"Classes of excellence" Rens Bod

The Meaning of Digital Pattern Searching in the Humanities

Humanities researchers are increasingly using digital tools and methods to derive meaningful patterns in their sources – be they texts, artworks, archeological artefacts, sound recordings or linguistic data. While the availability of digitized sources has dramatically increased, most methodological questions related to pattern-searching have remained underexposed. This course will investigate a series of methodological issues and criticism regarding digital pattern-searching from multiple perspectives. What are patterns in the humanities and what do they convey? Can digital pattern-searching be applied to all sources and all fields? And how are patterns to be interpreted and criticized? Can patterns in the humanities be “refuted” or will there always be exceptions in historical, literary, artistic, linguistic or musical material? Are there “laws” in the humanities or only “tendencies”, and how do patterns relate to these two concepts? Where do patterns stand in the opposition between the nomothetic and the idiographic? Are there deeper principles for patterns in the humanities? The goal of this course is to provide PhD students, postdocs and other researchers with a conceptual toolset to address these questions so as to better understand the surpluses and shortcomings of the various digital tools and methods in their research.