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Digital Hermeneutics is a platform for debates on interpretation in times of big data.

We look for ways to bring the hermeneutic tradition in Humanities research and teaching together with recent (quantified, material, or object-oriented) alternatives. This has led, amongst other things, to an article on analyzing Reddit (forthcoming), a course at UC Berkeley’s DH Summer Minor, and a conference in the Netherlands in 2018.

Learn more about Digital Hermeneutics.

If you are interested in participating in or contributing to our activities, events, and publications, please contact us.

About

Tom van Nuenen works as a Research Associate at the Department of Informatics, 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.

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.

Digital Hermeneutics aims to reevaluate and revalue the 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.

Our materials have been developed on the basis of courses that were designed and taught in the last four 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. DH methods, too often, are detrimental to the development of good research questions and theoretical or interpretative frameworks. 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. The question that concerns us is: how can we assess the status and value of interpretation in the Humanities today?

Encountering Authenticity

The experience of authenticity is singular, highly personal, and can at times be hard to communicate. Imagine trying to convince a friend of the ‘authentic’ nature of the music of your favorite band, when said friend doesn’t like their music.

At the same time, it is arguably one of the most important notions of the modern age. It informs many of the choices that many of us make: from where we get our afternoon coffee to the political parties we vote for, the media that we get our information from, and the causes we choose to support.

We are interested in the process by which people assign ‘authenticity’ to events, cultural objects, places, people, and discourses, and how they put the experience of encountering these authentic things into words.

You can help us by filling in the questionnaire.

Interpretation Today

In May 2018 we organized Interpretation Today, a one-day conference bringing together experts from diverse fields in- and outside of the Humanities (e.g. sociolinguistics, comparative literature, media studies, architecture, data science, and game studies). Inspired by an article by Julie Orlemanski titled “Scales of Reading” (2014), it offered a discussion forum for a range of such orientations, in order to critically assess them and try to rethink the uses and disuses of hermeneutics for the present moment.

Conference presentations can be downloaded here.

 

The conference program can be found below.

 

Contact

If you have any questions about upcoming events, contact us:

Dr. Inge van de Ven
inge@digitalhermeneutics.com

Dr. Tom van Nuenen
tom@digitalhermeneutics.com