#dhberlin being born for good

Something happened. While I was wrestling with adversity reaching in a grant application promised to doom, juggling with two papers and trying to find a post-doc and the necessary funding for him/her (someone to work on the French corpora of the edition which are still under exploited), it now seems, with less than 10 days to go till Christmas, that this was not vain. One of the papers needs 2 hours, the other 2 days of attention before reaching their final state. The post doc candidate reached in a project entitled “Philosophical networks in Berlin and Brandenburg in the second half of the 18th century. From the mechanisms of theory building to their digital representation” to the foundation of the Berlin Parliament (fingers crossed!).

And most importantly of all, dhberlin seems to become more active every day. I really don’t know what happened there. When I wrote the grant application together with Markus and Georg and emailed people around, it seemed to me that all that I was doing was putting people together who knew of each other already, who had done a lot before – I did not invent anything, just transformed something that existed already into a grant application. I did not sense that it would make a difference to anyone. Beauty of connections coming at the right time: it created a feeling of being part of a critical mass, of being able to move things. Not only for me, for that matter.

On Friday, the workshop “Alexander von Humboldt und die Digital Humanities” proved not only that we do exist as a group (a fifth to a fourth of the attendance having closely to do with the dhberlin project), but also that we are fit for our goals: making everybody being able to talk about infrastructural and research needs. Tobias Kraft had told me at the Stammtisch last week that the Alexander von Humboldt corpus is optimal for a digital approach. He meant that, I realized it on Friday, in the sense that networks are at its core (networks of persons, of publications, of ideas). And also in the sense that several institutions are at work there and should be given new forms of cooperation to make it possible to approach the whole of it.

For an overview of  papers and discussion, check the hashtag #avhdh, intensely fed by Markus and me during the workshop. I learned a lot in all of them, but was particularly impressed by Markus’ brilliant one. Wearing a suit certainly gave him some authority, but most of it came from the way he mastered his paper and the following discussion.

dhberlin existing means at the time being figuring out where, when and how to meet. We will have next week all the info for the January meeting, during which we will prepare the June workshop – for which we have dates and guests, but no satisfactory room yet. So there still is some e-mailing ahead, but also cool business lunches. And Christmas. And then, in the new year, real work together.


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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