E-Humanities and E-History, the digitization of historical data and the development of text and sentiment mining tools to explore these data, bring new challenges and possibilities for research into the developing field of the history of alcohol and drugs.
More in particular, E-History – when combined with more traditional historical methods – can stimulate and facilitate the creation of an international comparative and multilingual project of transnational drug histories. Such a project will tackle major problems of comparative research: the existence of various language barriers, and the vast size of the primary sources, especially when these become more and more available in an age of digitization.
Last year I discussed these tools in the Points blog. In my own research, e-tools turned out to be helpful in tracing and analyzing public perceptions of drugs use and trafficking, for instance as present in the work of the creator of Tintin, Hergé.
Since a few years we, Toine Pieters and Stephen Snelders, are working at the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) on the exploration and development of E-History tools. At the end of this week we will be present at the conference of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society in London. In the discussions, fringes and corridors of this Under Control conference we would like to talk with those interested about concrete steps in creating a research network – a network that focuses on comparative cultural histories of substance use using digital software with an international user base.
We are planning an expert meeting later this year at Utrecht University, to solidify and deepen the outcomes of these talks. At this meeting we will discuss the necessary conditions for international research, the methods and tools that will be used, and possibilities for funding the research. We would like to make an inventory of researchers interested in future participation in the network, and in attending this expert meeting.
We invite all people at the conference who are interested in discussing our ideas and in participating in their development to address us, Toine Pieters and Stephen Snelders, at the conference, or to react to this blog post by email. We hope to create an international group of researchers who enthusiastically but cautiously will explore new avenues in alcohol and drugs history.