Colloquium 26 June: Mark Thompson and Joanne van der Woude

At the next Translantis/AsymEnc colloquium, Mark Thompson and Joanne van der Woude (University of Groningen), will introduce, explain and demonstrate the application Amerigo, which allows users to explore connections through space and time between the Netherlands, the United States, and the Atlantic World at large.

Date: Thursday 26 June, 15.30-17.00
Place: Muntstraat 2a (room 1.11), Utrecht

Abstract – Amerigo: Atlantic Connections and Digital Heritage in a Dutch City

Amerigo is a website and software application (for iPhone, iPad, and Android) that allows users to explore connections through space and time between the Netherlands, the United States, and the Atlantic World at large. Those connections coalesce around trans-oceanic themes such as sugar, the African slave trade, and post-War emigration. In its earliest stages, Amerigo uses one location as its jumping off point—the city of Groningen—and maps its role in the initial settlement of America by the Dutch as well as its importance during World War II. But Groningen is just one space within a multi-nodal network formed by the movements of people, goods, and ideas around the Atlantic rim. Amerigo aims to make visual and textual materials that relate to that network easily accessible to those do not read Dutch. Online, locations are brought to life through current photographs, old illustrations and maps, as well as literary texts; while the application works with GPS coordinates and Layar-like imaging to transport users who are walking around the modern city back in time. Amerigo offers the experience of what Henry James has called a “visitable past,” wherein connections to the past and present proliferate from a single space in ways that could previously only be conjured inside scholars’ heads.

            Amerigo’s content and design are aimed to appeal to scholars, students, and tourists—anyone, really, who wants to explore the relationship between the Netherlands and America. An international editorial board selects and controls crowd-sourced additions, including other locations, texts, and practices. Advanced (under-)graduate students will be especially encouraged to contribute. Amerigo empowers its users to see their embeddedness in a spatial, historical, and cultural framework, by functioning as a handheld time machine, transporting the viewer back decades or even centuries. Methodologically, Amerigo proceeds through the cityscape as Benjamin did through his Arcades: geospatial realities become lieux de mémoire, as described by Pierre Nora, on an extended walk through time. Finally, Amerigo contributes to current debates in the digital humanities as a large-scale scholarly, student-sourced, and ultimately marketable experiment.