Should we really ‘hermeneutise’ the Digital Humanities? A plea for the epistemic productivity of a ‘cultural technique of flattening’ in the Humanities.

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Why are the Digital Humanities a genuine part of the Humanities? Attempts are currently being made by arguing that computational methods are at the same time hermeneutic procedures (‘screwmeneutics’, ‘hermenumericals’): computation and hermeneutics were mixed. In criticizing this fusion of ‘literacy’ and ‘numeracy’, it is argued that what really connects the classical Humanities and the Digital Humanities is methodologically based on the ‘cultural technique of flattening’ and not on hermeneutics. The projection of spatial and non-spatial relations onto the artificial flatness of inscribed and illustrated surfaces forms a first-order epistemic and cultural potential in the history of the Humanities: diagrammatic reasoning, the visualizing potential of writings, lists, tables, diagrams, and maps, the sorting function of alphabetically ordered knowledge corpora have always shaped and determined basic scholarly work. It is this ‘diagrammatical’ dimension to which the Digital Humanities are linked to Humanities in general. The metamorphosis of texts, pictures, and music into the surface configurations of machine-analyzable data corpora opens up the possibility of revealing latent and implicit patterns of cultural artifacts, and practices that mostly are not accessible to human perception. The quantifying, computational methods of the Digital Humanities operate like computer-generated microscopes and telescopes into the cultural heritage, ongoing cultural practices, and even the culturally unconscious.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Analytics
Issue number4
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 30.01.2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, McGill University. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • cultural epistemology, DH theory, digital media, hermeneutics
  • Cultural studies