InFoDiTex: What We Do and What We Want

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!”

Afterwards they thought: ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could share our ideas and questions with other doctoral students to get new ideas and to discuss methodological and theoretical problems?’

At that moment InFoDiTex (back then “Distant Reading Forum”) was born. We randomly contacted fellow students, who also tried to figure out the best way of working with their texts, networks, theories et cetera and we met every month to…

  • … reflect on methods of digital humanities (including the questions what, how to and why at all),
  • … discuss theories of digital analyses,
  • … talk with “Big Data”  professionals of industry and economy and
  • … present research projects of our members and guests.

As one result we changed our name to show: We broadened our horizon. And so, here we are:

Interdisciplinary – Philologists, Historians, Germanists, Theologians, Romanists, Classicists, Computer Linguists, Computer Scientists, Mathematicians, Art Historians, Sociologists etc. – short: all kinds of arts and humanities are invited to join us and share their experiences with and reservations regarding digital text analysis. We believe that many different disciplines in one room can generate a fruitful dialog to get an increasing understanding of the questions of the other disciplines.

Forum – In Graeco-Roman antiquity the “Forum” or “Agora” was the central meeting place for people to collect the essentials of their daily live: It includes – besides food – information and political participation. We believe that our daily academic work becomes considerably improved if we share information about the things we do. Therefore, everybody is invited to discuss as participant or to present some ideas or problems of his/her own project.

Digital – Historians don’t publish scrolls any more, do they? Therefore, whoever’s using a computer works digital. Maybe our way to use computational techniques is a bit more elaborated than only writing a thesis in WORD but, in fact, the fewest of us are able to code complex algorithms. We believe, that the work of Digital Humanists depends on a close collaboration of the computational and humanistic departments, so all of us together can find out what is possible.

Textual – The only small restriction of our Forum: We work with texts, because texts are the most common medium of information brokerage in our academic contexts. But we don’t have any restrictions on which kind of text we are talking about. We believe that any kind of text – whether it is a Tweet, a medieval charter, an ancient letter, a sermon or biblical passages – imparts information and includes textual data we could analyse. (Art and music scientists are also invited to show us what they do!)

Sciences – Digital methods have limits in the same way traditional approaches have. So, coding, counting and calculating will never replace the act of methodological and theoretical based interpretation by humans. We believe, that digital text analyses can enrich the discourses of established text sciences. Together we can win a better perspective and deeper insights on the texts we are working with.

In this sense we start our blog to present some pieces of our work and discussions. Feel free to join our meetings (for dates and topics see  www.uni-heidelberg.de/infoditex). We are also open for suggestions or comments about the forum and the blog and for researchers who want to write a guest contribution on this blog ( blog@infoditex.com).

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