Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

A case study of a pilot micro-history of global networks using Heurist as an analytical tool.   (100)

Jane Haggis , Ella York

When do small scale highly qualitative researchers go digital at the stage of analysis rather than curation and why? what is involved? This presentation endeavours to answer these questions by tracing the decision making that went into deciding to use a digital methodology for a highly qualitative cultural history project.The presentation describes the construction of a pilot digital methods study and its outcomes. The work is based on an ARC Discovery Project in cultural history that will be completed in mid 2020. The presentation forms part of a paper situating our use of digital technologies within the debates over what constitutes digital history and its relationship to both mainstream history and the digital humanities.


Cultural history focuses on the construction of meaning in the past. Our project’s key concerns are the politics of affect and ideas that underwrote cross-cultural anti-colonial networks in the final decades of the British empire. How and why might digital technologies help us in grasping the nature and dynamics of these relational worlds? What value would a digital methodology bring to the project? Would it be worth the time and effort?


The digital history project team were all new to digital humanities and history, although not necessarily new to digital technologies as such - as academic lecturer, public servant or computer science specialist. The decision to use digital methodologies presented us with a range of individual and collective challenges which the presentation outlines, including why we decided to use Heurist as the core digital technology for our study. Each of the presenters offers different insights into the research and technical processes involved in the making of the pilot. The reflective process the presentation engages in, offers constructive knowledge for both new and experienced users of digital technologies. The session concludes with the results of the pilot and an appraisal of what the ‘digital turn’ offered to us - was it worth it? Will we continue and why?