62632-01 - Seminar: Theory of Digital Humanities 3 KP (ABGESAGT)

Semester Herbstsemester 2021
Angebotsmuster einmalig
Dozierende Jens Loescher (jens.loescher@unibas.ch, BeurteilerIn)
Inhalt Topic:
One of the long-standing problems for digital humanities has been a lack of theory adequate both to digital computing machinery and to disciplines of the human sciences. We have names for aspects of a methodology, such as ‘distant reading’, ‘computational stylistics’, ‘quantitative history’ and ‘modelling’; we have debates, handbooks, edited collections, journals and organised online discussions – but no overall theoretical understanding of what makes digital humanities cohere as a disciplinary entity. A ‘discipline’ is, the Oxford English Dictionary tells us, what disciples, that is, students of a subject, do, but to have cogent reasons to clarify for others and for ourselves what we are in fact doing we need to theorise. This means first of all to sketch out what a ‘theory’ of digital humanities might look like. It is not to be assumed that this word ‘theory’ has one meaning for all. Its meaning varies by discipline.
Theory, that is, cannot be spun out of the air but needs examples to work from, and examples mean an historical understanding of the field we theorise. In the case of any slice of digital activity especially, theorising also requires interdisciplinary persistence and fortitude. One cannot, as some who self-identify as digital humanists are, innocent of the natural sciences and at least willing to struggle at the edges of mathematics. There are bridges to these other areas of enquiry. It will help to turn to earlier discussions, for example Alan Turing’s work or John von Neumann’s efforts to come up with a theory of automata (organic and artificial) or to the ‘ecological’ mind set of the first generation of programmers in the Bay area. For these ‘the machine’ is an object charged with agency. It is an object whose design and engineering we need to understand, as much as we can. As such, the computer is not just another technological invention. No tool leaves our ‘mode of thinking’ untouched, but the digital machine is radically adaptive to those who use it and to their lifeworlds. Furthermore it is sufficiently close to us cognitively that we are radically apt to adapt ourselves to it. Nevertheless, although the machine implements Boolean logic, its agency is not strictly, purely logical but subject to error and capable of nondeterministic performance.

The seminar will be organized as such: Input by students, input Willard McCarty, general discussion, wrap up. For passing this course you need to take reading assignments (see reader on ADAM) for ONE session and summarize the respective literature in class. Kindly note: for this class NO FINAL PAPER is required. Rather, we will focus on the rare opportunity to engage in discussions with the doyen of the Digital Humanities, Willard McCarty, who will attend every meeting via Zoom. Encounters with McCarty and other experts will make students take in the air of rigueur, charisma and longue durée of the Digital Humanities. Language in class will be German for segments without WMC, English with WMC. Master and PhD students of all disciplines are welcome.

1, 20.9.2021
Debating Digital Humanities. Contra Stanley Fish.

2, 4.10. 2021
DH in the 'slaughterhouse of literature'. Close reading versus distant reading, digitally considered.

3, 18.10. 2021
DH and the invisible college. Knowledge in digital libraries and encyclopedias.
Input Markus Krajewski: "Libraries, programs".

4, 1.11. 2021
Improvising, experimenting, finding out. DH and History of Science

5, 15.11. 2021
History of computing. Essentialism or social-constructivism?

6, 29.11. 2021
Agency. DH and Material Culture Studies.

7, 13.12. 2021
Modelling us. DH and Applied Ethics.
Lernziele Students get acquainted with or deepen their knowledge regarding major fields of the Digital Humanities.

Students prepare and moderate discussions with experts and 'take in the air' of intellectual rigorism and charisma (Willard McCarty).
Literatur Session 1:
Stanley Fish: "The Digital Humanities and the Transcending of Mortality"
Stanley Fish: "Mind your P's and B's: The Digital Humanities and interpretation"
in: S.F.: "Think again. Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education", Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015, pp 343-355.

Session 2:
Thomas Rommel: "Literary Studies", in: Susan Schreibmann, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth (eds): "A Companion to Digital Humanities", Oxford: Blackwells, 2004, pp 88-96.
Ted Underwood: "Distant Horizons. Digital Evidence and Literary Change", Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2019, chapter 2: "The Life Spans of Genres", pp 34-67.

Session 3:
Anthony Grafton: "Apocalypse in the Stacks? The Research Library in the Age of Google", Daedalus, vol. 138, no 1, 2009, pp 87-98.
Ray Rosenzweig: "Clio Wired: The Future of the Past in the Digital Age", New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, chapter: "Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past", pp 1-27.

Session 4:
Haun Saussy/Timothy Lenoir: "From Writing Science to Digital Humanities", in: Steven Meyer (ed): "The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp 132-155.
Willard McCarty: "Making and studying notes. Towards a Cognitive Ecology of Annotation", in: Julia Nantke/Frederik Schlupkothen (eds): "Annotating Scholarly Editions and Research: Functions, Differentiation, Systematization", Berlin: de Gruyter, 2020, pp 272-297.

Session 5:
Michael Mahoney: "The Histories of Computing(s)", in: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol 30, no 2, 2005, pp 119-135.
David Gugerli: "Wie die Welt in den Computer kam. Zur Entstehung digitaler Wirklichkeit", Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 2018, pp 7-17, 137-180.

Session 6:
Alfred Gell: "The Art of Anthropology. Essays and Diagrams", ed.b. Eric Hirsch, Oxford: Berg, 2006, pp.159-186.

Session 7:
David J. Gunkel: "Shifting Perspectives", in: Science and Engineering Ethics, 2020, pp 2528-2532.
Kari Gwen Coleman: "Android Arete: Toward a Virtue Ethic for Computational Agents", in: Ethics and Information Technology, vol 3, 2001, pp 247-265.

The reader is uploaded on ADAM.


Teilnahmebedingungen Master or PhD students of all disciplines. English/German on C1/C2 (GER).
Unterrichtssprache Deutsch
Einsatz digitaler Medien kein spezifischer Einsatz
HörerInnen willkommen


Intervall 14-täglich
Datum 20.09.2021 – 13.12.2021

Keine Einzeltermine verfügbar, bitte informieren Sie sich direkt bei den Dozierenden.

Module Modul: Digital Humanities, Culture and Society (Master Studienfach Digital Humanities)
Modul: Methoden der Gesellschaftswissenschaften (Masterstudium: European Global Studies)
Leistungsüberprüfung Lehrveranst.-begleitend
Hinweise zur Leistungsüberprüfung Reading assignment for ONE seminar session.
NO final paper.
An-/Abmeldung zur Leistungsüberprüfung Anmelden: Belegen; Abmelden: nicht erforderlich
Wiederholungsprüfung keine Wiederholungsprüfung
Skala Pass / Fail
Wiederholtes Belegen nicht wiederholbar
Zuständige Fakultät Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät, studadmin-philhist@unibas.ch
Anbietende Organisationseinheit Digital Humanities Lab