The topic of this conference (going on now!) at Utrecht University raises an issue similar to the one raised in my article at LSE’s Impact Blog: DH’ists have been brilliant at mining data but not always so brilliant at pooling data to address the traditional questions and theories that interest humanists. Here’s the conference description (it focuses specifically on DH and history):
Across Europe, there has been much focus on digitizing historical collections and on developing digital tools to take advantage of those collections. What has been lacking, however, is a discussion of how the research results provided by such tools should be used as a part of historical research projects. Although many developers have solicited input from researchers, discussion between historians has been thus far limited.
The workshop seeks to explore how results of digital research should be used in historical research and to address questions about the validity of digitally mined evidence and its interpretation.
And here’s what I said in my Impact Blog article, using as an example my own personal hero’s research in literary geography:
[Digital humanists] certainly re-purpose and evoke one another’s methods, but to date, I have not seen many papers citing, for example, Moretti’s actual maps to generate an argument not about methods but about what the maps might mean. Just because Moretti generated these geographical data does not mean he has sole ownership over their implications or their usefulness in other contexts.
I realize now that the problem is still one of method—or, more precisely, of method incompatibility. And the conference statement above gets to the heart of it.