Interdisciplinary Forum of Digital Textual Sciences
Author: Stefan Karcher
(Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; @streka on Twitter); I started using and working with digital methods of text analysis during the work on my doctoral thesis in theology (Homiletics and Church History). A bunch of autographs - more than 10.000 handwritten pages packed up messily in 20 boxes - led me to the question: "How would I ever overview these?" In fact, I didn't! But while I was sorting the documents, forms, letters, lecture manuscripts etc in a new classification scheme for literary remains (Nachlass Heinrich Bassermann), I thought a database and analyzing only the metadata could help to find the most important information and sources for my dissertation. So my reflections about digital humanities were born out of necessity. Meanwhile, I made a virtue out of that necessity.
Since my graduation in the major subjects History and Theology in 2013, I work on a dissertation about Heinrich Bassermann (1849-1909) and his homiletic principles of academic sermons. Besides I'm employed as QMR and head of the examination office at the Faculty of Theology.
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Vacation time is over and – which is a bit surprising for PhD students – I had much time to think about my dissertation and my academic future. I did some researches and picked up many new interesting fields someone should deal with. However, from time to time, I got angry about an issue which came across a lot. Have you ever noticed how stupid some subject-related databases are? I mean, having them helped us find sources and texts, which enriched our own work, was a wonderful opportunity 10 years ago; but today, 10 years later the relation between the whole bunch of data sets became the focus of some researchers’ attention.
Humanities tend to make things complicated. And that’s a privilege, because they have decided to describe and analyze their topic of research as exactly as possible. Skimming over complex issues leads to a loss of important details and, in doing so, to inaccurate argumentations. As humanists, our medium to transport insights and information is still a language and so – besides scientific research – we artfully string together words and produce rhetorical highly adorned sentences to convince our readers that our assumptions and arguments are unassailable. To describe details, we often need a lot of words (although sometimes we reduce a complex issue to a familiar technical term)! Continue reading “Visual Windows – The Added Value of Visualizations in Humanities”
“Digital church” (#DigitaleKirche ) is currently much discussed. It’s inspiring (and sometimes amusing) to follow the debates about digital tools, social media, helpful apps, or the latest means of communication in all fields of ecclesiastical life. Thinking about “blessing robots,” “donation apps,” or “pastoring chat bots” is an important step to usher the church into the daily digital experience of their (potential) members. I think the church has to go that way for communicational and administrative reasons as long as digital technology supports pastoral tasks and doesn’t replace “offline” community. In this way, #DigitaleKirche is an esteem of the communicative fundamental structure of the church and, also, of the ways communication between people has changed. Continue reading “Digitizing the Church – Challenges for Academic Theology”
Whoever has studied history has surely heard about the great controversies on historiographical theories and schools with their linguistic and epistemological ideas. It seems to me that the 20th century was full of radical position fights and historians walking from “turn to turn.” But today, they shy away from a theory based “digital turn” or – even a step forward – a “paradigm shift” of methodological thinking and narratives. Therefore, I wonder: do historians really need a “theory of digital history?” Do they even want it? Is it necessary? Continue reading “Does Digital History Need a Theory?”
In the spring of 2016, two graduate students in theology sat together during a coffee break: One of them complained: “It is impossible to find the most suitable method to work with my digitized corpus.” The other nagged: “And I can’t find a theory which fits into my way of analysing sources statistically!” Continue reading “InFoDiTex: What We Do and What We Want”