Call for Papers – European Social Science History Conference 2018

Digitising visitor encounters with warfare

Queen’s University Belfast
April 4-7, 2018

Session Organisers: Dr Ria Dunkley, University of Glasgow and Laurie Slegtenhorst MA, Erasmus University Rotterdam

War has been a popular tourist attraction for centuries (Seaton, 1996), while throughout the 20th-century, warfare and allied memorabilia arguably constituted the world’s largest tourist attraction (Smith, 1996). This situation shows little sign of abating within the present day, when visitation of sites such as the Battlefields of Culloden (UK) and those associated with World War I and II continues to increases (Dunkley, 2011). Yet, for many visitors, understanding the events that have occurred at historical places can be difficult. This is particularly the case for ancient battle sites, where historical relics associated with the event are no longer visible. Due to the increase centrality of visual representations in present day society, publics often desire affective connection to the past, involving tacit involvement with a history that can be touched, heard and smelt, as well as seen (Landsberg, 2015). Digital tools, such as apps, virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D animation arguably provide visitors with totalising, immersive experiences of history and enable an appreciation of the multiple layers of history at war-related sites. Yet, despite a recent proliferation in the number of sites harnessing digital technology to augment the visitor experience, little research has focused upon the way such sites are experienced by the visitors who use these digital tools.

This session seeks papers that explore how different types of visitors engage with history at war-related sites in diverse ways. Questions that will be central to the session include: how do visitors use digital tools to navigate sites of war?; how is the experience history enhanced through digital mediation?; do digital tools engage visitors with history at a deeper, more critical level?; can digital technology enhance understandings of complex historical events? and; is it possible to cater to the needs of homogenous groups of visitors (including, school children, special interest tourists, serendipitous visitors, veterans, survivors and victims’ relatives) through harnessing digital technology?

Proposed research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Visitor experiences of using digital technology to navigate sites associate with war (including sites of actual events, as well as museums, memorials and sites of internment);
  • The significance of memory and pre-conceptions to how digital representations are engaged with;
  • The representation of divergent identities within digital applications developed for war-related sites (including representations of gender, class and race);
  • The potentials of digitisation of war-related sites for formal and informal learning (particularly in terms of democracy education);
  • Innovative methodologies for understanding how the visitor experience is mediated by digital technology at war-related sites.

Presentations should be approximately twenty minutes in length. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Laurie Slegtenhorst (slegtenhorst@eshcc.eur.nl) and Ria Dunkley (ria.dunkley@glasgow.ac.uk) by April, 23, 2017. Submissions should also include: Author name, institutional affiliation, e-mail and mailing address. Please do also get in touch with any questions, or to discuss alternative forms of presentation.

For more information on the conference, please visit: https://esshc.socialhistory.org/