GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences: Go to homepage

Manfred Thaller: From History to Applied Computer Science in the Humanities

HSR Supplement 29 (2017) - Manfred Thaller: From History to Applied Computer Science in the Humanities

Mainly as part of the methodological opening of traditional historical research in the seventies, computer applications within historical studies appeared in the seventies as a new interdisciplinary direction. While originally there was a clear – and almost exclusive – focus on quantitative analysis, supported particularly energetically by the QUANTUM group at Cologne, there soon developed a broader field, embracing information technology in its hole width, beyond its usefulness as a tool for quantitative analysis.  Manfred Thaller was part of that development for twenty years at the Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen, where he worked on IT tools and methods targeted directly at historical studies, before he was appointed to the first professorship for computer applications in the Humanities in Germany created outside of linguistics, at the University at Cologne.

This volume starts with an autobiographical essay describing his experience of this development of an interdisciplinary area, which left him with rather mixed memories: behind a sparkling front story of an enfolding field, he frequently had the feeling, that there was a tendency to ignore the huge epistemic potential of a serious attempt to apply computer science to the field of history in favor of glamorous but shallow short term goals. This volume presents thirteen independent papers, describing a number of the requirements for a more intensive form of interdisciplinary work between Computer Science and the Humanities. Besides general methodological considerations, they focus on the particularities of text and time as occurring in historical sources, trying to connect these various threads into a general model for the representation of historical information in information technology.
Manfred Thaller is professor emeritus for Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Informationsverarbeitung (applied computer science in the Humanities) at the University at Cologne.