Stefan Gradmann

Stefan Gradmann


Studies of Philosophy, literary science and linguistics at Université Paris VIII (1977-1979) and of German Literature, Greek and Philosophy at Freiburg University (1979-1984), Ph. D. In German Literature in Freiburg (1986)

Prior Work:

10/1988 – 06/1991

  • Scientific Librarian at Hamburg State and University Library (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg) (10/1988 – 08/1992)
  • Director of the Norddeutscher Bibliotheksverbund / Hamburg (library network for the federal states Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and of the GBV library network center in Goettingen (09/1992-06/1997)
  • Consultant and Product Manager for Pica/Netherlands, mainly for the implementation of Pica’s central system for French university libraries (« Système Universitaire de Documentation », SUD/Abes) (07/1997 – 11/2000)
  • Deputy Director of the Computing Center of Hamburg University (RRZ) (12/2000 – 03/2008)
  • Professor for Library and Information Science at Humboldt University / Berlin (04/2008 – 02/2013)

Current Employment/Responsibilities:

Professor at Leuven University, Belgium and Managing Dirctor of KU Leuven‘s University Library

Areas of Research Interest:

De-Construction of the ‚document‘ concept in the context of the WWW, text and interpretation on the Web, Linked Data based contextualisation methods and their use in the Digital Humanities

Objects, Context and Interpretation: Digitized and Digital Cultural Heritage on the Web

Humanities scholars have traditionally been working on cultural heritage corpora: collections of text, images, sound and other material that were subject to scholarly study and interpretation. This central activity of building, studying and interpretation of humanities corpora today is increasingly transposed to a digital, web based environment, with digitized representations of cultural heritage objects and born digital ones as well as digital equivalents of traditional research methods as essential constituents for Digital Humanist‘s work on Cultural Heritage.  In this context, digitization in the sense of creating digital representations of cultural heritage is more than just emulating the analog object and its attributes in a digital environment: the process of digitisation can only be understood and made sustainable as part of the scholarly interpretation activity, which in turn determines the extent of context we need to keep together with a given object  to enable known as well as future, not yet known interpretations of this object.

Understood this way, digitisation is definitely more than just creating a digital rendition of cultural heritage: it is about creating a new kind of digital cultural heritage enabling scholarly activities and interaction that were not possible in the analog domain, and be it just, for example,  the digital annotation of a digitised medieval manuscript – a kind of scholarly interaction with the object of study that was strictly excluded in the traditional, analog domain!

As a consequence, it might be wise to substantially reconsider the status of digitisation activities: in the context of the Digital Humanities they are much more than just low level preservation activities but rather the enablers of eScholarship in building digital corpora and contextualising these in such a way as to facilitate scholarly operations. Therefore, this activity cannot simply delegated  to the libraries (although they have an important role to play here), nor can it be outsourced to commercial players: work to be done here would have to be executed by digital scholars and librarians in close co-operation and is key for Digital Humanities happening at all. As an aside: leaving digitisation to the member states as in the past is a very bad solution, too, as it has resulted in the disparities that can still easily be observed when doing analyses of proprtional scale on Europeana per member state! A clear, EC driven political and funding priority for digitisation in a holistic view thus appears to be an absolute priority within Horizon 2020, including the related activities for contextualisation and ontology building.