”), and sometimes you don’t. APA style1 requires the country only for places outside the US: “Chicago, IL” but “Frankfurt, Germany.” Other bibliography styles are less explicit in this respect, but it seems at least at a little bit silly to give the country for major European cities in a German-language bibliography. In this case you probably want “Frankfurt am Main” (or some abbreviation thereof) to distinguish it from “Frankfurt an der Oder.” And for a bibliography in French you want “Francfort-sur-le-Main,” and so on.

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Touch-Typing, the Underrated Superpower

I recently came across the article 10-Finger-Schreiben: Die völlig unterschätzte Superkraft (“Touch-typing: the totally underrated superpower”; if you don’t read German, you can go directly to the piece that inspired it, The best life hack for 2018 that isn’t on any life hack list). I fully agree with the author when he notes that, given the comparatively small effort you have to put into learning it and the huge positive effect on your productivity, it is probably one of the best investments into personal development you can make since the beginning of the Information Age.

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Forward to the Dark Ages of Document Processing!

I recently finished and submitted an article for a journal. Apart from submissions in “*.doc / *.docx, *.rtf or *.odt,” as it says on the journal’s Web site, the agreement I signed actually also permits submissions in “XML according to TEI as per [the journal’s] schema.” As the article is ultimately published in TEI—the HTML is generated from TEI, and you can even download the TEI—this would only seem logical, but see my earlier rant on publishing in digital humanities (I still have to say a few more words on this topic, but this’ll have to wait for some other time). I certainly don’t subject myself to writing an article in Word, so it was clear that I would submit it in TEI.

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The Digital Age (English remix)

Last year, Wolfgang Schmale wondered in a blog post (in German) whether the expression the digital age has established itself as designation of a new historical period, noting that it is “doing quite well in the competition with other labels such as ‘postmodernity’ or ‘postmodern era’.” The following is a free English translation of my German-language comment on this post.

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Digital Humanities Publishing

I have a long-standing interest in electronic digital publishing. In fact, my first job after getting my master’s degree was with a large scientific publisher, so besides having the experience of an author and editor, I also know a thing or two about the role of scientific publishers. It is from this time that I still have a rubber stamp saying “SGML,” which I keep because it says a lot about scholarly publishing.

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