Historical informatics - rubric Discussions
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Volodin A.U. - Discussion club of the journal "Historical Informatics": discussion of the book "Information. Historical Companion" pp. 140-144


Abstract: This article describes the continuation of the initiative of the editorial board of the journal "Historical Informatics" – a discussion club in which researchers can make reviews of current publications related to the field of interests of historical informatics. The article considers the "main character" of the next online meeting of the discussion club - the collective monograph "Information. Historical Companion" ("Information. A Historical Companion”). Recently, there has been an obvious interest in the interpretation of the concept of "information" in historiography, including in the historical context. Various dictionaries, anthologies and monographs on the "history of information" are becoming frequent novelties of leading international publishers.   The authors of the book "Information. Historical Companion" call their work the first in which such issues are considered comprehensively and in detail, with an attempt to trace global changes in information practices and technologies, although such an optimistic author's self-assessment can be doubted. The main structural elements of the collective monograph-dictionary are considered. The approach chosen by the authors is analyzed in the context of current historiography and various, sometimes competing definitions of the concept of information. L.I.Borodkin, I.M.Garskova, Yu.Yu.Yumasheva, D.S.Voronkova took part in the discussion club meeting, A.Y.Volodin moderated the discussion.
Vladimirova A.V. - The Role of Information Hierarchy in the Study of History pp. 145-149


Abstract: In the times of the data revolution, there is an urgent need to address numerous issues on how ongoing transformations of everyday life are influencing society and historians who study it. Thus, publications like “Information: A Historical Companion” are very important as they give our academic community a basis for a discussion on new possible theoretical and methodological backgrounds of historical research. However, while this book contains a range of diversified studies and deep reflections on information and the evolution of its sources, we wonder why among related notions like “data” and “knowledge” there was no place for such a core concept as the “information hierarchy”. Thus, we would like to raise a question on the role of the “DIKW-model” for history and to demonstrate how it could help to solve a common problem in the misuse of terminology. This opinion piece is a part of publications following the meeting dedicated to a discussion of the book “Information: A Historical Companion” organized by the “Historical Informatics” journal on October 26, 2021.
Yumasheva J.Y. - "A Historical Companion", or is a companion always a comrade? (Notes on the margins of the discussed the book) pp. 150-163


Abstract: The article is a summary of the content of the speech in the framework of the discussion of the book “Information: A Historical Companion”, which took place on the YouTube channel of the Association "History and Computer". The author analyzes the relevance of the topic of the book (the study of the history of the creation and dissemination of information in the historical past), its structure and content, the object and subject of research reflected in the articles of the authors of essay articles; chronological and territorial boundaries of the consideration of this topic; the source base and historiography that formed the basis of the articles in the collection, as well as the research methodology and factography presented in the book.As a result of the analysis, it is concluded that the authors of the articles included in the book adhere to the methodology of presentism, transferring modern ideas to the historical past, and in general, this book can be classified as a genre of "factoid historiography" based on unreliable facts or inaccurate interpretations, "convenient" for constructing the "necessary" concept of the development of the historical process for the authors of the book.
Volodin A.U. - Discussion Club of Istoricheskaya Informatika Journal. Discussing the Book “What is Digital History?” by Hannu Salmi pp. 161-167


Abstract: This article reports about the new initiative of the Historical Information Science Journal editorial board aimed at creating a discussion club to review topical monographs. The journal today covers many fields of history digitization such as historical information science, digital history, digital humanities. The first discussion of the club addresses the book by the Finnish Science Academy professor Hannu Salmi titled “What is Digital History?” (Medford: PolityPress, 2020). The first club meeting was attended by L.I. Borodkin, V.N. Vladimirov, I.M. Garskova, N.G. Povroznik and moderated by A.Yu. Volodin. The article briefly characterizes the series the reviewed book is a part of. Those are “What is history?” series by Polity publishing house. The author describes the monograph structure in general and analyzes new historiographic examples provided by H. Salmi which relate to digital history discussions and issues which are characterized by numerous approaches, opinions and projects. Considering the writer’s definition of digital history as a “mobile layer of historical research with multiple approaches, projects, publications, services and sources” the author concludes that this field can hardly be precisely defined nowadays. This is true of the experimental character of the majority of projects within this sphere.
Razumov I.K. - The hypothesis of Nostradamus using cryptographic methods to arrange quatrains in the "Prophecies". pp. 162-176



