WorldViews. The World in Textbooks

Since February 2015, the departments Europe and DIFI have been developing a research infrastructure that will integrate data storage for digital projects at the Georg Eckert Institute. This will dramatically improve interoperability and re-usability, rendering it easier to evaluate research results using tools and methods from digital humanities.

The multilingual source project EurViews is of great significance to the WorldViews project. Firstly, EurViews sets an example for the mutual engagement of infrastructure and research by combining source analysis with research from within the project itself. This model for compiling and interpreting sources already successfully tried and tested by the EurViews project is being professionalised further via a newly developed, partly automatic workflow programme in cooperation with WorldViews. Secondly, the focus of the WorldViews project, which has a broader thematic scope, will to a certain extent build on the results of EurViews. WorldViews, for instance, addresses textbook narratives on constructs that encompass multiple nations or countries, such as Europe, or on ‘visions of the future and concepts of society’. The study will reveal how countries and regions use the textbooks they prescribe to locate themselves within the world and, on the other hand, how they perceive the world itself. At the same time, we will investigate if and when Europe is considered a frame of reference by other countries (as ascertained by the project EurViews), and which alternative supranational approaches are given preference by non-European countries (to be ascertained by WorldViews).

The WorldViews sources reveal a certain fluidity between regional and spatial attributions. They illustrate how a body of knowledge and various connotations can vary on a worldwide level, and how they shift over the course of time using the criteria of the nation, the region, Europe and the world. The edition reflects the societal production, organisation and circulation of knowledge as well as its cross-regional ‘translatability’, and how it is informed by various media and interwoven into historical processes.

Moving beyond the dimension of content, WorldViews is of fundamental importance to the further development of our institute’s infrastructure. Much of the GEI’s research infrastructure and many transfer projects are currently being standardised and integrated. WorldViews works towards high standards and aims to render the data from GEI projects usable in the long term – long after a project’s duration. By drawing on structures already in place, such as those developed in the course of the large-scale digital humanities projects, we are searching for ways in which to overcome technological isolated applications and to secure interoperability. Semantic methods play just as important a part here as long-term availability and the conversion of metadata. We are working with standardised data with a view to using the data within the semantic web.