Doing Digital Humanities

Research Workshop

Doing Digital Humanities

Bridging the Gap between Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Organized by Dorothee Birke, Nicole Falkenhayner and Martin Hinze
April 22 & 23, 2016

One of the most controversial aspects of the rise of the so-called “digital humanities” has been the strong focus on quantitative methods, which were introduced as a challenge to traditional research paradigms (such as Moretti’s call for ‘distant reading’ to replace the deeply entrenched method of ‘close reading’). While some scholars have embraced the opportunities created by the new media, others have cautioned against giving up or diluting disciplinary fields of expertise. Are we missing out on new research questions and research fields by sticking to more ‘traditional’ idioms of research? Or can we only lose when literary scholars trained in high theory or historical materialism suddenly try to become ad hoc statistics experts?

In this workshop, we will look beyond the apparent division into different camps and ask how traditional and new approaches may fruitfully be combined in the study of narrative phenomena. What are low-threshold ways of integrating computer-based methods into theoretically or hermeneutically oriented studies? Can scholars of narrative play to their specific disciplinary strengths while at the same time benefitting from the transdisciplinary horizon offered by the digital humanities? Which new subjects and perspectives are opened up by such fusions? What are the dangers engendered by a ‘pick and mix’ approach to methods, and how might they be mitigated? And how will the new technological possibilities affect the ways in which we publish and disseminate our results? The study of narrative is an ideal testing ground for new methodologies that attempt to bridge the gap between quantitative and qualitative research. On the one hand, narrative theory in the tradition of literary studies is a home turf of elaborate and versatile close reading practices. On the other hand, the ‘postclassical’ broadening of the focus to include oral and nonfictional narratives has further fuelled an interest in the use of ‘big data’. With its focus on new transmedial and interdisciplinary approaches to narrative and its range from history, psychology and sociology to cultural and literary studies and philosophy, the graduate school “Factual and Fictional Narration” offers an ideal environment for such a conversation.

In the workshop, scholars from literary studies, linguistics, classical philology and sociology will reflect on the impact of the digital turn on the humanities and introduce ongoing projects as case studies for ways of integrating old and new methods.

Friday, April 22

  • Dorothee Birke (Aarhus), Nicole Falkenhayner (Freiburg), Martin Hinze (Freiburg):
    Welcome and Introduction
  • Jan Christoph Meister (Hamburg):
    What’s the Point of the Digital for the Humanities?
  • Christiane Hadamitzky (Freiburg):
    Distant Approaches to Close Reading
  • Stylianos Chronopoulos (Freiburg):
    Reunderstanding Our Texts: Scholarly Digitized and Digital Editions
  • Geraldine Meaney (Dublin):
    Reconciling Close and Distant Reading: Social Network Analysis of the Novel in the Long Nineteenth Century
  • Ruth Page (Birmingham):
    Mixed Methods and Multimodality in the Shared Story: A Case Study in the YouTube Coverage of Oscar Pistorius

Saturday, April 23

  • Monika Bednarek (Sydney/ Freiburg):
    Corpus Linguistics Approaches to the Analysis of Fictional Televisual Narratives
  • Jonatan Steller (Leipzig):
    „Introduce a Little Anarchy“: Translating Maker Democracy from a Critical Framework into a Publishing Form Using Fragmented Web Guides

Download abstracts (PDF, 472 kB)
Download poster (PDF, 2.097 kB)


Albertstraße 19
79104 Freiburg im Breisgau

Hotel for guests

Stadthotel Freiburg
Karlstraße 7
79104 Freiburg im Breisgau

Visitors are warmly invited to join the workshop. If you would like to visit, feel free to contact us, so we can provide you with a reader with additional material.

Dorothee Birke:
Nicole Falkenhayner:
Martin Hinze: