, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 535–556 | Cite as

Digitale Perspektiven in der Kommunikations- und Mediengeschichte

Erkenntnispotentiale und Forschungsszenarien für die historische Presseforschung
  • Erik KoenenEmail author


Der Beitrag stellt in der Diskussion um die Zukunft der Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft in digitalen Zeiten die Position und Perspektive der Kommunikations- und Mediengeschichte in den Mittelpunkt und spielt die mit der Digitalisierung verbundenen Herausforderungen, Probleme und Potentiale am Beispiel der historischen Presseforschung durch. Innerhalb des Medienensembles der klassischen Massenkommunikation profitiert derzeit vor allem die periodische Presse von der retrospektiven Digitalisierung historischer Medien und deren digitaler Edition in Datenbanken und Portalen. Mit digitalisierten Zeitungen und digitalen Zeitungsportalen ergibt sich für die historische Presseforschung eine neue, weil zunehmend digitale Forschungssituation: Digitale Zeitungsportale als neuartige, originär digitale Überlieferungswelt für Zeitungen erleichtern nicht bloß den Weg zu den einzelnen Zeitungen und ihren Inhalten, sie erschließen diese als digitale Quellenressourcen maschinenlesbar und öffnen somit für die Forschung völlig neue Wege. Ziel des Beitrags ist es, die epistemologisch-methodologischen Problemlagen und die methodisch-praktische Operationalisierung digital gerahmter bzw. unterstützter pressehistorischer Erkenntnis- und Forschungsprozesse zu erörtern sowie konkrete Erkenntnisperspektiven und Forschungsstrategien für die Praxis vorzustellen.


Digitale Methoden Kommunikations- und Mediengeschichte Historische Presseforschung Distant Reading Text Mining 

Digital perspectives in communication and media history

Cognitive potentials and research scenarios for historical press research


In the discussion about the future of communication and media science in digital times, this article focuses on the position and perspective of communication and media history. The challenges, problems and potentials associated with digitization are illustrated using the example of historical press research. Within the media ensemble of classical mass communication, the periodic press in particular benefits from the retrospective digitization of historical media and their digital edition in databases and portals. For historical press research, digitized newspapers and digital newspaper portals represent an originally new, because increasingly digital research situation: Digital newspaper portals as a novel, originally digital world for newspapers not only facilitate the path to newspapers and their contents, they also open them up as digital resources machine-readable and thus open up completely new paths for research—not least supported by digital methods.

The main objective of this article is to discuss the epistemological-methodological problems and the practical operationalization of digitally framed or supported research processes in historical press research and to present concrete perspectives of knowledge and research strategies for practice. With this aim in mind, the paper discusses three points:

(1.) Methodological and practical consequences of historical press research in digital research environments. With the digitization of newspapers and their digital reproduction in newspaper portals, their source character shifts essentially in three dimensions: They are edited and indexed digitally and their complete content is made accessible through optical character recognition. This makes previously unimportant technical aspects such as data formats, portal interfaces, search algorithms and programming interfaces very relevant for the methodology of historical press research. A primary methodological effect of the digital reorganization of newspapers in data and portals is the reversal of the usual reading practice: from “top down” to “bottom up”. With the help of “keyword searching”, newspapers can now be searched comprehensively and transversely to the order of the newspaper original. Nevertheless, there is a warning against an all too naïve and uncritical usage of digitized newspapers and newspaper portals. In practice, some problems and risks are crucial for the conception of historical newspaper research in digital research environments: Besides a hardly standardized and in large parts “wild”, because often uncoordinated and selective digitization of newspapers, the newspaper portals are different in their conception as well as characterized by different content, technical, legal and entrepreneurial conditions.

