We are Tom and Inge. Tom is working as a Teaching Fellow in Digital Media and Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities of King’s College London. Inge is an Assistant Professor in Online Culture at Tilburg University, and currently a Junior Core Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest.
Whereas Inge’s current research project engages with reading in a digital age, and Tom is working at the intersections of travel and technology, a related, broader interest in our research and teaching concerns the re-valuation of hermeneutics in the face of big data, computational approaches, and all kinds of anti- and post-hermeneutic tendencies in the humanities and social sciences. Digital Hermeneutics aims to bring together hermeneutic and critical theories on the one hand, and recently developed methods in the Digital Humanities on the other.
Our materials have been developed on the basis of courses we designed and taught in the last three years at Tilburg University, Shanghai International Studies University, the University of Copenhagen, UC Berkeley, and King’s College London. In these teaching experiences, we found that computational methods and critical reflection do not automatically converge. The moment you start introducing DH methods, students get excited and everything they have yet learned about formulating a good research question and theoretical or interpretative framework goes out of the window. Big data is cool, and we tend to think it speaks for itself.
To counteract this, we believe that Digital Humanities (DH) approaches should be integrated into the foundation of humanities education, instead of being offered as an optional skills module. A question that concerns us is: how can we assess the status and value of interpretation in the Humanities today?
Increasingly in the last decades, scholars have written about the limits of interpretation, and in some cases implied that it is something that can be overcome. One could think of a range of different forms of post- and anti-hermeneutic criticism such as media archaeology (Ernst, Kittler; Flusser; Parikka); speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (Bryant; Harman; Meillassoux); surface reading (Best and Marcus; Sedgwick; Sontag), and quantitative formalism (Moretti; Allison et al.). Recent forms of ‘distant reading’ in Digital Humanities, experiments in machine reading, critiques of historicism, and narratives of the ‘turn away from the linguistic turn,’ all present important alternatives to the practice of interpreting individual texts and objects.
We aim to reevaluate, and revalue, our rich hermeneutic tradition by bringing it into dialogue with material or quantitative approaches. How do digital media resist or problematize hermeneutic approaches, and can we adapt our interpretative toolkits to such objects? Framed by these concerns and questions, we design and teach courses, organize events, and publish articles. Currently, we are working on a project entitled Encountering Authenticity: Towards an Onto-Epistemology of Authentic Experiences.