OpenStreetMap: un aperçu critique

OpenStreetMap est une base librement accessible et modifiable de données géographiques dont le but ultime est de réaliser une carte détaillée du monde en utilisant l’apport de collaborateurs volontaires. Par sa nature le projet n’a donc pas de durée prédéterminée. Au contraire, il est par définition basé sur une évolution constante.

La page d'accueil du projet
La page d’accueil du projet

En principe, il s’agit d’un Wiki pour données géographiques. Ainsi, il n’est pas nécessaire de posséder un compte utilisateur pour pouvoir consulter la page, mais il faut bien en avoir un pour pouvoir éditer (ce qui est un inconvénient majeur pour toutes les personnes qui n’aiment pas offrir leurs données personelles en ligne). Le plus souvent, les collaborateurs utilisent des récepteurs GPS pour rajouter des données (sous le format GPX) à la carte.

Bushnell_Back_Track_Point_5_GPS
De tels récepteurs GPS sont utilisés pour enregistrer les données géographiques au format GPX (Image tirée de Wikimedia Commons (auteur: Dwight Burdette) sous la licence CC-BY-3.0)

Dans un deuxième temps, les utilisateurs peuvent enrichir la carte obtenue avec des informations plus détaillées, par exemple en rajoutant des points, C’est points peuvent être des bâtiments des forêts des magasins etc. (ou des chemins entre ces points). Cette division en deux étapes permet à tous les utilisateurs de contribuer leur savoir, même s’ils ne possèdent pas de récepteur GPS.

Le projet, lancé en juillet 2004 par Steve Coast, est coordonné depuis 2006 par la OpenStreetMap Foundation. Celle-ci s’occupe aussi bien du financement – qui est assuré notamment par des donations – que de l’administration.  A cause de la nature du projet (projet sans but lucratif, données Open Access), il est difficile de dire exactement quel est son budget. Ainsi, en 2013, les avoirs totaux du projet étaient d’environ 160000 livres Sterling, la plus grande partie étant la valeur des bureaux (environ 135000 livres Sterling)1.

Steve Coast s'adresse à une conférence sur Open Street Map en janvier 2015 (Source: Wikimedia)
Steve Coast s’adresse à une conférence sur Open Street Map en janvier 2015 (Image tirée de Wikimedia Commons (auteur: Raimond Spekking) sous la licence CC-BY-3.0)

 

Entre-temps, le projet est en collaboration avec des entreprises comme Microsoft (il y a recours aux images et cartes de Bing), mais aussi avec des autorités publiques par exemple avec la Bavière et avec des institutions académiques et éducatives (p.ex. l’Imperial College à Londres). Or, la plus grande majorité du travail est toujours réalisé par les collaborateurs volontaires, dont le nombre est à présent d’environ 2 millions. Les statistiques sur OpenStreetMap sont consultables en ligne dans un Wiki dédié2.

A cause de la nature collaborative du projet, la qualité des donnés varie fortement d’un lieu à l’autre. Il est évident que dans une région comme la Bavière en Allemagne, où les autorités publiques collaborent avec OpenStreetMap, la qualité des informations va être supérieure. Un autre problème est que la qualité est liée au moins indirectement à la densité de peuplement. Dans un lieu où il y a peu de gens, il y en a par définition encore beaucoup moins possédant le savoir local ainsi que le savoir technique pour contribuer de façon effective au projet. Cependant, comme de plus en plus de gens disposent de smartphones équipés de récepteurs GPS, il y a raison d’être optimiste que le réseau des données recueillies deviendra de plus en plus dense dans les années à venir.

Le projet est basé sur les connaissances géographiques des collaborateurs.
Le projet est basé sur les connaissances géographiques des collaborateurs.

En évaluant OpenStreetMap, on est toujours tenté de le comparer aux services de Google, de Microsoft et, plus récemment, d’Apple. Vu le pouvoir financier de ces entreprises, mais aussi vu la nature ouverte de OSM, cette comparaison n’est pas strictement valable. En même temps, il faut dire que les services comme Google Maps sont aussi facilement accessibles et ‘gratuits’ (l’utilisateur paye indirectement, p.ex. par des publicités), ce qui veut dire que la plupart des gens peut choisir librement entre les services. Il est clair que l’intégration dans l’écosystème de Google et l’utilisation extensive d’images satellites (parfois même en combination avec des visualisations en 3D) rendent Maps beaucoup plus attractif à première vue.

Cependant, il faut rappeler qu’OSM est tout à fait différent des concurrents commerciaux: comme c’est un service ouvert, il peut être utilisé par toute personne, pour par exemple l’intégrer dans une application pour smartphone ou tablette. A une époque où de plus en plus de gens savent créer/ utiliser de tels logiciels – qui souvent traitent des données géographiques d’une manière ou d’une autre – il est important d’avoir une base de données géographiques de haute qualité et librement accessible. Sinon, vu l’engagement en travail et en argent nécessaire pour la mise en place et le maintien d’un tel projet, ce domaine sera tôt ou tard occupé exclusivement par quelques grandes entreprises.

