Christina von Hodenberg (Chair of the panel)

Writing contemporary history with social data: Plans for a digital infrastructure


Recent contemporary historiography is increasingly drawing on ‘social data’. This type of source includes quantitative and qualitative material from official statistical surveys, contemporary social science research, and audio-visual media archives. As the social has become scientized, these data-holdings have become ever bigger and more complex. Access to social data allows contemporary historians of the twentieth and twenty-first century to tackle new research topics, but also poses new methodological and conceptual challenges for the discipline. At present, this data has to be painstakingly reconstructed and contextualised to make it useful for historical research. Legal issues arise: who does this data belong to? Do data protection regulations and the ethical standards valid at the time when the data was collected permit its use by contemporary historians? In the case of older data, its collection is often not fully documented. In addition, these data-holdings are often very mixed, and as well as texts and transcripts also include various objects such as tables, index cards, tapes, video interviews, questionnaires, raw statistical data, and punch cards. Economic, social, and contemporary historians still lack partners from outside the discipline to help them tap the research potential of such social data. The development of a suitable digital infrastructure as part of the creation of national research data infrastructures (NFDIs) is among the current challenges. The podium will discuss opportunities and problems in the development of a research data infrastructure for the historical use of social data. The dialogue between curators of data, economic and social historians, contemporary historians, and representatives of related social sciences is intended to provide an impetus for the further development of current and future projects.

Lutz Raphael (Trier) Nicole Mayer-Ahuja (Göttingen) Eva Schlotheuber (Düsseldorf) Pascal Siegers (Mannheim) Sabine Reh (Frankfurt am Main)