Anita Lucchesi: A New Hermeneutics of Practice? Considerations from a 360º experiment on digital public history

Researchers engaged with the digital component have been exploring alternative forms of source criticism, storytelling, and publications for years now, yet the greatest attention still goes to the outputs, while little criticism, if any, is devoted to the process of doing digital work. By building and analyzing a digital public history platform (Memorecord – Memory Harvest), I wanted to make a contribution in this direction. To do so, in my PhD research I took a full hands-on approach to engage with the methodological and epistemological challenges of creating digital scholarship. In my presentation, I will focus on a concrete case study to emphasize the need for a reflexive turn in digital public history projects. The empirical study at stake consisted of investigating memories of Italian and Portuguese immigrants in Luxembourg by establishing a crowdsourcing platform shaped through participatory design principles. The process of building the Memorecord platform, using social media and analyzing the born-digital material exposed the need for a speculative, self-reflexive layer in the making of such a digital public history project.

Memorecord’s Roadmap

The notion of hermeneutics of practice emerges, in this context, from the heuristics gesture of creative and playful experimentation, (i.e. thinkering) around digital tools and methods; most remarkably, it became more apparent thanks to the problems faced on the way. This specific hermeneutical approach may function as a visibility broker, assisting historians in the process of unveiling the unspoken and implicit aspects of historical inquiry in the digital age. Hermeneutics of practice, hence, should facilitate the identification of the digital interferences we encounter throughout a research process and improve the historian’s readiness to face the new conditions placed by the digital component. At the end of the day, hermeneutics of practice can be understood as a new style of reasoning of/about/in/within digital and digital public history; a necessary update in the communication of the historian’s craft in the digital age.

For the Digital History – Offenes Forschungskolloquium what I prepared is a report of my auto-ethnographic journey through what I called a 360º experiment, observing how the digital interferes in the different phases of the historiographical operation – documental, explication, representation. I argue that these digital interferences create disturbances, enabling and disabling heuristic tools for historiography. By revisiting different stages of the research cycle, we can better grasp the interdependencies and resonances that a precise technical detail at one point of the research may have elsewhere in the workflow. The value of experimentation in such a context should be one of rigor. The self-reflexive scrutiny of this experimentation looking at experimentation as both an artisanal and intellectual enterprise is at the ordre du jour if we want to build bridges for an inclusive dialogue about digital scholarship that may engage non-digital practitioners. Hermeneutics of practice, in conclusion, is about adopting a radical openness throughout the entire research lifecycle, rather than solely reporting details about research outputs. It is about unboxing our digital practices and being self-conscious about their non-neutrality. In this sense, I could not agree more with Frank Ankersmit’s claim in his Sublime Historical Experience, „the most pronounced subjectivity is the condition for the highest degree of objectivity.“.

Vortrag im Rahmen des „Digital History“-Forschungskolloquiums
Zeit: Mittwoch, 18. November 2020, 16-18 Uhr
Ort: Zoom-Konferenz (Zugang auf Anfrage oder via Mailingliste)

Cite this article as:
digitalhistory: Anita Lucchesi: A New Hermeneutics of Practice? Considerations from a 360º experiment on digital public history, in: Digital History Berlin (Blog), erschienen am: 16. November 2020, Internet:

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