20.07.14 - 25.07.14, Seminar 14301

Computational Humanities - bridging the gap between Computer Science and Digital Humanities

Diese Seminarbeschreibung wurde vor dem Seminar auf unseren Webseiten veröffentlicht und bei der Einladung zum Seminar verwendet.


Research in the field of Digital Humanities, also known as Humanities Computing, has seen a steady increase over the past years. Situated at the intersection of computing science and the humanities, present efforts focus on making resources such as texts, images, musical pieces and other semiotic artifacts digitally available, searchable and analysable. To this end, computational tools enabling textual search, visual analytics, data mining, statistics and natural language processing are harnessed to support the humanities researcher. The processing of large data sets with appropriate software opens up novel and fruitful approaches to questions in the traditional humanities.

Furthermore, the computational paradigm transforms the humanities, since it opens the way to new research questions and different methodologies for answering them, and since it becomes possible to analyze a much larger amount of data, yet in a quantitative and automated fashion.

Despite the considerable increase in Digital Humanities research, a perceived gap between the traditional humanities and computer science persists. Reasons for this are rooted in the current state of both fields: Whereas computer science excels at automating repetitive tasks with respect to low-level content processing, it can be difficult for computer scientists to fully appreciate the concerns and research goals of their humanities colleagues.

For a humanist, in turn, it is often hard to imagine what computer technology can and cannot provide, how to interpret automatically generated results, and how to judge the advantages of automatic processing - even if imperfect - over manual analyses.

To close this gap, we propose to boost the rapidly emerging interdisciplinary field of Computational Humanities by bringing together leading researchers in the (digital) humanities and computational analysis in a Dagstuhl Seminar. The seminar will solidify Computational Humanities as a field of its own and identify the most promising directions for creating a common understanding about methodologies and goals. Importantly, the computer scientist cannot be reduced to a software engineer for the humanist, nor should the humanist be compelled to construe post-hoc explanations for results from automatic data analysis. Rather, both sides must agree on a common vision and define and exemplify accepted methodologies and measures for assessing the validity of research hypotheses.

We conceive computational humanities as a discipline that provides this algorithmic foundation as a bridge between computer science and the humanities. The new discipline is explicitly concerned with research questions from the humanities that can more successfully be solved through the use of computing, as well as with pertinent research questions from computing science focusing on multimedia content, uncertainties of digitisation, language use across long time spans and visual presentation of content and form.

This seminar will bring together researchers from diverse backgrounds to address the following questions:

  1. The Present State: What works, what does not?
    • Review of the success of 10 years of the digital humanities: Can we identify commonalities of successful projects? What kinds of results have been obtained? What kinds of results were particularly beneficial for partners in different areas of research? Can success in one field be transferred to other fields by following the same methodology?
    • Review of the challenges of 10 years of the digital humanities: What are recurring barriers to efficient cross-disciplinary collaboration? What are the most common unexpected causes of delays in projects? What are common misunderstandings?
    • What is the current role of computer scientists and researchers in the humanities in common projects, and how do these groups envision and define their roles in this interplay?
  2. Computational Challenges in Computational Humanities
    • What research questions arise for computational scientists when processing data from the humanities?
    • How can the success of a computer system for humanities data-processing be evaluated to quantify its success?
    • What are the challenges posed by the demands from the humanities? In particular, how can computer scientists convey the notion of uncertainties and processing errors to researchers in the humanities?
  3. Humanities Challenges in Computational Humanities
    • What research questions can be appropriately addressed with computational means?
    • How can we falsify hypotheses with data processing support?
    • What is and is not acceptable methodology when one relies on automatic data processing steps?
  4. Common Vision: Algorithmic Foundations of Computational Humanities
    • Can we agree on generic statements about the expressivity of the range of algorithms that are operative in the digital humanities and related fields of research?
    • Can we distinguish complexity levels of algorithms in computational humanities that are distinguished by their conditions of application, by their expressiveness or even explanatory power?
    • Which conditions influence the interpretability of the output generated by these algorithms from the point of view of researchers in the humanities?

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