In 1967, at the dawn of the age of digital information technology and in the middle of an escalating guerrilla war in South Vietnam, the U.S. Army set up a massive data-processing system. It was designed to contain all available information on the social structure of South Vietnam's rural population and to be able to survey and depict the political acceptance of the government in real time. This "objective" analysis influenced important decisions on counterinsurgency and military strategy. The research project interprets this data-processing system as an early historical attempt of monitoring the attitudes and activities of societies with means of information technology and data-processing and the justification and communication of political decisions with computer-generated "facts". It analyzes the functional logic of digital data processing in its institutional and societal context and examines the effects of the knowledge generated in this way. In other words, the project examines how the ordering of knowledge about the world in a database transcended in attempts to re-order the world.
The project is based on the assumption that databases and their management systems constitute primary sources in their own right. Thus the project explores the general potential of reviving historical database-management-systems and re-enacting their functional principles by extracting and examining entry and query routines, alterations of attributes, and restrictions of access rights from the preserved metadata. Thereby, it also examines the general preconditions and requirements for archival preservation of databases and their analysis by historians.
Keywords: history of knowledge, contemporary history; digital history; history of social sciences; history of computing; Vietnam War; counterinsurgency; psychographics; social engineering; database; data-science; archival science; experimental history; re-enactment