(2.) Historical newspapers as digital sources in practice. The methodological and technical framework are fundamental and far-reaching for the further practical use of newspapers as digital sources in research. In each research step, it must be considered that digitized newspapers are genuinely new and, depending on the quality and depth of digitization, very complex sources with information gains and losses compared to the originals. Newspapers are not simply digitized, they are digitally constructed and differ in this construction from each other. In this respect, historical press researchers are increasingly becoming “users”. However simple and uncomplicated newspaper portals may be in practice, one must incorporate the implicit functions (hidden in algorithms, data and code) and the limits of these knowledge engines and their “correct” use into the research process. Combining and mediating classical hermeneutic methods with search technologies is an essential moment in the practical handling of digitized newspapers.

(3.) Historical press research and digital methods. In the light of the new research situation which is emerging with digitized newspapers and newspaper portals, it is obvious that historical press research should increasingly open up to the possibilities of digital methods. In the digital method discussion of historical press research, one concept in particular forms a central point of reference: Franco Moretti’s concept of “Distant Reading”. Basically, “Distant Reading”—and this is what makes this perspective so interesting for historical press research in dealing with the considerable metadata and full text volumes of digitized newspapers—is about the quantitative-automatic indexing of large text corpora using methods and techniques of “Text Mining”. Digital text methods are thus seriously changing the way we look at texts and the research practice with texts such as newspapers: In parts, they automate and accelerate reading processes, produce “new” text extracts by the computer, generate new interpretation contexts between individual text, corpus and condensate, and thus set new orientation points for “close reading”. Computers and digital text methods thus do not relieve researchers of interpretation. Rather, they constantly challenge them to interpret in a continuous interplay in order to give meaning to the text patterns discovered by machines.

In spite of all these advantages, digital methods have so far only been used sporadically in historical press research. For this reason, finally a digital workflow for research processes in historical press research will be presented, which illustrates and summarizes essential challenges, problems, solutions and potentials of digitally framed or supported research in press history.


Digital methods Communication and media history Historical press research Distant reading Text mining 