Article écrit par Benjamin Zenner et révisé par Myrna Tumelero.

  1. Des détails sur le financement du projet sont consultables sous le lien suivent: https://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Finances []
  2. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Stats#Registered_users []

Exploring recent Digital Humanities projects

 

This article was established by students of the Master in European Contemporary History at the University of Luxembourg in the context of the course Digital Humanities and has the objective to present a wide range of Digital Humanities projects. By presenting these projects the article will furthermore help to explain what Digital Humanities are.

 

 

1. Introduction

Finally an easy definition of Digital Humanities

Since this article tries to reach every interested reader, from digital humanists to those who are completely new to this emerging discipline, we want to start with a basic definition:

“The Digital Humanities are an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. […] Digital humanities (often abbreviated DH) currently incorporate both digitized and born-digital materials and combine the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) and social sciences with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining) and digital publishing.”

This definition provided by wikipedia explains in a clear way what Digital Humanities are. If this definition doesn’t seem clear to everybody, we are sure that the examples in this article will give the reader a clear idea of the discipline. Since we have started with a basic definition, we now take a brief look back, yes we are historians, how humanities and computer technology came together.

The love story of humanities and digital technology

Frédéric Clavert and Serge Noiret, both historians and experts in Digital Humanities and Digital History, insist that there have been two main stages in the history of computer technology which “have changed the ways they are used in humanities”.1

The first main stage was the spread of the Personal Computer at the end of the 1970s. Clavert and Noiret say that especially with the development of graphic interfaces like the commonly known Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows and associated softwares like spreadsheets and databases the computer usage became easier and thereby was more and more used in humanities.2 Peter Haber, historian and expert in Digital Humanities and Digital History, gives the development of the first Personal Computer’s a similar importance. He adds that computer technology thereby slowly established itself and overtook the good old typewriter and that it became a more common “tool” for historians.3

The second stage goes back to the end of the 1980s, with the development of the Internet and in the mid- 1990s with the development of the World Wide Web (WWW). Clavert and Noiret insist that the usage of computer technology in humanities really started to emerge around the 2000s with “the expansion of the possibilities of the web”.4

What to find in this article?

In the major part of our article we will present some of the projects which have been done in recent years in the context of Digital Humanities. We have chosen 8 projects which we think are interesting: European History Online, Serendip-o-matic, Mapping Luxembourg, Corpus Corporum, Our Marathon, Voyant Tools, the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe and Orbis. We have analyzed a wide range of projects, not only scientific one’s but also fun projects, in order to make our article interesting and not to repeat ourselves. Lastly, we have decided not to go into too much detail since this article shall only be a basic introduction into specific projects. Nevertheless, we think that with the basic information we give, the reader will be able to understand the general concepts and functions of the respective project and will in a next step be able to discover it himself.

 

2. Projects

European History Online

European History Online (EHO) bases on a cooperation between the Institute of European History in Mainz, the Center for Digital Humanities in Trier and the Bavarian State Library in the year 2010. The project itself is an open-access Web page and has the objective to present the modern History of Europe in a transnational or global perspective, while connecting an interdisciplinary approach (using e.g. Geography, Law studies) with different historical methods (e.g. comparative history, transnational history).5 The chosen time-period of this project reinforces this idea, because European History Online starts in the mid 15th century and ends in 1950. European History Online surpasses thereby the classique narrative of Europe’s History, which often is presented as a History of the European integration. The webpage is bilingual (English, German) and features digitized (e.g. Documents, maps) as well as born-digital (e.g. Texts, documents) sources. Regarding this, the installation of a “language choice” button allows the reader to either read the specific articles in German or in English.

Unbenannt
Framed “Language choice” button

 

Since its creation, European History Online has until now published about 200 born-digital articles, which focus on several topics concerning European History. To the articles are added footnotes which contain among others primary sources such as maps, pictures, statistics and audio as well as video links. In some cases European History Online offers a description of these sources. This type of footnote information is an interesting addition to digital-born articles which isn’t possible in books. For example, in the article “Censorship and Freedom of the Press” by Jürgen Wilke we clicked on the footnote “the Congress Vienna of 1815” and received the following map with a brief description of the Congress of Vienna.

Congress of Vienna footnote
Framed text and footnote “the Congress of Vienna of 1815”

 

Europe after the Congress of Vienna1
Footnote information “Europe after the Congress of Vienna of 1815”

 

Furthermore, European History Online uses a Twitter account @ieg_ego, in order to inform readers about new article publications. In conlusion, European History Online is an interesting example because the project shows how Digital Humanities can create new history writing as well as possibilites for publication and can add new aspects to research such as the footnote information.