Abstract: Despite the extensive bibliographical material, scientific study of the life and work of Nostradamus has only relatively recently begun. Currently, it includes a detailed examination of the predictor's biography and historical-philological commentaries on the quatrains. The unordered arrangement of the quatrains is one of the main problems hindering the understanding of the prophecies. In particular, it has been discovered that many quatrains describe presumed future events through comparison with the past, and therefore cannot be adequately understood without a reasoned arrangement by dates. Although Nostradamus himself unequivocally states in an epistle to King Henry II that the quatrains should be arranged using the biblical chronology he provided, with a reference point determined by the retrograde movements of planets (1606 year, as shown by prof. Brind'Amour), discussions of such cryptographic approaches were absent in Nostradamus literature until now. This work presents, for the first time, a detailed argument for the hypothesis that Nostradamus used a modified «scytale» algorithm to encrypt the correct sequence of quatrains and assign them certain dates. It is shown that the predictor indeed employed cyclically repeating biblical chronologies placed in the epistle to King Henry II for this purpose. The final date of the prophecies turns out to be the year 2242, close to the end of the 6000 years in the Jewish calendar (2240 AD) and the completion of the cycle of planetary epochs in the astrological concept of Abraham ibn Ezra (2241 AD), which aligns well with existing historical research. The results of the analysis indicate that although the «Prophecies» were published in parts, they form a coherent work following a strict plan. Consequently, the obtained results are relevant to the history of cryptography in Europe and have significant implications for a correct understanding of Nostradamus' texts.
Borodkin L.I. - From information to knowledge: historical context pp. 164-175


Abstract: The article reflects the author's speech in the discussion club of the journal "Historical Informatics" at a meeting dedicated to the discussion of the collective monograph "Information. A Historical Companion", published in 2021 at Princeton. The author examines not only the history of the functioning and evolution of information in various historical societies, but also the social history of science and technology related to the production of information and its transmission, dissemination and processing. It is this second aspect of this publication that is discussed in the article, it is he who is of the greatest interest in the context of modern applications of Data Science in the social sciences and humanities, as well as discussions about historical information and historical knowledge in the "digital age". Starting from the materials of the Companion, the article discusses the following questions: What role did discrete and analog approaches play in the formation of the concept of information in the late 1940s? What was the mutual influence of the outstanding scientists who created the theory of information? To what extent can these achievements be of interest to the historical (and, more broadly, the humanities) sciences? The position of the authors of the Companion is also discussed on the question of whether the concepts of "information" and "knowledge" should be associated with the position of the historian-researcher or with the perception of the subject of historical research? Peter Burke's point of view seems justified here, believing that throughout the centuries under consideration, people belonging to various historical societies were aware of information as a critical aspect of their lives.
Vladimirov V.N. - What is Digital History after all? pp. 168-173


Abstract: The article summarizes the author’s report at a discussion organized by the editorial board of the Istoricheskaya Informatika journal that addressed the book “What is Digital History?” by Salmi H. published in 2020. The book is named a manual for students thus justifying the opinion to consider the material presented to readers as representing a set of the most established positions and opinions in the field of digital history. The book discusses such issues as the time of digital history birth, its definition, subject field, functions as well as the importance for the widespread dissemination of historical knowledge in society. The author criticizes the concept of prerequisites for digital history birth outlined by H. Salmi which completely ignores the History and Computing movement in Western Europe and North America which played an important role in the formation of Russian historical information science and which was the discussion panel where many digital history issues were raised and resolved. The structure of the book is discussed as well. The article emphasizes the author's viewpoint on the importance of geographic information systems and technologies for historical research which he clearly underestimates. It is concluded that historical information science and digital history are different spheres of interdisciplinarity.
Garskova I.M. - Historical Research and Digital History or How Much History is there in Digital History? pp. 174-181


Abstract: The article discusses the book by H. Salmi "What is digital history?". It is the first monograph that attempts to systematize many digital history issues from the viewpoint of a historian and culture researcher. While evaluating the conceptual problems of the relationship between digital history and digital humanities as well as digital history and historical science, the author considers Salmi’s historiographic review, reference apparatus and representativeness of Internet resources links. The content of the monograph is analyzed through the prism of the national school of quantitative history experience and from the standpoint of the national model of historical information science. The performed analysis allows the author to conclude that H. Salmi reasonably emphasizes the great “disciplinarity” of digital history, its ties with the subject area of historical science. The author of the book does not ignore quantitative methods either.  His idea of the proximity of textuality and visuality seems to be interesting as well.At the same time, H. Salmi's monograph (traditionally for digital humanities) simplifies rather complex process of mathematization and informatization of humanitarian research in the second half of the 20th century. It seems that when describing the digital past, excessive attention is paid to technological progress while methods and technologies of digital data processing are relatively less in the focus.It can be concluded that the information support of historical studies can give digital history the necessary integrity and indicate a promising vector of its development.
Povroznik N. - Digital History, Digital Historical Sources and Criticism: Review of “What is Digital History?”
by Hannu Salmi

pp. 182-188


Abstract: The article is a review of the book “What is Digital History?” by Salmi H. which discusses digital history, a new field in history, and defines its framework. The review considers a range of issues related to digital sources, their typology, approaches to the formation of the source base and their criticism. The article analyzes the author’s attitude to digitized historical sources based on original analogous sources and born-digital ones as well as methods of their processing used by contemporary historians. These aspects have a direct impact on present day historical research and must be taken into account by historians. The review also addresses the author's views on epistemology and hermeneutics which are increasingly important in the digital age.  The topics named are unevenly distributed in the book. Sources of a new type are considered in detail in the chapter “The Digital Past: Sources and Problems”. Other issues are studied in the rest of chapters and in less detail. The review is complemented with examples of other projects and modern publications that were not included in the text of the reviewed book, but are essential for the topic as a whole.
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