  1. Ackermann, V. (1992). Presseartikel. In B.-A. Rusinek, V. Ackermann & J. Engelbrecht (Hrsg.), Einführung in die Interpretation historischer Quellen. Schwerpunkt: Neuzeit (S. 233–252). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.Google Scholar
  2. Aiden, E., & Michel, J.-B. (2014). Uncharted. Big data as a lens on human culture. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
  3. Arnold, K., Behmer, M., & Semrad, S. (Hrsg.). (2008). Kommunikationsgeschichte. Positionen und Werkzeuge. Ein diskursives Hand- und Lehrbuch. Berlin: Lit.Google Scholar
  4. Balbi, G. (2011). Doing media history in 2050. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 8, 133–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beall, J. (2008). The weakness of full-text searching. The Journal of Academic Librarienship, 34, 438–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bingham, A. (2010). The digitization of newspaper archives. Opportunities and challenges for historians. Twentieth Century British History, 21, 225–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blome, A. (2018). Zeitungen. In L. Busse, W. Enderle, R. Hohls, T. Meyer, J. Prellwitz & A. Schuhmann (Hrsg.), Clio Guide – Ein Handbuch zu digitalen Ressourcen für die Geschichtswissenschaften (Bd. 2, S. 1–36). Berlin: Clio-online.Google Scholar
  8. Bösch, F. (2018). Mediengeschichte. Archive und Online-Ressourcen für die Forschung. In L. Busse, W. Enderle, R. Hohls, T. Meyer, J. Prellwitz & A. Schuhmann (Hrsg.), Clio Guide – Ein Handbuch zu digitalen Ressourcen für die Geschichtswissenschaften (Bd. 2, S. 1–18). Berlin: Clio-online.Google Scholar
  9. Brake, L. (2012). Half full and half empty. Journal of Victorian Culture, 17, 222–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, M. (1999). The sentimental education of the novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Day, R. (2014). Indexing it all. The subject in the Age of documentation, information and data. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Deacon, D. (2007). Yesterday’s papers and today’s technology. Digital newspaper archives and „push button“ content analysis. European Journal of Communication, 22, 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fickers, A. (2016). Digitale Metaquellen und doppelte Reflexivität. Zugegriffen: 31. Aug. 2018. H‑Soz-Kult-Forum: Historische Grundwissenschaften und die digitale Herausforderung.Google Scholar
  14. Dzogang, F., Lansdall-Welfare, T., FindMyPast Newspaper Team, & Cristianini, N. (2016). Discovering periodic patterns in historical news. PLoS One, 11(11) Scholar
  15. Genet, J.-P. (1994). Source, Métasources, Texte, Histoire. In F. Bocchi & P. Denley (Hrsg.), Storia & Multimedia (S. 3–17). Bologna: Grafis Editori.Google Scholar
  16. Gooding, P. (2017). Historic newspapers in the digital Age: „search all about it“. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Graham, S., Milligan, I., & Weingart, S. (2016). Exploring big historical data. The historian’s Macroscope. London: Imperial College Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hepp, A. (2016). Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft in datengetriebenen Zeiten. Publizistik, 61, 225–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huijnen, P., & Wevers, M. (2015). Digital Deconstruction. The digital turn and the use of news media as sources for historical research. Officina della Storia. Zugegriffen: 31. Aug. 2018.Google Scholar
  20. Huistra, H., & Mellinek, B. (2016). Phrasing history. Selecting sources in digital repositories. Historical Methods, 49, 220–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ignatow, G., & Mihalcea Rada, F. (2017). An introduction to text mining. Research design, data collection, and analysis. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar
  22. Koenen, E., Schwarzenegger, C., Bolz, L., Gentzel, P., Kramp, L., Pentzold, C., & Sanko, C. (2018). Historische Kommunikations- und Medienforschung im digitalen Zeitalter. Medien & Zeit, 33(2), 4–19. Ein Kollektivbeitrag der Initiative „Kommunikationsgeschichte digitalisieren“ zu Konturen, Problemen und Potentialen kommunikations- und medienhistorischer Forschung in digitalen Kontexten.Google Scholar
  23. Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and history. Kranzbergs law’s. Technology and Culture, 27, 544–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kraus, H.-C. (2002). Zeitungen, Zeitschriften, Flugblätter, Pamphlete. In M. Maurer (Hrsg.), Quellen. Aufriss der Historischen Wissenschaften, (Bd. 4, S. 373–401). Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun.Google Scholar
  25. Lansdall-Welfare, T., Sudhahar, S., Thompson, J., Lewis, J., FindMyPast Newspaper Team, & Cristianini, N. (2017). Analysis of 150 years of British periodicals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(4) Scholar
  26. Liddle, D. (2012). Reflections on 20,000 victorian newspapers. „distant reading“ the times using the times digital archive. Journal of Victorian Culture, 17, 230–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maurantonio, N. (2014). Archiving the visual. The promises and pitfalls of digital newspapers. Media History, 20, 88–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moretti, F. (2000). Conjectures in world literature. New Left Review, 1, 54–68.Google Scholar