 

Serendip-o-matic

Serendip-o-matic is the outcome of the One Week | One Tool project which was held at the University of George Mason in 2013. For one week several digital humanists from different disciplines came together in order to work on one project. In general, Serendip-o-matic is a research engine which combines several online archives in one. The user can copy paste single words or a full text in the research box and Serendip-o-matic identifies the keywords and looks where it can find digitized material in online libraries or archives such as Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America and Flickr Commons. This can allow users to find documents, maps and other digitized sources which stand in the context of his text. The autonomous function can give the research a new look by presenting sources which the user in the first case might not have considered. As an example, we used the wikipedia entry on “World War I”.

sd4
Keywords results using the wikipedia text “World War I”

 

sd3
Search results using the wikipedia text “World War I”

After the research the user can collect the exact link adresses of the found documents in order to save them.6 Furthermore, since Serendip-o-matic is linked to Zotero the user can establish a research, which browses his zotero bibliography. However the uselfulness of Serendip-o-matic is restricted, because only a few online libraries or archives are part of the project. Nevertheless the idea of  the tool is interesting because it gives the researcher a different look at the research field which he probably hadn’t envisionned and thereby can lead to new source material.

.

Mapping-Luxembourg

MappingLuxembourg is a cooperation between the National Archives of Luxembourg and the Musée d’histoire de la ville de Luxembourg and has been online since the beginning of March 2014. The project itself allows the user to see a variety of historical maps of the city of Luxembourg. The time span of these maps extends from the 17th to the 21th century.  In this sense, the user is able to browse between fifty historical buildings and thirteen regions of the city. In order to access information about a certain building or region, you only need to click on one of the tags you are interested in. By doing so, a brief text about the historical background and the development of the designated building pops up. In addition to this text, depending on the resources, historical maps and pictures over the course of a few centuries appear. Furthermore, it is important to add that this tool is using Google Maps as a basic operator for the project.

mapping luxmebourg1
Satellite view of Luxembourg with framed “Cercle Municipal”

 

In total three Luxembourgish institutions helped to gather the document material “Mapping-Luxembourg”: The National Archives, the Musée d’histoire de la ville de Luxembourg and the Photothèque.7) Users can chose between three languages: English/ German/ French, and two viewing formats: Satellite and a Map.8)

mapping luxembourg2
Slideshow of the “Cercle municipal”, here 1907

 

To conclude it can be said that this tool is first of all useful for tourists who would like to get some information about the history of the city of Luxembourg. Secondly, residents of Luxembourg and people of Luxembourgish origins might also be interested in having a look at the historical backgrounds of the capital.

 

Corpus Corporum: Repositorium operum Latinorum apud universitatem Turicensem

Corpus Corporum is a project which was developed at the University of Zürich. In general, Corpus Corporum is a Latin text repository. At the moment users can find 5,785 works in Latin from 2,013 different authors. The corpora covers a huge time span, which includes for example the Old and New Testament of the Bible, Latin texts from antiquity and medieval times (e.g. Aristotle’s Physica, digitalisation of the Patrologia Latina, works of scientific authors, etc…), works from renaissance authors as well as Neo-Latin texts. The Corpus Corporum is a digital text archive which works together with other text repository projects but is also open to private text entries.

corpus corporum
Corpus Corporum front page

 

While the user goes through a text, he can click on a word and thereby receives information on the word form and a translation into English and German. However at this point we insist, that this function isn’t working for every word yet.

copus corporum2
Chapter I of Julius Caesars “De Bello Civili”

 

corpus corporum3
Word form and translation of “impetratum”

 

Furthermore the Corporus Corporum features a search engine which allows the user to browse through the uploaded texts and search for specific words, persons or events…

corpus corporum4
The Corpus Corporum search engine

 

In conclusion, we think that Corpus Corporum is an interesting tool for students and researchers who work with Latin texts. The platform allows to use a wide range of Latin texts without having to browse the whole web or look up books. We think that especially with the word form and translation function the Corpus Corporum can be helpful in order to make research easier and thereby quicker. If the project manages to overcome function problems and steadily adds new text corpora it could become an important part of scientific research.

 

Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archives and Wbur Oral History Project

Our Marathon is a project which has been established by the Northeastern University of Boston. Our Marathon is an online platform that collects videos, pictures and stories in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15th 2013. It is a crowd-sourced archive, which means that anyone who has relevant material is able to share it in this online archive. In this sense the user of Our Marathon can browse through the different visual and oral experiences of people that endured the bombings.

our marathon3
Interview with Jimmy Plourde, a Boston fireman, part of the WBUR Oral History Project

 

It is important for the creators of the project to underline that it´s not merely about what happened during the bombings. Instead, it is much more an attempt to compile a public record of how this tragic incident has affected the lifes of the witnesses. The main goal of this tool is to serve as a long-term memorial of the events that shocked the United States on April 15th 2013.9)

our marathon1
Digital image of a poster left at the Boston Marathon memorial in Copley Square (Source: Collection 0247.004 Boston Marathon Temporary Memorial collection)

 

Our Marathon 2
“Our Marathon” submission by Bruce Mendelsohn

 

From a methodological standpoint Our Marathon a typical Digital Humanities project. This is mainly due to the fact that the creators of this tool combined methods that are used in scientific research, such as “oral history”, with a digital approach.

