Temporalities of the Danish Newspaper Sphere, 1749-1877

Journalistic products are central in the constitution of both individual and collective time; and this happens within complex relations between media technologies and broader societal patterns. Based on two earlier studies investigating the textual constitution of time in digital media (both live and archived) this project focuses on mapping and analysing how journalistic texts and formats historically have constituted interrelated temporalities. More specifically, the project investigates the emergence and development of temporal markers as well as their typography and relative positioning on the pages of a number of selected Danish newspapers from 1749 to 1877. While newspapers emerge in Denmark before 1749 this year is chosen because this marks the emergence of Berlingske, Denmark’s longest running and still active newspaper. Apart from being a national newspaper located in the capital this publication is thus also important for second a second stage of the project, which aims at bringing the study up to the present (to the extent that copyright issues allow). The first stage of the project will look at Berlingske as well as selected local newspapers, e.g. Aalborg Stifstidende and Viborg Stifstidende, which are also available in digital format from the mid-18th century to the late 19th.

Once a suitable corpus of texts has been selected and assembled the project will basically draw on two types of data, which very broadly can be termed morphological and syntactical. While the former is focused on the qualities of the isolated textual elements, the latter is concerned with their relations. At the morphological level one could search for temporal markers such as day, time, weekday, month and year, yesterday, tomorrow, now, present, past, future and phrases such as “published since” (either in the masthead or as ways to begin articles) and/or the tense of verbs in headlines and articles. Data from a number of searches could be accumulated in a semi-automatic fashion for the formation of a set list, which could form the basis of a deductive “dictionary-based techniques” applied within other fields.

A deductive, dictionary-based approach on the morphological will be complemented by an analysis at the syntactical level based on the layers of the digitized newspaper pages a corresponding page “behind” the image in which the articles and other items have been segmented, the text converted to a searchable text file, and each word and item have been given coordinates in relation to their position on the scanned page. Using these data one could initially look at how the terms applied in the first study appear relative to each other on the page. Are, for instance, the majority of the temporal markers clustered in the upper left corner of the page? And, how do such patterns change over time? In relation to temporal makers on the semantic level, the study will also analyse the typography and relative size of headlines (with specific temporal markers) as well as, for instance, the relation of specific temporal markers to illustrations and photographs.Taken together these two approaches will produce new knowledge about how the constitutions of temporality within print newspapers have developed over a long time-span in Denmark and how such developments can be related to broader societal and technological developments. Apart from producing unique international knowledge the project will — through the types of data and the complexity of the analyses —contribute significant methodological insights for both the researchers and technical personnel involved

The project is led by Henrik Bødker.