A historian by training have focused my work on helping behaviour during the Holocaust and memories of aerial warfare during the Second World War. My thesis led me to work with Social Network Analysis which in turn got me interested in the applicability of software and the Internet (to avoid saying „Digital“ for once) for historical research, teaching and public outreach.
I am working as Researcher in the Digital Humanities Lab at Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe in Luxembourg with a focus on network analysis methods for both historical research and content exploration. I started working for CVCE in and was part of the CUbRIK project which amongst other things built the amazingly promising demo histoGraph which we are currently redeveloping at CVCE for real-world use-cases at CVCE and elsewhere.
Between January and June 2014 I held the position of CDHI Digital History Postdoc at the wonderful Digital Innovation Lab at UNC Chapel Hill. At UNC I taught a course titled „Introduction to Digital History“, collaborated with Pam Lach and Annie Chen on opening up UNC’s slave narratives collection and also did some work on MERIT – Machine-based Extraction of Relations In Text, an ongoing project with Antal van den Bosch of Radboud University Nijmegen.
Before, I worked as eHumanities Post Doc at Nijmegen with Antal van den Bosch, Iris Hendrickx and Kalliopi Zervanou. This time sparked my interest in Natural Language Processing and the field’s application in historical reseach. In Nijmegen we developed the concept for MERIT, Machine-based Extraction of Relations In Text. MERIT is dedicated to the study of Second World War memories in general and in the Arnhem-Nijmegen area in particular using a combination of hermeneutics and computational approaches. In addition, I did research on strikes that never happened together with my colleagues.
When I started working on my PhD, there was hardly any suitable research available that could have served me as a guideline. Together with my colleagues Ulrich Eumann, Linda von Keyserlingk and Martin Stark I established a workshop series that brought scholars together. Over the last years these efforts succeeded and resulted in a steadily growing international network. By now the biannual workshop series is running for three years and we were very happy to find that NediMAH, Christophe Verbruggen and UNL-FCSH together U Lisboa would be willing to support three conferences in Hamburg, Gent and Lisbon. These efforts are accompanied by a newsletter and the website Historical Network Research which I maintain.
In July 2012 I have successfully defended my PhD thesis on covert support networks for persecuted Jews during the Holocaust which introduces a relational perspective to the question why people decided to help. It took some time, but now it is published as a book. My research is the to-date first formalized analysis of relations between helpers and recipients of help and among the first projects which apply formal network methods in Contemporary History. For this project I collected multi-dimensional relations between 1.500 actors and used a variety of software packages to explore network visualizations and quantifications.
While there are many handbooks for Social Network Analysis for social scientists, there is hardly anything available for historians. This handbook discusses key elements of social network analysis from the perspective of historians: How does network analysis relate to other methods in historical research? What is the added value of network visualisations and computations? How can sources be transformed into network data? What are best practices in the field? This book does not offer click-by-click tutorials (we leave this to other publications) but discusses the specific challenges historians face when they engage with network analysis.
In 2015, Markus Gamper, Linda Reschke and myself published Knoten und Kanten III, an edited volume on best practices in the application of network analysis in history and political science. The articles are in German and English, of particular interest to historians are Soziale Netzwerke und Macht. Eliasʼ Konzept der Figuration vor dem Hintergrund des Aufstiegs der Medici in Florenz by Markus Gamper, Taking time seriously. How do we deal with change in historical networks? by Claire Lemercier, „Network Analysis is performed.“ Die Analyse sozialer Netzwerke in den Altertumswissenschaften: Rückschau und aktuelle Forschungen by Christian Nitschke and Christian Rollinger, Von Gläubigern und Schuldnern. Kreditnetzwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts in geographischer Perspektive by Daniel Reupke und Martin Stark, Social capital and social inequality. Corporate networks in Germany and the United States (1896-1938) by Paul Windolf and finally The dynamics of helping behavior for Jewish refugees during the Second World War. The importance of brokerage by myself.