The network uses and refines analytical processes, which allows the capture of a large source corpus of key terms and concepts. It aims to reconstruct inter-textual links, identify thematic clusters and develop semantic fields, not only for the purposes of quantitative findings but also to allow those findings to be historically contextualised and interpreted. The information technology tools will be designed to deal with the above issues and to formulate them appropriately, automate their recognition in texts and visualise the results. This will enable the empirical examination of socio-historical questions and allow the tools to be adjusted accordingly. In addition, the system should generate hypotheses for historians to explore and, in turn refine, through the hermeneutic analysis of selected works. Elements such as word frequency, grammatical forms, semantic fields and the arrangement of protagonists and themes will be examined.
This process is divided into four initial categories:
- The frequency and form with which ‘foreign’ continents, countries and peoples, colonies, discoveries or missionary experiences are mentioned. This can, for example, give valuable insight into geographical and ethnographical horizons or ‘otherness’ and perceptions of identity and its spatialisation.
- Statements regarding war and peace, political alliances, regents and statesmen illustrate which notions of violence and civility, power and justice shaped the discourse.
- Statements on science and culture, urbanisation and industrialisation, pauperism or social policy offer clues as to how the consequences of industrial and social change are assimilated into the contemporary world view.
- The sphere of transport, communication, industry, technology and the environment provides information illustrating the extent to which newly-won knowledge is embedded in the narrative of progress and modernisation and how it is interpreted in the context of ubiquitous acceleration. Assuming that medially distributed images of the world are not initially ascribed any particular patterns of interpretation; this range of topics should be constantly developed to suit the changing configuration of available IT instruments. The approaches developed should, however, be as generic as possible in the interests of future use.