 

Voyant Tools

Voyant Tools is a project which is led by Stéfan Sinclair, Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at the Mc Gill University and Geoffrey Rockwell, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta. In general, Voyant Tools is a text analysis tool which allows to receive information on the word count and word frequency. The user has the possibility to click on the most frequent words which allows him to directly search for interesting passages. In order to start, the user can copy-paste a text or he can simply upload a document in the tool. As an example, we used the Wikipedia entry on “Digital Humanities”.

voyant tools 1
Voyant Tools Test: Wikipedia article “Digital Humanities”

 

In order to see which words appear most in the text the user can click on the “words in the corpus box” function. Furthermore the researcher has the possibility to exclude common language words to make the word frequency analysis more effective.

voyant tools 2
Words which appeared the most in the text

 

Moreover, the user has the ability to see in which parts in the text a word was used most with the “word trend” feature by simply clicking on a word in the “cirrus” field or in the “corpus reader”. In addition to this the user can use the function “keywords in context” in order to receive a quick overview in which context the word is used.

voyant tools 3
“Keywords in Context” function

 

Voyant Tools is an interesting project example because it shows that Digital Humanities go further than creating archives and born-digital material. Digital Humanities also create new tools which add to scientific working, in this case in critical text analysis. In this sense, the word count of Voyant Tools can be helpful in order to analyse a writer’s narrative. For example, if a historian publishes an article on the history of the world and Voyant Tools displays that the word “Europe” appears much more in his narrative than other continents, then it is probable that the historian writes in a eurocentric way.

 

Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe

The Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe (CVCE) is a research and documentation center, situated in Sanem (Luxembourg), which treates the European integration process. Hence, the CVCE treats the time-period from 1945 until the present time. The CVCE Team regroups scientists from different disciplines such as economics, contemporary history, european law and political science. Furthermore the CVCE has set up a Digital Humanities Lab (DH Lab) in order to develop new tools which can facilate research as well as the teaching of European Integration studies. Through the medium of Digital Humanities, digitized (e.g. Texts, documents) and born-digital (e.g. Oral history) sources, are being used to create a historial narrative. The website can be read in English as well as in French. In principe, it is divided into three parts: Publications, Oral history, Research and Education.10)

cvce1
CVCE Frontpage

 

Until now the CVCE has published 28 born-digital articles and projects online. In order to fulfill their slogan: “Knowing the past to build the future”, historical processes, such as the “Origins of the Rome treaties (1955-1958)”, are thematized. Furthermore, the CVCE has published several born-digital interactive maps on the topics: “Europe divisée (1945-1990)”, “Crises et conflits”, “Colonisations et décolonisations”, which have the objective to “create the geopolitical context of the european integration process”.11) In the context of “E-Learning”, these interactive maps can be especially helpful for educational purposes, because they allow teachers to demonstrate the development of a crisis or a war much more easily.

cvce2
Interactive map of the “First Indo-China War”


In the Oral History category the user can find several audio and videos interviews with 71 “key-players” and “eyewitnesses” in the european integration process as well as their biographies. The interviews can sometimes be watched in full length.

cvce3
Interview with Georges Berthoin, e. a. Principal Private Secretary to Jean Monnet and Deputy Chief Representative of the ECSC (source: trilateral.org) Part of the Oral History archive

 

In the last category the user receives information on old and current research and educations projects of the CVCE. Furthermore the CVCE uses a Twitter account @CVCE in order to inform readers about news, calls and publications.

We used the CVCE project first and foremost because it is related to our university but nevertheless we think it is a good example in order to show how Digital Humanities projects create new archives, new publication possibilities as well as teaching material.

 

Orbis

Orbis is a project which was developped at the University of Stanford through the collaboration of historians and information technology specialists. Mainly, Orbis is a interactive map project which allows the user to calculate how much time and financial cost a transport of people and goods in the Roman Empire around 200 AD took.12) The historian Walter Scheidel, who is directing the project, has collected several historical sources in order to establish the route calculations. In total 751 sites, which includes urban settlements, promontorys and mountain passes, can be selected. Orbis presents a realistic view because it takes into account month changes, wind changes and sea conditions which effect sea travel. The user can select a point of departure, a destination and several options (network mode, aquatic options, road options, price options). Furthermore, the user has the possibility to calculate the fastest, cheapest or shortest route.

orbis1
Route calculation: Augusta Treverorum to Roma

 

Afterwards the user can compare different travel routes in the “results grid”. We compared the fastest travel routes for a foot traveler from Rome (Roma) to Rouen (Rotomagus) in January and July. In our case the user sees that for ancient people the route in winter took longer (in this case 26 days in July and 35 days in January) and was much more expensive (higher costs for donkey, wagon as well as passenger transport) than in summer because the travellers were obliged to take the road over land and couldn’t take the quicker road over sea along the coasts of modern-day France because of different wind patterns and sea conditions.13)

orbis2
Route calculation: Augusta Treverorum to Roma

 

The objective of Orbis is helping to understand how the Roman Empire was connected and how the empire was able to control its inhabitants although the different settlements where separated by large distances over land and sea.14) Furthermore, we think that this project, although it can be criticized for being anachronistic, is useful in order to explain travel in ancient society especially for education purposes by visualising ideas.

