Ranke.2 is a teaching platform that offers lessons on how to critically assess and work with digital historical sources
Historians of the 21st century need to be aware of the specific nature of the digital sources they analyse in their research. The critical interrogation of a historical source - finding out who created it, at what time, for what purpose and in what context - has always formed the basis of historical scholarship. But now that we have seemingly unlimited access to retro-digitised material and born-digital data through the web, we need to learn how to critically assess digital resources, just as we have always done with “analogue” materials. The impact of digital technology might be compared to the way in which the introduction of the microscope and telescope in the 16th century changed the scale at which natural phenomena could be perceived and studied. To be able to cope with these changes, we need a thorough understanding of the interplay between digital technology and historical research.
By engaging with our lessons, that consist of animations, quizzes and assignments, students will learn:
A digital text, image or recording may appear to be similar to its analogue version, but it is actually a collection of digits arranged in a particular order that offers a representation of the original which can be viewed on a screen, without its material characteristics. Turning an analogue object into a digital one entails a whole series of changes that affect its appearance and informative value. The analogue object is taken out of its original context, whether a private household, archive, museum or library, converted into digits, enriched with metadata and then published online. See: lit ; lit; lit; lit
These changes do not mean that traditional approaches to research are becoming obsolete. We still need to attentively read, analyse and interpret primary and secondary sources. We have to maintain our ability to sketch and to write with pen and pencil. We still need to visit archives, libraries and museums, since only a very small percentage of their sources have been published online. The best equipped historian is the hybrid historian, who knows how to combine traditional and innovative research practices. See: lit
The lessons we offer on this website are a crossover between history, archival studies, ancillary sciences, information science and computer science. In our view this multidisciplinary approach is necessary to foster a new generation of digital savvy scholars, who ask the right questions when dealing with digital content and are able to organise, analyse and present digital and analogue data with the help of digital tools. See: lit
meta-source criticism, the creation, enrichment and identification of digitised and born-digital sources, tool criticism: remix and re-contextualisation: reuse of data in a digital context