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DIGITal ENcyclopedia of European Sociability

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DIGITENS (DIGITal ENcyclopedia of European Sociability)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-12-31

At a time when the idea of Europe is being overshadowed by particularisms and nationalisms, reflecting on the multiple interconnectivities between social groups during the eighteenth century across the Channel or the Atlantic, reflecting on the way models, objects and practices of sociability travelled from one culture to the other, were appropriated or resisted, re-emerged in different forms and enriched the culture of the social group will enable us to consider the formation and development of a European social public space through a radically new and innovative lens, that of sociability. The research work which has already been developed since 2009 by the GRISOL team (Groupe de Recherche sur la Sociabilité des Lumières) has mostly focused on the cultural transfers between France and Britain; the research team has therefore developed and acquired an expertise in this cross-cultural approach. Yet the DIGITENS project aims at broadening the scope of the research work to other European and colonial cultures. By building a team of European scholars, specialized in the field of social interaction and cultural transfers, the DIGITENS project will examine the “particularities” of European models of sociability in various fields (science, medicine, art, politics, social movements,literay trends, …) to try and understand what binds us together on a social level but also what divides us and keeps us apart.

The purpose of the DIGITENS project is thus to build an original framework for understanding the interactions, tensions, limits and paradoxes underlying European models of sociability and to reflect on the following question: can the emergence and formation of European models of sociability be traced throughout the long eighteenth century? The results of this collaborative, international and intersectoral research will be published in the first open-access digital encyclopaedia with a complementary anthology of primary sources.
Sixty-five periods of secondment, involving scholars, digital experts and curators have been scheduled over the three years. The academic and non-academic partners have been specifically chosen for their diverse range of expertise and skills (linguistics, social history, biographical studies, local geography, philosophy, politics, literature and art, quantitative network analysis), to guarantee the quality of the research project. These research periods will allow scholars to team up with curators and digital experts to explore and analyze collections of manuscripts, engravings, objects, … The project team will compile an anthology of primary sources (including manuscripts and printed material: political, scientific, philosophical texts, treatises of politeness, newspapers and magazines, travel narratives, correspondences, literary and iconographic works) from materials held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Musée Cognacq-Jay, The National Archives and the McGill library and with the assistance of curators and digital experts, as well as existing resources included in databases such as Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Electronic Enlightenment. Researchers will thus be able to access digitized documents but more importantly unpublished and non-digitized resources. Part of these resources will be digitized and made available on the DIGITENS encyclopedia.
Each seconded member will contribute two entries to the DIGITENS encyclopedia related to one of the five categories that have been defined. For each entry, keywords, images and hyperlinks will be added to develop the connections between the entries. To help form the links between them, experts of Paris 13 have developed a linguistic investigation tool, ISILEX, based on a thesaurus resource, to enlarge the semantic fields of each unit or notion. As a result, the precise organisation and hierarchy of all entries, as well as the identification of the links between them, will be made possible.
In addition to this secondment plan, a program of scientific and communication events has been devised by the team of DIGITENS members including three international symposiums (May 2019, June 2020 and December 2021 in Brest and Montreal), workshops at the BnF and TNA (November 2019 and March 2020), seminars in Brest, Bydgoszcz and Paris, and cycles of talks in Greifswald and Paris. The conference papers will in turn feed the collective books that are part of the deliverables but also new publications and podcasts. Podcasts from the GIS cycles of talks will indeed be posted on the DIGITENS website.
Digital training is another important aspect of the project; courses, conferences on digital humanities and training sessions have been scheduled in the program to train scholars in text recognition, semantic enrichment, statistical modeling ...
A rich program of varied events will enable the DIGITENS team to communicate on the project and reach a larger public: the Fête de la Science and the Nuit des Chercheurs, among other public engagement activities. The DIGITENS project will also communicate through library and café events and talks delivered to the general public at TNA and BnF. A website and a twitter account have been created to keep the public updated and to communicate efficiently through social networks. Various teasers have been made to present to the general public objects and practices of sociability and how they relate to our time and to explain the general purpose and the methodology of the DIGITENS project.
Until now, the main areas of study in eighteenth-century sociability have been focused on manners, taste and politeness, rather than on the broader term of sociability. Furthermore, the state of the art has adopted a national approach, concentrating mostly on the development of a national sentiment and sense of belonging. To expand the current state of the art and open up new lines of investigation, the term sociability will be used to address the often forgotten area of relationships and social movements, encompassing a sociological approach to the long eighteenth-century studies. The research material to be studied throughout the DIGITENS project will privilege transnational relationships through commerce, epistolary practices, theatre, touring, … to understand the circulation and transfer of cultural and social practices and objects throughout Europe. A specific attention will be devoted to periods of crisis, revolutions and geopolitical tensions which raised new opportunities for men and women to develop original models ms of sociability. The research methodology and the intersectoral collaborations involving museums, libraries and archives will also favor the use of a great variety of materials and sources (manuscripts, engravings, furniture, painting, objects, …) that will be connected together thanks to the ISILEX digital tool of the encyclopedia.

The key challenge of the digital encyclopaedia lies in the construction of a cartography of knowledge in relation to the central research domain of the DIGITENS project on European Sociability from the information entered by the authors for all the themes and the documents illustrating them. The bringing together of scholarship from different disciplinary and national traditions, combined with the variety of materials and sources will create an innovative and unique picture of the long eighteenth-century sociability, overcoming cultural barriers.
Visual used for kick-off meeting
Logo of project