 

3.  Conclusion

What do we learn from the analyzed projects? The main characteristics of the analyzed Digital Humanities projects are that they allow to “archive”, “visualize” and “publish”.

By “archiving” we mean establishing new archives or regrouping sources (e.g. Documents, interviews), like in the projects European History Online, Corpus Corporum, Our Marathon and CVCE. Furthermore one major addition, in our opinion, which Digital Humanities projects add to research is “crowd-sourcing”, which means that people from everywhere can add material to the respective archives by submitting sources out of their private archives like in the projects Our Marathon and Corpus Corporum. Although this source method isn’t present in history projects such as European History Online and CVCE, it could enlarge the source field by “giving” researchers access to private collections. However as Frédéric Clavert insists, researchers still have to be sceptical regarding crowd-sourcing material and question its credibility.15

By “visualizing” we mean displaying primary sources, such as pictures and videos, and demonstrating events or developments. European History Online, Mapping-Luxembourg, CVCE and Our Marathon all allow the user to discover primary sources without having to hold them in hand. This element brings a new dimension to research and makes it much quicker. Furthermore European History Online, CVCE and Orbis allow to demonstrate for example by using interactive maps. This possibility can be useful in order to explain for example political changes and war developments to students by visualizing otherwise theoretical stuff.

By “publishing” we mean establishing born-digital material and creating new publication possibilites other than in book format, like in the projects European History Online and CVCE. In the context of “publishing on the web” we want to point out that Digital Humanities however still face several challenges which need to be resolved (i.a. authorship rights, retracing sources back to their origins, text stability, financial compensation of authors).16

Next to these major characteristics, Digital Humanities projects such as the text analysis tool Voyant Tools create new features which can help to develop scientific work. However, the user has to keep in mind that these tools are often limited and can lead to misinterpretation.  Lastly, we find it quite interesting that even fun projects such as Serendip-o-matic can be useful for research since it changes the researcher’s selection of sources.

Looking back at this conclusion, we think there is no doubt that Digital Humanities will be an important part of scientific research and teaching in the future. What do you think? Finally, we hope that this article has helped the reader to receive a clear idea of the notion “Digital Humanities”.

If you are interested in having further information on projects in Digital Humanities we recommand you to visit DHCommons, CUNY Academic Commons,  Digital Humanities Now and Digital Humanities Awards.

 

4.  Bibliography

CLAVERT, Frédéric / NOIRET, Serge (eds.): L’histoire contemporaine à l’ère numérique. Contemporary History in the Digital Age. Brussels 2013.

HABER, Peter: Digital Past. Geschichtswissenschaft im digitalen Zeitalter. Munich 2011.

 

_________________

Article by Frédéric JUNCK & Jean KETTER of the Master in European Contemporary History, 1st year, summer term 2013/2014, University of Luxembourg

