The Long View of Digital Urban History

UHA LogoRoundtable at the Urban History Association Biennial Conference, Philadelphia, October 10, 2014

Chair and Moderator: LaDale Winling, Virginia Tech


  • Colin Gordon, University of Iowa
  • Susan Lawrence, Ohio State University
  • Stephen Robertson, George Mason University, Center for History and New Media
  • J. Mark Souther, Cleveland State University, Center for Public History and Digital Humanities

Since the 2008 publication of the Journal of American History’s Interchange “The Promise of Digital History,” the landscapes of print publishing, research methods, teaching resources, funding streams, and expectations of how to communicate digitally have changed dramatically.  Scholars have developed a robust ecosystem of digital history projects, especially in urban history, while digital methods and tools continue to gain traction within the profession.  Digital research and communication opportunities increasingly inform scholars’ interpretive frameworks, which reflects back on demand for digital tools, beginning to form an iterative feedback process between digital methods and scholarly inquiry in may seem an accelerating process.

Several urban historians, however, have been involved in the digital realm for significant portions of their careers.  This roundtable will draw upon the insights of some of the most experienced digital urban historians in discussion about digital topics increasingly central to the profession.   These will include the life cycles of digital projects, the changing value of tools and platforms, the role of digital skills and tools in training undergraduate and graduate students for research, and the value of digital work in building a career as a historian.

By offering the long view of the digital turn, this roundtable seeks to distinguish the signal from the noise, in the words of a recent work on data-driven analysis. What are the enduring values of digital research and publishing for historians, what are the greatest advantages and pitfalls of digital history for scholars of the urban realm?  What remains of the promise of digital history?