Reply To: 3. 3 March – River History

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Peter # Posted on March 4, 2015 at 08:26

Reflections on seminar – Riverscape of Vienna Danube (Verena Winiwarter)

At the seminar we discussed the articles perspective on the subject Environmental history. I believe the researchers had a clear focus on the environmental aspects of the riverscape region, rather than the interaction between humans and nature. Even though the articles point to societal issues – the riverscape being a place where social order could be manifested and where those in power could demonstrate their control over nature – these do not seem to be in focus. From a socioeconomic as well as a cultural perspective it would certainly have been interesting to know more about the effects of the changes for the people in the area. Although information about this is included in the papers it seems to be secondary to the environmental changes. However, as was pointed out at the seminar, this may be a logical continuation of research in future articles. Future articles may also tell us more about how human interaction with the riverscape surrounding Vienna has affected other parts of the river, both in regards to the eco-system and the land- and river use. Hopefully this will also include more on the human conflicts, and potential for such conflicts.

Another interesting aspect that was discussed at the seminar was which, if any, historical narrative that the articles used. Some participants did seem to argue that the narrative was not prevalent in the articles, and that this gave the articles a more informational context. I could agree that the articles did not necessarily use strong narratives and were factual in nature, but I also feel that this indeed were their purpose. And I would also argue that many historians go to far in their use of narratives, which I believe can render historical research less credible. It is in my view therefore important that historians clearly states their intended narratives.

The articles also touch on past and present climate problems. It states that river morphology will change when thresholds are breached, and that experts are currently working to boost already forthcoming rearrangements of the riverscape. The articles, I would argue, strongly points to that climate change has been a deciding factor in some of the river alterations. In this regard it would be interesting to find out more about what conclusions can be drawn regarding future affects of climate change in the region, when weather phenomenon’s are expected to increase.

The seminar also included an interesting discussion on the researchers use of GIS technology. It appears that the technology has been proven to be invaluable for the historical surveys of the Vienna Danube riverscape. The articles also point out that the methods used in their study had been refined during the process. I believe it would be interesting to know if they have clear intentions for this refined techniques to be re-used for future riverscape research, both in the Vienna Danube region and elsewhere.

The articles also had a reiterating discussion on the reliability of historical cartographic information and other written historical sources of the riverscape, which I though was necessary to understand how the researcher had treated their historical sources. Both in regards to what this material intended to show in contemporary time as well as the fact that early geographical projection were less consistent and had a lower level of detail.

In all I believe that these research articles are a invaluable tool for further historical and archaeological research of the region, as well as for further research in the natural sciences.