Objectivity and Evidence: DigiPal at HUMlab, Umeå

I will be presenting a seminar on DigiPal at HUMlab in Umeå, Sweden, at 13:15 Swedish time (CET) on Wednesday, December 4. The seminar will be streamed live at http://live.humlab.umu.se/ and more details about the series are available from the HUMlab blog. I will be presenting the DigiPal project and especially its rationale in the context of Digital Humanities and the desire for 'scientific' approaches. The full abstract is as follows:

Digital Humanities has sometimes been described as a ‘metadiscipline’, insofar as it involves methods, approaches and issues which apply directly to many different research areas in the Humanities. For example, bringing computers to the Humanities has raised questions such as the nature of evidence in Humanities arguments, the desirability or otherwise of quantitative methods in this, and the role (if any) of objectivity. Certainly these questions are not new – they have been discussed actively for decades or even centuries – but they have reemerged with new urgency in recent years partly because of technological developments.

A good example of this is palaeography, where a long-standing debate over whether the field should or can be ‘scientific’ has been reignited in part due to the widespread advent of digital images and the computing power to process them. The resulting burst of work in ‘computational’ palaeography has found very limited acceptance in the field, raising the question where the ‘traditional’ palaeographer is in this new field of ‘digital palaeography’. In this seminar I will therefore focus on these questions, looking at how they have been addressed in the DigiPal project and how they apply them to Digital Humanities more generally. These will include quantitative and qualitative approaches and the desire for objectivity, but also questions regarding what Humanities scholars might want from computers, a possible disjunction between computational ‘answers’ and the humanists’ need for meaning, and even what it means to digitize content at all.

If you can't be there in person then do tune in to the live broadcast.


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