  1. Cf. Frédéric CLAVERT / Serge NOIRET: Introduction. Digital Humanities and History. A New Field for Historians in the Digital Age. [in:] Frédéric CLAVERT / Serge NOIRET (eds.): L’histoire contemporaine à l’ère numérique. Contemporary History in the Digital Age. Brussels 2013, p. 15-29, esp. p. 18. Hereafter referred to as CLAVERT / NOIRET: Digital Humanities and History. []
  2. Ibid., esp. p. 18f. []
  3. Cf. Peter HABER: Digital Past. Geschichtswissenschaft im digitalen Zeitalter. Munich 2011, p. 25. []
  4. Cf. CLAVERT / NOIRET: Digital Humanities and History, esp. p. 19. []
  5. European History Online Wikipedia « http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_History_Online » (accessed on 21 April 2014 []
  6. Franziska Heimburger: Vos sources vous surpennent avec le Serendip-o-matic. Boîte à outils (published on 2 August 2013) « http://www.boiteaoutils.info/2013/08/vos-sources-vous-surprennent-avec-le.html » (accessed on 18 April 2014 []
  7. Musée d’histoire de la ville de Luxembourg / Archives nationales de Luxembourg: “Mapping Luxembourg” Historische Karten und Ansichten der Stadt Luxemburg online. « http://www.gouvernement.lu/3578168/Mapping-2014-Communique-D.PDF » (accessed 25 March 2014 []
  8. Cf. Stadtgeschichte aus der Vogelperspektive. Wort.lu (published 19 March 2014) « http://www.wort.lu/de/view/stadtgeschichte-aus-der-vogelperspektive-53296150e4b0b484f80871b8 » (accessed 17 April 2014 []
  9. Cf. About the Our Marathon Archive. Our Marathon « http://marathon.neu.edu/about » (accessed 26 March 2014 []
  10. Cf. Jeff Koehler: Homepage Review CVCE. h-europe (uploaded 2 July 2012) « http://h-europe.uni.lu/?p=635 » (accessed 16 April 2014 []
  11. CVCE: Interactive maps. The geopolitical context of European integration. « http://www.cvce.eu/content/publication/2013/7/15/667b05cc-0f90-4796-bafd-1f9849cb83a7/publishable_en.pdf » (accessed 19 April 2014 []
  12. Cf. Curt Hopkins: Travel across the Roman Empire in real time with ORBIS. Google maps for the ancient world. Ars technica (published 18 May 2014) « http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/05/how-across-the-roman-empire-in-real-time-with-orbis/ » (accessed 14 April 2014 []
  13. Cf. Elijah Meeks: ORBIS Demo: Calculating Routes. Youtube (uploaded 1 Mai 2012)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwoshD3esdc (accessed 14 April 2014 []
  14. Cf. Understanding Orbis. Orbis « http://orbis.stanford.edu/#understanding » (accessed 14 April 2014 []
  15. Cf. Frédéric CLAVERT: Conclusion. [in:] Frédéric CLAVERT / Serge NOIRET (eds.): L’histoire contemporaine à l’ère numérique. Contemporary History in the Digital Age. Brussels 2013, p. 347-355, esp. 353. []
  16. Cf. Frédéric CLAVERT: Conclusion. [in:] Frédéric CLAVERT / Serge NOIRET (eds.): L’histoire contemporaine à l’ère numérique. Contemporary History in the Digital Age. Brussels 2013, p. 347-355, esp. 353. []

To tweet or not to tweet…

Avantages et désavantages de Twitter

Les étudiants de la première année du Master en histoire européenne contemporaine de l’Université du  Luxembourg se sont penchés sur les pros & contras du réseau social Twitter. Ses vertus sont synthétiquement mises en avant, tout comme ses défauts.

Initialement, Twitter était perçu comme un Facebook limité au statut personnel, donnant la possibilité à chacun de ses utilisateurs de publier des instantanés de leur vie à chaque moment. Une habitude héritée de la vogue du blogging, apparue en 2004. Twitter a été défini dès le départ comme un outil de microblogging, plutôt taillé pour la communication instantanée. Instantanéité, temps réel, les deux mantras de Twitter qui bouleversent considérablement le monde de la communication.

 

Le dernier logo de Twitter dévoilé le 6 juin 2012Le dernier logo de Twitter lancé le 6 juin 2012

Selon Wikipedia, Twitter est un « outil de réseau social et microblogage qui permet à un utilisateur d’envoyer gratuitement de brefs messages, appelés tweets (« gazouillis ») sur Internet, par messagerie instantanée ou par SMS. Ces messages sont limités à cent quarante caractères ».

La recette de Twitter semble simple : une alchimie entre individus qui échangent en continu au fil des heures sur tous les sujets possibles et imaginables, sans hiérarchie, sans tabous, sans contrainte autre que la limite des cent quarante caractères que peut contenir un message. Twitter permet à tout le monde de réagir à propos de tout à tout moment.

Le premier tweet fut envoyé le 21 mars 2004 par Jack Dorsey, un des créateurs du site de microblogging. En février 2012, Twitter a franchi le cap des 500 millions d’utilisateurs. Le 7 novembre 2013, Twitter fait son entrée en bourse.

Un réseau social comme les autres ou un outil utile ?

Comme le font remarquer les étudiants du master, Twitter n’est pas la seule plateforme offrant l’interaction sociale sur le web. Dans un monde où les tendances changent rapidement, tout système risque de perdre sa popularité selon les évolutions techniques ou les effets de mode.

Twitter est actuellement très utilisé par les « célébrités », ce qui pousse leurs « fans » à s’y inscrire. Le réseau social est également très prisé chez les journalistes et les politiques. La réélection de Barack Obama à la Maison Blanche le 6 novembre 2012 est une étape supplémentaire franchie dans l’appropriation de Twitter par les politiques. En un tweet accompagné d’une photo de lui-même enlaçant sa femme, Michelle, avec un message laconique : « Four more Years », Obama a non seulement annoncé sa réélection de façon élégante, mais a en plus battu à l’époque le record du message le plus retweeté de l’histoire récente de Twitter ! Plus de 500.000 RT (retweets) en quelques heures.

president-obamas-four-more-years-becomes-the-most-popular-tweet-everLe tweet de Barack Obama lors de son élection le 6 novembre 2012

Le record a été battu lors de la cérémonie des Oscars en 2014 à travers d’un désormais connu « selfie » qui quant à lui fut retweeté plus de 3,3 millions de fois. En ce qui concerne le tweet d’Obama, les dirigeants politiques du monde entier avaient adressé leurs félicitations au président américain à partir de leur compte Twitter.

