Archive for category History
We’ve talked about digital history. Now let’s discuss spatial history, or better yet, the spatial humanities.What are the spatial humanities? It’s perhaps too abstract to adequately define, but, it is essentially another way of looking at, and presenting the humanities that involves abstract and physical space. I’ll use history as an example. Traditionally history has been presented through chronological events. Richard White from Stanford University suggests that won’t change, but by adding the ingredients necessary to help the reader or viewer visualize space, too, the historian provides a clearer picture of the past. Humanists can do the same, by utilizing GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology.
According to a recent book edited by David J. Bodenhamer, (read my book review here), The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship, the use of time and space can be maximized by implementing GIS technology into humanities scholarship. The Spatial History Project of Stanford University asserts that history is chronological, but GIS allows historians to give “a graphic representation of the interrelation of time and space.” (White, “What is Spatial History?”) These sound like really great things. Historians and Humanists are always looking for ways to better represent the human condition throughout time. There are problems, however.
The biggest problem in implementing GIS technology into humanities scholarship, that I gathered from these two readings, is how to translate cold and uninterpretable numbers and data to the interpretable sources required for ‘doing history’–or humanities. Studying the human condition is an abstract science, unlike the science used for gathering the data for creating maps. So how can there be any sort of union between these two disciplines that are at opposite ends of the academic spectrum? The editors of The Spatial Humanities nail this problem when they suggest that perhaps a language that bridges these disciplines is necessary. (Bodenhammer, pp. 8) This language has not been invented yet which is why, I think, there is some concern with using GIS in humanities.
Finally, is spatial history digital history? It doesn’t have to be. Historians have long used information from maps to write books and articles without producing a single pixelated byte. Historians may continue to do just that, however, by taking advantage of GIS technology, they just might be able to add several dimensions to their work. And, for those adventurous historians and humanists that do go the length and harness the full power of GIS, good for you.
I came across this somewhat iconic photo of a German man refusing to give Hitler a Nazi salute and I thought, that’s eigensinn. My German history professor explained what this kind of behavior was last semester. Eigensinn is German. It means stubbornness. Literally, it means, “own sense.” This man is showing both stubbornness and own sense in the photo. He’s stubbornly refusing to do something that is not within his “own sense” to do. He’s defying the system without really defying it. This picture caught my attention because at this time, especially, most Germans did not practice eigensinn, they were very much kadavergehorsamkeit, they obeyed no matter what. This guy stands out among a sea of sheep, which, if he really was August Landmesser, was why he was killed by the Nazi regime shortly after this photo was taken.
Eigensinn was more of an attitude as a response to the absurdity of life under a bureaucratic regime like the Austrians in Austria-Hungary, for example. A classic example of eigensinn can be found in the book, The Good Soldier Swejk, by Jaroslav Hasek. Swejk was a Czech soldier in Austria-Hungary during the assassination of the Austrian prince and the start of the First World War. The book follows him through his adventure in the war while at the same time satirizing Austrian bureaucracy. Basically, Swejk played dumb and got a kick out of watching Austrian bureaucrats, soldiers, officials, etc. make fools of themselves. This, because although they were very bureaucratic, they were very unorganized, like most every other governmental institution ever known to man. That’s irony. Anyway, I saw this picture on Twitter and thought, I should blog about that.
I came across this article today about the mail service during WWI and thought I’d share it. It actually compliments the historical exhibit I worked on last year quite nicely. You can find that here. I do have a soft spot in my heart for WWI, and postcards, so I’ll ramble on some more.
Just like the BBC News article states, correspondence was big business in wartime but it was treated as an extension of the military. In my research for the exhibit I came across several postcards of postal service-men and women, and also postcards that were inscribed and marked with an X. The postcard below is an example of both these kinds of cards. The sender has marked a big X, that he calls a “cross” in the inscription on the back, by the depot where he “hauls” mail every week.
In Then Came a Post, I wrote a panel titled, “Locating Oneself.” My thesis was that soldiers marked and inscribed postcards to create a “monument to personal memory,” and, “to validate their (personal) experiences.” Since this postcard isn’t postmarked, it’s probable that this soldier either wanted to preserve his own memory about the war, or he wanted to have something to share with a loved one back home that could give a visual of where he spent his days during the war. Pretty cool stuff.