  29. Moretti, F. (2005). Graphs, maps, trees. Abstract models for literary history. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  30. Moretti, F. (2013). Distant reading. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  31. Moreux, J.-P. (2015). Data mining historical newspaper Metadata. Old news teaches history. Zugegriffen: 31. Aug. 2018.Google Scholar
  32. Mussell, J. (2017). Beyond the „great index“. Digital resources and actual copies. In J. Shattock (Hrsg.), Journalism and the periodical press in nineteenth-century britain (S. 17–30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nicholson, B. (2012a). Looming large. America and the late-victorian press, 1865–1902. PhD Thesis, University of Manchester. Zugegriffen: 31. Aug. 2018.Google Scholar
  34. Nicholson, B. (2012b). Counting culture; or, how to read victorian newspapers from a distance. Journal of Victorian Culture, 17, 238–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nicholson, B. (2013). The digital turn. Exploring the methodological possibilities of digital newspaper archives. Media History, 19, 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Opgenoorth, E. (1997). Einführung in das Studium der neueren Geschichte (5. Aufl.). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.Google Scholar
  37. Ramsey, S. (2011). Reading machines. Toward an algorithmic criticism. University of Illinois Press: Urbana.Google Scholar
  38. Rockwell, G., & Sinclair, S. (2016). Hermeneutica. Computer-assisted interpretation in the humanities. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  39. Scheu, A., Vogelgesang, J., & Scharkow, M. (2018). Qualitative Textanalyse. Blaupause und Potenziale (teil-)automatisierter Verfahren. In A. Scheu (Hrsg.), Auswertung qualitativer Daten in der Kommunikationswissenschaft (S. 309–322). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simonson, P., Peck, J., Craig, R. T., & Jackson, J. P. (Hrsg.). (2013). The handbook of communication history. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Smits, T. (2014). Problems and possibilities of digital newspaper and periodical archives. Tijdschrift Voor Tijdschriftstudies, 36, 139–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Spahn, M. (1908). Die Presse als Quelle der neuesten Geschichte und ihre gegenwärtigen Benutzungsmöglichkeiten. Internationale Wochenschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik, 2(1163–1170), 1201–1212.Google Scholar
  43. Steinbach, P. (1999). Zeitgeschichte und Massenmedien aus der Sicht der Geschichtswissenschaft. In J. Wilke (Hrsg.), Massenmedien und Zeitgeschichte (S. 32–52). Konstanz: UVK.Google Scholar
  44. Stöber, R. (2016). Historische Methoden in der Kommunikationswissenschaft. In S. Averbeck-Lietz & M. Meyen (Hrsg.), Handbuch nicht standardisierte Methoden in der Kommunikationswissenschaft (S. 303–318). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Strange, C., Wodak, J., & Wood, I. (2014). Mining for the meanings of a murder. The impact of OCR quality on the use of digitized historical newspapers. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 8. Zugegriffen: 31. Aug. 2018.Google Scholar
  46. Strippel, C., Bock, A., Katzenbach, C., Mahrt, M., Merten, L., Nuernbergk, C., Pentzold, C., Puschmann, C., & Waldherr, A. (2018a). Die Zukunft der Kommunikationswissenschaft ist schon da, sie ist nur ungleich verteilt. Eine Kollektivreplik. Publizistik, 63, 11–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Strippel, C., Bock, A., Katzenbach, C., Mahrt, M., Merten, L., Nuernbergk, C., Pentzold, C., & Waldherr, A. (2018b). Call for Papers für ein Themenheft „Herausforderungen der Digitalisierung – Theoretische und methodische Antworten der Kommunikationswissenschaft“. Publizistik, 63, 7–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tonkin, E. L., & Tourte, G. J. L. (2016). Working with text. Tools, techniques and approaches for text mining. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Chandos PublishingGoogle Scholar
  49. Underwood, T. (2014). Theorizing research practices we forgot to theorize twenty years Ago. Representations, 127, 64–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Upchurch, C. (2012). Full-text databases and historical research. Cautionary results from a ten-year study. Journal of Social History, 46, 89–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weber, M. (1988). Soziologie des Zeitungswesens. In M. Weber (Hrsg.), Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik (2. Aufl. S. 434–441). Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).Google Scholar
  52. Wijfjes, H. (2017). Digital humanities and media history. A challenge for historical newspaper research. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 20, 4–24.Google Scholar
  53. Wilke, J. (1987). Quantitative Methoden in der Kommunikationsgeschichte. In M. Bobrowsky & W. R. Langenbucher (Hrsg.), Wege zur Kommunikationsgeschichte (S. 49–57). München: Verlag Ölschläger.Google Scholar
  54. Wilke, J. (1999). Massenmedien und Zeitgeschichte aus der Sicht der Publizistikwissenschaft. In J. Wilke (Hrsg.), Massenmedien und Zeitgeschichte (S. 19–31). Konstanz: UVK.Google Scholar
  55. Witten, I. H., Gori, M., & Numerico, T. (2007). Web dragons. Inside the myths of search engine technology. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Medien-, Kommunikations- und Informationsforschung (ZeMKI)Universität BremenBremenDeutschland

Personalised recommendations