En France, l’affaire du célèbre tweet de Valérie Trierweiler fit couler beaucoup d’encre. Lors des élections législatives de juin 2012, Valérie Trierweiler, alors compagne de François Hollande, président de la République, envoya un message de soutien à l’adversaire de Ségolène Royale, ex-femme de François Hollande. Ce dernier avait pourtant manifesté son soutien à Ségolène Royale. Le tweet a fini par être supprimé, mais le mal était fait. Cela démontre la force de twitter et nous met en garde contre son côté irréversible. Par erreur, un simple tweet peut atteindre des millions d’internautes et provoquer quelques émois.

tweet-trierweiler               Le tweet de Valérie Trierweiler (ancienne compagne de François Hollande) qui causa beaucoup de malaise au sommet de l’Etat français

Les étudiants du Master en histoire européenne contemporaine mettent aussi en évidence le côté didactique de Twitter. Ils citent comme exemple le compte @RealTimeWW1 créé par leur collègues de l’an dernier et inspiré du compte @RealTimeWW2. Dans les deux cas, on y découvre les deux guerres mondiales en temps réel à travers des tweets basés sur des sources fiables. Il existe un grand nombre de comptes thématiques et à caractère didactique sur Twitter.

Néanmoins, Twitter peut aussi présenter quelques inconvénients. Nos données personnelles peuvent être saisies par des hackers et notre identité usurpée. Twitter peut également faciliter la circulation de virus. Pour les utilisateurs plus effrénés, Twitter peut devenir une addiction. Ce microblogging peut se révéler une source de distraction et avoir un impact négatif sur notre travail.

D’une manière générale, Twitter présente plus d’avantages que d’inconvénients. Tout dépend de l’usage que chacun lui prête. Toutefois, Twitter et autres réseaux sociaux ne devraient jamais se substituer à une vie sociale normale. Surtout, il convient de garder à l’esprit le fait qu’une fois émis, le message nous échappe, qu’il sera amplifié, parfois détourné et déformé, suscitant des réactions d’enthousiasme, de haine et de mépris.

Des Tweets qui auraient fait histoire

Et si Twitter était plus vieux qu’il ne l’est réellement ? Et s’il avait accompagné l’histoire tout au long des derniers siècles. Comment auraient tweeté nos ancêtres ? En faisaint appel à notre culture générale, imaginons quelques tweets qui sans doute auraient fait histoire:

@MartinLutherKIng : I have a #dream #civilrights

@JFK: Ich bin ein #Berliner

@NeilArmstrong: One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind #WalkingOnTheMoon

@LouisXIV: L’Etat c’est moi #RoiSoleil

@General_de_Gaulle: Paris ! Paris outragé ! Paris brisé ! Paris martyrisé ! Mais #Paris libérée !

@LouisXVI : C’est une révolte ? #PrisedelaBastille

@LaRochefoucauld: Non sire, ce n’est pas une révolte, c’est une révolution ! #PrisedelaBastille

@GeorgeW.Bush : Je sais que l’être humain et le poisson peuvent coexister pacifiquement #aphorismes

@GeorgeW.Bush : Je veux simplement que vous compreniez que lorsque nous parlons de guerre, nous parlons vraiment de paix #aphorismes

Review by Nuno LUCAS DA COSTA & Adrien CHETTER of the Master in European Contemporary History, 2nd & 1st year, summer term 2013/2014, University of Luxembourg

 

Tweeting during World War II

This article is a composed work of all the ideas gathered in the course ‘WWI goes Twitter’ by the students of the Master in European Contemporary History at the University of Luxembourg about the Twitter account ‘@RealTimeWWII’.

Disclose history to a broader public. That’s what the Twitter account ‘@RealTimeWWII‘ is doing. Hundred thousands of followers confirm the success of the project. But hasn’t it really no limitations at all?

Collinson’s idea

The mastermind behind the Twitter account ‘@RealTimeWWII’ is the Oxford graduate Alwyn Collinson. Collinson’s idea is quite simple. He’s using the micro blog Twitter to tell in real time, ‘live-tweeting’, day by day the history of the Second World War. One goal of Alwyn Collinson is not to educate the followers of ‘@RealTimeWWII’, but to get people interested in history and to show the impact of the war on ordinary actors. By this new approach Collinson moves away from the traditional storytelling of the Second War World, the ‘mass history’, like he calls it.

The focus of his tweets is rather on diaries and letters from eyewitnesses, state documents or speeches held by politicians of the time, like Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. Which represents often forgotten or even unknown facts about the war. The charm of ‘@RealTimeWWII’ is due to the variety of the topics, like mentioned before, but adding pictures of battlefields, personalities or important events. We should also mention that the tweets aren’t focused only on Europe, but show also what was going on elsewhere, like for example a tweet about Mahatma Gandhi on October 5th 1941, who calls the Indian population for pacific resistance against the British government fighting for democracy in Europe but repressing India in the same time.

