Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities (MIT Press)

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9780262034357: Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities (MIT Press)

An introduction to text analysis using computer-assisted interpretive practices, accompanied by example essays that illustrate the use of these computational tools.

The image of the scholar as a solitary thinker dates back at least to Descartes' Discourse on Method. But scholarly practices in the humanities are changing as older forms of communal inquiry are combined with modern research methods enabled by the Internet, accessible computing, data availability, and new media. Hermeneutica introduces text analysis using computer-assisted interpretive practices. It offers theoretical chapters about text analysis, presents a set of analytical tools (called Voyant) that instantiate the theory, and provides example essays that illustrate the use of these tools. Voyant allows users to integrate interpretation into texts by creating hermeneutica -- small embeddable "toys" that can be woven into essays published online or into such online writing environments as blogs or wikis. The book's companion website, Hermeneuti.ca, offers the example essays with both text and embedded interactive panels. The panels show results and allow readers to experiment with the toys themselves.

The use of these analytical tools results in a hybrid essay: an interpretive work embedded with hermeneutical toys that can be explored for technique. The hermeneutica draw on and develop such common interactive analytics as word clouds and complex data journalism interactives. Embedded in scholarly texts, they create a more engaging argument. Moving between tool and text becomes another thread in a dynamic dialogue.

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About the Author:

Geoffrey Rockwell is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing and Director of the Kule Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Alberta.

Review:

This is a superbly lucid, erudite, and useful book. Geoffrey Rockwell and Stéfan Sinclair have been actively engaged in creating tools and platforms for text analysis for more than a decade. They bring their considerable practical knowledge together with their critical sophistication as scholars of literary interpretation in a conversational text that is as generous to the reader as it is informative. This will be a must-have, go-to book for anyone teaching or working in text analysis in the digital humanities -- and it comes as close as any work to date to making an argument for the value of computational methods.

(Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies, University of California, Los Angeles)

Philosophically informed, historically contextualized, and technologically savvy, Rockwell and Sinclair set a new standard for probing both the conceptual underpinnings and the epistemological potential of digitally enabled interpretations of written expression. By engaging with Hermeneutica's integration of past and present, virtual and physical, and theoretical and practical, both advocates and skeptics of digital humanities will benefit in multiple and enduring ways.

(Chad Gaffield, Professor of History and University Research Chair in Digital Scholarship, University of Ottawa; former President and CEO, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada)

With great intelligence, creativity, and care, Rockwell and Sinclair, two of the leading practitioners of humanities computing, explore what happens when digital tools, literary theory, and textual exploration are brought together in highly interactive ways. The outcomes are by turns surprising, illuminating, and even playful, but most of all thought-provoking for all those who care about how we read and analyze texts.

(Dan Cohen, founding Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America)

A technological revolution, in its historical context, brings old things around again but makes them new. Obsessed by the never-before-possible, focused on results, we may miss changes in practice far more important than either. Hermeneutica, from the hands of two Canadian pioneers 'weaving together of hermeneutical things,' pays attention, gives examples, and provides tools for participating in our renewal of scholarship.

(Willard McCarty, FRAI, Professor, King's College London and Western Sydney University)

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