Critical Digital HumanitiesThe Search for a Methodology

Critical Digital HumanitiesThe Search for a Methodology

James E. Dobson

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780252042270

Publisher: University of Illinois Press


This book seeks to develop an answer to the major question arising from the adoption of sophisticated data-science approaches within humanities research: are existing humanities methods compatible with computational thinking? Data-based and algorithmically powered methods present both new opportunities and new complications for humanists. This book takes as its founding assumption that the exploration and investigation of texts and data with sophisticated computational tools can serve the interpretative goals of humanists. At the same time, it assumes that these approaches cannot and will not obsolete other existing interpretive frameworks. Research involving computational methods, the book argues, should be subject to humanistic modes that deal with questions of power and infrastructure directed toward the field’s assumptions and practices. Arguing for a methodologically and ideologically self-aware critical digital humanities, the author contextualizes the digital humanities within the larger neo-liberalizing shifts of the contemporary university in order to resituate the field within a theoretically informed tradition of humanistic inquiry. Bringing the resources of critical theory to bear on computational methods enables humanists to construct an array of compelling and possible humanistic interpretations from multiple dimensions—from the ideological biases informing many commonly used algorithms to the complications of a historicist text mining, from examining the range of feature selection for sentiment analysis to the fantasies of human subjectless analysis activated by machine learning and artificial intelligence.