Although Alwyn Collinson’s idea isn’t truly a revolutionary one, like the account of ‘@TWHistory’ with the telling of the battle of Waterloo and the battle of Gettysburg. Nevertheless livetweeting of historical events gained a new dimension with ‘@RealTimeWWII’.

The popularity of ‘@RealTimeWWII’ in numbers

The first tweet was published the 1st September 2011, but since the account is located in the time of the Second World War, it was published fictionally or should we say literally the 1st September 1939. At the present day we are already in the year 1942.

RealTimeWWII on Twitter

Twitter Account ‘@RealTimeWWII’ (18.03.14)

Collinson’s plan is to publish two to six tweets a day and till the present day over 7300 tweets have already been published. Also the number of followers shows us the success of ‘@RealTimeWWII’. In the first month after the creation of the account, ‘@RealTimeWWII’ had already 10.000 followers, by the end of November 2011 140.000 and till the present day over 318.000 followers.

The hip around ‘@RealTimeWWII’ has not only took by success the social network Twitter, showed by the translated versions of this account by voluntaries in some languages like Turkish, French, Arabic and Mandarin. But also due to the Facebook page Real Time World War II. Even if the Facebook page has only a little over 9.800 Likes, ‘@RealTimeWWII’ is represented on the two biggest social networks of our time.

RealTimeWWII on Facebook

Facebook Page ‘Real Time World War II’ (18.03.14)

What’s hot, what’s not!

Like every website, blog or social network, ‘@RealTimeWWII’ has his ups and downs, his pros and cons.  First of all we will start with the pros the account has to offer.

One of the biggest pros is of course the new approach of bringing the history of the Second World War to a huge crowd, academic and non-academic people, young and old followers. This by offering a multitude of subjects like economics, military and social, but also new views that are often forgotten over the time and moreover by the traditional historical narration.

Tweet using a picture

Tweet using a picture

Due to their size, the tweets can be seen as news flashes. The traditional 140 characters for a tweet, can be supported by pictures, videos and links.

The fact that like every other ordinary tweet, the tweets of ‘@RealTimeWWII’ also offer the possibility to be retweeted, makes it possible to reach people who aren’t even following the actual account. By adding a picture or a link to the tweet, followers are even free to give further information about the latest tweet.

Furthermore the tweets reflect a neutral position of the storytelling. There is no aim to be partial for one side or the other. Only the information counts.

After now showing some pros, let us be critical and poke around in an open wound. ‘@RealTimeWWII’ is far from being perfect.

Let’s start with Alwyn Collinson. Apart from knowing that the creator and author Alwyn Collinson (@HistoryReal) is from Great Britain, there are no further information. Only a quick web search allows us to enrich our knowledge about Mr. Collinson. By our research we’ve found out that Mr. Collinson is a marketing manager of an Oxford journal and that he’s doing all the work by himself. Although Collinson writes his tweets a few days before posting them with SocialOomph, a webservice which posts the tweets you have submitted earlier, by the time and date you’ve entered. Nevertheless it still remains a huge work to do. Posting two to six tweets, or even more every day, is a hell of a job and we are not talking about a period of weeks but years. Will Mr. Collinson be able to stay sharp or will ‘@RealTimeWWII’ disappear before the end of the Second World War?

Another question is where does Alwyn Collinson get all the informations? The first tweets were based on books and Google researches. After a while some followers started to add further informations, like articles from magazines, links to websites and blogs, etc. to his tweets. But what about now? Well now, we can speak about every academics’ and historians’ nightmare, which is: there are no source indications.

Even if the aim is to tell a global story of the Second World War, the main focus still remains on Europe. Of course we are now in November 1941 during the Nazi regime’s ‘Operation Barbarossa’ in the USSR territory. Thus the United States isn’t playing a big role until now, but will he really manage to represent the whole world via his tweets?

Our conclusion: a new way to educate

The idea of using Twitter to tell a particular episode of history, in this case the Second World War, isn’t new but still catchy. ‘@RealTimeWWII’ is a quick way to get the informations, informations often forgotten or lost by a huge number of people. The way of telling the Second World War is fun but still educative, even if this wasn’t the main goal of the project. ‘@RealTimeWWII’ clearly shows how social networks can be used in a scientific way.

The restricted size of the tweets can be seen as nor a good, nor a bad thing. Every user has to decide, on his or her own, what should or shouldn’t be mentioned with the next tweet. The same can be highlighted, regarding the fact that there are no sources indications.

Despite a few cons, ‘@RealTimeWWII’ has a lot to offer, which the number of followers shows and stands for his popularity.

The Second World War will continue for four more years and ‘@RealTimeWWII’ probably too. Let us see how both will end!

Review by Patrick NUNES COELHO & Marc STEFFEN of the Master in European Contemporary History, 1st year,
summer term 2013/2014, University of Luxembourg