Tool Criticism

Digital tools allow for new approaches to the creation of historical perspectives, interpretations and facts, such asthinkering. However, as historians are not versed in their use, there is a need for the analysis of the tools themselves and the results they’re able to offer. Digital tool criticism should become a necessary prerequisite to research which is based on the tools used. The historian should reflect on the nature, the possibilities and the limitations of the tools he plans to use for the analysis of his sources (big data, statistical figures) and the results of his research. The codes, theconventions and the inner workings of the different digital tools should be known by historians and discussed with computer scientists. New problems surrounding the constructed nature of the data and results arise (e.g. blind trust in statistical correlations and visual evidence) and should be recognized. The combining of the traditional method of close reading with the possibility of distant reading guaranteed by the tools becomes only possible after developing an updated methodology of the historian’s procedure of work.


Jim MUSSEL, “Doing and Making. History as Digital Practice” in Toni WELLER, History in the Digital Age, London, Routledge, 2013

Manfred THALLER, “Can we afford to use the computer; can we afford not to use it?” in Hélène MILLET, Informatique et Prosopographie, Paris, CNRS, 1986

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